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Transliteration of LT and ST.

The Roman transliteration chosen represents a fairly phonetic attempt at rendering spoken Tamil without getting into fine phonetic detail that is actually predictable from a general knowledge of Tamil. Unlike some Indian languages, Tamil does not have a single standard transliteration system. Authoritative sources such as the Madras University English-Tamil Dictionary (Chidambaranatha Chettiar 1965), the Madras University Tamil Lexicon, and Burrow and Emeneau's Dravidian Etymological Dictionary use different transliterations, especially for some of the laterals and rhotics, where true confusion reigns. To make matters worse, popular transcriptions, such as those used in public signing, transliterations of personal names, etc. typically do not mark differences in vowel length, retroflexion, and other distinctions. This is unfortunate, but scholars and others have not been able or willing to agree on a standard transliteration, so we have chosen one that can be used by lay persons as well as scholars, and provide below a chart showing the correspondences between some of these systems, where their differences are significant.

    <LI> Initial Stop Consonants. The Tamil stop consonants , , , , are usually represented in initial position as p, t, t, s and k. Where words borrowed from Indo-Aryan, English, Portuguese, or some other language preserve voiced stops in initial position, we use the Roman letters b, d, d, j (but sometimes also s, and g. Actually retroflex consonants never occur in initial position in Tamil words, so they will never occur in Literary Tamil, and in ST only in borrowed words.

    <LI> Medial Voiceless Geminate Stops. Medially, stops are voiceless in Literary Tamil only if geminate, i.e. doubled, and we follow this convention as well, writing two consecutive consonants pp, tt, tt, cc, and kk for what Literary Tamil writes as , , , , and . Geminate cc is to be understood as being phonetically . Geminate Literary Tamil never occurs in ST as such, but is always realized as tt, e.g. `about' is patti in ST. After short vowels, the phonetic value of geminate consonants is to be understood as longer in duration than a single voiceless consonant; after long vowels, geminate consonants are actually not as long as after a short vowel, but we represent them as double and long, anyway, in order to avoid the confusion that results when a single stop occurs intervocalically. That is, Literary Tamil ؽ `put, place, serve' is poodu in ST, but ؽԥ `having put, placed, served' is poottu in our transcription, rather than *pootu.

    <LI> Post-nasal Stops. The stop consonants , , , , , following nasals are always voiced in both Literary and Spoken Tamil. Except for --, which does not occur in such clusters in ST, they are represented in this transcription by the roman letters b, d ([ '023 ]), d, j, and g. Thus `younger brother' is tambi, ش `there' is ange, ״ `supplicate' is kenju, etc.

    <LI> Medial Stop Consonants. Single stop consonants (i.e. not double or geminated) in medial position, (i.e. between two vowels) in Tamil are typically laxed and fricativized. Thus the stops consonants , , , , , in medial position are actually phonetically b (or sometimes v or even ), '023 , r, D s, and h, respectively. That is, some of them are laxed and voiced, some are flapped (e.g. the retroflex stop), but some (the palatal and velar) are only laxed but not usually voiced (although the velar may in some speech be voiced as well, i.e. pronounced .) In order to stick to a Roman transcription that does not require elaborate phonetic symbols that complicate our typography, we will use the voiced Roman letters b (or v), d, r, d and the voiceless fricatives s and h for these lax and sometimes fricativized intervocalic Tamil stops. As noted above, Tamil, unlike some Indian languages, does not have a single standard transliteration system. Our choice was one that could be used by lay persons as well as scholars, hence the use of h for intervocalic -- rather than a morphophonemic //k// or a phonemic /g/. This does not follow a purely linguistic (e.g. phonemic) convention, or those used in most other grammars, but we have found through years of teaching Tamil that most dictionary representations of Tamil are not phonetic enough to permit non-Tamils to approximate usual spoken pronunciations.

    In all of our phonetic representations we give prefererence to those that preserve morphological clarity, so that even though it may be common for many speakers to convert Literary Tamil intervocalic to a flapped rhotic alveolar r, we still represent these as d. Since the completive marker (Literary Tamil ) may be realized in the speech of many people as non-retroflex, i.e. Ũ `I am definitely coming' may come out in ST as vandirr, we prefer the transcription vandidr, as this shows more clearly that there is a completive aspect marker present, even if it is realized phonologically only as d. Otherwise it is hard to explain why the past of it is always, in all dialects vanditt Literary Tamil եع. This will help avoid confusion with perfect forms also marked with , contrasting with completive -.

