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The epenthetic vowel u

When all other methods have been exhausted, Tamil can always make a word end in a vowel by adding the so-called `epenthetic' (or `enunciative') vowel u to any word that does not already have a final vowel. This `fleeting' vowel is often present only in isolation, i.e. before a pause. If the word is joined to another, this vowel then disappears. Phonetically, this vowel is usually an unrounded high back lax vowel [ '065 ], [ '124 ] or [ '047 ]. In fact, Tamil pronounces all orthographic u's as [ '124 ] etc. after the first syllable of a word, except for final u's in some names, chiefly male nicknames.This is also a pattern in some Indo-Aryan languages, and may be borrowed. Thus ߤտ baalusubramaniyam may be shortened to baalu, raajeendran to raaju, etc. Furthermore, many i's are also pronounced [ '124 ] or [ '047 ] in similar positions, so words like Ԥեե saappittukittirukku `it is eating' is actually phonetically [sa '161 pt '124 ttr '124 k '124 ], i.e. all the vowels after the first syllable are identical, or in some cases have been deleted. This vowel has been unrounded for so long that most speakers of Tamil pronounce it this way in LT as well as in ST, i.e. it is not an ST innovation. What is different in ST is the business of making i into [ '047 ] or [ '124 ] as well.



Harold_F.Schiffman