Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 3 : 10 October 2003

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.




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Preliminaries for Digitizing the Subjective Personal Pronouns in English into Tamil
(Distribution -Sensitive Machine Translation Aid -
DSMTA) - A Demo Paper
Miss S. Kamakshi, Ph.D.


The aim of this paper is to prepare a Distribution - Sensitive Machine Translation Aid (DSMTA) to translate the Subjective Personal Pronouns (SPP) in English into Tamil. Linguistic Tools mentioned as Preliminaries in the title such as Micro Planner (MP), Modules etc, are being supported by various arbitrarily reordered dictionaries. They are named as ARDSPP, ARDBV, ARDMV, ARDLV and GR. These have been carefully compiled for this Machine Translation purpose. The tools and the relevant information are necessary to digitize the theoretical strings into numerical strings.


1. The following Physical Structured input sentences in English have rudimentarily been taken on par with the distribution of Subjective Personal Pronouns:

Structure 1
SPP. + 'be' auxiliaries + V4*
e.g. She is paying.
Structure 2 SPP. + `be' auxiliaries + V3* e.g. She is paid.
Structure 3
SPP. + Modal +V1*

For example,
a) She can pay. ('can /able to' type sentences in English - muTi / iyalum type sentences in Tamil)
b) She will pay (other than `can /able to' type sentences, i.e. other modal types in English).

2. Micro Planner (MP) - A Linguistic Module has been developed to parse the input sentences in Source Language, which is being assisted by six sub - modules developed and named as:

  1. ARDSPP- Arbitrarily Reordered Dictionary of Subjective Personal Pronouns in English and Tamil. (See Appendix No 1.)
  2. ARDBV - Arbitrarily Reordered Dictionary of 'Be' auxiliaries in English and its equivalents in Tamil. (See Appendix No.2.)
  3. ARDMV- Arbitrarily Reordered Dictionary of 'Modal' auxiliaries in English and its Equivalents in Tamil. (See Appendix No.3.)
  4. ARDLV - Arbitrarily Reordered Dictionary of Lexical Verbs* in English and its inflected forms (V1*, V1s*, V2*, V3*, V4*) with Tamil meaning. ( See Appendix No 4.)
  5. GR-Grammar rules given in this program have been prepared specifically for both English and Tamil, as English Personal Pronouns are less in number compared to Tamil.
  6. For instance, the Subjective Personal Pronoun (SPP) `He' has twenty four different translation equivalents in Tamil (see appendix 1), as per its distribution with other grammatical units.

    For example,

    a) He is giving (his computer to X).
    avan / ivan koTuttukkoNTu irukkiRaan/irukkinRaan.
    avar / ivar koTuttukkoNTu / irukkiRaar/irukkinRaar
    avarkaL / ivarkaL koTuttukkoNTu irukkiRaarkaL/irukkinRaarkaL.
    Here `He' =` avan / ivan / avar / ivar / avarkaL / ivarkaL'

    V1* - Lexical Verb or Root verb : V2* - Past tense verb : V3* - Past Participle Verb
    V4* - Present Participle verb.
    * About thousand five hundred Lexical Verbs in English have been analysed into Intransitive, Transitive and Di-transitive verbs.
    `koTu' (give) type verbs which are di - transitive, take two objects.

    b) He is given (a Computer).
    avanukku / ivanukku koTukkap paTukiRatu/paTukinRatu.
    avarukku / ivarukku koTukkap paTukiRatu/ paTukinRatu.
    avarkaLuku / ivarkaLukku koTukkap paTukiRatu / paTukinRatu.
    Here `He' = `avanukku / ivanukku / avarukku / ivarukku / avarkaLukku / ivarkaLukku'
    c) He is known to me.
    avanai / ivanai enakkut teriyum
    avarai/ivarai enakkut teriyum
    avarkaLai/ivarkaLai enakkut teriyum
    Here `He' = avanai / ivanai /avarai /ivarai /avarkaLai /ivarkaLai
    d) He can/could give (him a computer) /He is able to give (him a computer)
    avanaal / ivanaal koTukka iyalum / muTiyum.
    avaraal/ ivaraal koTukka iyalum / muTiyum.
    avarkaLaal / ivarkaLaal koTukka iyalum / muTiyum.
    Here `He'=` avanaal / ivanaal/ avaraal/ivaraal/avarkaLaal/ivarkaLaal
  7. MP- Morphological Parser for Tamil is also incorporated to achieve this aim of Translation of Subjective Personal Pronouns at simple sentence level.


