Caldwell, Dravidian Linguistics (Was: : Tamil words in English)

Richard Salomon rsalomon at U.WASHINGTON.EDU
Mon Mar 2 17:51:14 UTC 1998

On F.W. Ellis, see Susan Okeksiw, "Francis Whyte Ellis: A Brief Review of
his Work," in Adyar Library Bulletin 51 (1987: L. Rocher Festschrift
vol.), pp. 267-75.


On Tue, 24 Feb 1998, N. Ganesan wrote:

> Francis Whyte Ellis, a British administrator, is a very interesting
> figure. He is the original founder of the idea of Dravidian language
> family. This is given in Encyclopaedia Brittanica.
> He appointed A. Muttusami Pillai of Pondichery as a Munshi (language-pundit)
> to teach Tamil in the College of Fort St. George, Madras. It was at
> the instigation of F. W. Ellis that Muttusami Pillai began collecting
> Tamil manuscripts.
> In point of fact, it was most probably Muttusami Pillai who was the
> *first* scholar to make an extensive tour of Tamil Nadu, in 1816,
> with the explicit purpose to search for, collect and classify Tamil
> palmleaf manuscripts in particular the works of Beschi (1680-1747),
> a Jesuit missionary, who tamilized his name as Veeramaamunivar.
> Ellis visited the palace of the Sethupatis of Ramnad, because
> he can get in touch with erudite scholars. The fate of the
> Ellis collection of South Indian manuscripts, mainly with the
> help of A. Muttusami Pillai, was unfortunate.
> The successor to Ellis in Madras was not interested in S. Indian languages.
> His name is Peter, I recollect. Collector Peter's
> butler used Ellis' 2 or 3 rooms-full manuscripts to
> kindle the oven fires, for the Collectors' evening parties.
> It seems this information is given in an obituary to
> an English scholar of Tamil that appeared in Sunday Times, London.
> F. W. Ellis' life, his manuscripts, their fate etc., is well worth
> investigating. Or, is it already done? I read about the manuscripts and
> their burning about 15 years ago in
> K. Meenakshisundaram, The contribution of European scholars
> to Tamil, Univ. of Madras, 1974, 370 p.
> Ellis published his translation of 13 short chapters of Tirukkural
> when he was alive. From his handwritten manuscripts,
> Prof. R. P. Sethu Pillai edited for the whole of Arattuppaal section
> of Tirukkural.
> Tirukkural: Ellis' commentary.
> Edited by R. P. Sethu Pillai, Univ. of Madras, 1956, 406 p.
> It appears some more of Ellis' manuscripts, translations remain
> unpublished.
> R. E. Asher, Notes on F. W. Ellis and an Unpublished fragment of
> His Commentary on Tirukkural.
> Proc. of the First International Conference Seminar of Tamil studies,
> Kuala Lumpur, (2 vol.), 1968-69
> It is interesting that Beschi(1680-1747) wrote the Christian epic,
> Tembavani in chaste Tamil on the life of St. Joseph. Likewise,
> F. W. Ellis composed several poems that are included in
> tanippaaTal tiraTTu (Anthology of solitary verses).
> After Beschi and Ellis, I do not know of non-south-asian scholars
> who can compose tamil poetry using ancient or medieval meters.
> May be, in 18th/19th centuries, in order to
> prove oneself in tamil scholarship, composing poetry was
> deemed essential. Nowadays, prose would do.
> Regards,
> N. Ganesan
> Some related references:
> 1) R. E. Asher, 250 years after: Some features of Ziegenbalg's study of
> Tamil, Proc. I Int. Conf. Seminar of Tamil studies, Kuala Lumpur, 1968-69.
> 2) K. Zvelebil, One hundred years of Dravidian comparative philology,
> Archiv Orientalni, 24, 1956, p. 599-609
> 3) K. Zvelebil, A note on early history of Dravidology,
> J. of Tamil Studies, Madras, 27, 1985, p. 1-23
> 4) K. Zvelebil, Dravidian Linguistics today,
> J. of Asian studies, Madras, 2, 1, 1984, p. 1-40
> 5) K. Zvelebil, Beginnings of the history of Dravidian civilization
> in South India
> J. of Tamil studies, Madras, 23, 1983, p. 17-25

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