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[WMASTERS] Tamil language and glyph codes standardization


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  [Caution: it is a long article.]  

  Tamil language

  Tamil language had been guided by and actively 
  nurtured by many thoughtful individuals. In Tamil 
  they are called thamiz cAnROr (°Á⢠œ‘òşé‘Ñ).
  They were from very ancient times (more than
  3000 years) exposed to many different languages and
  customs. These tamil cAnROr had a subtle understanding
  of breath and the art of speech. In their wisdom they 
  chose to avoid some sounds and some sequences of sounds.
  If we find that this system can be improved, we should
  by all means implement the imrpovement
  and we as inheritors have the duty to
  continue the honourable tradition. The key word here is
  improve. If I add a silly appendage to a Ferrari I can't
  call it an improvement to Ferrari. Tamils have identified
  the basic set of sounds that need representation in Tamil
  by an alphabet and they called it 'ezuththu' (‡à´³) and 
  the 'sound' or phoneme of such ezuththu(‡à´³) is called 
  'Othai' (‹€°). Othai is ezuththoli (‡à´—°‘Ó).
  Tamils also recognized that they employ many
  other sounds but, wisely decided that they need not be 
  represented by an ezuththu. Tamils called these by 
  'muRku (Ãí), vaNduRai (ׯ¨€é), vILai (ـã)'etc. 
  One might have noticed that when people
  try to draw the attention of a baby (€™İ¹€°) 
  they make certain'naavoli'(µ‘—בÓ). Such clicking sounds
  are also used when calling a bull or cow and so on.. 
  These unrepresented sounds are called in tamil generically as 
  'ezuththilaa oli' (‡à´±Ò‘ ŠÓ).
  Not every sound employed by Tamils is needed to be represented,
  according to Tamils and in their wisdom. To say that 
  'Oh Jivu Jivu is used in tamil'
  or 'Oh I've heard people say 'ushshsh' when trying to silence
  others' and so 'j' and 'sh' ARE there in Tamil and they ARE Tamil 
  is to completely misrepresent tamil. Even modern linguists will 
  agree, I hope, that not all phonems are given separate 
  representation. If modern lignuist differ, let them. Let them
  criticize tamil based on their understanding.
  Tamil cAnROr were quite 
  aware of the many other sounds. They did not think, rightly so 
  in my opinion, every sound need to be represented. There are other 
  reasons of subtleties of breath, natural economy, euphony and
  harmony (ŠÓ¿º‘›) and so on. It is possible others don't share
  these concerns. 

  These ezuththilaa oli and ezuththoli (‹€°) both 
  have deep spiritual sense and connotation. 

  I believe it will do good to tamils ( especailly educated ones)
  to relfect a bit on the language and what guided our heritage.
  When Saint Appar sings '‚ª¨Ø´°‘Ö ‚—Ì‘Ï×Ñ ‚¥‘°‘şÌ, ¥›Ø´°‘Ö
  ‚—Ì‘Ï×Ñ ¥›‘°‘şÌ..', we hear him today (even an unlettered
  tamil will hear him). Bear in mind that Saint Appar lived 1200 
  years ago.

  Why there is resistance to grantha letters ?
  [my views are listed at the end of this section]
  First, people have to understand that there are grantha letters
  for G, B etc. and they *ARE* used in some circles. The grantha 
  letter Ja (ó) has gained more currency than the other such 
  voiced stops. Secondly it has to be realistically understood 
  that there are groups who believe (TODAY) that Sanskrit 
  is *the* language and all four
  varga versions have to be adopted by tamil like Kannada, Telugu
  and Malayalam ( and of course north indian languages have these
  as well). Systematically a village near the borders of three
  of the southern states had been 'conquered' and sanskrit is being
  practised there as spoken language. [ a full page description in 
  the weekly edition of Hindu appeared some 15 years ago]. More can
  be said about the 'plans' of certain groups of people to 
  systematically weaken and "destroy" tamil ( basically make it
  a subset of sanskrit). This is not some silly conspiracy theory
  or out of some 'psychological' defficiency. Tamils need not worry
  if at least 30% of them are educated and have an awareness of 
  their heritage and politics of those who are opposed to tamil
  and tamils' way of life. There is an additional risk now due 
  to the role played by religious fundamentalists and 
  their politics in very many ways. Many innocent tamils are 
  falling prey to their designs ..
  The plan of these sanskritists is to introuduce little by little
  the grantha letters and popularize the words involving grantha
  letters. Make them indispensable. Then the the grantha letters
  will get adopted.
  The introduction of grantha letters ( voiced stops like J) 
  will inject needless confusions and give room for driving the
  wedge. How ? It is hihgly likely that some 'very intelligent' 
  individual will "innocently" ask why can't we write 'panju' as
  (º¤ó”) and argue that this way there will be 'less confusion' to
  our young learners. The same kind of problem when we have a
  character for G etc. Along the way another individual will 
  make fun of the tamils for not distinguishing the 'sh' used 
  in 'shanker' and the 'sh' used in usha since 'our' tamil 
  has only one sh (õ).
  Then our 'broad-minded' tamils will set up a new committee
  and adopt a new symbol and 'rectify' this serious 'short-coming'
  of *tamil*. Sorry, it should have been improving our
  'standard tamil'. 

  Those who oppose 'grantha' letters have concerns such 
  as the above. I share these concerns to some extent and 
  in my assessment they are genuine concerns for people who
  care about our language, culture and heritage. However, I
  accept and use a few grantha letters and some modified
  letters as judiciously as possible. I will not write 
  '×ò °Áâ º‘€õÇÖ °‘ò œÅº‘õ’´°‘ò'etc.

  What can we do for arriving at a standard for the the glyph codes
  that is compatible with Unicode 2.0 and ISCII ? Should we or
  should we not include grantha and which granthas are to be included
  if we choose to. What will be the reaction of Tamils of
  Tamil Nadu, Tamil Eelam, Malysia, Singapore ?

  My thoughts are as follows:

  [A] Let us define a basic set of glyphs for Tamil (without granthas)
      in contiguous slots and call it the standard primary 
      'tamil space' set and then
      define an extended set of glyph codes needed for non-tamil 
      characters and put them in the 'non-tamil space'. 
      Additonally leave a few slots for future expansion. 

   Examples of glyph codes for Tamil space:

   12 uyir (…ÇÑ)
    1 aytham (‚Ë°Å)
   18 mey (—ÀË) 
   18 'akaram ERiya mey (ÌÅ ˆêÆ —ÀË)
    6 diacritical markers for 'aa, i, ii, e, E, ai)
    2 for tamil di and dii
   36 ukaram Ukaaram ERiya meykaL (…Ì †‘Ì —Àˍè) 
   10 tamil numerals including 0. (if we want to claim
      *full* compatibility with Unicode, then we may have to
      reserve 3 more spaces for 10,100,1000.

   For the extended set that includes the non-tamil glyphs, 
   the standard-setting committee may recommend a less rigid 
   assignment. But by convention vendors
   might have to evolve a common standard. For example 
   the Version 1.4 of Kalyan has a selected set of
   non-tamil glyphs. I had already aired my views.

   Thanks for reading this far.

   ò½¥ò —œÖב  anbudan selvaa  October 6, 1997



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