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What we are doing.

There are some profound misconceptions floating around, and I'd like to
address them.

There are two sorts of grammars in the world: prescriptive and descriptive.
The former PRESCRIBES how a language should be, what is correct and not
correct, etc.  The premier examples of prescriptive grammar are Panini and
the Tolkaappiyam.  (Panini is said to the source of the science of modern
linguistics).  English has such grammars as well -- we are supposed to say
"It is I," though scarcely anyone actually says this.

A descriptive grammar describes a language as it is and does not attempt to
tell its speakers how they should speak.  Virtually all modern work in
linguistics is descriptive -- linguists do not have the arrogance to
presume to tell people how to speak or write.

Obviously what we are doing is descriptive, not prescriptive.  We are not
telling people what to write or how to write; we are attempting to give
them the tools they need to write whatever they wish, within the accepted
and commonly used conventions for writing Tamil.

The reason I have including the old orthography is that the change to the
new style has been adopted generally (especially for printing) and there is
nothing you can write in the old style that you cannot write with the new.
The reason I have opposed leaving out the "grantha" letters is that they
are in common usage and omitting them would have the effect of legislating
linguistic change.  That we cannot do -- it is not our task.  Our aim is to
produce a standard that will enable everyone to write the various styles of
Tamil in common usage.  If people want to omit grantha letters from Tamil
or make other changes to the language (e.g. include a glyph for "b"), this
is not the forum to do that.

George Hart

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