Dec 21, 2012

Tamil - Bangla Comparison

Bangla and Tamil vowels
First step of preparing for the upcoming Tamil Nadu trip is to get familiar with the language. Tamil, the main language of Tamil Nadu is of Dravidian origin. My first langauge Bangla is Indo-Aryan. This puts us in two entirely different language families. However, the written forms of the two languages have a common ancestor, the Brahmi script. Brahmi script was in use in India around two millennia ago. I've decided to start learning Tamil from the script because it is the meeting point of these two languages.

Vowels and consonants are listed separately in both languages. Tamil has long e, and o sounds which Bangla doesn't have. On the other hand Bangla has a rri vowel which Tamil doesn't have. All other vowels sounds are same. Bangla has 11 vowels while Tamil has 12.

Bangla and Tamil Consonants

The consonants part is more interesting. The major difference is in organization. First 25 consonants in Bangla are organized into guttaral, dental, labial etc. groups. Tamil consonants does not seem to have any such grouping.

Tamil has 3 different l sounds, this is fairly new to me since Bangla has only 1. Still trying to understand the differences from listening to videos on the internet. There are similarities too, the letter ksha for example. Classical Tamil did not have any ksha sound. It was introduced in to Tamil along with 4 other letters intended to be used only to write words of Sanskrit origin. Bangla also did not have a ksha, but took up one for the same purpose. In the end, Tamil has 23 consonants while Bangla has 39.

Combined consonants pose a serious challenge for students of Bangla. One can amalgamate two or three different consonants to form a new one in Bangla. The resulting conjugate letter has its own unique appearance and that form has to be memorized. Tamil does not have combined consonants. When more than one consonant has to be pronounced next to each other, a joining symbol that looks like a dot on top of the letter is used.

The general shape of the letters too demand some attention in a comparative study. The basic shape of Tamil letters in general is circular. Well rounded curves of various sizes dominate. On the other hand, Bangla letters are based on a triangular form and the dominant feature in Bangla script is sharp angle.