Archive for October, 2015

Phonetics of Devanagari and Tamil scripts

October 14, 2015

Phonetics of Devanagari and Tamil scripts

These two scripts are phonetically related in a very odd way. Many of the north Indian languages closely follow the Devanagari script as used by Sanskrit presently. Other south Indian languages (I am consciously avoiding the term Dravidian languages) follow their own independently evolved scripts. I found some interesting contrast between the scripts of Sanskrit and Tamil which I want to share with my readers. These are all my own original ideas and purposely I have not read or referred any previous work or study on this aspect (which I will eventually do after I publish this write-up).

Like the scripts of all languages, these two scripts also have vowels and consonants. The Devanagari script has thirteen vowels as below. (I am giving only the phonetic value of these vowels);

Vowels : a, Aa, i, Ee, u, Uu, ru, eay, ai, oh, ou, amm, aha.

Actual Devanagari script is not of our interest as of now. Let us now look at the vowels in Tamil language:

Vowels : a, Aa, i, Ee, u, Uu, eay, Eaay, ai, oh, Oh, ou.

As we compare these phonetics we see, they are essentially similar, but with significant differences. When ‘a’, ‘i’ and ‘u’ have their extended phonetic as ‘Aa’, ‘Ee’ and ‘Uu’, the same extension is not given to ‘eay’ and ‘oh’ in Devanagari script. But Tamil script has extended phonetics for them also. Tamil seems to need them too. Look at the Tamil words –

mattu, mAattu, mittu, meettu, muttu, mUuttu, mettu, meayttu, mottu, mOhttu

– meaning respectively,

less, hang, earth/land, pluck a string of a musical instrument, butt or bang with your head, enflame (or bone joint), musical tune, raised level, flower bud and bulging. (Phew, look at the strength of Tamil vocabulary).

If we assume that Tamil phonetics were derived from Devanagari script, then Tamils have surely added two more vowels to meet their phonetic requirements. Let us wait till we see the consonants.

The primary consonants in Devanagari are:

Ka, kha, ga, gha, nga

Cha, chha, ja, jha, ngya

Ta, tha, da, dha, Nna

Tha, Thha, dha, dhha, na

Pa, pha, ba, bha, ma

The corresponding consonants in Tamil are:

(Ka, nga) – (Cha, ngya) – (Ta, Nna) – (Tha, na) – (Pa, ma)

Tamils added (perhaps after a later thought) one more set of similar consonant in

Rra – na, (literally at the end of the list of alphabets).

While an emphasized Rra (or tra) is required to handle a few important Tamil words, I always found a second ‘na’ superfluous, although the two ‘na’s are surely used in different contexts in the written language.

As can be seen above, Devanagari script appears to be an expanded version of Tamil phonetics. If it is still believed that Tamil phonetics were derived from Devanagari, what could have been the reason for dropping the different variations of Ka, Cha etc? When writing purely Tamil words, Tamils don’t feel the need for these emphasized consonants, as they are intended to be pronounced with such variations as per the context. Tamil also uses double letters for emphasized consonants such as KKa for Kha. However, when writing words of other languages in Tamil script, one feels handicapped by this deficiency in the script. Some authors use subscripts like 1, 2, 3 and 4 in the script for marking these variations. As you can see in the next section, in later days, a few Devanagari phonetics were also adopted in to Tamil script, even though purists do not use them.

Now let us write down the secondary consonants of Devanagari script, as below:

Secondary consonants: ya, ra, la, va, sha, sya, sa, ha

Tamil has similar consonants as below:

Secondary consonants: ya, ra, la, va, zha, Lla

Earlier Tamils did not adopt the latter half of the above set of Devanagari phonetics in to their script. As need arose to read and write words of foreign roots, they adopted the others also in to a set of special (Northern!) scripts – ‘sha, ksha, sa, ha and Sri’. Here again the purists do not use them. The consonants zha, Lla, Rra, na are special phonetics of Tamil, (especially the zha), and significantly they at the end of the list of Tamil alphabets.

From the above account it appears that the phonetic scripts of Devanagari and Tamil could have had their roots in a more ancient common script. Critical comments on the above are most welcome.


Swatch Bharath Abhyan

October 1, 2015

Swatch Bharath Abhyan

(Clean India Campaign)

It is just one year since the above campaign was launched by our Prime Minister Shri Modi. Many reviews of ‘progress-so-far’ have appeared in print, visual, electronic and social media. Ignoring the politically biased views, generally there is a concern that the campaign has not achieved the desired result so far. Mr. Modi has perhaps anticipated such apathy to the campaign and hence has given himself and the government 5 full years up to 2019 to achieve reasonable cleanliness. Still it is a good idea to review the ‘progress-so-far’ and take some positive actions to improve the progress based on our experience till now.

What makes the public places and surroundings unclean? There are about 10 types of wastes generated by individuals, families and institutions. They are:

Kitchen/Garden waste

Personal and Health care waste

Stationery waste

Plastic waste

Packing waste

Party/event waste

Industrial waste

Construction waste

Electrical/Electronic waste

Metal waste

General public need a lot of guidance and facilities to dispose of these wastes appropriately. I am attempting here to give my own ideas on how to dispose of Plastic Wastes in an environmentally friendly way.

  1. Single plastic bags should never be disposed of on their own. It is more likely to fly off anywhere and block any drain or air passage and block water seepage to the ground and below.
  2. Any thin plastic bag should be disposed off tying its ends together in to a bundle so that it cannot balloon and fly off.
  3. At home a number of such tied up thin plastic bags should all be gathered together in to a larger plastic bag/bundle and disposed of separately. This will enable and encourage the trash pickers to collect them and deposit them for recycling.
  4. Thicker plastic bags should be reused as much as possible. There should be municipal collection facilities where we can deposit them, after packing them neatly.
  5. Waste plastic sheets (thin and thick) should be treated the same was as bags.
  6. Plastic bottles should also be deposited in municipal collection facilities as above.
  7. Disused plastic containers and other thicker materials like boxes, mugs, buckets, furniture and fittings should all be gathered together and handed over to trash dealers personally.
  8. Housing societies and apartment complexes should have a dry waste collection day, once in a month (say, last Saturday of the month). On this day all the residents should deposit their plastic waste material collected as above in to a common bin provided for this purpose. The trash dealers may be requested to collect the same at the end of the day.
  9. Municipal ward offices should announce one day in a month (say, last Sunday of the month) as dry waste collection day and a truck should go around the ward collecting such wastes.
  10. The slums and low cost housing areas should be more actively involved in this Clean India Campaign, for it to succeed.

Such methods of waste disposal as above should be evolved for all types of wastes. They should be publicized periodically in all media, especially the vernacular ones.

Let us all have a Clean India and a Green India. Vande Mataram.