I am relatively new to Lingustics.SE. I have no formal knowledge in Linguistics and I am unsure if this question is better suited for History.SE or here.

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

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

Link to the script: Evolution of Tamil Script


  • 3
    The script became widespread and there appeared numerous texts written on media other than stone of the official monumental edicts with their straight lines and geometric shapes. Writing on palm leaves doesn't allow straight lines, or the leaves would split along the fibers.
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 2, 2021 at 8:41
  • Thanks for responding! Oh, the shift's understandable. That's the kind of answer I was hoping for! But, as you say if the script became more widespread, why are there a lot of missing characters in 3rd to 5th AD? i.e the second part of my question. Aug 2, 2021 at 21:05
  • I guess the script got applied to the Dravidian languages and the spelling conventions changed, so did the distribution of some characters. Also, missing from that chart doesn't mean they weren't actually used, perhaps they are just not attested. And it's natural that the oldest palm leaf manuscripts didn't survive to our time.
    – Yellow Sky
    Aug 3, 2021 at 0:54
  • Thanks! Do you have any citations and further reading for all of these? I wasn't able to find much online. Also, as you said, it's quite natural the oldest palm leaf manuscripts didn't exist, but while we have the script for even earlier (i.e 2nd BC), why are exactly the manuscripts of the time period of 3rd to 5th AD not existing? Is there some significant historical reason for that or have they just not been discovered? Aug 3, 2021 at 3:37


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