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Chart 4

A typical distribution of word-initials in a normal Tamil words sample and the corresponding sections in AP’s 1679 Vocabulario

Varukkama Initial Phoneme Group count Proportion Corresponding sections
in AP's Vocabulario
entry count
V0 Vowel
(a /ā /i /ī /u /ū /e
/ē /ai /o /ō)b
227 20.8 % 1 (A), 2 (A ஆ {=Ā}), 6 (E {=E/Ē})c,
8 (I), 9 (I. ஈ {=Ī}), 16 (O {=O/Ō}),d
23 (V vogal {=U}), 24 (V ஊ {=Ū}).
3,727 23.5%
V1 க [Ka] 204 18.7 % 7 (G), 18 (Q) 2,321 14.6%
V2 ச [Ca] 129 11.8 % 4 (Ch), 11 (I. ச), 21 (S), 26 (X) 2,244 14.1%
V3 ஞ [Ña] 4 0.4 % 15 (ஞ) 17 0.1%
V4 த [Ta] 104 9.5 % 5 (D), 22 (T) 1,691 10.6%
V5 ந [Na] 43 3.9 % 14 (N) 870 5.5%
V6 ப [Pa] 167 15.3 % 3 (B), 17 (P) 2,242 14.1%
V7 ம [Ma] 94 8.6 % 13 (M) 1,273 8.0%
V8 ய [Ya] 5 0.5 % 10 (Y ய) 60 0.4%
V9 வ [Va] 114 10.4 % 25 (V consoante) 1,435 9.0%
  Total 1,091 100 %   15,880 100%
  non-typical sections
(containing mostly
Sanskrit words)
    12 (L), 19 (R), 20 (ட {= Ṭ}),
27 (ஷ {=Ṣ}), 28 (க்ஷ {=KṢ})
  Grand Total       16,208  

These ten groups are referred to in the editions as varukkam-s, from Sanskrit varga “series”. Each varukkam is named after its initial. For instance, group V7, which contains 94 words, is the [MAKARA VARUKKAM], i.e. “M series”.


The diphtong “au”, which is part of the official list of 12 vowels does not occur in initial position in the 10th section of the Piṅkalam (but “ai” is found in 3 polysemic items: aiyaṉ, aiyaṉ & aiyai). However, AP’s Vocabulario does not contain any word with initial “ai” (i.e. ஐ [AI]), because it uses the spelling “ay” (i.e. அய [AYa]) for such words.


Although words starting with short vowel E and long vowel Ē differ in actual pronunciation, they are printed in the same manner in AP’s book. For instance, the right colum of page 69, freely mixes words starting with a long E (such“ēḻu” “seven”) and words starting with a short one (such as “eḻutukiṟatu” “to write”). Unless one already knows how to pronounce them, it is impossible to guess which ones have a long initial vowel and which ones have a short initial vowel. However, Cristina Muru, who has worked on a manuscript, on the basis of which the printed book was probably prepared, informs me that in that manuscript some “line above” diacritics are present (when the vowel is long), and that removes the ambiguity.


Although words starting with short vowel O and long vowel Ō differ in actual pronunciation, they are printed in the same manner in AP’s book. See previous footnote, which describes an analogous problem and which also describes the solution to the problem found in one handwritten document.