Pronunciation and Phonetics

Learning proper pronunciation can be done without much knowledge of phonetics, actually. A basic knowledge, however, helps to make pronunciation clearer and thus facilitates the process of learning how to speak a foreign language properly.

eAmbalam introduces a phonetic chart which is based on Dhevanagari script. The sounds of vowels and consonants and other speech sounds in Sanskrit and the languages which have completely or mostly borrowed from it can be covered with the help of the chart. A few other sounds common to some languages in this group and outside are also put in. Unique sounds of some languages are specified too.

Diacritical marks are used to aid perfect pronunciation. World over, these marks have been created and propagated by scholars to make understanding of the differences in speech sounds in different languages better. Team eAmbalam also has created a phonetic chart which helps even first timers to pronounce words accurately.

Our Phonetic chart is unique, comprehensive, learner friendly and is divided into four columns wherein:
  • In the first column, the letter is written with the associated diacritical mark.
  • In the second column, an example is given in Dhevanagari language containing the letter.
  • In the third column, an example is given in English, which contains the sound closes to the letter or instructions in few cases, to facilitate better understanding.
  • In the fourth column, an audio button is placed with the help of which you can hear the actual pronunciation of the letter.
An open minded approach with the above introduction and guidelines will definitely enable the user to understand the speech sounds of any language and pronounce it like a native, which is eAmbalam’s aim in this exercise.

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
A or a Aḍavu Arise
Ā or ā Ānanda Vast
I or i Indhira Sing
Ī or ī Īśha Meal
U or u U ṣhā Good
Ū or ū Ū rdhhva Boost
R or r Riṣh i Try
Ṛ or ṛ Ni ṛ uti Grr!
Lr or lr   Pronounce L and R together.
E or e Eka Ate
AI or ai Aikya Sight
O or o Ojas Robe
AU or au Audh ā rya Now
A M or am Śhiva m Drum
A HA or aha R ā ma ha Aha!
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English

Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English
KA or ka Kavi Car
KHA or kha Khalu Mark -Him
GA or ga Gamana Gut
GHA or gha Ghata Ugh!
Ṅ A or ṅa Tura ṅ ga Ring
CHA or ca Chakra Chart
CHHA or cha Chhandas Branch
JA or ja Jagath Jug
JHA or jha Jhallari Fudge
NYA or nya Gnyana Knew
Ṭ A or ṭ Ṭ anka Top
ṬHA or ṭha Pāṭha Pothole
ḌA or da Ḍ amaruka Dog
Ḍ HA or ḍ ha Mūḍ ha Madhouse
Ṇ A or ṇ a Ga ṇ a Wander
THA or tha Thanu Health
THHA or thha Athha Theater
DHA or dha Dha śha This
DHHA or dhha Dhhana m Dha with an additional H sound
NA or na Namask ā raha Nut
PA or pa   Path ā ka Past
PHA or pha Phala m P with a H sound
BA or ba Bandhhu Ball
BHA or bha Bhadra Abhor
MA or ma Manas Money
YA or ya Yama Yummy
RA or ra Rajas Rub
LA or la Lath ā Lust
VA or WA, va /wa A śh va or A śhwa Water/Valour
ŚHA or śha Śhakthi Shutter
ṢHA or ṣ ha Ṣh a ṇ mukha Shunt
SA or sa Sarasvatī Sun
HA or ha Hari Hum
Ḷ A or ḷ a Ar āḷ a Bold
KṢHA or k ṣ ha Ak ṣh i Try to pronounce Ka, Sa & Ha – all at one time.
Extra Vowels in Tamil, Telugu, Kannada & Malayalam Scripts    
É or é Éṇi Angel
Ō or ō Ō m Ō M
ZHA Exclusive to Tamil & Malayalam Fold the tip of your tongue backwards and try to pronounce it with the aid of the audio button.
Syllable Usage in Sanskrit Usage in English


Spoken Tamil Guide


Tamil is one of the oldest and official languages in India. In Tamil Nāḍu it is the prominent and primary language. It is one of the official languages of the union territories of Pondicherry and Andhamān & Nicobār Islands. It is one of 23 nationally recognized languages in the Constitution of India. It has official status in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore. The art and architecture of the Tamil people encompasses some of the notable contributions of India and South-East Asia to the world of art. With more than 77 million speakers, Tamil is one of the widely spoken languages of the world.

