Day is night in Dravidian?

Sudalaimuthu Palaniappan Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Sat Apr 17 15:12:47 UTC 1999

DEDR 3656 has Ta. nAL day, early dawn, forenoon..etc. What DEDR does not list
is the word naTunAL, a compound of naTu + nAL  meaning midnight instead of
midday. In fact, the following CT usage clearly contrasts naTunAL and pakal

"naTUnAL yAmattum pakalum tuJcAn2" (puRanAn2URu 189.3)

If we also consider that DEDR 3621 has Ta. naL meaning 'night', we can see
that at first the word "nAL" (derived from the root *naL- meaning 'to be
dark') must have meant 'night'. Then, how did it come to mean 'day'? Another
meaning of "nAL" not listed by DEDR but preserved in Tamil and Malayalam is
'daily lunar asterism' more explicitly referred to as "nALmIn2", a compound
of "nAL" and 'mIn2", where "mIn2" is from *min2- to flash, glitter, etc. (See
DEDR 4876). It looks like the astronomical knowledge of lunar asterism seems
to have formed the basis for naming the whole interval between the
corresponding times of successive nights as "nAL".  DEDR 3621 and 3656 have
cognates in south, central and north Dravidian subgroups. That means the
astronomical observations by Dravidian speakers must have a very ancient
history. Comments are welcome.

Are there other languages where the word for day is based on the word for

S. Palaniappan

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