[INDOLOGY] Kittel's list

Suresh Kolichala suresh.kolichala at gmail.com
Fri Jan 15 17:09:02 UTC 2016

On Fri, Jan 15, 2016 at 10:37 AM, George Hart <glhart at berkeley.edu> wrote:
> I’d ask Suresh why Tamil, the southernmost Dravidian language, is the
most conservative. If Dravidian speakers
> had entered India (from the east?) and moved through a huge territory of
“Niṣādic” (and other?) speakers,
> one would expect Tamil to be far more changed from Proto-Dravidian than
it is. George

Thanks George for your question.

A simpler answer could be: for whatever socio-historical reasons, Tamil
became the earliest literary language among the Dravidian languages. A
literate society tends to be more conservative than a non-literate. As for
the question of why Kannada and Telugu languages are not found in early
Brahmi inscriptions,  unlike Telugu, as Karashima hypothesizes "Buddhists
who were in considerable numbers in both areas didn't care about the local
language, unlike Jains (who wrote grammar and texts in the local language
of Tamil)".

A contrarian answer is: it is a myth that Tamil is the most conservative
among the Dravidian languages. Several of the archaic phonological,
morpho-syntactic features found in North, Central and South-Central
languages are lacking in Tamil. For example, phonological evidence for /q/
[x], morpho-syntactic evidence for serial verbs, relative-correlative
structures without port-RC particles etc. (See Steever) are all found in
North Dravidian languages. Negative past formation found in Central and
South-Central languages (Ollari and Konda) are completely missing in Tamil
(past negatives are not found even in Cankattamil). In fact, the negative
conjugation of verbs has fallen out of use in modern Tamil, where negation
is expressed through compound verbs (e.g. vara māṭṭān, pārkkavillai instead
of kāṇēṉ ‘I do not see’). The copula verb man- 'to be' is replaced by ir-
'to be' in the South Dravidian languages. As you know, ir- 'to be' is not
found in South-Central, Central and North Dravidian languages. (ir- most
likely a local verb for 'to be'). I believe "the massive restructuring of
the verbal system" (as described by Steever in Analysis to Synthesis: The
Development of Complex Verb Morphology in the Dravidian Languages) in South
India might be a result of rapid transformation of pre-Dravidian
hunter-gatherer population through language shift as they attempt to merge
with the incoming 'Dravidian' community.

The genetic research is also corroborating the theory that the high castes
of Vellalas in Tamil Nadu, Vakkaligas and lingayats of Karnataka, Velama
and Reddis of Andhra show external Y-DNA haplogroups, coming from
North-West through Gujarat and Maharashtra, as well as through sea-faring.
The following diagram of domesticated cattle in India clearly shows that
the agro-pastoralism spread to south-India from North West.

I have more internal linguistic data that provides stronger evidence for an
external origin of the Dravidian languages, which I hope to document and
publish sometime this year.


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