Unicode nod for proposal to add two Tamil characters to Telugu

The step meant for transcribing Tamil religious texts into Telugu

Published - May 02, 2020 08:41 pm IST - HYDERABAD

The Unicode Consortium, a corporation which specifies the representation of text in software products, has accepted the proposal to add Tamil two characters to the Telugu characters for transcribing religious Tamil texts.

The Unicode Standard assigns code to characters from different languages in the world so that they can be understood and displayed across software platforms.

The proposal was submitted by Vinodh Rajan, a computer science researcher at the University of Hamburg. Speaking to The Hindu , Mr Rajan said the idea is to ‘borrow’ the characters (LLLA) ழ and (RRA) ற so that Tamil texts can be transcribed into Telugu without worrying about equivalents.

Citing the example of texts of Aazhvaar’s Tiruppavai hymn, Mr Rajan said, “We want to preserve these Tamil texts written in Telugu (for Telugu people) as they were printed.”

Mr Rajan’s proposal states that though there is a Telugu equivalent in the Unicode Standard of both these, it is unknown to a vast number of people while the other has not been used for many years.

Touching upon the transcribing of Tamil in Telugu script, an excerpt from the 14-page proposal reads, “Both these problems were resolved by the wholesale importation of these two Tamil consonants and simply treating them as if they were Telugu consonants. Using this hybrid orthography, the original Tamil phonetic realisation of the source text was appropriately preserved in the Telugu script without any loss.”

However, the proposal has ruffled feathers among both the Telugu and Tamil-speaking people. Several twitter handles opposed the move, stating that these characters must not be ‘imposed’ on Telugu-speaking people.

In Hyderabad, Prof Vasudev Varma from International Institute of Information Technology – Hyderabad, whose research areas include semantic search, and has been working on Telugu in cyberspace, said, “a controversial proposal. Wish such proposals discussed widely involving all stake holders. Speakers of both languages seem unhappy.”

Veeven, a Telugu technology enthusiast, who has developed Telugu digital tools, opined that on several occasions in the past Telugu characters have been encoded. The proposal mentions this, he added.

Mr Rajan, however, pointed out that the proposal to add the two characters was to only preserve religious texts digitally. He maintained that the Telugu equivalents of these characters were either not well known or were out of use for centuries.

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