The Tulu script has been used since at least the 15th century (and, many scholars believe, much earlier than this) for writing the Tulu language. Tulu speakers generally refer to the script using the name Tigalari, rather than Tulu. Tulu is a Dravidian language spoken by almost 2 million people in the South Indian states of Karnataka (coastal region) and Kerala (Kasaragod district). In the northern parts of the Tulu-speaking region the language carries considerable prestige and is used as a lingua franca amongst educated people, but in the southern areas it is not so well respected. The northern dialect is considered to be the standard form.
The Tulu language is often referred to as a language having no script of its own, but this is misleading. There are a number of ancient manuscripts, most notably the Hindu Mahabharata and some epic poems, written in the Tulu script, although it is now written almost exclusively in the Kannada script. As well as being used for the recording of long religious texts and poems, the script was widely used for writing Hindu mantras. The gradual demise of the Tulu script has largely been attributed to Christian missionaries to South India who published a large body of literature in the Tulu language, using the Kannada script, the closest script with printing facilities. By the late 19th century the Tulu script was considered to be endangered, and there are currently no known publishers who publish in the script. Literacy in the script is also low.
The script is an abugida written from left to right. Each of the thirty-five consonant letters represents a syllable in which the default vowel is [a]. This vowel can be changed by means of vowel diacritics appended beside, below, or in a combination of positions relative to the consonant letter. There are ten diacritics for this purpose. Vowels which cannot be attached to a preceding consonant letter (namely those at the start of a word) are written using one of eleven independent vowel letters.
Diphthongs are not used in speech, so are not represented in writing. Consonant clusters are not used at the start of Tulu words but are found word-internally and at the start of loan words. These are written using a virama symbol which silences the inherent vowel in all but the final consonant in the cluster.
The Tulu script employs a set of script-specific digits from 0-9.
This script is not currently recognized by ISO 15924, but is included in ScriptSource for research purposes. If you have any information on this script, please add the information to the site. Your contributions can be a great help in refining and expanding the ISO 15924 standard.