Etymon: paTTaN, pattan, patan

S Krishna mahadevasiva at HOTMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 22 20:04:53 UTC 1997

Ramalingam Shanmugalingam <AppuArchie at AOL.COM> writes:
>The 6 conditions are attributed to Dr. Caldwell and the last line is a
direct quote from the book of Dr. Ilakkuvanar.
>In this context, I give below a quotation from A comparative grammar of
theDravidian Languages by Dr. Caldwell as quoted by Prof. Madhhu.S.
>Vimalanandham in his book in Tamil, History of Tamil Literature:
>"Tamil however the most highly cultivated Ab-intra of all Dravidian
idioms,can dispense with its Sanskrit altogether, if need be and not
only stand alone, but flourish withhout its aid." Dr. Caldwell.

 In this context, it would be interesting to refer to the the words of
the eminent Tamil scholar Dr George L Hart..some time ago, he was
interviewed on radio( in Toronto, I believe) and a  gentleman asked him
to comment on Dr Benjamin Walker's statement that Tamil had been debased
through  contact with Sanskrit. Dr Hart's reply was that the very
thought of concluding that one language would get debased through coming
into contact with another was tantamount to fascism, as long as the
word( even if  borrowed) fit in nicely , lent elegance and helped
express the thought eloquently, it really didn't matter as to what the
origin of the word was and it was therefore incorrect to conclude that
one language could debase the other.In a different context, Dr Kamil
Zvelebil illustrates the degree of Sanskritization of the Tamil used by
Arunagirinathar, who repeatedly refers to the greatness and glory of
Tamil(not Sanskrit) and (Zvelebil) shows that it is possible to write
naturally in Tamil even while using borrowed words.(I believe that the
noted Tamil writer Kalki also made a statement to the same effect). If
linguistic contact leads to debasing, contamination and pollution, it
would logically lead one to conclude that the whole  "maNipravalam"
genre of poetry/literature, (which was very popular in Malayalam), would
have to be classified as "debased" and "polluted". How many Malayalam
speakers would agree to this?

  I realise that certain scholars like Dr Caldwell and Dr Walker may
have concluded that Tamil may have been debased thru contact with
Sanskrit, but then it is also important to note that other scholars like
Dr Hart have something different to say, more so when the scholars of
the later variety have also studied other languages besides Tamil. Dr
Caldwell's knowledge of Tamil may have been encyclopediac, but was his
knowledge of Sanskrit as wide and deep?
It is possible to come to flawed conclusions  in comparativistic studies
when a scholar relies only on one source/language and ignores the
other..In this context, it is again pertinent to refer to the comments
of Dr Zvelebil on  G.U.Pope's declaring that the kuRaL is the greatest
book written in South India.  Dr Zvelebil remarks that
many Tamil scholars ( sans the missionary background:-) nominate the
kambar rAmayaNam for the same position; he also specifically says that
this statement ignores works written in other languages from the south
like Kannada. Given the fact Dr Zvelebil is ALSO a scholar and a
translator of Kannada( something that the REv G.U.Pope clearly wasn't;
Dr Raja Ramanna, the eminent nuclear physicist also accuses Pope of
propagating Tamil in Bangalore by making Tamil compulsory in his stint
as the principle of the Bishop Cotton Boy's School, Bangalore
overlooking kannada numerical majority), it is important to pay
attention to Dr Zvelebil's remarks before jumping to conclusions about
superiority, debasing, flourishing etc....

  My intention is not to spark of one of these soc.cult.tamil style
Sanskrit-vs-Tamil wars, it is simply to reiterate what many scholars
have said for a long time: Linguistic superiority and debasing and
enriching are all a question of perspective.


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