I have already asked this question in Linguistics.SE but I didn't get any answers and the comments there spoke of historical reasons rather than Linguistics shifts so I'm asking here.

Recently, I was reading about the Old Tamil script and there seems to be quite a dramatic shift in the time period of the 3rd to 5th centuries AD. Also, there seems to be a lot of missing letters too.

The questions I asked there:

  1. Is there some kind of reason for this shift?

The main comment from user "Yellow Sky" (which wasn't an answer with some citations) I got was that the shift from straighter lines to curved lines was due to a shift to writing in palm leaves which would necessitate curved lines as straight lines would tear the leaf. Are there any other reasons for this shift like invasions, sanskritization, etc?

  1. Is there some reason for the absence of these letters? (Like have they just not been discovered or is there some kind of issue?)

The comment for this by user "Yellow Sky" was that they had a guess the script got applied to the Dravidian languages which changed the spelling conventions and subsequently the distribution of letters. They also hypothesized that missing from that chart doesn't mean they weren't actually used, perhaps they are just not attested. So, if the hypothesis is right, are there any reasons why they haven't been attested to date?

Also, they said that it's natural that the oldest palm leaf manuscripts didn't survive to our time. But if we have manuscripts/rock edicts from before the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, why don't we have any manuscripts from the 3rd to 5th centuries AD? Are there any historical reasons for not having manuscripts, rock edicts, etc. from the interval of 3rd to 5th centuries AD such as wars, oppression, etc.?

Link to the script from source(wikipedia.org): History of Tamil Script

I'm unsure of what other tags I can add. Suggestions would be welcome!

  • Maybe you knwo this already, but check out the brahmnic scripts. I think all the different Indian languages evolved from those. And Hi from Kerala :) Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 9:45
  • 2
    Hi. What do you think we can tell you that the relevant section of the Wikipedia article on Tamil history doesn't?
    – Spencer
    Commented Feb 13, 2022 at 15:56
  • Curious if there are any similar script changes from the Anuradhapura period in Sri Lanka Commented Feb 14, 2022 at 5:25
  • @Spencer One, As far as I know, Wikipedia isn't updated very regularly so recent research wouldn't be present unless it's monumentally revolutional. Two, I hoped that there would be other research papers that would answer my questions for which I found Wikipedia's answers were insufficient/incomplete and the history regarding my questions wasn't present especially regarding the reason for the shift. Still, I will have a look through Wikipedia after my exams tomorrow. It would be great if you could add the exact citations of where my questions were answered! Thank you for responding! Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 14:07
  • @Buraian Hello from Tamil Nadu! I did have a look at the Brahmic scripts but I was still unable to figure out the answers. If there was anything you think I might have missed, please highlight it. Thanks a lot! Commented Feb 26, 2022 at 14:08


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