Fortunatov's Law and tolkAppiyar's rules

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Fri Aug 7 01:33:26 UTC 1998

Because of some basic problems in Vidynath's posting, I decided to add this
final note to this thread.

In a message dated 98-08-06 10:43:25 EDT, vidynath at MATH.OHIO-STATE.EDU writes:

<< You are confusing two different things, namely general processes and the
 specific initial conditions where/when they come into play. It is a
 basic principle of all science that general processes should be same
 (i.e, similar causes should lead to similar effects).>>

Having been familiar with the scientific method, I am yet to see a clear
explanation of why using Pittsburgh dialect situation to draw conclusions
about first millennium BC Sanskrit-Dravidian convergence on nasals should be
deemed qualitatively different from using Malayalam to draw conclusions about
the fate of stops after l/L.

<< What I said concerning the phonology of Dravidian in general is based
 on Zvelebil's Comparative Dravidian Phonology, pp. 113-114. `verin'
 seems to be from a pre-form in -nt-. The forms with -n- are isolated
 and do not contradict the fact that n and _n belong to the same

Zvelebil's discussion of n vs. n2 occurs in pp.129-30 and not in pp.113-114 of
CDP, 1970, Mouton. (I think Vidynath has the page references switched.) As for
Zvelebil's views, they are wrong and outdated. I do not know how anybody
familiar with Classical Tamil can say they are part of the same phoneme. P. S.
Subrahmanyam in his Dravidian Comparative Phonology, 1983, pp. 380-382
demonstrates the PDr contrast of n vs. n2. I do not know what Vidynath means
by "isolated forms". Any cursory examination of CT texts and even post CT
texts will show forms with -n- are not isolated.

P.S.S notes, "The Old Tamil material on the occurrence of the dental n in non-
initial positions has been collected and analysed by S. V. Shanmugam (1972).
According to him, the words that contain the dental n (in positions other than
initial and before t) fall into three types: (i) participial nouns in which
the n is the non-past marker; (ii) nouns derived from other nouns by the
addition of -n-ar, and (iii) nouns in which the n has no morphemic value.....

Of all the evidence, that of the non-past dental suffix is very strong for
reconstructing the contrast between the dental and the alveolar nasals to
Proto-Dravidian." (pp.381-382)

I wish people would pay the necessary attention to Dravidian material and
especially Classical Tamil material before they make categorical statements
about the nature of Dravidian or relationship between IA and Dravidian of the
early first millennium BC.

 <<>Secondly, if this theory were true, IA in India should not have
 >maintained any phonemic distinction of voiced and unvoiced stops.

 The same problem, as I have pointed out before, affects the claim that
 retroflexes are due to Dravidian speakers mispronouncing alveolars.>>

The fact that the contrasts are maintained in IA shows that the theory is not
valid at least as far as South Asia is concerned. In short, it is not a
"general" principle like Newton's laws.

 <<Regarding the presence of .s in Dravidian: The nature of Dr .z or
 whatever you want to call it is still a matter of much discussion. But
 very few people consider it to be a shibilant. Nor does it seem to
 cause retrolfexion of following t. [It does not in Tamil.]

 In borrowings, .s sometimes becomes `zh', other times .t.
 In reverse, Dr `zh' is sometimes l (phala < pazham), other times
 .l/.d (Tamil cozha is co.da already in a vartika, presumably for

 The evidence for c/zh alternation seems to admit other explanations.
 See CDP pp 129--130.>>

I think Vidynath is referring to pp.113-114. Those other explanations do not
deny a dialectal similarity between z and S.  Kuiper derives Skt. kavaSa
(straddle-legged) from Dravidian related to Ta. kavar, kavalai, and kavaTu
(fork of legs)  in Aryans in Rig Veda, p.26.  While Kuiper notes the absence
of the form kavaz in Dravidian, if one takes into account Stephen Levitt's
findings, one can see how a kaval >*kavaz/*kavaL which can lead to kavaSa in
Sanskrit and with a dental suffix, one can get kavaTu in Tamil.

 <<It is not true that retroflexes are not found in other IE languages.
 Deshpande's assertion (in the same paper) that pre/proto-Dravidian must
 have lacked retroflexes before it entered India and must be
 attributed to some non-Dravidian substratum is symptomatic of the
 prejudice which I mentioned elsewhere, and to me, vitiates the whole

I am sure Deshpande can speak for himself. But, in the article, what I find
Deshpande to be saying is this. "One may also speculate whether Dravidian
itself acquired retroflexion after entering India through contact and
convergence with pre-Dravidian populations." I do not think this can be called
an assertion.

One sad aspect which should be noted here in connection with this Aryan --
non-Aryan issue is the virtual absence of participation of Dravidian
specialists. For example, in the whole book edited by George Erdosy, there is
not a single article by a Dravidian scholar.  So, I would attribute any
speculation by Deshpande not to any prejudice but a desire on the part of a
genuine scholar to get at some explanation for a fact he feels has not been
explained well. My own feeling is that until the time comes when Dravidian
gets the same level of attention from the scholarly world as IA gets, any
explanation regarding Indian pre-history will remain problematic. I do not see
the situation changing any time soon.

As for the Hindutva folks, their arguments about Indian pre-history are marked
by appalling ignorance about the Dravidian side. Of course, they are a lot
more sure of their positions than scholars like Deshpande.

That is all I have to say.

S. Palaniappan

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