Telugu script: cha, tcha, chha; ja, tja, jha.
From email@example.com (Sitaramayya Ari)
Organization Oakland University, Rochester, Michigan, U.S.A.
Date 2 Mar 1996 22:28:37 -0500
In Telugu we have three distinct pronunciations for "cha" and "ja".
While the soft sounds of "cha" and "ja" and the harsh sounds of "chha"
and "jha" are not uncommon, found in many if not all Indian languages,
the "tcha" and "tja" of Telugu are rather unique and have interesting
history both in terms of their pronunciation and the way they are written.
As you know, "tcha" and "tja" are written as "cha" and "ja" but with the
Telugu numeral 2 written on top of the letter.
"Tcha" and "tja" are found in Marathi also. But unlike Telugu, Marathi
was derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit, neither of which have "tcha" or "tja."
Hindi, which also derived from Sanskrit and Prakrit, does not have these
sounds. So, how did Marathi get them? It is believed that the sounds were
adapted from Telugu. Some scholars believe that Telugu and Bengali in
turn acquired them from Pali.
Kakanuri Appakavi, a grammarian from the 17th century, wrote that a dot
placed on "cha" indicates the pronunciation of "tcha" and similarly a dot
on "ja" indicates "tja". That tradition, if it was ever practised, has
long since disappeared.
Who started the current tradition of writing the Telugu numeral 2 on top
of "cha" and "ja" to note their pronunciation as "tcha" and "tja"
respectively? Looks like the credit for that goes to Charles Philip Brown
(popularly known as CP Brown). His reason for this notation is simple: a
Telugu person knows the difference between the pronunciation of cha in
Chandrudu and Chali (cold) but how will a foreigner reading a Telugu text
know the difference? To make it convenient for non-Telugus to learn
proper pronunciation, Brown placed Telugu numeral 1 on top of "cha" and
"ja" for standard pronunciation and Telugu numeral 2 on top of "cha" and
"ja" when they are to be pronounced as "tcha" and "tja" respectively. This
notation became popular and was recognized in 1836 in the Telugu grammar
written by Ravipati Gurumurthy Sastry. With the passage of time the
printing presses dropped placing 1 on "cha" and "ja" but continued to
place 2 on the letters to indicate "tcha" and "tja."
Source: Mana lipi puttu purvotharaalu by Thirumala Ramachandra.