Inscriptions and Dravidian sound changes "y" > "c" and "y" >

Palaniappa Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sun May 24 21:58:35 UTC 1998

In a message dated 98-05-24 01:15:45 EDT, bhk at HD1.VSNL.NET.IN writes:

<<There is a phenomenon called hypecorrection; since c>y is related as
 old-later, some crackpot at a later date would represent an underlying -y-
 form by -c- thinking that he was writing an older spelling. A good example
 is inscriptionl mata-c:nai for mata-ya:nai. So if there were many crackpots
 like that, it would even mislead us as a sound change.

 In Sanskrit there is a  fricative y and a semi-vowel y (both probably
 occurred in complemenary distribution). The first one as in yama, yamuna:,
 etc was a fricative like Modern German J or English y in yes.  Prakrit
 develops j- (palatal affricate) out of it,e.g. jama-, jamuna:. The Dravidian
 *y was not a fricative. It was a frictionless continuant. Kui kaju for *kay
 is a doubtful transcription; I have to check how regular is *y = Kui j. I
 know Schulze a German wrote j for y. PD *c and *y fell together in most of
 the languages but the distinciton is preserved by some members (particularly
 Kannada). where Ka also has an intervocalic -y- (bayal) it goes to PD *y. So
 Kannada holds the clue for PD reconstriction (Ta. poy = Ka. pusi <*posi 'a
 lie'; PD *poc-).

 Please check the chronology of -c- ~ -y- forms in Tamil. Are the-c- forms
 older or -y- forms in terms of literary attestation? You  have to examine a
 sound change from a number of angles before making generalizations about
 others' scholarship. Bh.K. >>

Fortunately, we can check for the crack-pot theory or hyper-correction in the
case of "matacAn2ai". The word occurs in two inscriptions SII, vol. 5, no. 300
as well as no. 431 which I had mentioned earlier. No. 431 has far fewer
sections missing than no. 300. No. 431 is found in Tirunelveli and no. 300 is
found in Tenkarai near cOzavantAn2, north of Madurai. A comparison of the two
inscriptions makes it obvious that the eulogy portion was composed by a single
person while the actual inscribing was done by different persons at the two
locations.  The inscriptions belong to the period of the famous
cuntarapANTiyan of the 13th century.

The eulogy portion of 431 in which the word "matacAn2ai" occurs, also has the
words "An2ai" and "yAn2ai" used in other places. Inscription 300 has the
corresponding occurrences of "matacAn2ai" and "yAnai". But the middle section
with the "An2ai" form is missing. The occurrences of the words "An2ai" and
"yAn2ai" are given below.

akkaLattil An2aiyin veNmaruppuGkaiyyuG - in that battlefield the elephant's
white tusk and trunk

kaTalenn2a muzaGkuG kazinalliyAn2ai - the excellent elephant which trumpets
like the ocean.

The usage nalliyAn2ai with an "i" inserted is similar to Classical Tamil usage
(compare nalliyAz - good lute in malaipaTukaTAm 450)

If the composer was being hyper-corrective, he would not have used "An2ai" or
"yAn2ai". Further he seems to have been aware of the classical forms. The only
conclusion possible is that he is using the different forms current at that
time, classical as well as colloquial forms, in a very long inscription in
which the eulogy portion alone runs to almost one and a half pages of a book
of 8.5''x11" size.

As for the chronolgy of the forms mentioned, each of the forms with -y- occurs
in Classical Tamil.

ucar < uyar (DEDR 646)
vacakkal < vayakkal (DEDR 5258)
vAcal < vAyil (DEDR 5352) -
vicalUr < viyalUr = viyal (DEDR 5404) +Ur

uyar - to rise                  puRanAn2URu 334.8
vayakku - to tame           akanAn2URu 344.10
vAyil - entrance              puRanAn2URu 350.6
viyalUr - a place             akanAn2URu 97.13
vayal - cultivated field     puRanAn2URu 354.4  (Kannada has both vayal and

The forms with -c- are found in inscriptions at least 600 years later than the
literary attestations of -y-. None of the -c- forms discussed above are found
in Classical Tamil. Some of the -y- forms are used even today in formal speech
while some of the -c- forms are considered very substandard. For instance,
literate persons will not use ucar- in colloquial speech. The preferred form
is -y-. -c- and -y- are clearly distinguished. On the other hand, vAcal is
acceptable and vAyil is found in very formal speech. Inscriptions show not
only vacakku, but also, mayakku, and macakku reflecting all the variant
dialectal forms. Todau tiruvicalUr is the name of the town.

The placement of DEDR 5259 Ta. vayiRu belly with an implied *-y- seems to be
correct even though Kannada has basiR. Colloquial Tamil has forms like vakuRu,
vavuRu, but no vacuRu.

Finally, I was not generalizing about others' scholarship. My comment was made
in the same spirit as P. S. Subrahmanyam was making with respect to L. V.
Ramaswamy Aiyar and it was specific to the discussion at hand. Moreover, what
I said was not an inference as P. S. Subrahmanyam did, but was a fact. The
Reference list in Subrahmanyam�s book does not include Velu Pillai�s book
which appeared full 7 years before Subrahmanyam�s book. The book has an
introductory note by scholars representing all major Dravidian Languages R. C.
Hiremath (Dharwar) for Kannada , K. Mahadeva Sastry (Sri Venkateswara
University) for Telugu, and V.I. Subramoniam (Kerala) for Tamil and Malayalam.
Further A. Velu Pillai who had earned a Ph.D. under T. Burrow had produced
this book at the invitation of the Dravidian Linguistics Association. So I
felt that the quality of the work had been recognized by other scholars and  I
was surprised it was not consulted in the preparation of "Dravidian
Comparative Phonology".

For the benefit of those interested, in its 1132 pages, "Study of the Dialects
of Inscriptional Tamil" mainly deals with phonology and morphology. It is
based on about 1750 inscriptions grouped into 5 periods: (1) 6th to 8th
centuries, (2) 9th century, (3) 10th century, (4) 11th century and (5) 12th
century. As the introduction of the book notes, it covers only a small portion
of about 30,000 Tamil inscriptions that had been collected by the
Archaelogical Survey of India at that time. However, it is a significant work
bringing together the results of many earlier  unpublished research efforts
including that of Pillai.


S. Palaniappan

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