Thursday, June 30, 2005

Tamil PuLLi revisited

N. Ganesan has responded to a comment I made in the Unicode list on Tamil 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.

N. Ganesan wrote:

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.

S. McCarthy wrote:

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

N. Ganesan wrote:

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

Tamil Grantha 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. http://www.unicode.org/charts/PDF/U0B80.pdf Consonants: TAMIL LETTER K, TAMIL LETTER NG, TAMIL LETTER C, TAMIL LETTER NY, 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.

N. Ganesan

3 Comments:

Blogger Suzanne E. McCarthy said...

N. Ganesan has added these references on the origins of the puLLi. Very intereseting! Thanks!


Some info and speculations esp. on PuLLi's origins:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CTamil/message/386
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CTamil/message/311
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CTamil/message/253

2:46 PM  
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Anonymous ramkivish2007 said...

Tamil ayuthaelathu was used to differentiate the sounds like Ka Kha as found in other Sanskrit languages but it was lost because of the script form was changed by Verramamunivur. He styled the present script in the roman way because the Tamil script at present has lost the round form but has squarish or rectangular from whith sharp corners. Thus he lost the use of Ayuthaelathu that is called a Mukkarpulli because pulli means that is capable of flying and as it flies and places the sound varies. It is always accepted by Puritans of Tamil That the letter specifically representing Tamil is La called as the Sirappu Zharam . Hence the word for fruit is Pazaham. Hence for victory it is sounded Vazkha. Thus tamil has the letters for the sounds of Ka Kha etc. This is my experience in these years of tail learning.
V.Ramakrishnan Salem Tamilnadu India

2:49 PM  

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