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Slide 1: 

Early Tamil Epigraphy From the Earliest Times to the 6th Century AD The book deals with development of two scripts of Tamil: Tamil-Brahmi and Early VaTTezhuttu covering a period from the 3rd century BC till the 6th century AD.

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First, let me provide some background information regarding the scripts discussed in the book in order to follow ‘Overview’

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Brahmi, Tamil Brahmi, VaTTezhuttu, Tamil and Grantha We would come across with five scripts in the book: Short description of these scripts follows.

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Brahmi is an ancient script of India. The earliest writing in Brahmi is found in the edicts of Asoka dated to the 3rd century BC. Brahmi is a general term and there existed a number of regional variations, like Southern Brahmi, Sinhala-Brahmi etc. Brahmi

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Brahmi is the script from which all other native Indian scripts, except the Harappan, are derived. Brahmi Mother script of Indian Languages

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Development of the letter N (ண) in all Indian languages starting from Brahmi, It may be noted how the characters change drastically over the centuries!

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Development of latter k (க) in Devanagari, Tamil and other south Indian Scripts BC-AD

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Development of vowels of Tamil from Early Tamil-Brahmi

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Development of consonants of Tamil from Early Tamil-Brahmi

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Pallava Grantha, a derivative of Brahmi, a script developed to write Sanskrit in the Tamil country was the inspiration to most of the Asian scripts. This happened through the political and the cultural conquest by the Indian rulers starting from the Pallava-s Brahmi Mother script of many Asian Languages

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Development of letter k (க) for the languages of Java, Sumatra Borneo, Thai, Laos, Khmer, Combodia, Vietnam, etc from the Grantha script

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Tamil-Brahmi is the name of the script in which the earliest inscriptions in Tamil are found. Tamil-Brahmi Let us see how Tamil-Brahmi looks like

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நா ழ û கொ ü ற ó த ö ப [ளி] ö The hermitage (is the gift) of koRRantai of nAzhaL Tamil-Brahmi inscription Kudumiyanmalai, 3rd century AD

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VaTTezhuttu, a cursive style, was derived from Tamil-Brahmi, and was current all over the Tamil country from the 5th century AD. VaTTezhuttu

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Tamil script that came into use from the 7th century displaced VaTTezhuttu. With the ascendancy of the Chozhas, and the displacement was total by 13th century. However the script lingered on till the 19th century in Kerala for writing Malayalam. VaTTezhuttu

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The Pulankurichchi inscriptions (5th century) are the earliest. A number of hero-stones in the Dharmapuri district have been found inscribed in Early VaTTezhuttu. VaTTezhuttu Let us see a specimen of VaTTEzhttu

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ஐ ம் ப த் தே ழ ன ai m pa t tE zha na ச ன ந் நோ ற் ற ca na n nO R Ra ச ந் தி ர ந ந் தி ஆ ca na ti ra na n ti A சி ரி க ரு நி சீ தி கை ci ri ka ru ni cI ti kai ஐம்பத்தேழு நாட்கள் உண்ணா §¿¡ýÒ நோற்ற சந்திரநந்தி ஆசிரிகரு தவம் செய்த இடம் The seat of penance of chantiramanti Acirikaru, who observed the fast (unto death) for fifty-seven days Vattezhuttu inscription Thirunatharkunru, 6th century AD

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The Pallava rulers created the Tamil script out of the Grantha script by the 7th century, adding necessary additional letters from VaTTezhuttu. Tamil Script This is the view of Mahadevan, and is not shared by some. There are (according to Mahadevan) no inscriptions in the Tamil script before Mahendra Pallavan I (7th century AD).

