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Tamil Language/More Letters

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More on Tamil LettersEdit

Level 1 - Lesson 2
Learned the primary letters of Tamil? Time to move ahead - let's learn their combinations here.

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IntroductionEdit

You must be comfortably familiar with the vowels and consonants of Tamil by now - if you have finished, to your own satisfaction, Lesson 1. Having acquainted those 30 letters is not sufficient to 'read' Tamil texts, is it? Tamil writing system is alphasyllabary - one in which the vowels following a consonant will be integrated in to the consonant itself, using specific markers.

All consonants followed by the first vowel 'அ' will be written as they are without their pulli (dot above the pure consonants.) For every other vowel a particular marker will be used to denote the addition of that vowel. In all, these should be considered as (12 * 18 =) 216 distinct symbols (letters/phones). However, from a learner's point of view, you need only to learn a few symbols to master all this - not that much of a trouble, is it? This lesson will systematically get you through this learning.

Adding the First VowelEdit

As mentioned above, a consonant followed by the vowel 'அ' ('a') will be written as it is, with its pulli dropped. Below is the list of all 18 consonants added with 'அ', try reading them that way (pronunciation help for the first few letters are given):

  • க் + அ -> க ('ka') (as in cup)
  • ங் + அ -> ங ('ṅa')
  • ச் + அ -> ச ('ca') (as in chuck)
  • ஞ் + அ -> ஞ ('ña')
  • ட் + அ -> ட ('ṭa') (as in tuck)
  • ண் + அ -> ண ('ṇa')

Consonant + 'அ'

க, ங, ச, ஞ, ட, ண, த, ந, ப,

ம, ய, ர, ல, வ, ழ, ள, ற, ன

Adding Vowels - Easy onesEdit

Adding the first vowel 'அ' to consonants is easy, yes, just remove the over dot[1]. Moving ahead, we find that adding other vowels aren't much difficult either! 7 out of the remaining 11 vowels have only one marker each, it is therefore enough to only learn these 7 distinct markers for them (and similarities between short-long pairs of vowels make it much more easier.) We shall first learn these 7 easier ones - 'ஆ', 'எ', 'ஏ', 'ஐ', 'ஒ', 'ஓ', 'ஔ'.

Below you can find the first consonant 'க' ('k') shown added with these seven vowels - take a good look at the markers added to the original form of the letter:

Vowel adding Form Pronunciation help
க் + ஆ கா cost
க் + எ கெ kept
க் + ஏ கே cane
க் + ஐ கை kite
க் + ஒ கொ cholesterol[2]
க் + ஓ கோ cold
க் + ஔ கௌ cow

If you have observed, these seven vowel markers are simply written along with the actual form of the consonant, after it, before it or both after and before it. Thus we can take a note of the position in which they appear, and classify them accordingly, to make our learning a little more easier.

After MarkerEdit

As we note the only vowel marker that will be added after a consonant is that of 'ஆ' (ā). The marker used for this is known as tuṇaikkāl ('துணைக்கால்'), which is shown in the adjoining figure.

The following list exhibits all the eighteen consonants with the vowel 'ஆ' added to them (pronunciation help is left out, assuming you can read them on your own by this time!)

Consonants with 'ஆ'


கா, ஙா, சா, ஞா, டா, ணா, தா, நா, பா, மா, யா, ரா, லா, வா, ழா, ளா, றா, னா


Before MarkersEdit

Moving ahead (actually, 'jumping ahead' - for we are skipping the next four vowels in the order!) we see that the markers for the next three vowels are added before the consonant considered. These are the markers for 'எ', 'ஏ' and 'ஐ'.

The following lists shows all the eighteen consonants with these three vowels, எ, ஏ, ஐ respectively, the adjoining figures shows the markers that are added before the consonant, carefully study these:

Consonants with 'எ'


கெ, ஙெ, செ, ஞெ, டெ, ணெ, தெ, நெ, பெ, மெ, யெ, ரெ, லெ, வெ, ழெ, ளெ, றெ, னெ


Consonants with 'ஏ'


கே, ஙே, சே, ஞே, டே, ணே, தே, நே, பே, மே, யே, ரே, லே, வே, ழே, ளே, றே, னே


Consonants with 'ஐ'


கை, ஙை, சை, ஞை, டை, ணை, தை, நை, பை, மை, யை, ரை, லை, வை, ழை, ளை, றை, னை


Both-sided MarkersEdit

Finally we learn the three markers which are made of two symbols, one added before the consonant and one after it. These are the markers for the three last vowels 'ஒ', 'ஓ' and 'ஔ'.

The following lists exhibits all the eighteen consonants with these three vowels, ஒ, ஓ, ஔ respectively:

Consonants with 'ஒ'


கொ, ஙொ, சொ, ஞொ, டொ, ணொ, தொ, நொ, பொ, மொ, யொ, ரொ, லொ, வொ, ழொ, ளொ, றொ, னொ


Consonants with 'ஓ'


கோ, ஙோ, சோ, ஞோ, டோ, ணோ, தோ, நோ, போ, மோ, யோ, ரோ, லோ, வோ, ழோ, ளோ, றோ, னோ


Consonants with 'ஔ'


கௌ, ஙௌ, சௌ, ஞௌ, டௌ, ணௌ, தௌ, நௌ, பௌ, மௌ, யௌ, ரௌ, லௌ, வௌ, ழௌ, ளௌ, றௌ, னௌ


Adding Vowels - Tough onesEdit

The label tough is not used to threaten you, never! It is merely intended to draw more attention of yours, while learning the vowel markers for the remaining four vowels, 'இ', 'ஈ', 'உ' and 'ஊ' - for the vowel markers for these add to the consonant shapes at different positions, thus varying (slightly) in structure! It is, therefore, necessary to put in a little more extra effort and concentration while learning these.

