A Comparative Grammar of The Dravidian

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Item Code: NAK339
Author: Robert Caldwell
Language: English
Edition: 2000
Pages: 692
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch X 6.0 inch
Weight 840 gm
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Book Description


In the early years of the 18th and 19th Centuries, Danish Missionaries like Robert de Nobili and Constantius Beschi, Anglican Missionaries like Dr. Rotler and Dr. Caldwell, Dissenters like Housington, Rhenius and Winslow, civilians like Ellis and Stokes, military officers like Dr. G.W. Mahan and Colonel Brown, Pears and Bell contributed much to the study of Tamil Grammar and Lexicon.

The great contribution to the world of Tamil thought in language and Grammar came from Dr. Caldwell, a missionary practicing in Tirunelveli. His work, A Comparative Grammar of Dravidian Languages in English is a monumental work in the field of comparative Linguistics. It is widely known for its references, systematic analysis, precise study and significant findings.

Among the Dravidian Scholars there is still a good demand for this volume. I hope that this monumental work would enjoy popular welcome and wider usage among scholars.

I wish to record my appreciation to Prof. Dr. E. Sundara-moorthy, Director, Publications Division for having taken a keen interest and special care in bringing out this volume.


Author Preface

IT is now nearly nineteen years since the first edition of this book was published, and a 'second edition ought' to have appeared long ere this. The first edition was soon exhausted, and the desirableness of bringing out a second edition was' often suggested to me. But as the book was a first attempt in a new field of research and necessarily very imperfect, I could not bring myself to allow a second edition to appear without a thorough revision. It was evident, however that the preparation of a thoroughly revised edition, with the addition of new matter whatever it seemed to be necessary, would entail upon me more labour than I was likely for a long time to be able to undertake. The duties devolving upon me in India left me very little leisure for extraneous work, and the exhaustion arising from long residence in a tropical climate left me very little surplus strength. For eleven years, in addition to my other duties, r took part in the revision of the Tamil Bible, and after that great work had come to an end,' it fell to my lot to take part for one year more in the revision of the Tamil Book of Common Prayer. I suffered also for some time from a serious illness of such a nature that it seemed to render it improbable that I should ever be able to do any literary work again. Thus year after year elapsed, and year after year the idea of setting myself to so laborious a task as that of preparing a second edition of a book of this kind grew more and more distasteful to me. I began to hope that it had become no longer necessary to endeavour to rescue a half-forgotten book from oblivion. At this juncture it was considered desirable that I should return for a time to my native land for the benefit of my health; and at the same time I was surprised to receive a new and more urgent request that I should bring out a second edition of this book-for which I was informed that a demand still existed. Accordingly I felt that I, had no option left, and arrived reluctantly at the conclusion that as the first edition was brought out during the period of my first return to this country on furlough, so it had become necessary that the period of my second furlough should be devoted to the preparation and publication of a second edition.

The first edition-chiefly on account of the novelty of the under- taking-was received with a larger amount of favour than it appeared to me to deserve. I trust that this second edition, revised and enlarged, will be found mort: really deserving of favour. Though reluctant to commence the work, no sooner had I entered upon it than my old interest in it, revived, and I laboured at it con amore. I' have endeavoured to be accurate and thorough throughout, and to leave no difficulty unsolved, or at least uninvestigated; and yet, notwithstanding all my endeavours, I am conscious or many deficiencies, and feel sure that I must have fallen into many errors. Of the various expressions of approval the first edition received, the one which'" gratified me most, because I felt it to be best deserved, was that it was evident. I had treated the Dravidian languages "lovingly.” I trust it will be apparent that I have given no smaller amount of 'loving care and labour to the preparation of this second edition. The reader must be prepared, however, to find that many of the particulars on which I have. laboured most "lovingly," though exceedingly interesting to' persons who have made the Dravidian languages their special study, possess but little interest for persons whose special studies lie in the' direction of some other family or languages, or who are interested, not in the study of any one languages or family of languages in particular, but only in philological studies in general, or in discussions respecting the origin of language in general.

It is now more than thirty-seven years since I commenced the study of Tamil and I had not proceeded far• in the study before I came to the conclusion that much light might be thrown on Tamil by comparing it With Telugu, Canarese, and the other sister idioms. On proceeding to make the comparison I found that my supposition was verified by the result, arid also, as it appeared to me, that Tamil imparted still more light than it received. I have become more 'and more firmly persuaded, as time has gone on, that it is not a theory, but a fact,' that none of these languages can be thoroughly understood and appreciated without some study of the others, and hence that .a Comparative' Grammar of the Dravidian Languages may claim to be regarded not merely as something that is useful in its way, but as a necessity.

