TamilNet introduces computer-friendly transcription

[TamilNet, Saturday, 28 April 2007, 21:12 GMT]
Near accurate Tamil pronunciation is a challenge to English news reporting. Tamil words and place names have long been misspelt due to ambiguity in transcription. Conventional transliteration symbols are difficult to compose, store and retrieve. Known transcription systems are unaesthetic to look at and tiresome to compose due to mix-up of lowercase and uppercase characters. The TamilNet aims at presenting a standard transcription system to face the existing challenges and to cater to contemporary social and cyber needs.

In future, the TamilNet news reporting will be using this transcription system to present Tamil words, passages and place names. This will not be applicable to personal names and well-known terms.

TamilNet welcomes the readers to put the system under trial and provide comment for improvements.

The TamilNet Transcription

  • Closest Tamil pronunciation for English readers
  • Tamil writing possible without Tamil keyboard
  • Easy to compose and read
  • Two way automation between Tamil and Roman scripts
  • Storage and retrieval made simple


Transliteration and transcription are two different entities. Transliteration aims at equating the letters of one alphabet with symbol-added letters in another alphabet. Transcription essentially brings out the pronunciation of a word in one language and alphabet to people who are familiar with the phonological conventions of another language and alphabet.

The TamilNet Transcription is to help people familiar with the phonological conventions of English to get near accurate pronunciation of Tamil words they read in Roman alphabet. Even Tamil readers can benefit by getting the exact word without ambiguity in its Romanised form.

The variations in Tamil pronunciation for the same alphabet such as k/g, k/h, ch/s etc., are not taken into consideration in this transcription, since such variations are not universal in the dialects of Tamil. Standardising them through transcription may harm the Tamil way of pronunciation in favour of Sanscritised pronunciation.

We live in a world of electronic communication, the keyboards of which are in Roman alphabet. No wonder, English educated Tamils tend to communicate in English. Here is an opportunity for them and other Tamils of the diaspora to communicate in Tamil, using Roman alphabet.

The prime advantage of this system is its automation. The transcription can be converted to Tamil alphabet and vice versa, accurately and without any ambiguity. It can even be automated to Roman alphabet with conventional diacritical marks and vice versa. Please note that the system is designed without interfering into the conventional transliteration system.

Care has been taken into in designing the transcription keyboard-friendly. There are no uppercase letters to differentiate retroflex sounds etc. Instead, apostrophe and colon are used. Such marks precede the letters so that they won't interfere with their regular use in passages.

The transcription can easily be used in information storage and retrieval exercises involving Tamil words, because of its exclusive use of characters from normal keyboard.



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