Tamil Words for Information Technology

Thanjai Nalankilli

TAMIL TRIBUNE, November 2013 (ID. 2013-11-02)
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This is part of our article "Creation of Tamil Words from Early River Valley Civilization to Modern Technological Age" [Reference 1] where we explore creation Tamil words from the early days of river valley civilizations to the current technological age.

Information technology (IT) is a new field of science and technology of the later part of the twentieth century and currently. Thousands of new technical terms entered the English language. Information technology became part of education, business and leisure activities around the world. While many Tamils mixed the English technical terms into Tamils, others coined new Tamil technical terms and used them. If we browse through Tamil websites on the Internet, we would see some sites mixing English technical terms with Tamil while others using pure Tamil words. 

Here are some examples of Tamil words in information technology.

Computer - kaNippoRi (கணிப்பொறி). It is a combination of two words: kaNi - compute, calculate, poRi - machine.

Web site - valai thaLam (வலைத் தளம்) .  valai - net, thaLam - site.

Chat room - arattai arangam (அரட்டை அரங்கம்).  arattai - gossip, chat; arangam - large room.

Hardware - vanporul (வன்பொருள்). van - hard, porul - thing.

Software - menporul (மென்பொருள்). men - soft, porul - thing.

Compact disc (CD) - kuRunthattu (குறுந்தட்டு). (kuRum - small, thattu - plate.

Mouse - sutti (சுட்டி). This comes from the Tamil word suttu (சுட்டு) that means "point (verb)". Here we do not literally translate mouse to the equivalent Tamil word suNdeli (சுண்டெலி). Instead we have created a word from suttu (point) because the mouse is used to point to words or pictures and click on them.

Some people ask me, "Why create Tamil words? Why not just use the English words?" There are now computer centers or Internet centres in villages. There are people who do not know English; some of them do access the Internet. These people would easily remember the word sutti but not mouse; would easily remember arattai arangam but not chat room, would easily remember kuRunthattu but not compact disc or CD. Put yourself in their place. You will understand the need for Tamil words.

We do not underplay the importance of English. People who have to work and communicate in English should know English technical terms. But, as indicated in the previous paragraph, it is better to use Tamil words when you have to communicate in Tamil. Those of us who know both English and Tamil, and have to communicate in English or Tamil as the occasion warrants, should know both English and Tamil technical terms. We know the Tamil word "ammaa" (அம்மா) and the corresponding English word "mother". We use the former when talking in Tamil and the latter when talking in English. The same applies to technical terms too. Commenting on the preparation of engineering book in Tamil, K. Pitchai wrote, "All technical terms in Tamil engineering books should be in Tamil, with the English terms in Roman script printed next in parenthesis" [Reference 2]. This suggestion is good for any field of science and technology.

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 1. Creation of Tamil Words from Early River Valley Civilization to Modern Technological Age (by Thanjai Nalankilli), TAMIL TRIBUNE, July 2010.

2. Engineering Education in Tamil (by K. Pitchai), TAMIL TRIBUNE, September 2010 (16 KB)

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