Re: Virama based model - a note (was: Malayalam digit zero - an error)

From: Sinnathurai Srivas (
Date: Sat Apr 30 2005 - 00:46:50 CST

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    puLLI mistakingly called Virama in Unicode do kills inherent a to reveal
    consonant. This principle was devised because a consonant could not be
    pronuounced on it's own.
    The puLLI was clearly defined last in the Tamil Grammar Tolkaarpiyam about
    3rd century BC. It was around for a long time.

    The concept was misunderstood initially by Virama and he introuduced this
    concept in Virama to other Indic languages. These are recent events, much
    like Unicode introduce terms that are much confusing.

    There is another concept the ancient Tamil Grammar, that is called
    near-voiceless vowels, (kuTTiyal) which also defines how two consonants can
    combine in an alternative fashion, in addition to reaveling the consonant.
    This can be identified as u and e respectively in BuROOK and BeREAK, if we
    run these speech through a speech analiser.

    While on this topic, the Matrai and Matra
    Matrai was originally defined as the time taken to timly modify a frequency.
    It could be the time and frequency of a vowel or a consonant, remember
    consonants can only be voiced with vowels. So the Matrai is crudly put it, a
    timing mechanisim. For example matrai of say k and k in "kk" determines the
    phonetic value of symbols(!) "kk" and similar concept is applied for ii or
    ki, etc..

    What Matra is defined as in Unicode? I think Unicode think Matra dipicts
    dependent vowels (or combining vowels).

    Another item that breaks Tamil Unicode implementations (by wrong assumption
    of Grammar) is that Auai is not acceptable. ie, long vowels are not
    acceptable. I do not know where Unicode got this idea (Grammar) from but it
    breaks Tamil implementations in the core. This is where I think Unicode must
    forget about trying to master Grammar of all languages and find ways to let
    a free run so that things can be done properly.

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "N. Ganesan" <>
    To: "Unicode List" <>
    Sent: Friday, April 29, 2005 4:16 AM
    Subject: Virama based model - a note (was: Malayalam digit zero - an error)

    > Virama based model - a note (was: Malayalam digit zero - an error)
    > Malayalam digit zero glyph (U+0D66) in Unicode is incorrect. So, a
    > proposal was submitted to the UTC on the need to correct Malayalam
    > digit zero (U+0D66), and to add Malaylam numerics for 10 at U+0D70,
    > 100 at U+0D71 and 1000 at U+0D72 in parallel with Tamil numerics
    > (document number: L2/05-087).
    > Zero glyph (0) was introduced into Malayalam around mid-19th century,
    > some decades earlier it was done in Tamil.
    > Further evidence was gathered on the zero (0) glyph as used
    > in Malayalam books:
    > (i) L. J. Frohnmeyer, A progressive grammar of the
    > Malayalam language, 1913: Second edition, Madras.
    > Page 289, Table III shows all numerals, see the many examples of
    > zero glyph (0).
    > (ii) H. Gundert, A grammar of the Malayalam language,
    > 1991 reprint (Original edition, last quarter of the 19th
    > century). Malayalam numerals are given on pages 41
    > and 42. See the many examples of zero glyph (0).
    > (iii) C. Faulmann, Das buch der scrift, (1880: Wien),
    > 2000 reprint. See zero (0) in Malayalam digit 10 (p. 143).
    > All these references for Malayalam zero (0) glyph are shown at:
    > The current zero glyph at U+0D66 which is incorrect
    > was perhaps introduced in Unicode based on data from
    > the book, A. Nakanishi, Writing systems of teh world, 1980. Nakanishi
    > knows no Dravidian language nor any Dravidian script in depth and the
    > main aim of his book is to be an amateurish tourist guide to find
    > hotel names and so on. Unicode has the dotted circles for letters
    > probably from Nakanishi. Tamil has removed the dotted circle in
    > aaytham (visarga) letter, and added zero glyph (0) even tho' Nakanishi
    > states them as such. Hopefully Nakanishi's zero glyph (U+0D66) will be
    > gone soonand in its place, 0 is used as seen in Malayalam books
    > proper.
    > This leads us to mention an important point about Virama (=viraama)
    > based models of Indian and even South East Asian languages. Nakanishi
    > states general principles of Indian
    > lelletring system on p. 48
    > [Begin Quote]
    > Devanagari script uses the basic system used for all
    > the Indian scripts described in this chapter.
    > [...]
    > (3) Each consonant includes an inherent a-vowel.
    > [...]
    > (5) Conjunct consonants are used; when two or more
    > consonants are combined with no intervening vowel,
    > they are written as one letter.
    > [End Quote]
    > Quite simply, A. Nakanishi is wrong in stating the rules (3)
    > and (5) as far as Tamil script is formulated.
    > Tamil grammar, chief amidst Darvidian languages and,
    > one of the two classical languages
    > of India the other being Sanskrit, clearly
    > defines in Tolkaappiyam (its Ur-text dates to
    > pre-centuries BCE) a diacritic letter, puLLi (U+0BCD)
    > to generate "pure" consonant. Even Nakanishi does
    > not mention pulli by name, but mentions its
    > importance in Tamil script. Because pulli is
    > so well defined, Tamil never had to develop
    > conjunct consonants. So, automatically, thanks
    > to pulli, Tamil does opposite of Nakanishi's rule (5).
    > Btw, archaeologically, puLLi in Tamil is well
    > attested from second century onwards.
    > Because of absence of conjunct letters,
    > Tamil script was used first among Indic scripts
    > whenever a new technology appeared on the scene.
    > Examples are 1) printing 2) typewriters
    > 3) bilingual emails in 8-bit encodings like TSCII.
    > OCR is way easier for the lucid Tamil script compared to
    > any other Indic script.
    > The contrast of conjunct consonants is seen
    > clearly when you compare Tamil script
    > with Devanagari or Tamil grantham script.
    > The scripts for Indo-Aryan languages never
    > have a clear concept of puLLi/viraama as an orthographic
    > device. As a result Hindi native speakers confuse and cut off -a sounds
    > in Sanskrit words even at places there is
    > no virama existing etc.,
    > The use of the virAma in Sanskrit to refer to a written ligature
    > marking subtraction
    > of vowel 'a' from the consonant sign is very late, and not to be found in
    > the texts of Sanskrit grammarians. In those works, the term virAma does
    > exist, but it marks the end of an utterance cf. virAmo 'vasAnam (Panini
    > 1.4.
    > 110), or a pause. Its immediate reference is phonetic (cessation of the
    > phonetic process of utterance), and not orthographic.
    > The phonetic reference of virama is seen in character names
    > U+0964 and U+0965, viz, puurNa viraama and diirgha viraama.
    > So, viraama is really to stop pronouncing, say at the end of
    > a statement or verse.
    > On the other hand, Tamils devised puLLi orthographically
    > to do a job - to "kill" inherent -a in the so called "consonants"
    > in other Indic languages. Nakanishi rule (3) is invalid for Tamil!
    > So, will write a small proposal to include data on puLLi in Tamil,
    > its definition in ancient Tamil grammars and epigraphs,
    > and its use in making Tamil script lot simpler and lucid
    > in the info on Indic script characteristics in Devanagari section, Ch.
    > 9 of the Unicode standard.
    > Naga Ganesan
    > Houston, Texas
    > 281-648-8636 (H)

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