Tamil and Prakrit Consonant Assimilation

N.Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 4 17:37:01 UTC 1999

  Tamil and Prakrit Consonant Assimilation

Sanskrit consonant clusters, 'rm' and 'rN' change to
Prakrit 'mm' and 'NN' respectively. In Vedic, there are
only very few words with consonant groups 'mm'. Later in
time, most Sanskrit words with 'rm' transform into 'mm'.
This simplification process through assimilation can be
observed in Old Tamil also.


                Sanskrit           |     Prakrit
                karNa (ear)        |     kaNNa
                varNa (color)      |     vaNNa
                kIrNa (scattered)  |     kiNNa
                pUrNa (full)       |     puNNa
                parNa (leaf)       |     paNNa
                nirNaya (decision) |     niNNaya

                Sanskrit           |     Prakrit
                karman (action)    |     kamma
                dharma (law)       |     dhamma
                varman (armour)    |     vamma
                gharma (heat)      |     ghamma
                carman (skin)      |     camma
                kUrma (tortoise)   |     kumma

  Compunds with nir-(without)
               nirmathana(churning)|     nimmathana (Pali)
               nirmala (clean)     |     nimmala (Pali)
               nirmUla (rootless)  |     nimmUla (Pali)


In old Tamil, parallel processes of assimilation can be observed
from "rum" to "mm" and from "run" to "n2n2' (taking "n"
as ta. dental n and "n2" as ta. alveolar n).

"rum" -> "mm"
1) porumal (plumpness/abundance) -> pommal
2) cerumAn2 (leather worker) -> cemmAn2 (cf. ceruppu = sandals)
3) perumAn2 (great man) -> pemmAn2

"run" -> "n2n2"
1) nerunal (the day before) -> nen2n2al

This assimilation is present partially in certain word pairs
1) parutti (cotton), pan2n2al 2) karumpu (sugarcane), kan2n2al.
Campantar (7th century CE) sings "karunal paravai kamaz kAzi"
Can this *karunal taken to mean sugarcane??
karnATu appears to be a back formaton from kan2n2ATu (boulder/hill

Is this "rm to mm" and "rN/rn to NN/nn" assimilation observed in
both Aryan an Dravidian languages, an area defining feature
like echo words, reduplication, onomotopoeic words, etc.,?
If not, is this observed in other language families?

Comments are welcome,
N. Ganesan

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