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There was a steep increase in inscriptions in Tamil from the 9th century onwards. The classical phase of Tamil script starts with the ascendancy of the Chozha-s from the middle of the 9th century. From the 11th century onwards this became the main script for Tamil throughout the Tamil country. Tamil Script Here is an example of Tamil script in the early stages

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ŠவŠதி‚ கோôபரகேசரி ப÷ம svatiShrI kOpparakEsari parma ÷Ì யாñÎ 34 இவாñÎ கான Rku yANdu 34 ivANDu kAna நாðÎ Óனியóதைì ÌளòÐ nATTu muniyantaik kuLattu ìÌ மóதிரி ஆîசý ã÷òதி அðÊ Kku manthiri Accan mUrti aTTi ன காÍ 2 இரñÎ காசா ஒÕ காசாø Na kAcu 2 iraNDu kAcA oru kAcAl Tamil inscription Parantaka Chozha, 10th century AD In the 34th year of Parantaka Chozha, Achchan mUrti, a minister, has given 2 kasu-s for the renovation of the lake

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Grantha, was derived from the Southern Brahmi script of Prakrit characters by the Pallava-s (6th century AD) to write Sanskrit in the Tamil country. Grantha Script Let us see how Grantha script then looked like.

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²¾¾3É¢‰¼Áò3ÕÁÁ§Ä¡ EtadanishTamadrumamalO †Á…¤¾4õ Å¢º¢òú¢ò§¾¿ Hamasudham vicitracittEna ¿¢÷Á¡À¢¾óÕ§À½ô3˧Á nirmApitanRpRNabrahmE ‰ÅÃÅ¢‰ÏÄì„¢¾¡Â¾¿õ ShvaravishNulakshitAyatanam Grantha inscription Mahendra Pallava, 7th century AD The (cave) temple dedicated to Brahma, Siva and Vishnu was excavated by Vichitrachitta (Mahendra Pallava) without using brick, timber, metal and mortar.

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Discovery of inscriptions in the Tamil country has been eventful

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Discovery Till the end of the 19th century only two scripts were known: VaTTezhuttu of the Pandiya-s belonging to 8th century and Tamil of the Pallava-s dated the 7th century It was wondered why there should be two scripts for one language. But their descent from Brahmi was inferred.

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Discovery The complete absence of written record of a great literary civilization of 2000 years vintage was a puzzle. This was solved when cave inscriptions, resembling closely the script of Asokan edicts, were found in Tamilnadu around the end of the 19th century.

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The earliest finding of cave inscription is of Mangulam by Robert Sewell in 1882. This is not only oldest finding, it is oldest lithic record in Tamilnadu and it is also of great historical significance. Discovery And a host of discoveries followed.

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Until middle of the last century cave inscriptions were the only source of early Tamil writing. Then it was presumed that Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions were caused to be inscribed by Jaina and Buddhist monks who were not conversant with Tamil, and that these inscriptions did not represent language of the day. Discovery With the finding of inscribed pottery in Arikkamedu during 1941-44 and later from many other sites the view has changed.

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The pottery inscriptions made it possible to date inscriptions more accurately. It looks that inscribing on pottery was given up after the 3rd century AD. Discovery

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Deciphering, the Tamil-Brahmi script

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DecipheringDifficulties Deciphering cave inscriptions posed a number of problems: Most of the inscriptions were in inaccessible locations Inscriptions were not bold and clear Language was mistaken for Prakrit Clues to a correct understanding of the script were not found.

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1906: Venkayya identified the script to be Brahmi. But he thought that the language was Pali. He read a line in Mettuppatti as anatai ariya, attempted to seek Vedic roots for the words. 1914: Krishna Sastri attempted to read the bold Sittannavasal inscription. DecipheringMilestones

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DecipheringMilestones 1919: Krishna Sastri first noted purely southern charactaristics, like the occurrences of letter L [ள] which was identified earlier in Simhala-Brahmi. He also identified the presence of three unusual characters, later identified as zh [ழ], R [ற] and n [ன]. He was the first to feel that some of the consonants must be basic (ெமö).

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DecipheringMilestones 1924: KV Subramania Iyer pointed out the powerful misguiding factor that what was written in Brahmi must be in Prakrit.

