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Voiced Consonants.

If Tamil had never borrowed any words from other languages, it could continue to use the above system, where voiced consonants are always in complementary distribution with voiceless consonants. Tamil, however, especially ST, has borrowed many words from Indo-Aryan languages, from Portuguese, from Telugu, and from English that have voiced consonants in initial position. The Tamil writing system is currently unable to deal with this situation, but since many feel that Tamil should not allow borrowed words in its lexicon anyway, it can get away with this by keeping to a very puristic lexicon. Modern writers, journalists, and others, borrow freely from other languages, and ST, being subject to the rules of no academy, has many words with initial voiced consonants, as well as medially voiced (but not geminated) consonants. Thus the English words `fence' and `bench' can be (and have been) used in works of fiction, to the confusion of all readers, since all Tamil can do is spell them both ׽ which appears to be pronounced penju, which is neither [fens] or [benc]. Some writers have called for a reform of orthography in order to allow a way to write initial voiced consonants, but Tamil linguistic culture appears to not to want this to happen.

For our purposes, we transliterate ST words with initial voiced consonants (indeed with any voiced consonants) in a manner as close to the phonetics as possible, so we also transliterate all instances of consonant plus nasal, which are automatically voiced (but not written as so in LT) in ST, with [b, d, g] etc.



Harold_F.Schiffman