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Importance of consonantal gemination and short versus long vowels
In Tamil there are many words which differ from another word by only a single sound. Such minimal pairs often pose difficulty to the learner of Tamil due to consonantal geminations and the difference between short and long vowels in Tamil. 'Gemination' simply means the doubling of consonants. When a consonant is geminated it is pronounced differently than when it occurs on its own. Learning to pronounce geminated consonants and short/long vowels is very important to avoid any misunderstandings. Failing to pronounce them appropriately will result to misinterpretations and confusions.
For example, the speaker might want ask, is this a leg? with the question இது காலா?
but might pronounce it as இது கல்லா? which would mean 'is this a stone?'
Is this tooth should be asked as இது பல்லா? but when mispronounced might sould like இது பாலா? 'is this milk?' or even இது பலா 'this is a jackfruit' and so on.
Mispronunciation can happen on both ways:
a) pronouncing geminated consonants as single consonants and vice versa;
b) pronouncing short as long and vice versa. Especially, when both gemination and long vowels occur in the same word as noted here, one should pay special attention to say them right.
Learn to pronounce the following pairs, and have them corrected by someone.
பாட்டு(song) - பட்டு(silk) - படு(lie down)- பாடு (sing)
பத்து(ten) - பாத்து(watch out) - படி(step) - பாதி(half)
கத்துscream) - காத்து(wind) - காது (ear) - கதை(story)
மூக்கு(nose) - முக்கு(dip) - முகம் (face) - மேகம்(clouds)
Learning to pronounce the letter ழ requires special attention, as there are chances to mispronounce it as ல, which would result ambiguity in certain contexts as shown below.
மழை(rain) - மலை(mountain)
பழம்(fruit) - பலம்(strength)
Learning to use oblique forms
One of the common mistakes students of Tamil make is not using the oblique (or declined) form correctly, especially for pronouns. Use of oblique forms is always necessary when a case suffix is added, but is not needed when an interrogative or conjunctive suffix is added. So, in the forms like நானா, நீங்களும், நாமா etc., the oblique form is not used as the suffixes that are added are not case suffixes. But when case suffixes are added to them, the oblique form should be used. Thus, என்னை, உங்களுக்கு, நம்மால் etc., are the right way of using them (and not நானை, நீங்களுக்கு). Note, however, that not all nouns have an oblique form as such (e.g., அவன் + ஐ --> அவனை).
When added with both case as well as interrogative and conjunctive suffixes, oblique form is needed and the order of suffixes should be case suffix, conjunctive and interrogative suffix. Example: என்னையுமா 'is this me also?', உங்களுக்கா 'is this for you?' and so on.
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