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DecipheringMilestones 1924: KV Subramania Iyer found: - Soft consonants (ग ज ड द ब) were absent - sa (ஸ, स ) was occasionally used; but Sh (º, श) and sh (ஷ, ष) were absent. - All vowels except ai , au, Ri (ऋ), Lr (ऌ), M (अं) and H (अः) were used - Conjunct consonants (ÜðெடØòÐ) were absent completely

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DecipheringMilestones 1924: KV Subramania Iyer ruled out Indo-European language and proved it is Tamil. He demonstrated convincingly presence of Tamil grammatical elements like pAkan (À¡¸ý), vaNikan (Ž¢¸ý), etc

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DecipheringMilestones 1924: KV Subramania Iyer could not still read correctly because of his incorrect orthography (spelling), his overestimation of the Prakrit elements, etc

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DecipheringMilestones 1938-9: Narayana Rao tried to put the clock back. He felt that the language was Prakrit, and actually read the inscriptions fully!

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DecipheringMilestones 1961: KG Krishnan identified pulli (ÒûÇி), a device introduced ‘later’ to mark the basic consonants (ெமö ±ØòÐ) and the short e (±) and o (´) vowels. Later pulli was also identified in the 2nd century AD silver coin of Satakarni.

Slide 39: 

DecipheringMilestones 1964: Kamil Zwelebil published the first formal study of cave inscriptions. 1967: TV Mahalingam published the first book-length study of cave inscriptions.

Slide 40: 

DecipheringMahadevan’s attempts 1961: Mahadevan took up study of inscriptions 1962-66: First round of visits to the caves 1966: Corpus of 74 Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions and 2 Early VaTTezhuttu inscriptions from 21 sites published 1987: Mahadevan proposed a tentative model 1991-96: Second field expedition 2003: Publication of ‘Early Tamil Epigraphy’

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DecipheringMahadevan’s attempts Mahadevan made field visits to the sites and prepared tracings direct from stones and made use of computer enhancement of photos. He made chronological classification.

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Let us have a look at some important inscriptions

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Mangulam inscription was discovered by Robert Sewell in 1882, and was rediscovered by KV Subramania Iyer in 1906 Mangulam inscription

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This Tamil-Brahmi inscription is important, because this is the earliest inscription to be found and in this inscription Nedunchezhiyan, a Sangam king, is mentioned. Mangulam inscription

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Mangulam inscription

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The inscription is in Tamil-Brahmi and is dated to the 2nd century BC Mangulam inscription

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A line from the inscription is given to compare the Tamil script 2000 years ago with the present day script. க ணி ய் ந ந் த அ ஸி ரி ய் இ ka Ni y na n ta a si ri y i It may be noted that a non-Tamil letter s (ஸ) is used Mangulam inscription

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The text of the inscription is given along with meaning in present day Tamil கணிய் நந்தஅஸிரிய்இ குவ்அன்கே த3ம்மம் இத்தாஅ நெடுஞ்சழியன் kaNiy nanta’asiriy’I kuv’ankE dammam ittA’a neTuncazhiyan பணஅன் கடல்அன் வழுத்திய் கொட்டுபித்தஅ பளிஇய் paNa’an kaDal’an vazhuttiy koTuppitta’a paLiy Mangulam inscription குரு நந்தஸிரி குவனுக்கு தர்மம் இது; நெடுஞ்செழியனின் பணியாள் கடலன் வழுதி செய்தளிக்கப்பட்ட படுக்கை This is the charity to nanta-siri kuvan, the kaNi; the bed was caused to be carved by kaTalan vazhuti, the servant of neTunchezhian.

