Re: String name and Character Name

From: N. Ganesan (
Date: Mon Apr 11 2005 - 22:03:30 CST

  • Next message: Benjamin C.Kite: "Unihan"

    John Hudson wrote:
    >The same is, regretably, true of the Tamil aytham:
    >the name assigned by Unicode is incorrect and hence meaingless
    >as an means of describing the actual identity of this character.

    Tamil aaytham is the correct name. We can add a macron
    over the word-inital a in the annotation for aytham.

    While other letters in the Tamil alphabet are attested
    epigraphically from 2nd century BCE, aaytham shows up
    rather late in inscriptions. May be the sound is
    proto-Dravidian (a laryngeal?), linguists debate. But aaytham's written
    form occurs only in 8th and 9th centuries CE.
    Early glyph form looks like it's related with visarga of
    the Grantha script.
    "The earliest inscriptional occurence of the aaytam is in
    the expression veHkaa 'name of a river' in the
    Kasakkudi plates of Nandivarman II (ca. 753 AD) [...]
    This form is likely to have been influenced by the
    visarga symbol of the Grantha script."
    (pg. 183, I. Mahadevan, Early Tamil Epigraphy:
    From the earliest times to the sixth century AD,
    Harvard univesity press, 2003).

    Further references can be sought. We cannot say
    100% that visarga has nothing to do with aaytam,
    this is clear from its occurences in traditional
    Tamil words. The free-standing application
    of aaytam word-initially in front of "p"
    to denote english "f" and, in front of "c"
    to denote english "z" is a modern innovation.
    Some Tamil grammarians opposing this type
    of use for aaytham. May be 3 - 4 decades old. I've seen poets
    like Bharatiyar and V. O. Chidambaram Pillai
    in the first half of 20th century never use
    aaytam word-initially. To accommodate the
    modern word-initial aytham, Unicode has
    removed the dotted circle, and Microsoft has to ship
    Latha font with that feature incorporated.

    N. Ganesan

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Mon Apr 11 2005 - 22:04:29 CST