Since Tulu language has limited literature (status as on 1980) this work analyses and attempts to describe the structure of the Tulu language, using audiovisual comparisons as well as historical and cultural perspectives mainly within the ambit of ‘philology’ in general. Kesiraja’s ‘Shabdamani Darpana’ is a fine example for historical grammars in regional languages.
History of Tulu (ತುಳು)Language
Languages too have a story, like human beings have. The story to be retold here is that of Tulu language. Within the renowned State of Karnataka, in the southwest coastal corner, where the monsoon rains initiate, the land between the Malnad and the beach, and where the western sky displays the charms of sunset is the Tulunad, the land of Tulu speaking people, Tuluvas.
Tulu (ತುಳು) Language Tree
Many people have assumed that Tulu is a tribal dialect of Karnataka. Others presume that Tulu is not an independent language or a mixture of languages.
What is the truth? What is the relationship of Tulu and Kannada? Why Tulu words did not shine in literary horizons in the past? What is the similarity or differences among the Tulu and Dravida, Sanskrit and Sanskrit derived languages. Above all, does Tulu have a grammar of its own? If it has, is it suitable for literary developments? What is the history of Tulu? What is the relationship between the Tulu culture and the integral culture of India? Several such aspects shall be discussed in the forthcoming chapters.
Basics of Tulu Grammar – ತುಳು ವ್ಯಾಕರಣೊ
In the prologue a few words have to be explained as to how Tulu language written in Kannada script should be read and written. A writer is not supposed to dictate his readers to read in specific styles, nor is it my nature to do so. However, such an explanation is required in view of the specific style of pronunciation in the Tulu language.
Important differences between Kannada and Tulu are the pronunciation rule and the pattern of accent. Tulu inherited this accent from Proto Dravidian. However, it is unlike that of Malayalam, not even similar to that of Kannada or Tamil.
Some experts earlier believed erroneously that Tulu and Malayalam are one and the same languages. Tulu does not have the Malayalam style of accent. Malayalam is a true nasal language. The nasal pronunciation has become extinct in Tulu language during the course of its evolution. Similarities between Tulu and Malayalam in etymology and grammar are also limited.
Pronunciations in Tulu and Tamil are also different. Tulu is of Kannada type in some respects. However, Tulu has evolved as an independently among Dravidian languages of south India, in terms of pronunciation and accent.
Patero, the language or the utterances of the people constructs specific structures in the course of conveying meaning. Grammar does the job of describing the structural style of the language. The structural style or the grammar is the long perpetuating element of the language and it yields stable and consistent form to the language. A language exterminates if the grammar is obliterated. A language may borrow words or get influenced by other languages, but its grammatical structure remains stable and consistent. Tulu language has such a stable and consistent but relatively simple structure of grammar.
As we know, the consonant ending words abound in Tulu. In their earlier stages, even Kannada and Tamil had consonant-ending words that evolved into vowel- ending words during the course of the development of their literature. Even though the Tulu language remained dialectical, it maintained its grammatical structure and consistence throughout the course of the past history of more than two thousand years and lived successfully among the Tulu people, like other great and original languages. Therefore, Tulu language is useful for studying the early forms of the Dravidian languages in greater depth.
In Kannada grammatically all words become vowel-ending like: maaDi(ಮಾಡಿ), noDi(ನೋಡಿ), hiDidu(ಹಿಡಿದು), baDidu(ಬಡಿದು), yarannu(ಯಾರನ್ನೂ), avarige(ಅವರಿಗೆ), nagisu(9ನಗಿಸು), kuNisu(ಕುಣಿಸು) etc. These same words in Tulu are respectively: malt’d, tood, patt’d, dart’d, yeren, areg, telipav, nalipav etc. These Tulu words have remained consonant ending unlike in Kannada. Even in English there are a large number of words that end with consonants, like: cat, rat, ran etc. Some English words, in spite of having vowels at their end, like come, house etc sound like consonant ending words.
