The charts below show the way in which the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) represents Tamil pronunciations in Wikipedia articles. Tamil has phonological process by which voiceless plosives are altered to their respective voiced sounds because of their position in a word (word initial versus word medial) or presence of preceding vowel sounds. See Tamil phonology for a more thorough discussion of the sounds of Tamil.
The vowels table is arranged according to Tamil script's order. The consonants table is arranged mostly according to Tamil script's order (consonants-voiceless, voiced, with their corresponding nasal) and at the end 'r' and 'l' sounds are grouped differently for contrasting. The ayudha eluttu, 'ஃ' usually grouped with vowels, is attached to the consonants table here for easily showing its use.
|IPA||Ligature in Tamil||ISO 15919||Examples||English approximation|
|[ɕɾ̪iː], [ʃɾ̪iː]||(ஸ்ரீ)||śrī||ஸ்ரீ||(conjunct of 'ś' & 'r' with vowel ī )|
- In the compound letter series beginning with க, compound க is consonant க் with vowel அ; 'ka' is 'k' with 'a'. Thus the compound letter 'க' has the inherent vowel 'அ', giving 'க' without added vowel sign using diacritics. (The consonant sign called 'pulli' "்", the dot on top of the letter 'க' is removed). But the IPA, ISO 15919 shown here have the consonant 'k' only & do not include the vowel 'a'.
- The Tamil script does not have distinct letters for voiced and unvoiced stop, although both are present in the spoken language as allophones—i.e., they are in complementary distribution[S 1] and the places they can occur do not intersect.
- For the consonants க, ச, ட, த, ப (in the order of velar, palatal, retroflex, dental, labial) ; the voiceless are /k, t͡ʃ, ʈ, t̪, p/; they become voiced as /g, d͡ʑ, ɖ, d̪, b/ respectively.[S 1]
- The voiceless [k] occurs at the beginning of words, as the first letter of a word (/k/ in கல் /kal/ stone); the voiced [g] cannot.[S 1] ( கனி /kani/, சின்ன /t͡ʃinna/, தனி /t̪ani/, பனி /pani/) .
- In the middle of words, the voiceless commonly occur as a geminated pair like /-kk-/ or /kː/ (அக்காள், /akːaːɭ/, elder sister); while the voiced usually do not.[S 1] (பாக்கு /paːkːu/, ஆச்சி /aːt͡ʃːi/, காட்டு /kaːʈːu/, கத்து /kat̪ːu/, அப்பா /apːaː/).
- Only the voiced occur after a vowel.[S 1] (The stops க, ட, த, ப; become voiced as /g, ɖ, d̪, b/ respectively after a vowel as in பாகு /paːgu/, காடு /kaːɖu/, காது /kaːd̪u/, ஆபத்து /aːbat̪ːu/.)
- Only the voiced occur after its corresponding nasal.[S 1] (The consonants க, ச, ட, த, ப; become voiced as /g, d͡ʑ, ɖ, d̪, b/ respectively after their corresponding nasals. ங, ஞ, ண, ந, ம; spoken as /ŋ, ɲ, ɳ, n̪, m/ respectively in பங்கு /paŋgu/, கஞ்சி /kaɲd͡ʑi/, கண்டு /kaɳɖu/, பந்து /pan̪d̪u/, காம்பு /kaːmbu/ ).
- The retroflex ட ( /ʈ, ɖ/) does not occur in the word-initial position.[S 1]
- The rule is identical for all stop consonants and these rules are largely followed even today in pronouncing Centamil. But the pronunciation of the letter ச differs: that is, ⟨c⟩ is spoken as /s/ in 'sum' in the intervocalic position[S 1] (/s/ in பாசம் /paːsam/ meaning caring) and not preceded by stop consonant[S 1] (e.g. /t͡ʃ/ in கட்சி /kaʈˈt͡ʃi/ political party; geminate /t͡ʃ:/ in கச்சி /kaˈt͡ʃ:i/ name of a city ) or permitted soft consonant[S 1] ( /d͡ʑ/ in கஞ்சி, /kaɲˈd͡ʑi/ meaning gruel). The rule(s) that may not be followed widely- the pronunciation of the letter ச, ⟨c⟩ as /t͡ʃ/ at the beginning of a word, instead in colloquial Tamil called "Koduntamil", in some words ச may be spoken as /s/ in 'sum' in the word initial position ( / t͡ʃ/ in சின்ன /t͡ʃinna/ compare to /s/ in /sinna/ ).
- Voiceless consonants,[S 1] as a first letter of a word or when preceded by stop consonants. Voiceless stops occur as geminate or doubled consonant. For the consonants க, ச, ட, த, ப; the voiceless are /k, t͡ʃ, ʈ, t̪, p/. (The voiced are /g, d͡ʑ, ɖ, d̪, b/ respectively). The retroflex ட ( /ʈ, ɖ/) does not occur in the word-initial position.
- Voiced consonants[S 1] only when preceded by a nasal consonant or when not preceded by a stop consonant. Voiced occur after a vowel and do not occur as geminate or double consonant. Never word-initial. The consonants க, ச, ட, த, ப become voiced as /g, d͡ʑ, ɖ, d̪, b/; whereas the voiceless are /k, t͡ʃ, ʈ, t̪, p/ respectively. The retroflex ட ( /ʈ, ɖ/) does not occur in the word-initial position.
- The Grantha consonant 'ஹ' used in Tamil, exclusively represents the phonetic [h].
- The letter க is spoken like /h/ in heat, only as an intervocalic in colloquial speech; not when it appears as the first letter of a word.
- The Grantha consonant 'ஜ' used in Tamil, exclusively represents the phonetic /d͡ʑ/ and /d͡ʒ/ .
- The Grantha consonant 'ஸ' used in Tamil, exclusively represents the phonetic [s].
- The letter ச is spoken[S 1] like /s/ in sum, when it occurs intervocalically (/s/ in பாசம் /paːsam/ meaning caring) and not preceded by stop consonant (e.g. /t͡ʃ/ in கட்சி /kaʈˈt͡ʃi/ political party; geminate /t͡ʃ:/ in கச்சி /kaˈt͡ʃ:i/ name of a city ) or permitted soft consonant ( /d͡ʑ/ in கஞ்சி, /kaɲˈd͡ʑi/ meaning gruel).
- The letter த is spoken like "th" in other using [ð] only when preceded by a nasal consonant or not preceded by a stop consonant
- The pronunciation of 'ற' ⟨ṟ⟩ after corresponding nasal consonant; as geminate or doubled consonant is explained below:
- Example: In the word ஒன்று /oɳɖɾu/ 'ற' after corresponding nasal 'ன'; 'ன்ற' is spoken as /ɳɖɾ/ [S 1] and not /nr/.
- Example: In the word பற்றி /pəʈʈɾi/ 'ற' doubled or geminate is spoken as /ʈʈɾ/ and not /rr/.
- The Tamil speech has incorporated many phonemes which were not part of the Tolkāppiyam, Nannool classification. The letters used to write some of these sounds are the Grantha consonants from Grantha script.
- This letter ஜ does not belong to Tamil script, but is widely accepted as an ad-hoc from Grantha script (See Usage of Grantha consonants in Tamil script). (This sound may be replaced by ச, as in /s/ in pure Tamil, which is not an accurate phonetic representation).
- Tamil to IPA converter : Free online tool to convert Tamil text to IPA phonetic transcription.