I trust it will be found that I have not left much undone that seemed to be necessary for the elucidation of Tamil; but I hope this branch of work will now be taken up by persons who have, made Telugu, Canarese, Malayjilam, or Tulu their special study, so that the whale range of the' Dravidian languages and dialects may be fully elucidated. One desideratum at present seems to be a Comparative Vocabulary of the Dravidian Languages, distinguishing the roots found, say, in the four most distinctive languages -Tamil, Telugu, Canarese, and Malayalam—from those found only in three, only in two, or only in one. An excellent illustration of what may be done in this direction has been furnished by Dr Gundert, whose truly scientific "Dictionary of Malaya lam" has given a fresh stimulus to Dravidian philology. Another thing which has long appeared to me to be: a desideratum is a more thorough examination of all the' South Indian alphabets;' ancient and modern, with a careful comparison of them, letter by letter, not only with the alphabets of Northern India, ancient modern, but also, and especially, with the 'characters found in ancient inscriptions in Ceylon, Java, and other places in the further East. If has been announced that a work' on this subject by Dr Burnell, M.C.S., entitled "South-Indian Palaeography," is about to be published in Madras, but I regret that a copy of it has not yet arrived.

It has been my chief object throughout this work to promote a more systematic and scientific study of the Dravidian languages themselves—for their own sake, irrespective of theories respecting their relationship to other languages—by means of a careful inter-comparison of their grammars. Whilst I have never ceased to regard this as my chief object, I have at the same time considered it desirable to notice, as opportunity' occurred, such principles, forms, and roots as appeared to bear any- affinity to those of any other language 'or family of languages, in the hope of contributing thereby to the solution of the question of their 'ultimate relationship. That question has never yet been scientifically solved, though one must hope that it will be solved some day. It has not yet got beyond the region of theories, more or less plausible.. My own theory is that the Dravidian languages occupy a position of their own between the languages of the Indo-European family and those of the Turanian or Scythian group-not quite a midway position, but one considerably nearer the latter than the former, The particulars in which they seem to me to accord with the Indo-European languages are numerous and remarkable, and some of them, it will be seen, are of such a nature that it is impossible, I think, to suppose that they have been accidental; but the relationship to which they testify -in so far as they do testify to any real relationship-appears to me to be very indefinite as well as very remote. On the other hand the particulars in which they seem to• me to accord with most of the so-called Scythian languages are not only so numerous, but are so distinctive and of so essential a nature, that they appear to me to amount to what is called a family likeness, and therefore naturally to suggest the idea of a common descent. The evidence is cumulative. It seems impossible to suppose that all the various remarkable resemblances that will be pointed out, section after section, in this work can have arisen merely from similarity in mental development-of which there is no proof-or similarity in external circumstances and history-of which also there is no proof -much less without any common cause whatever, but merely from the chapter of accidents. The relationship seems to me to be not merely morphological, but-in some shape or another, and however It may be accounted for-genealogical. The genealogical method or investigation has produced remarkable results in the case of the Indo-European family of languages, and there seems no reason why it should be discarded in relation to any other family or group; but this method is applicable, as it appears to me, not merely to roots and forms, but also to principles, contrivances, and adaptations. I have called attention to the various resemblances. I have noticed. whether apparently important or apparently insignificant -not under the supposition that anyone of them, or all together, will suffice to settle the difficult question at issue, but as an aid to inquiry, for the purpose of helping to point out the line in which further research seems likely-or not likely-to be rewarded with success, An ulterior and still more difficult question will be found to be occasionally discussed. It is this: Does there not seem to be reason for regarding the Dravidian family of languages, not only al a link for connection between the Indo-European and Scythian groups, but-in some particulars, especially in relation to the pronouns-as the best surviving representative of a period in the history of human speech older than the Indo-European stage, older than the Scythian, and older than the separation of the one from the other?

Whilst pointing out extra-Dravidian affinities wherever they appeared to exist, it has always been my endeavour, as far as possible, to explain Dravidian forms by means of the Dravidian languages themselves. In this particular I think it will be found that a fair amount of progress has been made in this edition in comparison with the first-for which I am largely indebted to the help of Dr Gundert's suggestions. A considerable number of forms which were left unexplained in the first edition have now, more or Jess conclusively, been shown to have had a Dravidian origin, and possibly this process will be found to be capable of being carried further still.



IT is the object of the following work to examine and compare the grammatical principles and forms of the various' Dravidian languages, in the hope of contributing to a more thorough knowledge of their primitive structure and distinctive character. In pursuing this object, it will be the writer's endeavour to point out everything which appears likely to throw any light on the question of the relation which this family of languages bears to the principal families or groups into which the languages of Europe and Asia have been divided.