Adding இ and ஈEdit

You may doubt, after learning this, the judgement of putting this one under the 'tough ones' - for adding 'இ' or 'ஈ' to a consonant isn't taking that much different forms, except for only one consonant. However, it is of the intention to not present you even the least of a confusion. Let us first take a look at the consonant added with 'இ' and the vowel marker itself before we discuss any further.

The following list shows all the eighteen consonants added with 'இ':

Consonants with 'இ'


கி, ஙி, சி, ஞி, டி, ணி, தி, நி, பி, மி, யி, ரி, லி, வி, ழி, ளி, றி, னி



So, what is that one consonant that differs? (slightly, of course!) Yes, it is 'டி' (ட் + இ) For every other consonant the vowel marker comfortably founds a place at their 'head' (if we can call that!) However, for 'ட்'it has to sit at the 'leg' (the bottom that is!)

The same is true with adding the longer (nedil) counterpart, 'ஈ'. This is shown below, have a good look:

Consonants with 'ஈ'


கீ, ஙீ, சீ, ஞீ, டீ, ணீ, தீ, நீ, பீ, மீ, யீ, ரீ, லீ, வீ, ழீ, ளீ, றீ, னீ


Do take a special note of (ட் + இ) 'டி' and (ட் + ஈ) 'டீ' and learn this part.

Adding உ and ஊEdit

Finally, we have come to the real tough one amongst the vowel added consonants of Tamil. We shall first glimpse at the list of consonants added with 'உ' and then discuss about this addition:


Consonants with 'உ'


கு, ஙு, சு, ஞு, டு, ணு, து, நு, பு, மு, யு, ரு, லு, வு, ழு, ளு, று, னு



Truly, this one is not been held back, this far, without proper reason!

Though a casual first look might suggest that there is quite a lot to take in, a careful scrutiny should tell you that there is a pattern.

We see that the vowel adds to consonant shapes in three basic ways. The following table summarizes these:

Type 1 a line around கு (க்) டு (ட்) மு (ம்) ரு (ர்) ழு (ழ்) ளு (ள்)
Type 2 a vertical line below ஙு (ங்) சு (ச்) பு (ப்) யு (ய்) வு (வ்)
Type 3 a vertical line going up from below ஞு (ஞ்) ணு (ண்) து (த்) நு (ந்) லு (ல்) று (ற்) னு (ன்)


We can be easily convinced that these variations crept in naturally according to the basic shape of the consonant's letter. Though these are shown here with such classifications, it is intended only as a quick learning aid - it is always the best practice to learn them as such by repeatedly reciting and writing them.

All TogetherEdit

The table below summarizes all the 18 consonants added with the 12 vowels - this would be handy for the learner.

Vowel/Consonant க் ங் ச் ஞ் ட் ண் த் ந் ப் ம் ய் ர் ல் வ் ழ் ள் ற் ன்
|| க || ங || ச || ஞ || ட || ண || த || ந || ப || ம || ய || ர || ல || வ || ழ || ள || ற || ன
|| கா || ஙா || சா || ஞா || டா || ணா || தா || நா || பா || மா || யா || ரா || லா || வா || ழா || ளா || றா || னா
|| கி || ஙி || சி || ஞி || டி || ணி || தி || நி || பி || மி || யி || ரி || லி || வி || ழி || ளி || றி || னி
|| கீ || ஙீ || சீ || ஞீ || டீ || ணீ || தீ || நீ || பீ || மீ || யீ || ரீ || லீ || வீ || ழீ || ளீ || றீ || னீ
|| கு || ஙு || சு || ஞு || டு || ணு || து || நு || பு || மு || யு || ரு || லு || வு || ழு || ளு || று || னு
|| கூ || ஙூ || சூ || ஞூ || டூ || ணூ || தூ || நூ || பூ || மூ || யூ || ரூ || லூ || வூ || ழூ || ளூ || றூ || னூ
|| கெ || ஙெ || செ || ஞெ || டெ || ணெ || தெ || நெ || பெ || மெ || யெ || ரெ || லெ || வெ || ழெ || ளெ || றெ || னெ
|| கே || ஙே || சே || ஞே || டே || ணே || தே || நே || பே || மே || யே || ரே || லே || வே || ழே || ளே || றே || னே
|| கை || ஙை || சை || ஞை || டை || ணை || தை || நை || பை || மை || யை || ரை || லை || வை || ழை || ளை || றை || னை
|| கொ || ஙொ || சொ || ஞொ || டொ || ணொ || தொ || நொ || பொ || மொ || யொ || ரொ || லொ || வொ || ழொ || ளொ || றொ || னொ
|| கோ || ஙோ || சோ || ஞோ || டோ || ணோ || தோ || நோ || போ || மோ || யோ || ரோ || லோ || வோ || ழோ || ளோ || றோ || னோ
|| கௌ || ஙௌ || சௌ || ஞௌ || டௌ || ணௌ || தௌ || நௌ || பௌ || மௌ || யௌ || ரௌ || லௌ || வௌ || ழௌ || ளௌ || றௌ || னௌ


A note of conclusionEdit

It is wished to emphasize on two things here,

  1. A mere reading of this material (and the lesson before) will not guarantee any functional knowledge with Tamil letters and writing system - it should be acquired with adequate practice and exercise,
  2. Do not be frightened by the breathtaking display of two hundred odd letters - sincere efforts have been made to show that it is not as difficult as it appears to be to learn this beautiful language.

It is suggested to take these in parts, so that it will be more easier and effective (suggestions regarding this will be added in the talk page of this lesson)

FootnotesEdit

  1. We shall consider the 'அ' added form as the actual or original form of a consonant
  2. Without aspiration ('h' sound)
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