Monday, June 06, 2005

Chinese and Tamil

I am going to try and explain how come all I know about Tamil keyboarding I learned from Chinese.

This one really twists peoples minds - so I love it. My reasoning is that since the Chinese writing system is a syllabary (a logosyllabary) and the Tamil writing system is a syllabary (an alphasyllabary) they are similar on one axis - still with me?

In each system you really want to input a syllable. You can either compose the syllable phonetically, from the sounds, or graphically, from the components of shape and structure. In each case you cannot input a syllable directly from the keyboard, 6,000 + or 247, doesn't really matter.

In the Chinese Pinyin IME you input the phonetic syllable using the alphabet; and a series of Chinese characters which are a phonetic match appears, then you just chose the correct one. So, I figured, bring that down one level and imagine an application for Tamil where you can type in the consonant and a series of syllables appears which begin with that consonant and then you can just chose the right one.

I personally have no technological skill so I groused about this problem for some time in a writing systems forum and surfed the net into the wee hours. I was just about to give up when I found the Nepali/Devanagari Editor. (I have not yet tried to keyboard Devanagari on this keyboard, too busy elsewhere. )

Then Richard Wordingham, in England and working with Thai, said, "No problem, I'll add Tamil to this and post it on Saturday morning." (We both have daytime jobs doing other things).

Richard added a few details and now this syllabic editor can be used either as a picker or as a keyboard tutor. It is not a full-scale word-processor but my dream is that one day it will be.

Back to Chinese and Tamil. If you truly believe that Tamil is exclusively an abugida you might dismiss all this outright - your loss.


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