The Tamil Nadu government’s decision to change the names of 1,018 villages, towns and districts in the state has been met with derision on social media mainly because of the high usage of ‘aa’s and ‘oo’s. This prompted the state on Thursday (June 19) to withdraw the order in this regard.
However, the stretching of the words could create quite a few problems while making new name boards or even in official correspondence.
These problems can easily be solved by the usage of the phonetic format that is being followed by many writers in their articles, analysis and commentaries — both in Tamil and English. In terms of phonetics too, this meets the requirement to a large extent.
For example, Thandaiyaarpettai can be written as ThandaiyArpETai, using the format, where A stands for ‘aa’, E for ‘ae’ as in pettai or in Medavakkam. Small e can used in Perambur. Similarly, capital T can be used instead of ‘tt’.
Moreover, the problem with the Tamil script is the need to use a large number of characters as it requires the usage of ‘kk’ or ‘pp’.
So, in Thiruvallikkeni, capital K can replace ‘kk’, while capital N can be used in place of capital ‘Na’ in Tamil with three circles and small n can be used in place of small ‘Na’ with two circles. So, Thiruvallikkeni can be written as ThiruvalliKENi.
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While capital O can be used in Koyambedu or Koyampuththoor, small o can be used in Pollachi or Pozhichalur. Also, capital U can be used instead of ‘oo’. So, oor will be reduced to just Ur. Thus, Koyampuththoor can be written as KOyampuTHUr and small u can be used in Pulianthope.
Capital L can be used in Velachery, while small l in Mayilaappoor, which can be written as MayilApUr. Also, capital T and H can be written together as TH instead of ‘thth’ as in Thooththukudi. This helps one reduce the number of characters and shorten the size of words.
Generally, the first letter of the names of places are capitalised, when written in English. In such cases, an extra vowel can be added to words beginning with long vowel sounds. For instance, Avadi can written as Aavadi.
Even phonetics wise, this would be easier for people who come from other states or countries to follow.
There could be some deficiencies in this system too, but the defects would be far less as compared to the present structure, which makes for laborious reading and lengthy words. This can irritate many users, and bring about derision as it has happened now.
The Tamil script can be reformed further to evolve into a more scientific pattern of usage, keeping in mind phonetics and literary aspects.
The state government can hold discussions with a wide range of experts, including epigraphists and archaeologists, to restore the ancient Tamil names with a view to promote better understanding of history and culture.