Examples of Vowel-ending Words in Kannada vs Consonant-ending Words in Tulu
|English Transliteration||In Kannada (Ends with vowel)||In Tulu (Ends with consonant)|
An analysis of the present Kannada script, especially with respect to its consonants, may be made since we are generally employing the modern Kannada script for writing/printing Tulu nowadays. The table of Kannada alphabets shows consonants attached with vowels like for example k’+a=ka, g’+a=ga etc. (see figure). The alphabets k’, g’ etc are shown with an attachment of coiled spring like character to signify vowel-free consonants. Now, Tulu being a language rich with consonant-ending words, we are generally using this ‘coiled spring’ attached consonants numerous times.
If you give some little thought to the process of writing Tulu using Kannada alphabets, shall realize that an excess of coiled springs in writing is not only unnecessary but also slightly spoils the beauty of the script in some way.
We can give up this coiled spring attachment in writing Tulu, to make it easier as well as faster. It is also possible to design Tulu fonts for printing in the similar way i.e., without coiled springs.
Tulu is a civilized language. Caldwell (1956) has opined that the culture shone in the land of Tulu language is not inferior to any of the best cultures in the world. Tulu is not a tribal language; it is spoken widely as mother tongue by different castes and creeds of the Tulunad, from the Adi-Dravida tribes to Brahmins(To write and learn Mantra’s in Tulu). People of Kasaragod, northern Kerala, also share this language with their Tulunad brethren.
Tulu language carries reminiscences of regional relations and history of the past few thousands of years; peoples heroic deeds, systems, customs and rituals; sorrow and happiness. The traditionally evolved language is complementary to its history.
Why this rich language of Tulunad failed to become a textual literary language of Tulunad and what can be done to improve its status are to be pondered. In light of present status of Tulu literature the following facts are pertinent:
1. Lack of a proper popular script in the past hindered the growth of Tulu language in the past. This is being overcome by employing Kannada script for writing Tulu since several years. However, the problem of writing/printing consonant ending words has not been solved.
2. Comprehensive study of morphological structure and application of grammatical rules for general usage has not been done so far.
3. Also a few observations can be made regarding usage for the Tulu language in writing and publishing:
3.1. Excessive usage of –kuLu(ಕುಲು) suffix in Tulu, possibly inspired from the Kannada –gaLu(ಗಳು) plural indicator suffix is not appropriate for the beauty of the Tulu language. In some cases, especially as human relation indicators,-kuLu suffix are used naturally in Tulu, like yaan >>> yenkuLu or yenkulu, ee >>> nikuLu, aye >>> akuLu, jovu >>> jokuLu etc.
But in the case of neuter nouns like mara(tree or ಮರ), petto(cow or ಹಸು), etc –kulu suffix is not appropriate for Tulu, even if this is the general case with Kannada, like maragaLu(trees or ಮರಗಳು), hasugaLu(herd or ಹಸುಗಳು) etc.
In Tulu, instead of –kuLu suffix for neuter nouns, applying -lu suffix as plural indicator present already in Tulu, not only simplifies the natural language but also increases its charm. e.g., marolu(trees or ಮರಗಳು), pettolu(herd or ಹಸುಗಳು) etc. This feature of -lu suffix for plurals is similar to Telugu. PanDulu (=fruits), gurumulu (=horses) etc.
3.2. Application of cases (vibhakti pratyaya) may be slightly confusing in Tulu. In Dravidian languages, apparently there are no suffixes for the nominative case, the prathama vibhakti. It is possible that this suffix is a phoneme. For example mara(tree or ಮರ), petta(cow or ಹಸು) etc in spoken Tulu characteristically acquire u and becomes mara+u=maro, petta+u=petto etc.
In old Kannada, the –am suffix as in maram(tree or ಮರ), hasum(cow or ಹಸು) may not be the gender indicator. Because, in the case of Kesiraja’s “Arasam moorkham sachivara sarasvati drohara”, the words arasa and moorkha are not neuter genders. Thus –am appears to be the suffix for the nominative case.
