Orthographic Knowledge, Reading and Spelling Development in Tamil: The First Three Years

  • Sonali NagEmail author
  • Balambigai Narayanan
Part of the Literacy Studies book series (LITS, volume 17)


Tamil (tamiḻ) is a South Dravidian language with a contained orthography in contrast to the other more extensive akshara orthographies of South Asia. In this chapter we briefly describe the Tamil orthography, introducing the rich vocabulary available in the language to describe the symbol set. Similar descriptions are given for Tamil phonology and morphology. We also focus on Tamil teaching before presenting research findings on early literacy development. Our survey data suggest that important milestones in the journey to mastery of word reading and spelling include learning about the native and grantha consonants and unconnected diacritic markers, especially those with ambiguous visual elements such as the thunaikaal. A discussion on writing routines, diglossia and children’s spontaneous writing is also included.


Tamil Reading Spelling Orthographic knowledge Diglossia Writing routines Contained orthography Literacy instruction 



This book chapter is funded by a seed grant on early literacy research to Balambigai Narayanan from The Promise Foundation, and a research grant to Sonali Nag from Brasenose College, University of Oxford. This chapter has gained from the critical comments received from Narayanan Srinivasan and K. Umaraj.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EducationUniversity of OxfordOxfordUK
  2. 2.The Promise FoundationBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.Department of Speech, Hearing & CommunicationNational Institute for Empowerment of Persons with Multiple Disabilities(Divangjan) (NIEPMD)ChennaiIndia

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