In the historical past Proto-Dravidian was spoken throughout India. A section of Proto-Dravidians maintained their ethnic and cultural identity in some isolated areas; spoke corrupt forms of Proto-Dravidian languages and these have survived, to this day, as living examples of ancient Dravidian languages. Languages such as Kolami, Parji, Naiki, Gondi, Ku, Kuvi, Konda, Malta, Oroan, Gadba, Khurukh, and Brahui are examples of Dravidian languages prevalent in the North. Today Proto-Dravidian speakers are increasingly mingling with other linguistic groups and learning their languages.

Language History :

The earlier Thamizh inscriptions were written in Bramhi, Grantha and Vattezhutthu scripts. Inscriptions after the seventh century A.D. contain Thamizh characters similar to the one now in vogue. Thamizh language had a distinct script of its own even at that early period. In fact Vattezhutthu is none other than the old Thamizh script. Much before Bramhi scripts could become popular the Thamizhs possessed a script of their own which they put to use in their commercial transactions and in their writings.
In total there are 247 letters in Thamizh alphabet. The Thamizh characters which are in use today also can be deemed to have originated from Vattezhutthu. There are twelve vowels in Thamizh and eighteen consonants made up of six surds in each. There are no sibilants like Sa, Sha, Sa in Thamizh. There are distinct letters in Thamizh to indicate numerals and fractions. There are evidences to show that the present roman numerals 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 originated from Thamizh. Unlike Sanskrit there is no dual number in Thamizh. There are three 'persons' in Thamizh, namely, first person, second person and third person. Case inflexions are many in Thamizh and their indicators form as suffixes in words.


The Thamizh scholars took the cue from the old commentators for writing prose. The commentators including Parimelazhakar and others, who were known for their scholarship in Sanskrit, wrote in pure Thamizh with least borrowing from Sanskrit. Their style of writing was similar to the one now in vogue, for the present-day Thamizh scholars adopted only their style. The journalists' style has been based on the spoken language of the Thamizhs. In spoken language, foreign loan words are mixed freely and syntax corresponds to emotional situations. Poet Bharathiyar composed poems largely in pure Thamizh. He followed the same method while writing essays too.

There is little difference in syntax between ancient and modern Thamizh. Although over a period of time word forms have changed, the formation of syntax remains intact in all the Dravidian languages.

Thamizh achieved perfection even during the pre-historic period. Literary growth in Thamizh took place at the same time when there was similar growth in Sanskrit. Literary works came to be written only at a later period in all other Indian languages. Therefore there was considerable antiquity for Thamizh language and literature. Besides, the ancient classical Thamizh literature originated and blossomed from the folk song and poetry.

Special features

Among the ancient grammatical works available, the Tolkappiyam was the earliest and it was written around the third century B.C. There are over two hundred and fifty references in Tolkāppiyam which, provide substantial evidence of the existence of many classical and grammatical works in Thamizh prior to Tolkāppiyam itself. Besides, Tolkāppiyam also classifies the Thamizh language into Senthamizh and Kotunthamizh. The former refers to the classical Thamizh used exclusively by literati in their works and the latter refers to the colloquial Thamizh, spoken by the people. This shows that even in those distant days differences had grown to such an extent as to enable the Thamizh grammarians to classify the language into written and spoken.

There is one more special letter used in classical Thamizh and found less in modern Thamizh. In the 247 letters of the language, ‘Zha’ is the most significant, because of its usage and pronunciation. Many people cannot pronounce the letter ‘Zha’ properly. There are two letters with same sound as ‘Zha’ (la, ḷa), so it is necessary to recognize the letter ‘Zha’ properly.