When gender, person and case are combined, the cancellation of the cases (suffix) or the zero morphemes would not affect the simplicity or meaningfulness of the language.
Vibhakti Pratyaya (ವಿಭಕ್ತಿ ಪ್ರತ್ಯಯ) Table in Kannada and Tulu[supsystic-tables id=’3′]
3.3. The confusion in the application present and future tenses in Tulu language can be seen in the grammar written by Rev.Brigel. Present particles: maLpu >>> maLpu, maLpuve. keN >>> keNuve, boor >>> booruve, sai >>> saipe, paN >>> paNpe, par >>> parpe etc. The future particles respectively: maLpe, keNve, boorve saive, paNambe, paruve, etc. The second future participle for maLpe >>> maLtuduppe. These can be discussed further in the future chapters. The confusion in the application of future tenses not restricted only to Tulu. In prominent languages like English also, confusion can be seen in the usage of shall and will.etc.
If language is the art of describing the feelings generated in our minds in such a way that the other person properly understands it, the grammar is the result of review of the structure of the language and is the collection of opinions on the application of the language. In this way, the correct understanding of the grammar shall foster healthy growth of the language. The words of Joseph Priestly (1772), the scientist famous for the discovery of oxygen, written more than three hundred years ago in his “Rudiments of English grammar” are pertinent:
“With respect to our own language, there seems to be a kind of claim upon all who make use of it, to do something for its improvement; and the best we can do for this purpose at present, is to establish its actual structure and the varieties with which it is used.”
Olden days languages were considered widely as the creation of God. Even the Bible conveyed that opinion. In India, people believed that Sanskrit was created by God. Sanskrit was considered a divine language and it was kept out of reach of the shudras and women. Bhatta Kalanka (17th Century AD) declared that Sanskrit was divine. He tried to explain the differences among Sanskrit, Prakrit and Dravidian languages as variations in the quality of water in different terrains in spite of being derived from the same rain.
During 1866, in Paris La Societe de Linguistique and proposition of four theories on the origin of languages.
(a) Bow-bow theory: According to this theory, some of the words like that of bird names are derived from the way they make sound. Thus, the bird that cries kaw- kaw became ‘kaka’ in Sanskrit. That crows (rough imitative sound) became ‘crow’ in English. Or that cries ‘karr-karr’ became ‘karke’ and further became ‘kakke’ in Tulu and so on. Similarly, the Sanskrit bird name kuyil or kokila (=koel) were derived. The word ‘ghanta’(=bell) was derived from the sound (ghan- ghan) it makes.
(b) Pooh-pooh theory: Exclamations uttered by people out of pain, anguish, surprise etc or as a simple expression of greeting people. This includes words like Oh, Ah, Wah, Hey, Sh, Hai, Hello etc.
(c) Ding-dong theory: Every material has its own inherent sound and the language or words were expressed in response to these sounds. This theory was favoured by Max Mueller.
(d) Yo-hoho theory: This includes the sounds people make while carrying out labor intensive jobs, such as pulling weights.
In spite of the impressive list above, these theories have not contributed significantly to the study of languages.
External Factors for the Growth of the Tulu Language
Geographic boundaries can often delimit the growth and spread of a language. The Kavi raja marga, the tenth century AD text, describes Kannada as bound between the Rivers Kaveri and Godavari. Similarly Tulunad has been considered between the rivers flowing near Kallianpur in the north and Kasargod in the south, based on the current spread of the Tulu language.
Administrative reasons include historical factors. Tulunad was ruled by Alupa kings (or chieftains) approximately from the beginning of the Christian era for nearly 1200 years based on two city state capitals designated Mangalur and Barkur Rajyas (=kingdoms). Mostly these chieftains were subordinates of Kannada kings, and have not shown evident interest in developing the Tulu language. Inscriptions were also written in Old Kannada which was popular administrative language at that time. Apparently, Tulu was being written in Tulu script by the Vedic-educated Tulu Brahmins on palmyra leaves during the latter part of the Alupa rule. This is evident by the now established fact subsequently Tiruvanthapura (formerly known as Travancore state) King introduced and developed the Malayalam script based on the then existing Tulu script that was being used fro writing by the Tulu scholars visiting Kerala for agama studies.
