Tamil basic units - consonants with PuLLi

From: N. Ganesan (naa.ganesan@gmail.com)
Date: Wed Jun 29 2005 - 15:53:25 CDT

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    Tamil basic units - consonants with PuLLi

    Suzanne McCarthy wrote:

    > 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.

    Thanks for the reference. Very interesting info.
    Perhaps, C. Beschi (a Jesuit missionary, 17th century)
     mentions this in his books also (have to check). Indeed, in Tamil grammars
    (ancient Tolkaappiyam or 12th century Nannuul)
    consonants with puLLi are said to be the basic units.
    This data is seen in Tamil dictionaries also in
    contrast to Hindi dictionaries.

    Typically, in any non-Tamil script of India will
    not depict virama in sentences, but any Tamil text
    will be full of Pulli. That's the reason Tamil
    has no conjuncts.

    ISCII (foll. it, Unicode) has put the Hindi consonant model
    upon Tamil.

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

    Will be interesting to see which early European books
    mention consonants with puLLi as basic units of Tamil.
    Taylor, of course. Beschi??

    TamilGrantha code page can have ka, kha, ga, gha, nga, ... as
    consonants because it's used to write Sanskrit.
    But Tamil language defines k, ng, c, ny, ... as consonants,
    so ideally Tamil code page should have had them as consonants.
    and so on.

    To illustrate:
    R. S. McGregor, The Oxford
    Hindi-English dictionary, OUP, 1995
    shows ka, kha, ga, gha, ... as consonants on p. xvii.

    OTOH, Tamil Lexicon, University of Madras,
    Vol. I (Reprint: 1982) p. lxviii has Transliteration table
    First vowels: a, aa, i, ii, ...
    Then consonants: k, ng, c, ny, T, N, t, n, p, m, ...
    (Ie., consonants have puLLi, so no inherent vowel).

    A reference grammar of cl. Tamil poetry
    V. S. Rajam, American Philosophical Society, 1992
    also defines Tamil consonants with PuLLi.
    Take R. Gruenendahl, South Indian Scripts
    in Sanskrit mss. and prints, 2001:Wiesbaden.

    Grantha Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, Kannada
    and nandinagari have consonants defined as abugidas with /a/.
    But Tamil alone (p. 44) has Consonants defined
    with Pulli.

    Richard wrote:
    >One nasty feature to implement is that consonant plus
    >pulli comes before plain consonant.

    Tamil code chart could have been optimally designed
    with no gaps in code spaces using its natural sort
    order (not the current Hindi sort order, done by ISCII
    for transliteration by shifts). Plus, consonants
    should have been the Tamil way. Ie.
    and so on.
    Then, K(consonant) + A (vowel) = KA.

    You could argue that the Indian ones are almost treated as though they
    shared a common alphabet. They therefore suffer the same way as
    Latin-script languages do - the collation of letters beyond the basic 26 is
    similarly messy, and life gets even more complicated with languages that
    insist on treating digraphs as independent letters (e.g. at least CH, PH,
    TH, LL, NG and DD in Welsh). All Latin-script languages suffer from the
    fact that 'B' comes before 'a' in binary order, while for human use they are
    much better sorted the other way round.

    Same thing happened for Tamil in Unicode. Its collation order
    in ascending numbers is just Hindi sort order, unfit for Tamil.
    So, separate UCA has to be done for Tamil.

    N. Ganesan

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