Mon Jul 6 00:04:11 UTC 1998

A 12:44 05/07/98 -0600,
vous ("N. Ganesan" <GANESANS at CL.UH.EDU>) avez écrit :
>Dr. Jean-Luc Chevillard posted a query on the date of Tolkaappiyam.

It would be good indeed to sum up the arguments
(or the bibliography about arguments) concerning the date
of Tolkaappiyam.

To say again (in short) how the initial query was formulated
(since we start under a new title), I shall quote my own arguments
and an extract from a posting by S. Palaniappan that gave
the initial impulse.

On 12:38 03/07/98 EDT,
 Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan <Palaniappa at AOL.COM>) wrote:

<SP> The Sanskrit of pANini said to be of 4th or 5th century BC
<SP> reflects a language
<SP> which seems to have gone farther along the road of language change. But
<SP> tolkappiyam said to be of 1st or 2nd century BC reflects a language
which has
<SP>              ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
<SP>preserved the phonemes (under discussion here) better.

And I (J-L. Chevillard) answered:

<JLC> I would be interested to know on what basis
<JLC> you give such an early date.
<JLC> I have always thought that S.Vaiyapuri Pillai, editor
<JLC> of Tamil Lexicon (1924-1936 & 1938-39) argued convincingly
<JLC> that a big part of Sangam literature pre-dated Tolkappiyam,
<JLC> (and not the other way round).
<JLC> He proposes that what we have of Sangam litterature was composed
<JLC> after the beginning of the Christian Era (and later collected
<JLC> into anthologies) but that Tolkappiyam was composed
<JLC> in the second half of 5th century CE.
<JLC> I know he was somehow BLACK-LISTED in Tamil Nadu
<JLC> for giving late dates to Tamil classics
<JLC> [this infuriated some people:
<JLC> see the introduction to NCBH revised edition (1988)
<JLC> of his "History of Tamil language and literature" (1956)].
<JLC> This black-listing may have been part of the reason for Zvelebil
<JLC> proposing (in the Smile of Murugan, if I remember correctly)
<JLC> that an Ur-Tolkappiyam  was composed very early
<JLC> (at a date that might even agree with what you suggest)
<JLC> while the Tolkappiyam as we have it now was composed
<JLC> at a date that agrees with some of Vaiyapuri Pillai's arguments.

Then you (N. Ganesan) added the following remarks

>Sri. S. Vaiyapuri Pillai was a lawyer who started studying Tamil
>on his own. He did not get an M.A or Ph.D in Tamil. His editings
>from manuscripts are very good. He is very analytical; However his
>dating of early Tamil literature have been questioned by his own students
>who did PhD in Tamil or from Western scholars.

I do not think that the fact of having a Ph. D (or being a professor)
is a good criterion for deciding who is right
(Moreover, what SVP did amounted to many PhD-s .... )
(Did UVS have a PhD?)

Also, having one's students disagreeing with oneself
is not a proof that one is wrong

Also, doing PhD from a western scholar
is not a "trait pertinent" in the same respect

>All the following quotes are from a recent book:
>K. V. Zvelebil, Lexicon of Tamil literature, E. J. Brill, 1995
>KZ in p. 732 writes:
>"In some of his original works, he [S. Vaiyapuri Pillai] prob.
>postdated earlier works of Tamil literature".

Note the "probably" in KZ's sentence. He is very cautious
because he knows how knowledgeable SVP was

>KZ in p. 705 on Tolkaappiyam:
>"it may be earlier than the classical poems preserved in

again, note the "may be"

>the anthologies (J. Filliozat and P. Meile, L'Inde Classique II,
>1953, p.97).

As a matter of fact, what Filiozat and Meile say in the book you mention
is the following:

<F&M> Par.1538. Grammaires tamoules. La plus ancienne grammaire tamoule
<F&M> est le _Tolkaappiyam_, littéralement l'<<Ancien poème>> (_kaappiyam_
<F&M> = skr. _kaavya_) ou plutôt sans doute <<ce qui [concerne] les
<F&M> anciens poèmes>>. Elle ne peut malheureusement être datée
<F&M> dans l'état actuel de nos connaissances....

[note that they say (in French) we cannot give a date]

<F&M> .......... La légende fait de Tolkaappiyar ......
<F&M> un disciple immédiat d'Agastya à qui toute science
<F&M> est censée remonter et qui serait d'une antiquité
<F&M> prodigieuse. Le Tolkaappiyam serait alors antérieur à tous
<F&M> les poèmes dont il aurait par avance fixé la langue ....

