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Posts tagged ‘glottalization of tamil’


There have been some questions raised regarding the singing of songs in Tamil by Udit Narayan Jha w r t my earlier blog. The reasons for my opinion are mentioned below and anyone, who could contribute on this topic is most welcome to join in.

Tamil consonants[2]

Labial Dental
Retroflex Postalveolar
Velar Glottal
Nasal m n ɳ (ɲ)
Plosive p  (b) t̪  (d̪) ʈ  (ɖ) k  (g)
Affricate tʃ  (dʒ)
Fricative (f)1 s  (z)1 (ɦ)2
Tap ɾ
Approximant ʋ ɻ j
Lateral approximant l ɭ
  1. /f/ and /z/ are peripheral to the phonology of Tamil, being found only in loanwords and frequently replaced by native sounds.
  2. [ɦ] is a possible allophone of /k/

The above is the link, where the consonants of  Thamizh are represented in a tabular form  classifying the HA sound as a fricative glottal sound. The footnote says that Ha is a possible ALLOPHONE of KA.

Once we get into the allophones, then there is no certainty. We bring in usage into play. Most of Carnatic music (except for Purandaradasa), was formulated in the Thanjavur area of  Tamil Nadu and the Sanskritization of the hyms are well known. The sounds were essential in the singing of these hymns. However, to say that HA, was a sound in Tamil is preposterous. A person who is in a Sanskritised atmosphere is likely to pronounce AGAM as AHAM (meaning inner or inside). It is merely an usage and not a necessary sound in Tamil. (I’d consider it hilarious, if someone were to say AHATHIN AZHAHU MUHATHIL THERIYUM!!!)

The more basic question would be WHETHER THE WORD AGAM itself is Tamil or a LOANWORD, which was  SUBSEQUENTLY adopted into Tamil, by usage ?

INDIRA PARTHASARATHY on Iravatham Mahadevan’s Early Tamil Epigraphy, HAS THE FOLLOWING TO SAY:-

“Though Br-ahm-i was the mother of all the scripts in India, Devan-agari and Dravidian, it was adapted in a way to suit the genius of the language of the region. There were five variations of the Br-ahm-i script such as (1) Northern Br-ahm-i. (2) Southern Br-ahm-i, (3) Bhattiprolu script, (4) Sinhala- Br-ahm-i and (5) Tamil- Br-ahm-i.

Tamil- Br-ahm-i evolved after certain changes were made in Br-ahm-i to suit the phonetic system in the Tamil language.

Tamil- Br-ahm-i omitted sounds not present in Tamil viz., voiced consonants, aspirates, sibilants, the anusv-ara (.m) and the visarga (-h). Tamil has certain sounds for which there were no signs in Br-ahm-i, which called for additional letters viz. -l, .l, -r, -n.

By introducing a diacritical mark called (dots) three things were achieved: (a) basic consonants in final position were indicated (b) ligaturing of consonant clusters was avoided (c) the short vowels `e,’ `o’ were differentiated from the respective long vowels.”

In any case, purity of a language is essential to prove the UNIQUENESS and the NON-DEPENDENCE on other languages. However, PURITY can never be at the cost of one’s SURVIVAL. If GOLD has to SURVIVE AS AN ORNAMENT, IT HAS TO ACCOMMODATE COPPER.

Like, Anglicization of Tamil is required for keeping oneself abreast of the Scientific development in the present times, Sanskritisation was essential for MUSIC and RELIGIOUS PURPOSES in the past, and consequently when certain ALIEN SOUNDS CAME INTO USAGE,  SOME  HAVE BEEN LED INTO BELIEVING THAT THOSE SOUNDS ARE NATIVE TO TAMIL, EVEN THOUGH THESE SOUNDS HAVE OUTLIVED THEIR PURPOSES.

NEVERTHELESS, the foreign sounds need not be adopted, but the foreign words could be adopted and used with the available sounds, till a word in Tamil is invented and brought to large-scale usage. For example, till the coinage of KANIPPORI, in Tamil a computer was pronounced as KAMPOOTER. Alternatively,we can wait till people become liberal to accept foreign words and and pronounce it the foreign way, for example,  ENVELOPE (noun), was pronounced in English as “en-ve-lep” till a few years ago, but now it is not uncommon for persons to ask for an “aan-ve-lop”. But to come to a conclusion that “aan” is a sound in English is downright ERRONEOUS.




Thamizh ( Tamil for the Anglicized), as a language has shown the maximum resistance towards acceptance of sounds that are foreign to it. Thamizh as a language has prided itself as a language that had not accepted foreign sounds as it was interpreted to mean subjugation of its uniqueness and its status. When Sanskrit entered thru the shlokas into the culture of the Thamizh language, since it was in the name of God, the influx was not palpable to the common man.

The common man accepted the import of all the Ch has, shas, jhas as an essential part of the religious rituals and ACQUIESCED to the religion trotted out by the priests. But with the advent of the RATIONAL MOVEMENT in Thamizh Nadu (formerly Madras State), EV Ramaswamy and subsequently C.N.Anna Durai, identified the import of these sounds alien tothe Thamizh culture and sanitized the language.


In Thamizh, one cannot get the sound Ha, Hi, Hu, Hai, Hum or Ho. The H would be substituted by G, K etc..

I am herewith appending the write up on what GLOTTAL STOP means, as mentioned in the Wikipedia.

“The glottal stop, or more fully, the voiceless glottal plosive, is a type of consonantal sound which is used in many spoken languages. The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet that represents this sound is ʔ. The glottal stop is the sound made when the vocal cords (vocal folds) are (1) drawn together by muscular action to interrupt the flow of air being expelled from the lungs and then (2) released as pressure builds up below them; for example, the break separating the syllables of the interjection uh-oh. Strictly, the perception that it is a consonantal sound is produced by the release; the closure phase is necessarily silent because during it there is no airflow and the vocal cords are immobilized. It is called the glottal stop because the technical term for the gap between the vocal cords, which is closed up in the production of this sound, is the glottis. The term “glottal stop” is one of rather few technical terms of linguistics which have become well known outside the specialism.”

In Thamizh a new route has started by which the sound H is being imported. It is thru the Cine Songs that this sound is being imported. If one were to listen to the singing of Udit Narayan Jha, one could sense the import of GLOTTALIZATION of THAMIZH. In one of the recent movies named PADDIKATHAVAN (Dhanush playing the lead role), in the song RAANGI RANGAMMA one could sense the glottalization of Thamizh. When Udit Narayan sings SUNGUDI CHALLAI, in the cited song, one could sense the import of those sounds that are alien to Thamizh.

I am a great fan of Udit Narayan, and his singing has ENRICHED THE THAMIZH SOUNDS. Yet, the purists, once they identify that the masses like the glottalization of these sounds, they would ascribe a vile social reason for import of the glottal sound, and may even say that Jha ( a Brahmin community from Bihar/Nepal/Jharkhand) being a person from the Upper Caste, has been made a tool in the hands of the Artistes  for advancing their agenda!!


Enjoy the song Raangi rangamma in PADIKAATHAVAN and do not get involved in the conspiracy theory!!


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