English Subjective Personal Pronouns are seven in number whereas Tamil is populated in nature. So the knowledge about these optional entries (e.g. `He' takes twenty four options- (see appendix 1)) is being given to the computer according to the distribution of the same. For example, in the sentence `She is reigning England,' the inference that the Subjective Personal Pronoun `She' is a superior female demands the selection of avar / ivar or avarkaL / ivarkaL instead of avaL / ivaL.

The argument structure of English verbs and their equivalents in Tamil have to be provided. Collection of English sentences with modal auxiliary verbs and their counterparts in Tamil has been given completely. (See appendix 3)

Objective, Possessive, and Reflexive Pronouns and their distribution are also being analyzed as the present author aims at the Machine translation of Said - Pronouns in English into Tamil.


There are some inescapable solutions in providing language tools, as this program is highly linguistic tool dependent. They are:

  1. Proximity and Distance: This cannot be differentiated through Distribution Sensitive Machine Translation.
  2. Honorific and Non-honorific sense: The personal pronouns inferring honorific or non-honorific sense in Tamil can possibly be translated at the Post - Editing Stage of Machine translation through human interference.
  3. The Transitive and Intransitive Verbs in English: Verbs acting as both Transitive and Intransitive are translated into Tamil with semantic ambiguity, and this also can possibly be rectified at the Post - Editing Stage of Machine Translation through human assistance.


Finding equivalents in the socio-cultural context is really a challenge for the computational linguist. The problem will multiply if we take into account the anaphoric reference into consideration.


ARDSPP (Arbitrarily Reordered Dictionary of Subjective Personal Pronouns)

e.g. He - 3rd Person SPP in English has the following Tamil forms:
avanukku,ivanukku, avarukku,ivaruku,avarkaLukku,ivarkaLukku.


ARDBV - A sample of Arbitrarily Reordered Dictionary of 'Be' auxiliaries in English and their equivalents in Tamil. (here present participle marker is -ing).

e.g -ing + am + I = koNTiru+ kkiR/kkinR +een
PNG Markers for `I' - Reen; we- Room.


ARDMV- Arbitrarily Reordered Dictionary of 'Modal' auxiliaries in English and their Equivalents in Tamil (appendix 3).

The auxiliaries such as aam, aakaatu, kuuTu, TTum, maaTTu, muTi, and veeNTu express mood in Tamil.

Transfer of complex verbal forms denoting Tense, Aspect and Mood (TAM).

Both English and Tamil employ the complex process of combining both inflection and compounding in denoting Tense, Aspect, and Mood (TAM). We can find correspondences between English and Tamil for the purpose of translating one from the other. However, the correspondences are not always perfect. There are proper, improper and defective equivalents. The Tense, Aspect, and Mood systems of English and Tamil operate differently and finding equivalents is a tough task. But for the purpose of MT, we compromise with certain peripheral differences between them and try to capture the core of their systems with the view in mind that what is conveyed in English can be transferred to Tamil without much distortions as our idea is to translate linguistic text in English into Tamil. The emotive and attitudinal senses conveyed by the auxiliary system will not play a vital part in expressing linguistic concepts. So we ignore the emotive and attitudinal sense and try to capture the core aspectual and modal system. That is why we have ignored certain auxiliaries, which are used in Tamil to denote certain attitudinal and non-attitudinal senses. With this aim in mind, the aspectual and modal systems in both languages have been correlated for the purpose of preparing MTA (Machine Translation Aid). The following table correlates TAM (Tense, Aspect, Mood) system of English with that of Tamil.