With the ascent of Kingdom of Vijayanagara at Hampi, in thirteenth century AD, these Mangalur and Barkur Rajyas became its coastal provinces. Kannada was the dominant administrative language during Vijayanagar period. Vijayanagar King Krishnadevaraya was said to be from Tulu family (Tuluva dynasty). But apparently he gave no support from the growth and development of Tulu language. Kannada continued to dominate during subsequent transfer of power of coastal regions to Keladi Kings. Subsequent period of domination of Hyderali and Tipu Sultan of Srirangapatna over Tulunad introduced many Urdu words into Tulu language.
Political factors refer to confusions perpetrated during the post-independence reorganization of Indian States in the year 1956. Kasargod, a region dominated by Tulu and Kannada speakers, was broken from Tulunad and amalgamated with Kerala. The famous Tulu proponent of Yakshagana during 18th century AD, Partisanship, the poet and composer, was hailing from the Kasargod area. Words of Whitney appear significant as far as the growth and sustenance of Tulu language and culture in the present political setup: “A stone has lain motionless for ages on the verge of a precipice, and may lie there for ages longer, all the cosmic forces of gravity will not stir it. But a chance thrust from some passing animal jostles it from its equilibrium and it goes crushing down. Just so, in language the great and wonderful power of human soul would never move in this particular direction, but for the added push given by the desire of communication, when this leads the way all the rest follows.”
Languages are related to social contacts rather than to races. In the words of Max Muller “Linguistics is the test of social contact and not of racial kinship. Any attempt at squiring the classification of races and tongues must necessarily fail.” Another point of importance is that a language may be spoken by several communities originated from diverse racial groups. Even though there may be differences in pronunciation or accents of different people speaking a language it is considered variations of a single language. For example, in Tulu language has been divided into a Brahmin Tulu and Shudra Tulu. This is not a good development. A language is basically guided by its grammar and naturally shall have dialectical variations depending upon the composition of its speaking community, but it is not advisable to divide the languages along communal lines.
Based on the grammar, linguists have classified languages into five groups:
Isolative language is exemplified by Chinese. Words may have different meanings, depending on the position of the words in the sentences. Verbs usually are placed in between the noun and the predicate.
Agglutinative refers to Dravidian languages like Tulu, where the words are formed by the joining together of morphemes. Altaic, Tibeto-Burman, Bantu and Basque etc also are agglutinative languages.
Inflectional include Indo-European, Romance (Spanish, Italian, French and Romanian) and Basque languages .For example the word structure of ‘asmi’ (Sanskrit ) can be compared with that of ‘im’(Gothic).
Polysynthetic represents the language where words give elaborate meanings that need longer sentences in other languages to convey the same.
Incorporative represents languages where several word join mix in such away to change in meaning that word analyses becomes difficult.
In the context of Tulu language study of agglutinative (Dravidian) and inflectional languages (Sanskrit) are pertinent. In Tulu the four words namely:
Raame kadthe kudari mara(ರಾಮೆ ಕಡ್ತೆ ಕುದರಿ ಮರ) can be assembled into a sentence using appropriate morpheme such as Raame kudariD’d maron kadthe(ರಾಮೆ ಕುದರಿದ ಮರೋನ್ ಕಡ್ತೆ).
This is an example of agglutinative Dravidian style of grammar, wherein the meaningful morphemes join without alteration onto the words. It is easier to identify the morphemes or cases and also the essential meaning of the sentence.
In inflectional languages, the morphemes diminish into a low or unidentifiable state. In the Sanskrit, ‘RaameNa’ the meaning of ‘eNa’ is not distinct.
Incorporative language are one step ahead in that assembly of words merge in such a way their original form is almost undecipherable.