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Edakkal inscription Inscription in Edakkal, Kerala was discovered by Fawcett in 1894. He made careful drawing and took photos and submitted to Hultzsch. Hultzsch took estampages and published a brief note to Fawcett. Fawcett published a paper in 1901. Hultzsch made an attempt to decipher, but could not. For a century no further was action taken

Slide 50: 

Mahadevan made two expeditions in 1995 and 1996. Unfortunately, these Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions have been obliterated due to graffiti by tourists Edakkal inscription

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During the 1996 expedition, Mahadevan found two other Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions dated to the 3rd century AD. In one of them there was a mention of kaTummiputa chEra, a ChEra king. This is also another important inscription for it belongs to the age of a Sangam king Edakkal inscription

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In Pugalur, near Karur, the ancient Chera capital a number of inscriptions were discovered. One of them is important for it is a record of a Chera king of the Irumporai line which ruled from Karur in the Sangam age. Pugalur inscription

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Pugalur inscription Óதா அமñணý யாüê÷ செíகாயபý உறைö mutA amaNNan yARRUr senkAyapan uRaiy கோ ஆதý செøலிÕõபொறை மகý kO Atan cellirumpoRai makan பெÕíகÎíகோý மகý{இ}ளí perunkaTunkOn makan (i)Lan கÎíகோ{இ}ளíகோ ஆக அÚòத கø kaTunkO(i)LankO Aka aRutta kal The text of the inscription

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The abode of the senior Jaina monk, senkAyapan of yARRUr. The rock (shelter) was carved when (i)LankaTunkO, the son of perunkaTunkOn, the son of King Atan sel irumpoRai, became the heir apparent. Pugalur inscription The meaning of the inscription

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Inscription in Jambai, in Villuppuram district, is one among the most outstanding discoveries. Dated to the 1st century AD the inscription records the grant of a cave shelter by atiyan neTumAn anchi, identified as the famous chieftain of Takatur (modern Dharmapuri), celebrated in Purananuru. Jamabai inscription

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ஸதியÒதோ அதியó நெÎமாó அïசி ஈòத பÇி satiyaputO atiyan neTumAn anci Itta paLi Jamabai inscription The hermitage was given by atiyamaAn neTumAn añchi, the satiyaputta The text of the inscription is given along with its meaning

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Atiyan neTumAn anchi, has the title of satiyapitO; a title found in the Second Rock edict of Asoka along with Cheras, Chozhas and Pandyas, thus establishing conclusively Asoka’s connection with the Tamil country. Jamabai inscription

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The identification of Satiyaputo with with Atiyaman was on the linguistic grounds by Sesha Iyer and improved upon by Burrow. Jamabai inscription

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According to Burrow the developments are: satiya [ஸதிய] to atiya [அதிய] (with the loss of the initial consonant), and putO [Òதோ] meaning ‘son’ [makan, மகý] then makan [மகý] to mAn [மாý] like chEramAn [ேºÃÁாý] corresponding to kEraLaputO [ேகÃÇÒேதா]. Jamabai inscription

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Now let us go through the contents of the book

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Mahadevan’s book deals with Early Tamil-Brahmi (2nd century BC to 1st century AD) Late Tamil Brahmi (2nd to 4th centuries AD) Early Vattezhuththu (5th & 6th centuries AD) and does not include Later Vattezhuththu and Tamil (both from 7th century AD) Mahadevan’s Book

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Part One: Early Tamil Inscriptions Part Two: Studies in Early Tamil Epigraphy Part Three: Corpus of Early Tamil Inscriptions Mahadevan’s BookContents

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Let us follow some important discussions

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Many Asokan edicts are in Prakrit and the script is Brahmi. This Brahmi script cannot be used directly for Tamil, because there are no symbols to represent basic consonants and short e and o Different Requirements of Prakrit and Tamil

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At least three different methods Tamil-Brahmi I, II and III were tried for medial vowel notation, that is, to represent basic consonants like (ì), consonants with medial –a, like (¸) and –A, like (¸ா). Attempts to adapt Brahmi for Tamil

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Pulli came to be used in Tamil-Brahmi later as a negative vowel marker to provide what the parent Brahmi script lacked. to represent basic consonants (ì), and to represent short e (±) and o (´). Pulli in Tamil-Brahmi

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Pulli occurs only from the 2nd century AD onwards But it is seldom found in the pottery inscriptions. Even later, it was avoided in palm leaf writing Pulli in Tamil-Brahmi

