Re: Virama based model - a note

From: N. Ganesan (
Date: Sat May 21 2005 - 08:55:07 CDT

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    Philippe Verdy wrote:

    >Tamil vowel signs do not necessarily kill the inherent
    >[-â] of the consonant, so the pulli "virama" will be
    >necessary to kill it: Is that what is meant in the Tamil
    >example of page 5 ([kâ] + [-i] gives
    >[kây], not [ki]) ?

    Tamil vowel signs kill the inherent /a/ in Tamil letters like Ka.
    On page 5 in UTN#10, a diphthong -ai vowel sign is
    used. U+0b95 (ka) + U+0BC8 (ai) = kai

    >In this case, Tamil effectively is different.
    >Isn't it also true for Malalayam, the nearest script in the genetic tree?

    Tamil is different in defining its consonants.
    Tamil explicitly in its ancient grammars specifies pure consonants
    with puLLi always. This is unlike any other Indian script.So, what in
    the Unicode code chart is called as "Tamil consonants" are actually
    just an abugida (called uyirmey 'vocalized consonant') per Tamil

    See a collation chart for Tamil:
    Or, in pdf form:">
    (If the URL doesn't show up,[AT] )

    Note that all abugidas, including what are termed "consonants" in
    Tamil code chart (4.1), get the same weightage ('salmon pink' color)
    while the pure consonants (ie., the ones with pulli in Unicode) are
    the primary ones as far as Tamil is concerned.

    Here are the names of all Tamil abugida (uyirmey) letters:">

    (Again, if the url doesn't show up fully.[AT] )

    Pure consonants are differentiated from abugidas "uyirmey" in Tamil
    using different colors. BTW, Tamils have named vowels and consonants
    philosophically. Vowels are called uyir 'soul', and consonants are
    called mey '(dead)
    body'. Without uyir 'soul', consonants are mere 'dead' bodies.

    >What about gemination then (longer consonnants)?
    >Does Tamil require a pulli
    >on each consonnant of the cluster?
    >For example when writing [haikkû],

    In Tamil there are no consonant clusters, each pure consonant stands
    alone not conjuncting with neighboring consonants or abugidas. Also,
    in word-breaks to the next line, the first "letter" beginning a line
    cannot be a "dead" consonant. So, consonant clusters with a bunch of
    'dead' consoanants may make sense in Hindi or Sansskrit, but those
    clusters are meaningless in Tamil.
    Tamil words like "illai", "angkE", "vAyppu", "vArppu"
    should not be split i-llai, a-ngkE, vA-yppu , vA-rppu
    for hyphenation. Since Tamil words do not start
    with pure consonant letters, the above example
    words must be split as il-lai, ang-kE, vAyp-pu, vArpp-pu
    and so on. In sum, consonants must be treated
    differently in Tamil, not as Sanskrit.

    In Tamil, haikuu = h + ai + k + k + U
    where h, k are pure consonants, ai is a diphthong and U is a long vowel.

    In Unicode code points,
    haikkuu = ஹைக்கூ = 0BB9 0BC8 0B95 0BCD 0B95 0BC2


    Why did Tamil develop the theory of puLLi some 2000 years ago? And, as
    a result, Tamil (much like the Roman script of Europe) early on got
    rid of conjunct letters. In tamil script, unlike Kannada, Telugu,
    Malayalam, Tamil Grantha scripts there are no vertical tiers of
    letters to build conjunct consonants, thanks to employment of the
    puLLi model. Note that the puLLi/viraama model is very, very late in
    Sanskrit, and mostly an influence from the Southern Tamil orthography.

    V. Murugan, Tolkappiyam in English, Madras, 2001

    On p. 7, Suutra 15 of Tolkappiyam:
    "meyyin iyaRkai puLLiyoTu nilaiyal"
    (What marks a consonant is the puLLi (dot)
    on each of them).

    Sutra 17:
    "puLLi illaa ellaa meyyum
    uru uru aaki akaramoTu uyirttalum,
    Enai uyiroTu uruvu tirintu uyirttalum,
    aayiir iyala - uyirttal aaRE"

    "Dots go off to form consonant-vowels,
    Which in two ways manifest:
    Blended with /a/, their form abides;
    Alteration the form takes with other vowels."

    Ie., k + a = ka, k + A = kA.

    I. Mahadevan, Early Tamil epigraphy, 2003,
    Harvard Oriental Series vol. 62.

    page 198
    ""Unlike all other medial signs which serve to add
    a medial vowel to a consonant to produce
    a consonant-vowel (uyirmey), the puLLi subtracts
    the inherent medial vowel -a from the unmarked
    consonant characters. The PuLLi had to be invented
    in Tamil-Brahmi to provide what the parent Brahmi
    script lacked viz., markers for the basic consonants
    and the short vowels e and o. This explains its
    unusual function."

    p. 235-236
    "6.3 Orthographic conventions in Brahmi inscriptions
    (iii) A basic consonant cannot be represented except
    as a part of a conjunct-consonant (samyukaakshara).
    (iv) A samyuktakshara being an open syllable cannot
    depict a consonant in final position.
    This orthographic system suited the Prakrit languages
    perfectly as they did not have basic consonants (except
    the anusvara) in final position."

    "The Brahmi notational system described above is unsuitable
    for Tamil which abounds in final consonants (e.g., kaN 'eye', maram
    'tree', tAy 'mother', nIr 'water', kal 'stone', yAzh 'lute', nAL
    'day', avan 'he', etc.,). Tamil which has much fewer consonant
    clusters than Indo-Aryan (mostly geminates and nasal-homorganic
    clusters) does not also need the samyuktakshara system of writing."

    N. Ganesan



    A. Nakanishi (1980) states general principles of Indian
    lettering 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]

    Not true for Tamil. Today or 2000 years ago.


    "Each Tamil consonant does not include an inherent a-vowel.

    In Tamil, no conjunct consonants are used; when two or more
    consonants are combined with no intervening vowel,
    they are not written as one letter, but written as individual pure
    consonants with puLLi."

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