Whilst the grammatical structure of each Dravidian language and dialect. will be investigated and illustrated in a ,greater or less degree, in proportion to its importance and the writer's acquaintance with it, it will be his special and constant aim to throw light upon the structure of Tamil-a language which he has for more than thirty-seven years studied and used in the prosecution of his missionary labours, and which is probably the earliest cultivated, and most highly developed, of the Dravidian languages-in many respects the representative language of the family.

The idioms which are included in this word under the general term 'Dravidian', constitute the vernacular speech of the great majority of the inhabitants' of Southern India. . With the exception of Orissa, and those districts of Western India and the Dekhan in which Gujarati and Marathi are spoken, the whole of the peninsular portion of India from the Vindhya mountains and the river Nerbudda (Narmada) to 'Cape Comorin (Kumari), is peopled, and from the earliest 'period appears to have been peopled, by different branches of one and the same race, speaking different dialects of one and the same language-the language to which the term 'Dravidian' is here applied; and scattered offshoots from the same stem may be traced still farther north, as far as the Rajmahal hills in Bengal, and even as far as the' mountain fastnesses of Beluchistan.

Gujaratl, Marathl (with its offshoots, Konkani), and Oriya, the language of 04ra-de b, or Orissa, idioms which are derived from the decomposition of Sanskrit, form the vernacular speech of the Hindu population in the• peninsular portion of India within their respective limits: besides which, and besides the Dravidian languages, various idioms which cannot be termed indigenous or vernacular are spoken or occasionally used by particular classes resident in Peninsular India.

Sanskrit, though it is improbable that it ever was the vernacular language of any district or country, whether in the north or in the south, is in every southern district read, and to some extent understood, by the Brahmans—the descendants of those Brahmanical colonists of early times to whom the Dravidians appear to have been indebted to some extent for the higher arts of life and a considerable portion of their literary culture. Such of the Brahmans as not only retain the name, but also discharge the functions of the priesthood, and devote themselves to professional studies, are gene- rally able to understand and interpret Sanskrit writings, though the vernacular language of the district in which they reside is that which they use in their families, and with which they are most familiar. They are styled, with reference to the language of their adopted district, Dravi4a Brahmans, Andhra Brahmans, Karnataka Brahmans, &c.; and the Brahmans of the several language-districts have virtually become distinct castes; but they are all undoubtedly descended from one and the same stock, and Sanskrit, though now regarded only as' an accomplishment or as a professional acquirement is properly the literary dialect of their ancestral tongue.

Hindustani is the distinctive language of the Muhammedan portion of the population in the Dekhan-most of which consists of the descendants of those warlike Patans, or Afghans, and other Muhammedans from Northern India by whom most of the peninsula was overrun' some centuries ago. It may almost be regarded as the vernacular in some parts of the Hyderabad country; but generally throughout Southern India the middle and lower classes of the Muhammedans make as much use of the language of the district in which they reside as of their ancestral tongue, if not more. Hindustani was never the ancestral language of the class of southern Muhammedans, generally called by the English C Lubbais,' but by Indians on the eastern coast. Sonagas (Yavanas), and by those on the western coast Mappillas. These are descendants of Arab merchants and their native converts, and speak Tamil or Malayalam.

Hebrew is used by the small colony of Jews resident in Cochin and the neighbourhood, in the same manner and for the same purposes as Sanskrit is used by the Brahmans. Gujarati and Marathi are spoken by the Gujarati bankers and the Parsi shopkeepers who reside in the principal towns in the peninsula. The mixed race of C country-born' Portuguese are rapidly forgetting (except in the territory of Goa itself) the corrupt Portuguese which their fathers and mothers were accustomed to speak, and learning English in- stead; whilst French still retains its place as the language of the French employes and their descendants in the settlements of Pondicherry (Puduchcheri), Carrical (Kareikkal), and Mahe (Mayyuri), which still belong to France.

Throughout the British territories in India, English is not only the language of the governing race, and of its 'East-Indian,' Eurasian, or 'Indo-British' offshoot, but is also used to a considerable and rapidly increasing extent by the natives of the country in the administration of justice and in commerce; and in the Presidency of r 1adras and the principal towns it has already won its way to the position which was formerly occupied by Sanskrit as the vehicle of all higher learning. Neither English, however, nor any other foreign tongue appears to have the slightest chance of becoming the vernacular speech of any portion of the inhabitants of Southern India. The indigenous Dravidian languages, which have maintained their ground for more than two thousand years against Sanskrit, the language of a numerous, powerful, and venerated sacerdotal race, may be expected successfully to resist the encroachments of every other tongue.


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