Origin of Dravidian languages

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sat Feb 14 01:34:15 UTC 1998

In a message dated 98-02-09 09:59:50 EST, lsrinivas at YAHOO.COM writes:

<< In the case of Malayalam, it is perhaps not very accurate to say that
 the earliest writing dates from ca. 14th century or so. For some
 reason, these dates seem to applicable to  kavya type works in these
 languages. Prose might however be a different matter.

 In this context, I would like to draw the list members' attention to
 the fact that many lost Sanskrit classics viz., kavya, natya and even
 sastra works (and their commentaries) were uncovered from
 Kerala. Examples would be manuscripts of Bhasa's dramas etc.. In some
 cases, commentaries  have been found with annotations written in what
 has traditionally been held to be Tamil.  Expert opinion however
 confirms that these are in what has later come to be known as
 Malayalam.  At least one of these commentaries ('tika') dates from the
 12th century or before. >>

Can you give some textual examples of this? I am really curious.

According to Dr. K. N. Ezhuthachan of The University of Kerala, author of
"The history of the grammatical theories in Malayalam", "Even though the West-
coast dialect of Tamil had some special characteristics, it seems they were
not so pronounced as to become a distinct language until the social and
political changes, combined with the geographical factors, made Kerala
separate from the Tamil land". The political events which precipitated the
development of a separate Malayalam identity were the prolonged Coza-Cera wars
of 10-11th centuries which led to considerable social changes.

Even Classical Tamil poems contain almost Malayalam-like constructions. In a
poem by nakkIrar of Madurai of pANTiya country praising a person of Coza
country, (puRa.395) we find the following.

pazam cORRup pukavu aruntip
putal taLavin2 pUccUTi
arip paRaiyAl puL Oppi
aviz nellin2 ariyal Aruntu
nIrkkOzi kUppeyarkkuntu
akal aLLal puL irIiyuntu

(cORRu = rice, pukavu = food, Aruntu - (will) consume, kUppeyarkkuntu = (will)
call, irIiyuntu - (will) leave)

According to K. N. Ezhuthachan, even at the time of Lilatilakam, 14th century
A.D., the low caste people of Kerala used in their common speech forms like
vantAn2 (he came), iruntAn2 (he sat), etc., just as the people east of the
Western Ghats did. So he says, "This makes the surmise probable that those
phonological and morphological changes which became the characteristic
features of KeralabhASA first started in the higher strata of the society and
spread gradually to the lower." Apparently temple story-telling was called by
the term nampiyAr Tamil.

The critical thing was the politico-social identity switch. After all, the
best Tamil nationalist poet hailed not from the present Tamilnadu but from
present Kerala. iLaGkO aTikaL's epic is infused with a common identity of
Tamilness. KulacEkara AzvAr also affirms his Tamil identity.

Joseph Kolangaden in "Tamil-Malayalam inter-relations: a linguistic study" in
Malayalam Literary Survey, mentions that "Probably with our first eminent
satirist, Thola popularising the Chera dialect of Tamil, Tamil-Malayalam
distinction became noticeable." He does not give the date for Thola.  He also
says, "Even as late as the advent of the European missionaries, Lingua
Malabarica was not much distinct from Tamil as the Jesuits published from
Ambazhakad a series of books which to us today sound more Tamil than
Malayalam". (I do not know if these books are really Tamil or Malayalam. Of
course, the term Malabar also referred to Tamil as shown by the first grammar
of any Indian Language authored by a European, Fr. Henrique Henriques' Arte de
Lingua Malabar.)


S. Palaniappan

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