[1st possibility: T is very very old ... and predates
 the whole of Sangam literature]

<F&M> Tolkaappiyar [...] est dit (Pan2ampaaran2aar)
<F&M> <<s'être rempli de l'_Aindiram_>> (aintiram niRainta
<F&M> tolkaappiyan2), c'est-à-dire de la grammaire d'Indra.
<F&M> Il ne s'agit pas là d'un ouvrage déterminé ...
<F&M> Il s'agit en tout cas de la grammaire sanskrite,
<F&M> peut-être telle qu'elle est représentée par le Katantra
<F&M> avec lequel le Tolkaappiyam présente des analogies (Burnell)
<F&M> En ce cas, le Tolkaappiyam serait largement postérieur
<F&M> à l'ère chrétienne ....

[2nd possibility: T is much later than the beginning
of the christian era]

> .....   Scholars pointed out differences between rules of
>TolkAppiyam and actual linguistic usage of classical poetry.

What one can conclude from that discrepancy is not so clear.
Some people have noted that a particular dialect may have been
the substratum for T (Travancore, Kerala, ...?)

>It is most prob. that the earliest version, the oldest layer
>of Tolkaappiyam is somewhat earlier than majority of
>extant classical poems". ...
>"The final redaction of Tolkaappiyam including PoruLatikAram
>may be prob. fixed as 5th c. A.D. However, it is most prob.
>based on much earlier Urtext representing a bardic
>grammar of possibly pre-PaaNinian  Aindra school which could
>be dated back as far as 100 B.C (or earlier?)"

It is because of such statements by KZ
that I said in my former posting that
he wanted to please "la chèvre et le chou"
[the goat and the cabbage] at the same time)

>Two papers that analyze the problems of S. Vaiyaapuriyaar's datings:
>1. S. N. Kandaswamy, The Age of TolkAppiyam,
>Jl. of Tamil studies, Dec. 1981, 20, p. 37-71

This paper starts with the statement:
<SNK> At the outset, we have to record that there are two extreme views,
<SNK> one of which pushes forth Tolkaappiyam to 5000 B.C. or even before,
<SNK> mainly basing on the strength of the fabulous account found
<SNK> in the commentary of _iRaiyan2aar kaLaviyal_, while the other
<SNK> drags it down to 500 A.D. chiefly claiming the influence of some
<SNK> Sanskrit works of a later period on some portions of Tolkaappiyam.

It would not be easy to sum up in this initial (and already long)
posting this paper that runs on 35 pages (JTS, Number 20,
december 1981, pp. 37-71). If this discussion goes on, it will be
good to refer to its arguments later.
I will now simply quote its conclusion, without trying
to evaluate it.

<SNK> ... it is proper to conclude that the major portion
<SNK> of Tolkaappiyam (say 90% or even more) should have been
<SNK> composed not later than 300 B.C.

>2. K. Sivathamby, Vaiyapuri Pillai as a literary historian of Tamil,
>Sri Lanka Jl. of South Asian studies, 1 (New Series) 1986/87,
>p. 80-104

I do not have access to this item. It would be could if you could
summarize its starting point and its conclusion.

>Hope V. S. Rajam's dissertation is published.
>What does she give as date of Tolkaappiyam. I am sure it
>is ealier than SVP's 5th century AD.

Just to give an approximation of what she may have written
in her dissertation (I have not seen it), this is what
she writes on the first page 7 [there is another page 7 later!],
inside her 1992 book (_A Reference Grammar of Classical Tamil Poetry_
[150 B.C. -- pre-fifth/sixth century A.D.],
American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia, U.S. ISSN 0065-9738)

<VSR> Tolkaappiyam:
<VSR>   the first extant traditional grammar of Tamil; written
<VSR>   in Tamil and applicable to classical Tamil poetry;
<VSR>   pre-fifth century A.D.

>V. S. Rajam, A comparative study of two ancient grammatical
>traditions: The Tamil Tolkaappiyam Compared with the Sanskrit
>Rk-Pratisakhya, Taittiriya-Pratisakhya, Apisali Siksa and
>Astadhyayi, PhD doss., U. Penn., 1981

Yes! I would very much like to be able to read this !!

>N. Ganesan

I hope we can go on gathering the evidences as to what
the most consistent chronology is, that can be reached at
in 1998. This can go on at a slow pace of course. No need
to hurry, ca. 2000 years after the events :-)

Best regards.


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