TAM forms in English with Examples Meaning Equivalent TAM forms in Tamil
with examples
Sub+V + past tense
He wrote
Past tense Sub+V + past tense + PNG
avan ezhutinaan
Sub+V+present tense
He writes
Present Tense Sub+V + present tense + PNG
avan ezhutukiraan.
Sub+has / have + V3
He has written.
I have written.
Present perfect aspect Sub+V + past participle + iru + present + PNG
avan ezhutiyirukkiRaan.
ndaan ezhutiyirukkiReen.
Sub+had + V3
He had written.
Past perfect aspect Sub+V + past participle + iru + past + PNG
avan ezhutiyirundtaan.
Sub+‘Be’verb+ present tense + V-ing
He is writing.
Present progressive aspect Sub+V + past participle + koNTiru +present + PNG
avan ezhutik koNTiukkiRaan
Sub+‘Be’ verb + past tense
+ V-ing He was writing.
Past progressive aspect Sub+V + past participle + koNTiru + past+ PNG
avan ezhutik koNTirundtaan
Sub+will be/shall be verb
+future tense + V-ing
He will be writing
a letter.
Future progressive aspect Sub+V + past participle + koNTiru
+ future + PNG
avan kaTitam ezhutik koNTiruppaan
Sub+will be/shall be verb
+future tense + V-ing
He will be writing a letter.
Future progressive
Sub+V + past participle + koNTiru
+ future + PNG
avan kaTitam ezhutik koNTiruppaan
Sub+ can + V1
He can speak English
but he can't write it very
= be able to
= be capable of = know how to
Can I smoke here?
(Am I allowed to
smoke here?)
I Permission
=be allowedto
= be permitted to
(Can is less formal than may in this sense.)
1. Sub+V+al+aam+aa
1. Sub+can + V1
He can make
2. Sub+can + be + V3
The road can be
= it is possible but / to
theoretical possibility
may = factual possibility
1.Sub+ V-al + aam
avan tavaRu ceyyalaam
2. Sub+V + infinitive + paTal + aam
caalai aTaikkappaTalaam.
Sub+Could + V1
I could play the chess.
Ability Sub+V + infinitive +
muTiyum / iyalum
enaal caturangkam
aaTa muTiyum.
Sub+Could + V1 II. Permission Sub+V-al + aam + aa
TAM forms in English with Examples Meaning Equivalent TAM forms in Tamil
with examples
Could I smoke here? ndaan pukai piTikkalaamaa?
1.Sub+ could be + C
That could be my train.

2.Sub+ could be + V3
The road could
be blocked.
II. Possibility (theoretical
or factual, cf : might)

1.Sub+irukkkal + aam
atu ennuTaiya toTarvaNTiyaay

2a.Sub+V+infinitive + paTTu
+ irukkal + aam
caalai aTaikkap paTTu irukkalaam

2b.Sub+ V + infinitive + paTTu

2b.Sub+ V + infinitive + paTTu
+ irukka + kuuTum
caalai aTaikkap
paTTirukkakkuuTum irukkalaam.
Sub+may + V1
He might leave tomorrow.
Future time with modal auxiliaries. In many
contexts, modal
auxiliaries have inherent
future reference, both in
their present and past
tense form.
avan ndaalai pookalaam.
1. Sub+may + V1
You may borrow my car
if you like.

2. Sub+may not + V1
You may not borrow
my car. (=You are not
allowed to borrow my car.)
III. Permission
= be allowed to
= be permitted to

In this sense may is
more formal than can.
Instead of may not or
mayn't, mustn't is often
used in the negative to
express prohibition.
1.Sub+V-al + aam
e.g. ndii ennuTaiya kaarai
kaTanaakap peRalaam.

2. Sub+.V + infinitive + maaTTu+ PNG
e.g.. ndii ennuTaiya kaarai
kaTanaakap peRamaaTTaay.
1. Sub+ may + V1
e.g. He may never succeed.
('It is possible that he will
never succeed')

2. Sub+may + be + V3
e.g. The road may be
blocked 'It is possible that
the road may be blocked'.
III. Possibility
= it is possible that /to
may = factual
possibility (cf: can =
theoretical possibility)
1a.Sub+V-al + aam (for positive meaning)
1b. Sub+ V + infinitive + maaTTu + PNG
e.g. avan veRRi peRamaaTTaan
2. Sub+V + infinitive + paTal + aam
e.g. caalai aTaikkappaTalaam.
Sub+might + V1
e.g.He might leave
Future time with modal
auxiliaries. In many
contexts, modal
auxiliaries have inherent
Sub+V-al + aam
e.g. avan ndaaLai pookalaam.
TAM forms in English
with examples
Meaning Equivalent TAM forms
in Tamil with Examples
future reference,
both in their present
and past tense form.
Might +sub+V1
e.g. might I smoke here?
IV. Permission Sub+V-al + aam + aa
e.g ndaan pukai piTikkalaamaa?
Sub+might + V1
e.g. He might succeed.
IV. Possibility Sub+V-al + aam
e.g. avan veRRi peRalaam.
Sub+Shall + V1
e.g..1.He shall get the money.
2.You shall do exactly as
you wish.
II. Willingness on the part
of the speaker in 2nd
person and 3rd
person('weak volition')
restricted use.
Sub+ V-al + aam
1. avan paNam peRalaam.
2. ndii virumpuvatu pool ceyyalaam.
1a. Sub +Shall + V1
We shall let you know
our decision.
We shall overcome.

