Re: The term called Virama in Unicode - its history in India

From: Christopher Miller (
Date: Sun Jan 09 2011 - 13:18:14 CST

  • Next message: N. Ganesan: "Re: The term called Virama in Unicode - its history in India"

    A search through southeast Asian Indic scripts on the Unicode site reveals that the Khmer "killer" mark (U+17D1) is named Viriam. I know no other information on this term; you would need to locate some source or sources on the evolution of Khmer script for more information on how and when this term came to be used for Khmer script. The Unicode Khmer code table:

    I am curious, myself, about the origin of the metaphor "vowel-killer". Apart from this term, the related Dutch term "klinkerdoder" and the notion of "dead" consonants, I only know of a similar term being used in the South Sumatran scripts: the Malay terms tanda bunuh, tanda mati (= "killer sign") and membunuh (= "killer") are used for the zero vowel indicator in the Rejang-Central Malay, Lampung, and Kerinci scripts. Elsewhere in the scripts of Indonesia, the terms are unrelated to these and to terms in other scripts, with the exception of the Batak "pangolat", which is possibly a folk etymology from a loan: pang- (agent/instrument prefix) +(h)alant. (Batak is also the only script in the archipelago that refers to anuswara with a related term: haminsaran, kebincaren etc.)

    I would also be interested if anyone has pointers to information about the origins of the theory of "inherent" -a in consonant aksharas.

    On 2011-01-09, at 8:11 AM, N. Ganesan wrote:

    > Sanskrit grammars written in European languages in the 19th century
    > use the term, virāma to denote a vowel-killer diacritic to produce
    > a "dead" consonant - that is the akshara from which the
    > inherent vowel, /a/ has been deleted.
    > PiGkalantai nikaNTu in Tamil is the oldest text known from India
    > to use viraama for the "dead" consonant.
    > The question is: is it the European Sanskritists (working presumably from
    > Tamil country) who use the term Viraama for vowel-killing diacritic
    > in Orthography? Or, do we find the term, Virama as a vowel-deleter, in late centuries
    > of 2nd millennium Sanskrit grammar or other texts?
    > Thanks for any info,
    > N. Ganesan(...)

    Christopher Miller
    Montreal QC Canada

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Sun Jan 09 2011 - 13:23:48 CST