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[WMASTERS] Initial voiced stops.


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Selva writes,

>       Tamil does *not* have J, G, and such voiced stops at the
>       *beginning* of a word. Tamils are aware of many sounds and
>       sound sequences but they don't include all of them.
>       To say they that they have is similar to saying, 'Oh
>       there are many in America who speak English who have 'zha'
>       in their name and so English should have a representation.
>       English *has* zha and even the way americans pronounce
>       'american' has some slight similarities.. Or to say 'Oh
>       English has a word 'pariah' and we should include a new
>       symbol for hard 'r'. English *has* what we call in tamil
>       'vallina Ra'.

Sorry, Selva, but initial stops can be traced back to Old Tamil and even
Proto-Dravidian.   However, they only occur in onomatopoetic words -- Prof.
Emeneau and my wife have written a paper on this, and the evidence is quite
clear.  It is common for languages to use unusual sounds in onomatopoetic
words or deictic words.  A famous example is English: only in deictics is
initial "th" voiced.  Similarly in Russian, only in deictic words ("this")
does an initial "e" occur initially.  (etot, "this").

In any case, for a modern linguist, the language is what is actually
spoken, not what was codified over 2000 years ago.  Modern Tamil most
certainly has voiced initial stops -- e.g. gavani, bayam, etc.  Mostly in
borrowed words, but they are used all the time in spoken Tamil.  Hal is
making the sensible argument that the Tamil writing system should reflect
modern Tamil, not Tamil as it was (for the most part) several millenia ago.
The same argument has been made countless times, without effect, for
English -- it makes very little sense to write "night" when we say "nite."
The "gh" was pronounced in Chaucer's time (e.g. modern German Nacht).  G.


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