1b. Sub+shan't + V1
e.g. It shan't be long for me
to meet the minister.
I. Intention on the part of
the speaker only in
1stperson ('intermediate
1a. Sub+V + future tense + PNG
ndaangkaL ungkaLiTam engkaL
tiirmaanattait terivippoom.

1b. aakaatu enakku mandtiriyai paarkka ndiiNTa
ndeeram aakaatu.
Sub+Shall + V1
1. You shall do as I say.
2.He shall be punished.
3.The vendor shall
maintain the equipment in
good repair.
Ia. Insistence ('strong
volition'). Restricted use.
b. Legal and quasi-legal.
Sub+V-al+aam e.g 1.ndaan collukiRa paTi ndii
2.avan taNTikkappaTalaam.
3.teru viyaapaari tannuTaiya karuviyai
ceppam ceytu vaittirukkalaam.
Sub+should + V1
1.You should do as he says.
2.They should be home
by now.
I. Obligation and logical
necessity (= ought to)
Sub+V + infinitive + veeNTum
e.g 1.ndii avan colvatu pool
ceyya veeNTum.
2.avarkaL ippootu viiTTil
irukka veeNTum.
Sub+will/shall + V1
1. He will write.
2. I shall write.
Future Tense Sub+V + future + PNG
e.g.1. avan ezhutuvaan.
2.ndaan ezhutuveen.
Sub+will + V1
1.I'll write as soon as I can.
2.Will you have another
cup of tea?
I. Willingness ('weak
volition') unstressed,
especially 2nd person.
'Down toners' like please
may be used to soften
the tone in requests.
Sub+V + future tense + PNG
1.epootu muTikiRatoo apootu
ndaan ezhutuveen.
2.innoru kooppai teeniir
Sub+will + V1
1. I'll write as soon as I can.
2.We won't stay longer
than two hours.
II. Intention (intermediate volition).
Usually contracted'
II. mainly 1st person.
Sub+V+future tense+PNG
1.muTiyumpootu uTanee ezhutuveen.
2.ndaangkaL iraNTu maNi
ndeerattiRku meel tangka maaTToom.
TAM forms in English
with examples
Meaning Equivalent TAM forms
in Tamil with Examples
Sub+will + V1
1. He 'will' do it,
whatever you say
('He insists on doing it...')
(cf He 'shall' do it,
whatever you say
= 'I insist on his doing it')
II. Insistence
('strong volition' = insist on).
Stressed, hence on 'll
contraction.An uncommon meaning.
Sub+V + future tense + PNG
ndiingkaL colvatai avan ceyvaan.
Would you excuse me?
III. Willingness
('weak volition')
Sub+V + future tense + PNG + aa?
e.g ndii ennai mannippaayaa?
Sub+would have+ V3
eg. It's your own fault,
you would have taken the baby
with you.
III. Insistence
('strong volition')
Sub+V + past participle form
+ iru + infinitive + veeNTum.
atu un tavaRu.
ndii kuzhandtaiyai unnuTan
eTuttuc cenRirukka veeNTum.
1. Sub+must +V1
You must be back by
10 o'clock.
2. Sub+had to +V1
e.g.1.Yesterday you had to
be back by 10 o'clock.
2.Yesterday you said
you had to / must be back
by 10 o'clock.
II. Obligation or
compulsion in the
present tense (= be
obliged to, have to);
except in reported
speech. Only had to (not
must) is used in the past.
In the negative sentence
needn't, don't have to,
not be obliged to are
used (but not must not,
mustn't which = 'not be
allowed to').
e.g. ndii pattu maNikku
tirumpa veeNTum.

e.g..1.ndeeRRu pattu maNikku ndaan
tirumpiyirukka veeNTum enRu ndii
Sub+will, must, should + V1
e.g. The game will/must/should
be finished by now.
of the similar meanings
of other expressions for
logical necessity and
habitual present. The
contracted form 'll is
common]. Specific prediction.
Sub+V + infinitive + veeNTum
e.g. viLaiyaaTTu indndeeram
muTindtirukka veeNTum.
Sub+will + V1, V1
e.g. Oil will float / floats
on water.
Timeless Prediction Sub+V + future + PNG
eNNai taNNiiril mitakkum.
Sub+will, 'll +V1
He'll (always) talk for
hours if you give him
the chance.
Habitual prediction Sub+V + future +PNG
avanukkuc candtarppam koTuttaal
avan (eppozhutum)
maNikkaNakkaakap peecuvaan.
1.Sub+ must, has to +V1 Logical necessity 1. Sub+irundtirukka + veeNTum
TAM forms in
English with examples
Meaning Equivalent TAM forms
in Tamil with Examples
e.g. There must / has
to be a mistake.
(must is not used in
sentences with negative or
interrogative meanings,
can is being used instead.

