(Last Updated on : 02/01/2012)
The Tamil Scripts is utilised to write the Tamil language
and other minor languages like Paniya, Irulas and Badaga
. Tamil script is also utilised to write Saurashtra
and Tamils use it to write Sanskrit
, with the use of diacritics to represent aspirated and voiced consonants that are not depicted in the basic script. The Tamil script varies from other Brahmi-derived scripts in numerous ways. Unlike other Indic scripts, Tamil script utilses the same character to represent both a voiced stop and n unvoiced one. Thus the character k represents both k and g. Conventional Tamil grammar has comprehensive rules, observed in formal speech, to determine when a stop is to be pronounced without and with voice. Further more, unlike other Indic scripts, it barely uses special consonantal ligatures to depict conjunct consonants that are much less frequent in Tamil than in other languages in India.
History of Tamil Scripts
The Tamil script is believed to have developed from the Brahmi script
. Inscriptions from the 2nd century AD portray a variety of the Tamil Brahmi script that is noticeably similar to the writing system narrated in the ancient Tamil grammar Tolkappiyam
. The Tamil letters evolved gradually and during 5th century AD and 6th century AD, it adopted a form known as vatteluttu. In 7th century, new script for Tamil was created by the Pallava dynasty
by simplifying the Grantha script. By the 8th century, the new script replaced vatteluttu in the Chola
kingdoms. The forms of some letters were simplified in the 19th century to make the script easier for typescript.
Classification of words in Tamil Scripts
There are 4 types of words in Tamil scripts. Uriccol formed the root words amongst them and was used in ancient poems but are not common at present. Other than that, there are only 3 types of words, nouns, verbs and particles or itaiccol. The nouns represent inanimate and animate categories of gender, person, things and number. Tinai is divided into Uyartinai and Akrinai. Uyartinai denotes the nouns that depict personal class of beings, such as gods, demons and humans. Akrinai denotes the inferior class of beings which could be inanimate, animate or neuter. Uyartinai also comprises of higher classes of animate beings such as human beings.
The category of Akrinai comprises of other animate and inanimate things. Uyartinai consists of 3 types of genders masculine, feminine and neuter. Palar pal or neuter plural gender portrays many in number. Masculine and feminine genders in Tamil depict only singular number. Akrinai is divided into onran pal that is singular of the impersonal class and palvin pal that is plural of the impersonal class. Distinction between animate and inanimate objects and feminine and masculine genders are normally done based on the meaning of the words.
The Tamil characters that are used at present are believed to have initiated from vatteluttu. There are 12 vowels in Tamil consisting of 5 short vowels.
Basic Consonants in Tamil Scripts
Consonants are known as the body or mei letters. The consonants of Tamil scripts are divided into 3 parts:
* Vallinam - Hard consonants,
* Mellinam - Soft consonants, including all nasals, and
* Idayinam - Medium consonants.
Moreover, the Tolkappiyam describes some lexical rules for formation of words.
Modern Consonants in Tamil Scripts
The Tamil speech includes several phonemes that were not part of the Tolkappiyam categorization. The alphabetical characters known as Grantha are a fraction of contemporary Tamil. These are now a part of accepted Tamil alphabets which are taught from elementary school and integrated in Tamil Nadu Government encoding known as TACE 16 (Tamil All Character Encoding). In recent times, 3 combinations of Tamil basic letters are generally used to represent sounds of English letters f, z, and x. This is for writing English and Arabic words and names in Tamil script.
Vowels in Tamil Scripts
Vowels in Tamil scripts are called the life or soul letters or uyir. Along with the consonants they shape compound, syllabic (abugida) letters which are known as living letters or uyirmei, meaning letters that have both body (consonants) and soul (vowels). Tamil vowels are classified into short and long (5 of each kind) and 2 diphthongs. The long vowels, called nedil, are almost twice as long as the short vowels called kuril. The diphthongs are normally pronounced around one and a half times as long as the short vowels, even though some grammatical texts set them with the long vowels (nedil).
Tamil in Unicode
Unicode encodes the character in rational order, with the consonant always first, while legacy 8-bit encodings (such as TSCII) favour the written order. As a result, it is essential to rearrange when converting from one encoding to another; it is not adequate simply to map one set of code points to the other.
The Unicode range for Tamil is U+0B80-U+0BFF. Grey areas specify non-assigned code points. Both Unicode and ISCII encode Tamil as an abugida.