Re: Authography and Grammar

From: Michael Everson (
Date: Sun Jun 26 2005 - 10:30:14 CDT

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    From: suzanne mccarthy <>

    >Work on early Tamil Brahmi by Iravatham Mahadevan has also shown
    >that Tamil Brahmi was not an abugida like the other Brahmi scripts.
    >It did not have an inherent a.

    The page states that "MA KA NA" is read "MA KA N". So what? Modern
    Hindi does the same; that does not mean that Devanagari has ceased to
    be an abudiga, and it does not mean that Tamil is not an abugida

    This is all about making Tamil special and different from Devanagari.
    It is not linguistic science.

    >View the table on early Tamil at the bottom of this page.

    The author of this site has as his agenda that Ashokan Brahmi derives
    FROM Tamil. Such revisionism is not interesting.

    >It is also interesting to note that Isaac Taylor 1883 in The
    >Alphabet represented Tamil as an alphabet. The consonant plus pulli
    >was shown as the basic unit unlike all other Brahmi derived scripts.

    The pulli kills the inherent vowel of the abugida.

    >Diderot's encyclopedia, 1750, portrays Tamil as a syllabary, once
    >again, unique representation among all Brahmi scripts.

    My copy does no such thing. Plate XV shows Grantha with inherent
    vowels and plate XX shows Tamil with inherent vowels. That it also
    draws out the full set of letters with their vowel matras is a
    presentation issue; in Plate XVII for Devanagari and in Plate XXI for
    Thai, the letters and vowel matras are also shown. The use of the
    word "syllabary" on that page does not signify that Tamil is not an
    abugida (a term unknown to Diderot).

    >Part of the confusion seems to come back to the fact that the pulli
    >has been called "virama" in Unicode although they do not do the same
    >thing. The similarity between Tamil and other Indic scripts has been

    I disagree. Saying so is just part of the tactic taken by those who
    want to pretend that Tamil is less-Brahmic (and therefore more
    unique) than it is.

    All of these scripts are unique, in their own way, special, and
    beautiful. No one disputes that. But Brahmic they all are.

    >I understand the Tamil writing system to have an origin related to other
    >Brahmi scripts.

    I don't.

    >However, it has been defined and represented over the millenia in
    >its own terms, not just 'one of the Brahmi scripts.'

    All of the scripts descended from Brahmi are "just another one of the
    Brahmic scripts". They may all have unique features because they have
    to represent different languages, but their structure is Brahmic.
    Tamil is no exception.

    >I hope this helps.

    It is revisionist and not credible. It does not help us either
    understand or implement Tamil.

    Michael Everson * * Everson Typography *  *

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