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PIL opposes 55 additions to Tamil Unicode Standard

Tamil Keyboard

A public interest litigation (PIL) in the Madras high Court has sought the removal of 55 special characters for the Tamil language in the Unicode Standard, saying that the move would lead to “adulteration” of the language, reports the Press Trust of India. The Unicode Standard is a character coding system designed to support the worldwide interchange, processing, and display of the written texts of languages which can be used for various Indic keyboards.

In his PIL, petitioner M.Ananda Pandian alleged that the director of Tamil Virtual Academy of Anna University had forwarded the proposal to encode 55 Tamil ancient symbol characters which would affect the classical Tamil language. The characters actually conveyed special meanings in shorter form, which was in practice for more than 1000 years, he submitted. The PIL further said that the director had not considered expert opinions and had simply forwarded the proposal by a high-level committee member. The case is slated for a hearing next week, the PTI report added.

The Tamil Virtual Academy of Anna Universtiy was established in 2001 and one of the mission’s of the organization to develop and deliver Internet based learning materials in Tamil language, literature and culture to global Tamil communities and others who are interested. More on that here (pdf).

It’s also worth noting that the Unicode Standard in its FAQs on Tamil has pointed out that there is some discrepancy for encoding Tamil:

Some organizations, including the government of Tamil Nadu, have proposed a new encodings of the Tamil script, called TACE-16, based on Tamil syllables or clusters rather than letters. The Indian Ministry of Information Technology has also been prominent in the discussions and investigations of this encoding. Several technical reasons have been given in support of this proposal, including collation (sorting) order, natural language processing (NLP), and database efficiency considerations.

Unicode Standard’s Version 7, which was released on June 16, 2014 has added a total of 2,834 characters, encompassing 23 new scripts and many new symbols and includes twenty-three new lesser-used and historic scripts extending support for written languages of North America, China, India, other Asian countries, and Africa. You can also find a proposed pipeline of characters which are going to be added here.

Keyboards which support Tamil

– In January, ASUS released a new version of its Android keyboard app, adding support for two Indian languages – Hindi and Tamil.

– Nuance Communications’s text input app Swype added support for two Indian languages including Tamil & Urdu to its language options in 2013.

– In 2012, Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC announced that it would provide full language support for Hindi, Tamil and Marathi for its HTC One and Desire smartphones series, including HTC One X, HTC One S, HTC One V, HTC Desire C and HTC Desire V.

Image credit: Flickr user John Blyberg

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