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Tamil-Brahmi was derived from Brahmi: All but 4 of the 26 letters in Tamil-Brahmi are identical or nearly so with the corresponding Brahmi letter and have the same phonetic value. Mahadevan’s findingsOrigin of Tamil-Brahmi

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Vowels Brahmi Tamil-Brahmi

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Brahmi Tamil-Brahmi Consonants

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Medial vowel signs are identical along with phonetic values. Brahmi Tamil-Brahmi Medial vowel signs

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The additional letters, zh, ழ L, ள R ற and n ன were adapted from letters with the nearest phonetic value in Brahmi. Development of additional letters

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ழ ள ற ன ड ल ट न Development of additional letters

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Mahadevan’s findingsEvolution and Chronology of South Indian Scripts 3rd century BC 2nd century BC 1st century BC 5th century AD 6th century AD 7th century AD 14th century AD

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Tolkappiyam places the four letters zh [ழ], L [ள],R [ற] and n [ன] at the end of the series of stops, nasals and liquids. This arrangement deviates from the order based on articulatory phonetics. This small, but significant detail, indicates that the four special letters were originally regarded as additions to the alphabet taken from Brahmi. Mahadevan’s findingsOrigin of Tamil-Brahmi

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Possible issues for discussion in the future

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Mu Va (1972) says that the Tamils used a script of their own, and Tamil-Brahmi has developed under the influence of VaTTezhuttu. TN Subramanian (1957), KG Krishnan (1981) and a few others argue that Brahmi was a Tamil creation, and came to be adapted all over India with regional modifications. Mahadevan says Tamil-Brahmi is a derivative of Brahmi. IssuesWhich came first – Brahmi or Tamil-Brahmi?

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Mayilai Seeni Venkatasamy (1981) says that there was one in which classical works were written and was supplanted by Tamil-Brahmi. Mahadevan says that Tamil was not written before. Issues Was there a script for Tamil before?

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Mayilai Seeni Venkatasamy (1981) says the inscriptions are full of errors engraved by people with inadequate knowledge of Tamil. Issues What kind of Tamil? Mahadevan says it is Old Tamil, not very different from contemporary literary Tamil.

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Mahadevan says that Tolkappiyam must have been composed not earlier than 2nd century AD for it describes the use of puLLi to denote basic consonants, and to denote short vowels e and o Issues Dating Tolkappiyam

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Today we write murukan and read it as murugan k is called unvoiced and g as voiced. The present use follows Caldwell law of convertibility: It is K in the beginning (KaN) and when doubled (makkaL), and it is G when it occurs in the middle (murugan) or follows the nasal consonant (mangai) There has been controversy whether in the past also it was so in the past too. Issues Voicing in Tamil

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One view is: Voicing existed from the beginning from the pre-Tamil stage. It is present in all Dravidian languages. Hence must have existed in early Tamil also but not provided for in the spelling. Originators were aware of the principle of phoneme, and did not feel necessary to borrow voiced consonants from Brahmi. Issues Voicing in Tamil

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Mahadevan says There was no voicing in Tamil, in early Tamil. If voicing was present the adaptors of the script for Tamil from Brahmi would have borrowed the corresponding letter. Issues Voicing in Tamil

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Mahadevan continues: Even in the loanwords from Prakrit voicing has been systematically replaced by the corresponding unvoiced consonants like, kaNi (PKT: gani), utayana (PKT: udayana), nanta (PKT: nanda), kiTumpikan (PKT: kuTumbika) etc. Issues Voicing in Tamil

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Mahadevan continues: There is negative evidence in Tolkappiyam, which devotes a whole chapter to articulatory phonetics (±Øòதததிகாரõ - பிறôபியø) would have dealt with voicing if the feature was present in the language. Issues Voicing in Tamil

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Mahadevan does not discuss The origin of Brahmi. His research on the Indus script and the possibility of Brahmi originating from it. Effect of writing medium and tools on the development of scripts. Reason for the disappearance of VaTTezhuttu.

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Now the stage is set for a serious study of the development of Tamil scripts.

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Thank you

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