    <LI> Laterals and Rhotics. The Tamil sonorants , , , and are represented in our transliteration as l, l, r, and = to0pt.25ex ##= by .25ex , respectively. Tamil is not treated as a sonorant in its underlying form, but as a stop. Neither in Literary Tamil nor in ST can it occur in initial position; intervocalically it does occur in ST, where in most dialects it is indistinguishable from , so in this position it is simply transliterated by r. In ST, Literary Tamil clusters such as are simplified in non-Brahman dialect to nn after short vowels (e.g. Literary Tamil ͨ `having said' becomes simply -nnu); after long vowels in ST becomes simply n, i.e. ػԨ `seem, appear' is toonu.

    In many spoken dialects of Tamil the sonorant is merged with , and never occurs in ordinary speech. Because this sound is sociolinguistically highly preferred, however, and foreigners who are able to pronounce it are praised for their efforts, we give = to0pt.25ex ##= by .25ex as the usual transliteration of , even though many speakers, even educated ones, may be heard to use . That is, we give ma= to0pt.25ex ##= by .25ex e for Literary Tamil `rain', even if many speakers say male or even male.

    There are certain stem-final consonants in this group that tend to be not realized at all in ST, while others occur but with an epenthetic u vowelFor its pronunciation, see below. added. Thus it is typical for the final in Literary Tamil pronouns ª, ¯, (`she, they, you') to be deleted in final position in ST: ava, avanga, niinga. The same is true of that occurs as the final segment in certain person-number-gender endings, as in 硴֯ `you are located' which is realized phonetically as irukkriinga if nothing follows it. If anything follows as a suffix, however, is not deleted in ST: ? `you?' is realized in ST as niingalaa, essentially phonetically the same as the spelling pronunciation of Literary Tamil. Final of other words may be treated in different ways by different ST dialects. Some dialects delete in Ԫ `day' to give naa, but others add an epenthetic u: naalu. We give preference to the dialects that do the latter, i.e. preserve morphological clarity.In this sense we take bits and pieces of different dialects as `standard', since this is pedagogically sounder, even though there may be no speaker who actually replicates each and every pronunciation we prefer.

    Monosyllabic words with short vowels ending in laterals (there are none that end in rhotics) such as `tooth', `toddy', ׶ԧ `say', etc. are realized in ST with doubled laterals and an added epenthetic u vowel: kallu, kallu, sollu, etc.

    <LI> Nasals. Literary Tamil has graphemes for a labial nasal , a dental nasal , an alveolar nasal , a retroflex nasal , a palatal nasal , and a velar nasal . Spoken Tamil does not need this many phonemic or phonetic distinctions, requiring only m, n, and n. We therefore transliterate as m, both and as n, With the exception that clusters usually become nn, as already noted. as n, while and which usually occur only before a homorganic nasal (i.e. the palatal and velar nasal, respectively) can be transcribed with nj and nk with the assumption that English speakers, at least, will pronounce these with palatal and velar articulations automatically. occasionally occurs in prevocalic position in ST, in which case we do transliterate it as n, e.g `sage' aani.

    Monosyllabic words with short vowels ending in alveolar nasals (those that end in retroflex nasal follow the pattern of the laterals mentioned above; labial nasal does not occur) such as ͨ `my', Ш `your' convert the nasal segment into nasalization of the vowel: , ,

    Monosyllabic words with short vowels ending in retroflex , such as ׽ `girl', , `eye' etc. follow the pattern of doubled laterals with an added epenthetic u: ponnu,This form also undergoes vowel rounding; for an explanation see below. kannu in ST.

    <LI> Glides. The Tamil glides and are usually transliterated as v and y, respectively. In certain cases is closer phonetically to w or even to the bilabial , similar to Spanish `v' in `vaca', but we ignore this degree of phonetic detail. Often and in Literary Tamil forms will not have any phonetic representation at all in ST, since intervocalic in particular is deleted in weak positions, resulting in forms like ST kondaa from Literary Tamil ״. In such cases no representation of will appear in ST. Similarly, the presence of in Literary Tamil often conditions palatalization of adjacent consonants in ST, with subsequent assimilation or deletion of the in ST. Thus, Literary Tamil Ȳ `five' is anju in ST---the causes palatalization of the dental , after which disappears, leaving only ST nj. In final position also, many Literary Tamil 's are deleted, e.g. the adverbial ending -Ȳ is realized simply as aa in ST.

