Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C 

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Tamil Internet '99
உலக தமிழ் இணையக் கருத்தரங்க மாநாடு

Tamil in Cyberspace

Ramalingam Shanmugalingam (Appu Archie)
February 1999

 Courage is the keyword that comes to mind as one ponders about the rapid changes that are taking place before our eyes, and ears. One needs courage to face new situations that at the outset may be perplexing and signal deep changes in our ways of life. Cyberspace to put it simply is, The virtual space created by Computer Systems. There are many numbers of questions that may arise out of making this world into a Global Village.Until such lofty ideas take any shape, life has to go on and we have to find ways to overcome fears of new challenges and opportunities that will serve to make our lives better.

Tamil, more than anything-else, is the mother tongue of more than 70 million people. The tradition and culture of the Tamils allow them to mix and assimilate easily with other ethnic groups and yet maintain their identity in tact in most cases. Absence of a free Tamil country has begun to show signs of loss of Tamil identity. Nevertheless, the enthusiasm and interest in Tamil shown by a few Tamil expatriates in the so called Developed countries is a good omen to future retention of Tamil interest via Cyberspace as well.

It becomes necessary to ignore the realities of most Tamil lives in developing countries, as economic conditions will dictate a more somber attitude towards investment in more sophisticated technological advances when there is still the hang-ups about basic human needs. Thus hampering much needed technological advances. In the meantime, we should not feel increasingly isolated, dependent on others, apparently without needed resources to find a lifestyle we deserve. The days of a rigid agrarian society are a distant memory and happily so, even though a larger population is dependent on Agri based industries.

Technology proved to be a major gift in changing the rigid society in the last 50 years into a society open to its promise and given the environment, learn well enough to use technology properly. But unlike the Americans. Tamils should not replace a solid based hardware industrial complex with a more abstract cyberspaced virtual reality type of bubble economy. It is said that, that the most valuable corporation in the US and the world is Microsoft, the software company. If the world economy is dominated by `information' companies, financial shocks are bound to happen and this may lead to the inevitable

Big church some scientists predict will happen sooner than later. In short we should develop our own software that we can use to make our life better but not to spell disaster by depending on others. Computers can break through barriers in life and connect with other people. Computers are beginning to bring the whole to us. It is true that many of us are threatened by computers and all the mysterious things connected with it. The car is a complicated piece of equipment and we are not threatened by its ability to function with the least effort and knowledge of it by us. Yet its dangers on the road are not minimized by our affinity for the car. Similarly, the computer in addition to being a hobby can also cut down distance and time to bring people closer in spirit through esprit de corps. The computer can send messages in numbers unlike the telephone, where it is a one-on-one mode of communication.

Today, we can face each other though in virtual reality as photo-images, discuss and decide matters as if we are physically present together. Also unlike TV with its limited channels, time and distance of access, the INTERNET is almost an endless ocean of data in Cyberspace, where much of the world's information can be found. I am no Technophile, nor a neophyte, on computers. I am learning to be an expert in the use of a computer, and leave the web of designing and developing the more complicated technology to experts. There still are some important useful people in the USA who claim to live out their days Computer-free.I have found the computer to be a source of inspiration to learn more, communicate better, and less strain on the purse. It will be even more economical, if its use is widespread and in native languages. It is this desire that prompted me to get involved in the design and development of a computer tool for Tamil.

I was disappointed in the many English translations of THIRUKKURAL Most translations appeared to me as either paraphrases or non-couplets English according to Richard Lederer, in his book Miracle of English as a preferred second language outnumbers those who use it natively. English is first or official language of 45 countries. Thirukkural, in its native Tamil is unmatched for brevity, the soul of wit.

Yet, English with its large vocabulary, burrowed or added to its dark age low Germanic tongue in the mid 5th century, through the Anglo Saxon Old English until William Duke of Normandy led Normans invade England in 1066, conquered Saxons and Danes. Duke William became King of England. Free Mix of French words into Old English gave way to Middle English.European renaissance between the 14th to 17th centuries began as educated people rediscovered the world of ancient Greece and Rome.

Love affair for anything classical led to taking of Latin and Greek words that could describe new discoveries in Medicine, Art, Science, Geography, etc., These classical words entered into English through writing-often scholarly writings.It is estimated, that there are more than one million words in the English language although only about 615,000 have been listed in the Oxford English Dictionary. Poet Carl Sandberg said, The English Language hasn't got where it is by being pure Naturally. I began to wonder, why, that THIRUKKURAL that can claim to biblical usefulness, has no English version in couplet form e.g. `perukkattu vEnhdum panhital;

Humility in Prosperity
Dignity in Adversity.

English by Appu Archie

*I am using and will use Yarzhan Key to pronunciation when using English Phonemes in all my writings. An Alphabet Chart in Roman Script for Tamil is given below: I had difficulty typewriting Tamil in computers before 1993. Whatever software or Fonts available for Tamil then were based on the Typewriter Keyboard. One look at the Keyboard Matrix convinced me that there must be a better way to make Tamil typewriting with computers easy and logical, a prerequisite for any Tamil software.

My engineering background and love for my mother tongue prompted me to look for a Tamil answer to a word processing problem in Tamil depending on a Western or English origin computer for Tamil. Every language has its share of Literature, Music and Drama, but Tamil is perhaps the only language that has given language a life and body, namely `ujir and mej' and all Tamil letters are either life or body and a combination of body and life give body with life letters or `ujirmej ezuttukkaL.'Tamil has 247 letters, depending on 31 Basic Letters thus: Vowels - `ujir', `aA, iI,, uU, eE, y, oO, w(av)(Of the 12 `ujir' 5 are short and 7 are long vowels.)Velar Fricative - (<$Esymbol 1Consonants - `mej'18

Total Basic Letters Each Consonant in combination with each Vowel can produce a third letter or a dependent letter called `ujirmej.'
  18 Consonants and 12 Vowels produce Dependencies -

Total number of Tamil 247 The 5 pairs of short and long vowels can be represented by 5 upper and lower cases of the QWERTY Keyboard

Number of Keys required to represent 31 basic letters is (31-5)s26

Pleases refer to the CPD- YARZHAN TAMIL-EDITOR CHARACTER MATRIX below: Character Phonetic Dependencies Yarzhan Editor

Obviously, Tamil language with its renown antiquity falls easily into modernity by being easily represented by the 26 Keys of the QWERTY Keyboard without exception. There is one shortcoming in using all 26 Keys to represent Tamil, as any transliteration will not be accurate, since letters represented by sounds not in Tamil will give rise to confusion.


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