--- In phoNet@yahoogroups.com, Miguel Carrasquer <mcv@w...> wrote:
> On Sat, 03 Sep 2005 23:23:04 +0000, Richard Wordingham
> <richard.wordingham@n...> wrote:
> >Can someone please explain what Tamil aytham originally represented
> >and now represents in Tamil?
> As far as I know it represented /h/ in Old Tamil. In
> Steever's Dravidian Languages, it is said (Proto-Dravidian
> phonology):
> "The phoneme *h represented the predecessor of Old Tamil
> a:ytam, conventionally transliterated as <k_>. Recent
> proposals attempt to establish it as an independent phoneme
> in the proto-language, but it seems to have been an
> allophone of *y that appeared in the environment V_C."

That makes things a lot clearer. Thanks.

> The sign is called "Tamil visarga" in the Unicode standard,
> which I suppose means that its origin is the visarga sign
> /h./, used in Sanskrit for a voiceless /h/.

The Unicode Technical Committee have been persuaded to recant on that
description. (They can't change the name.) Interestingly, there is a
two-dotted Tamil symbol that is used for Sanskrit and Saurashtra in
the Tamil script. It's not in Unicode. For Sanskrit it seems to be
the real visarga - for Saurashtra it seems to perform the same role as
Tamil aytham. Just to confuse matters, the Saurashtra *script* has
yet another symbol for the aytham role!