    In contrast, Tamil words beginning with the mid-vowels e and its long counterpart ee have an automatic [ ] onset in Tamil (as in many South Dravidian languages). Thus ͨ `what' is phonetically [ enna]. Since this is automatic and predictible, we do not supply this [ ] glide in our transcription, and transcribe ͨ always as enna. Similarly, the rounded vowels o, oo, u, and uu are preceded in initial position with an automatic [w]-glide in Tamil. ̯ `town, city' is phonetically [ u '161 r( '124 )], but again since these w-glides are predictible (in fact hardly even salient to a Tamil speaker), we do not provide them. In connected speech in non-sentence-initial position, these automatic glides are usually deleted: ¯ ؽ ͨ? `What is his name?' is in ST avar peer-enna rather than avar peer- enna.

    <LI> Oral Vowels. The Tamil vowel system consisting of five cardinal vowels , , , , and their long counterparts , , , , are represented in our transliteration as a, i, u, e, o and aa, ii, uu, ee, oo, respectively. The diphthong is usually simplified to e in ST; thus the accusative ¯- `him' is avare in ST. This is actually phonetically [], but we represent it as e for simplicity. In monosyllables is not monophthongized, but the [i] element is lengthened, or followed by a glide [y]. Thus the verb `put, keep' becomes vayyi in isolation (e.g. as a verb stem or imperative), but in more complex morphological constructions, e.g. followed by tense-markers, will change to [e]: ¢ػ `I put, kept' will be vacceen or vecceen. Here the i element triggers palatalization of the to produce cc.

    A special note must be made of the phonetic qualities of the short vowel when it occurs after the first syllable of a word, and in particular in final position. Its pronunciation in initial syllables is [U], but after the first syllable its phonetic quality is unrounded and somewhat fronted, i.e. more like IPA [ '065 ] or [ '124 ]. This is similar in quality to the short `oo' vowel in `book' as pronounced in southern American English, to the Russian y (jery) or to the final [u] in Japanese. Since it is again totally predictable when a Tamil will be pronounced in this way, we do not represent it as different from phonetically rounded [u]. This pronounciation is not different from the spelling pronunciation of Literary Tamil u, so anyone with a knowledge of the pronunciation of Literary Tamil will have no trouble predicting this.

    This situation is complicated by the fact that in ST, many short i vowels (phonetically [I] also merge with [ '124 ]. For example, the vowel of the past tense-marker of Class 3 verbs spelled ɨ as in ƨ `I bought, acquired, fetched' is pronounced like [ '124 ] in ST: [vaang '124 neen]. Some linguists who have worked on ST have regularly substituted [ '124 ] in these positions, but since this pronunciation is predictible, and differs from the spelling of Literary Tamil, we do not give either [u] or [ '124 ] here, but transcribe it as i, leaving it to the knowledge of the speaker to provide the correct phonetic realization. The Literary Tamil diphthong is rare even in Literary Tamil, and does not occur in our data except in loan words, e.g. English `pound', which we would represent as paundu or pavndu.

    <LI> Long Vowels. In final position in ST, Literary Tamil long vowels are often shortened, so that what may be written with a long vowel may always occur short in ST. Thus ش `there' is always ange in ST, unless followed by another vowel, as in شؿ `there (emph.)' angeeye. Here the non-final remains long, but the final one is shortened. Sometimes to keep morphological processes clear, however, we represent long vowels in final position as long (in transcription), even though they are phonetically short. In rapid speech, moreover, long vowels anywhere in a word will be shorter than when the word is in isolation, and short vowels may be completely deleted.

    <LI> Nasal Vowels. Spoken Tamil possesses a set of nasal vowels [ ], [ ], [], and [], some of which also have long counterparts [], [], and []. These nasal vowels are not found in Literary Tamil, but arise from the nasalization of vowels followed by or in final position. Thus, [] arises from the sequence Ǩ in Literary Tamil, e.g. ¨ `he' becomes [av]; in some dialects ¨ becomes [av] instead, which accounts for some instances of []. [] arises from the Literary Tamil sequence -ǣ, so that Literary Tamil `tree' becomes [mar]; [] arises from the Literary Tamil sequence -ˣ, e.g. `you, too' becomes [niingal] in ST.