2.Sub+ cannot +V1
e.g. There cannot
be a mistake.
e.g. tavaRu irundtirukka veeNTum.

2.Sub+irundtirukka + muTiyaatu
tavaRu irundtirukka muTiyaatu.
Sub+ought to + V1
e.g 1.You ought to start at once.
2.They ought to be here by now.
Obligation and logical
Sub+V + infinitive + veeNTum
e.g 1.ndii uTanee puRappaTa veeNTum.
2.avarkaL ipootu ingkee irukka veeNTum.
Sub + used to + V1
1.He used to fish for hours.
2.He used to be an
excellent cricketer.
A state of habit that
existed in the past but
has ceased. (cf: would, and formerly or once +
Sub+V-atu + vazhakkam + aay + iru +
past + PNG
e.g 1.maNikkaNakkil miin
piTippatu avan vazhakkamaay irundtatu.

2.avan oru arumaiyaana kirikket
aaTTakaaranaaka irundtaan.


ARDLV – A sample of Arbitrarily Reordered Dictionary of Lexical Verbs in English and its inflected forms (V1*, V1s*, V2*, V3*, V4*) with Tamil meaning (DT-Ditransitive; T-Transitive; IT-intransitive).

Present tense
verb (V1)
3rd person singular
present tense verb
Past tense
Verb (V2)
Past participle
Verb (V3)
Present participle
Tamil Meaning for
the present tense verb
Pay (DT*) Pays Paid Paid Paying Celuthu
Invite (T*) Invites Invited Invited Inviting Azai
Go(IT*) Goes Went Gone Going poo

The following points have to be noted while transferring TAM system of English into Tamil.

The following points have to be noted while transferring TAM system of English into Tamil.

  1. Both English and Tamil make use of inflection as well as compounding (i.e. combining main verbs with the auxiliary verbs) to express TAM.
  2. The important point to be noted from the point of view of word order is that auxiliary verbs in English precede the main verb in English, whereas in Tamil they follow the main verb.
  3. In English auxiliary verbs are inflected for Tense, Person and Number; whereas in Tamil they are inflected for Tense, Person, Number and Gender.
  4. Both English and Tamil undergo auxiliary reduction.
  5. Identical auxiliary verbs in complex constructions get deleted both in English and Tamil.
  6. Auxiliary verbs occur in a sequence to denote tense, mood, aspect, voice etc. in both English and Tamil. The modal auxiliary verb in English never occurs after a primary auxiliary verb in English, whereas, in Tamil primary auxiliary verb never occurs after a modal auxiliary verb (with the exception of few modal auxiliary verbs).
  7. Both Tamil and English express perfective and progressive sense by auxiliary verbs. But Tamil makes use of this device to express the completive and reflexive sense too.
  8. In English, `Yes or No’ interrogative sentences are derived from their respective affirmative sentences by shifting the relevant auxiliary verbs to the initial position and a question mark at the end of it. In Tamil, `Yes or No’ interrogative sentences are derived from their respective affirmative sentences by adding interrogative clitic `aa’ with question mark.
  9. This may be true with other Dravidian languages


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Hausser, R. 1999. Foundations of Computational Linguistics: Man-machine Communication in Natural Language. Springer.

Hornby, A.S. 1975. Guide to Patterns and Usage in English. London: Oxford University Press.

Hutchins, W.G. 1986. Machine Translation: Past Present and Future. Ellis Horwood.

Isabelle, P. 1993. Machine-Aided Human Translation and the Paradigm Shift (manuscript). Japan: MT Smmit IV.

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Theivanatham Pillai, K. 1970. A Comparative Study of the English and Tamil Auxiliary Verb Systems and Prediction of Learning Problems for Tamil Students of English.

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Tamil Letters Used


Miss. Kamakshi Shanmuganantham gratefully acknowledges her deep indebtedness to her doctoral guide Prof S.Rajendran , Dept.of Linguistics, Tamil University , Thanjavur for his constant encouragement, and Computer Programmer Mr. T. Ronald of Linguistics Studies Unit, University of Madras for his patient and adept listening in understanding the intricacies involved in Natural Languages while comparing them with artificial languages like Visual Basic etc., for digitizing my concept of this work.

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Miss S. Kamakshi, Ph.D.
Lecturer in Linguistic Studies for Computer Applications
Department of Tamil Language
University of Madras
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