Link/relation with other languages

A section of people living in Baluchistan speak Brahui, which has many linguistic features similar to the Dravidian languages spoken in South India. Scholars are surprised today to note many linguistic similarities between Thamizh and Brahui, especially in numerals, personal pronouns, syntax and in other linguistic features. The Indian Census report of 1911 classified Brahui as a language belonging to the Dravidian family. It was then spoken by about 170, 000 people, although this number over the years dwindled to a couple of thousands.

Many common linguistic features are still discernible among these Dravidian languages. Some five thousand words are common to these languages. Many grammatical forms are common. The overwhelming influence of Sanskrit scholars and the indiscriminate borrowing of Sanskrit words resulted in the emergence of Kannada and Telugu as distinct languages from Thamizh some fifteen hundred years ago. The influence of Sanskrit on Malayalam language came to be felt only about eight centuries ago, and therefore, the areas of difference between Thamizh and Malayalam are not many.

Many scholars and pundits from Kerala contributed much to the Thamizh language and literature and the historical evidence shows that the region now known as the State of Kerala was once an integral part of Thamizh Nadu at some period of time. Because of these reasons there is greater affinity between Thamizh and Malayalam than between Thamizh and Kannada or Telugu.

Thamizh in History

Thamizh was the language of bureaucracy, of literati and of culture for several centuries in Kerala. In fact, fifteen centuries ago the rulers of Kerala were all Thamizhs. Up to the tenth century the Pandya kings ruled Kerala with royal titles such as 'Perumāngal and 'Perumānganar'. It was a Thamizh poet from Trivandrum who in fact presided over the academy of Thamizh scholars, when they met to evaluate the famous Thamizh grammatical work Tolkāppiyam . From the third century 13.C. to the first century A.D., many poets from Kerala composed poems in Thamizh and their compositions are included in Thamizh anthologies such as Aganānuru and Puranānuru. All the one hundred poems in the anthology Pathiruppāttu extol the greatness of the kings of the Kerala region. The author of the famous Thamizh epic Silappathikāram was a poet from Kerala. The shrine in honor of Kannagi, the heroine of Silappathikāram, was built at Tiruvancikkulam in Kerala. Among the Śhaiva and Vaiṣhṇava composers, Cheramān Perumāl Nāyanār and Kulaśhekhara Āzhvār respectively, belong to the Kerala region. Aiyyan Eritthanār, the author of the tenth century grammatical work Purapporul Veṇpāmālai, hailed from Kerala.


English Tamil
Hello Vanakkam / Hello
How are you? Neengal eppadi irukkireergal?(Elder/respect)/ Nee eppadi irukke?(Peer/Younger/Casual
I am fine, Thank you! Naan nandraaga irukkindren, Nandri !
My name is …………….. En peyar …..
What is your name? Ungal peyar enna? (Elder/respect)
  Un peyar enna? (Peer/Younger/Casual)
Where is the bus stand? Perundhu nilayam enge?(Chaste) / Bus stand enge?(colloquial)
How far is the railway station? Rayil nilaiyam evvalavu dhooram?
Where is the airport located? Vimaana nilaiyam enge?
How much does this item (any item) cost? Idharku vilai enna?
Where is the medical shop? Marutthuva kadai enge?
Which is a good hotel in this area? Indha pagudhiyil nalla hotel edhu?(You can use”area” instead of “pagudhi”)
What is the minimum fare in an auto/taxi? Auto/Taxi Kuraindhapatcha kattanam enna? (you may use “ minimum” which is in vogue instead of “kuraindhapatcha”)
How far is a shopping mall from here? Ingirundhu shopping mall evvalavu dhooram?
Do you know music or dance? Ungallukku isai alladhu nadanam theriyuma?/ Unakku isai alladhu nadanam theriyuma?
How? Eppadi?
What? Enna?
Why? En?
Where? Enge?
When? Eppozhudhu/Eppodhu
Thank you! Nandri!


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