    Long nasal vowels [], [], and [] may have several sources in Literary Tamil. [] may result from the nasalization of both Literary Tamil -Ȩ or -ȣ, i.e. Ԩ `he came' becomes [vant], but 硴ԣ `it may be, let it be' also has final [], i.e. [irukkal]. Because of the shortening of long vowels in final position, these long nasal vowels also are shortened finally; but to preserve morphological clarity we usually represent them as long in our transcription. The long vowel [] arises from the nasalization of the sequence ѣ, found typically as the marker of second person plural, as in ػԣ `we came' [vand]. Because of the shortening rule, however, it may be realized phonetically as [vand], but we usually avoid this representation, again for morphological clarity. The long vowel [] usually arises from nasalization of the Literary Tamil sequence -Ψ, found most typically in the person-number-gender ending for first person singular, as in ػ `I came', i.e. [vand]. Again, by the shortening rule this usually becomes [vand], but for clarity we avoid this representation. It does not become short in monosyllabic environments, so Literary Tamil Ψ `why?' remains long: [y], contrasting with ͨ `my', which is [y].

    Monosyllabic words with long vowels ending in Literary Tamil usually do not nasalize, but instead an epenthetic [u] [ '124 ] is added, e.g Ԩ `stag', becomes maanu. Literary Tamil words ending in also do not produce nasalized vowels in ST, but if position final, simply add u, e.g. `pillar' becomes ST tuunu.

    <LI> Vowel Shifting. A number of other differences between vowels in Literary Tamil and their realization in ST have to do with certain phonological changes in the Tamil vowel system since Tamil orthography was fixed.

    <LI> Lowering. Literary Tamil words with short high vowels i and u in an initial syllable followed by one consonant and the vowel a or ai lower these vowels to e and o respectively in ST. Thus Literary Tamil forms like `leaf' and ٻ `child' become ele and ko= to0pt.25ex ##= by .25ex ande, respectively, whereas forms like ɧ `no, not', where the vowel is followed by a double consonant, do not exhibit lowering. This change is totally regular, so that even some borrowed words, such as English `glass', borrowed usually as may, in some dialects, become kelaas or even kelas.

    <LI> Rounding. Another process that is less regular, and may therefore still be in progress as a sound change, is the rounding of short and long front vowels , , and ( i, ii, e, and ee) to their corresponding back vowels , , , and ( u, uu, o, and oo.) This occurs usually when the initial consonant is a labial ( m, v, p) and the following consonant is retroflex. Some forms that have undergone this change are socially quite acceptable, but others are considered to be somewhat substandard or casual (or even ``vulgar") so many speakers avoid this kind of rounding, or deny that they do it even when it is observed in their speech. Thus the rounding of the vowel in Literary Tamil ׽ to ST ponnu is quite normal, but the following are on a kind of sliding scale of acceptability: porandadu for Literary Tamil `it was born' (this form undergoes lowering first), pudi for Literary Tamil `like', vuudu for Literary Tamil `house', voonum for Literary Tamil `want, need, must', etc. Different speakers would rank these differently, but the general scale of acceptability is as given. We try to avoid what are considered the most egregious of these, but in an attempt to remain colloquial, some may be present in our examples. Sometimes the conditioning factor does not even include a retroflex consonant, as in the example of , where the following consonant is alveolar; in extreme cases no second conditioning consonant is present, and an initial labial alone is sufficient to cause rounding, as in Literary Tamil ջޣ `it will float' becoming, in some dialects, modakkum. This is obviously an example of a sound change in progress, and is therefore sociolinguistically marked.

    <LI> Other Changes. There are a few other changes in vowel quality from Literary Tamil to ST that cannot be described under the previous rubrics. These are mostly idiosyncratic, but may have to do with what is often called vowel harmony, i.e., vowels changing in order to agree with another vowel in height or rounding. Thus, for example Literary Tamil ״ `give' has a high vowel in its first syllable in ST, i.e. kudu rather than * kodu, which is the reading pronunciation of LT. There is no good explanation for this change, except that the height of the two vowels agree; but there are many other counterexamples. Since this grammar is neither an etymological nor a historical grammar, its concern is not to explain such changes, but merely catalogue them.


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