CHENNAI: An award winning international research work on pronunciation of Tamil Brahmins suggested that the community has a fairly accurate pronunciation of the language than other socio-religious groups in Tamil Nadu.
The findings of three researchers - an Iranian lecturer and two Tamil students from Sheffield Hallam University, Yorkshire, has indicated that now, it is primarily Tamil Brahmins who can, and do, accurately pronounce basic syllables like zha and la in the Tamil language. Their paper won the Best Paper award at the Indonesian International Social Science Conference held on January 29 this year.
For the purpose of this research paper, which tested select participants across Tamil Nadu, all native Tamilspeakers were classified into Brahmins and Non-Brahmins (Hindus, Muslims, Christians and others including an atheist).
In order to understand how these native Tamil speakers perceived the Tamil language, an experiment that involved listening and writing components was created.
They were also asked to transliterate 30 Tamil words in Roman script and equivalent Tamil script.
Raj Ramachandran, one of the researchers based in Chennai said, “During these experiments, it was found out that there was a significant difference between the two groups. The Brahmins used appropriate letters to represent syllables in the Roman script like zha, while while the latter used ‘l’ to represent the same syllable.”
He also added that the Brahmin speech pattern was ‘clear’, in the sense that every syllable was “pronounced as it ought to be.”
The report went on to state that though code mixing (mixing of two languages) was apparent among all participants, Brahmins had some amount of Sanskrit vocabulary in addition to English. Also, the Tamil Brahmin dialect used an extensive sound set as it included Sanskrit sounds as well.
Another researcher, Ashik Ali, a native of Tenkasi said, “Therefore Brahmins pronounced names like Prabha with ease and as it should be. The syllable (pra) exists in Sanskrit as it is, while is represented as (pi ra) in Tamil.”
The research project also focused on Brahmin Tamil in the context of speech-to-text technology. From a research perspective, two issues were considered with reference to speech to text technology in Tamil - the ability to accurately pronounce all Tamil syllables and speak without the effect of code mixing.
“It is in these two context that we feel that the Brahmin Tamil dialect could serve as an excellent example. The community “naturally” speaks a code mixed version of the mainstream language, which is very interesting,” Raj told Express.
The paper concludes that this observation on Brahmin Tamil could be considered as fundamental andimportant - one that could help shape the requirements of the language based software andtechnologies.