Tamil Script and Tamil Grantha Script differences

From: N. Ganesan (naa.ganesan@gmail.com)
Date: Sat May 07 2005 - 07:32:29 CDT

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    Antoine Leca wrote on 4/29/2005:

    >Similarly, it is possible to write Sanskrit using the so-called Tamil
    >Grantha script; whether it should be considered different from the Tamil
    >script when it comes to Unicode is an open question, yet there is no real
    >doubt the Grantha script derives from the Tamil script as used (long ago)
    >for the Dravidian languages.

    Nowadays, there is a good renewal of Tamil Grantha script books
    in publishing Sanskrit language. I recently collected some 20 printed books
    published in the current decade of 21st century. May be OpenType
    fonts in Unicode encoding will spread the Grantha books even further.
    And of course, transliteraters between Nagari and Grantha scripts.

    They are quite a few distinct differences between the Tamil Grantha
    and Tamil scripts as used in contemporary publications.
    Let me point out some important differences between them.

    a) Tamil Grantha script is used in publishing Sanskrit books,
    whereas Tamil script is for Tamil language books.
    As a result, Tamil Grantha follows Sanskrit dictionary sort order
    (same as Devanagari), and an important aspect is that
    in Tamil Grantha sort, words beginning with "consonant" with a code
    point + viraama
    are sorted at the end. But in Tamil script
    "consonant with inherent 'a' plus puLLi" is a primary unit.
    Tamil defines pure consonants so explicitly in 2000 year old grammars,
    with puLLi and the consonant with inherent 'a' (as far as Tamil is concerned)
    is just one of an abugida series, so gets identical weight as others
    in the series. We need to document that evidence on puLLi
    as an orthographic device earliest attestation in India from Tamil
    material in the Unicode documents also.

    b) There are 4 letters in the category of Ka, Ca, Ta, ta, pa
    in Tamil Grantha. But only one for each of them Tamil script.

    c) Brahmi has no short e and no short o originally.
    So, ancient Tamil orthographers and grammarians
    used a puLLi (viraama) on top of long -E and long -O modifier
    to denote Dravidian short -e and short -o to generate those
    consonant-vowel abugidas. Add to this, the confusion
    in old palm-leaves to determine whether it is a short or long o, e etc.,
    because scribes left out the puLLi(viarma) since many
    puLLis will damage the palm leaves.

    Tamil has innovated in this aspect mainly due to efforts of Constantine Beschi,
    a Jesuit of Italy in 17th century. He created the double knotted
    vowel modifier (U+0BC7) in Tamil script.
    But, otoh, Tamil Grantha script still uses U+0BC6 for long E.
    The same distinction holds for long and short O vowel signs.

    d) Tamil Grantha pa is very much different from Tamil pa glyph.

    e) Tamil Grantha la glyph is different from Tamil la glyph.
    There is lot of resemblence betwen @ "at" sign and
    Grantha la glyph.

    f) Tamil script has no conjuncts, where as Tamil Grantha
    abounds in them. One reason why Tamil Grantha fonts
    are hard to make, These fonts are possible with
    modern OpenType technologies.

    g) Unlike Nagari, Tamil Grantha conjuncts involving "r" are
    very peculiar. For 3 consonant conjunct, if r comes in the middle,
    it will move to the right.

    h) For ai vowel sign modifier, Tamil Grantha script uses
    E modifier twice, but Tamil script has conjuncted the
    two U+0BC6 into one (U+0BC8).

    etc., etc.,

    So, Tamil script and Tamil Grantha are two different scripts
    for practical purposes.

    Btw, we are working on a proposal to encode Tamil Grantha
    in Unicode.

    Nagamanickam Ganesan
    Houston, Texas

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