Sweet opined that “if inflection is agglutinative run mad, incorporative is inflection run madder still”. Thus, in this regard it can be stated that Dravidian grammatic rules are clean and distinct.
Pope believed that Dravidian languages were part of Aryan group of languages while Dr Caldwell considered that Dravidian languages were part of the Scythian Group.
Max Mueller considered that Dravidian–Scythian languages were agglutinative in nature. However, the Dravidian languages have independent grammar and they are one of the important language groups of India.
As emphasized by Dr Caldwell in Dravidian languages ” all nouns denoting inanimate and irrational being are of neuter gender”.
Similarly Keshiraja (10th Century CE) Kannada grammarian describes the nature of genders in Sanskrit.
Genders (ಲಿಂಗ) in Tulu
Purushare pullingam Striyare tam sree
Linga mulidudallam nappa
gire salgum kannadadol
ಪುರುಷರೇ ಪುಲ್ಲಿಂಗಂ ಸ್ತ್ರೀಯರೇ ತಾಂ ಸ್ರೀ
ಲಿಂಗ ಮುಳಿದುದಲ್ಲಂ ನಪ್ಪ
ಗಿರೆ ಸಾಲ್ಗುಂ ಕನ್ನಡದೊಳ್
Thus there are three genders in Dravidian namely masculine, feminine and neuter depending upon the actual nature of the objects like male, female and subhuman or inanimate. This is in contrast to Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages wherein confusion in allocation of gender tags appear to prevail. For example, in Sanskrit ‘tarpa’(=raft) is considered grammatically masculine, whereas ‘veda’ (=boat) is feminine, in spite of both being objects floating on water. Similarly in German ‘regen’(rain) is masculine, while ‘regenen’ (shower) is feminine.
In Dravidian languages Verbs change in form depending on the associated genders. Consider the following Tulu usages:
Masculine: Aye batte (ಆಯೆ ಬತ್ತೆ) – e suffix
Feminine: Aal Battal (ಆಲ್ ಬತ್ತಾಲ್) – al suffix
Neuter : Avu batt’nD (ಅವು ಬತ್ತ್’ನ್ಡ್) – U suffix
In the words of Caldwell “this rule presents a marked contrast to the rules respecting gender which we find in the vivid and highly imaginative Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages.” This Dravidian feature is unlike in English where the verbs do not change with respect to different genders.
In Dravidian languages suffix are not attached to adjectives in the sentences, but verbs do get suffixes. For example:
“Sundare adittina Rāme”. Or “ Sundara Rāme” (“ಸುಂದರೆ ಅದಿತ್ತಿನ ರಾಮೆ” “ಸುಂದರ ರಾಮೆ” ) – e suffix on nouns
“Rāme shoore”, Rāme dheere (“ರಾಮೆ ಶೂರೆ”, “ರಾಮೆ ಧೀರೆ”) – e suffix on verbs
Porluda āL (ಪೊರ್ಲುದ ಆಲ್)
And the adjectives mostly precede nouns in the sentences. For example:
“Shoora Rame duShta Ravanan keriye”
“ಶೂರ ರಾಮೆ ದುಷ್ಟ ರಾವಣನ್ ಕೆರಿಯೆ” – In Tulu
“ಶೂರ ರಾಮನು ದುಷ್ಟ ರಾವಣನನ್ನು ಕೊಂದನು” – In Kannada
This feature is unlike that in Sanskrit, wherein suffixes attach to adjectives also and change according to gender. For example:
Pavanah anilah (masculine)
Aho, Pavani, Bhagavathi, Bhagirathi (feminine)
And in Dravidian while adjectives precede nouns, sentences tend to end with verbs.
“Rame sundare aditte” – ರಾಮೆ ಸುಂದರೆ ಅದಿತ್ತೆ – ರಾಮನು ಸುಂದರನಾಗಿದ್ದನು
“Rame shoore aditte.” – ರಾಮೇ ಶೂರೆ ಆದಿತ್ತೆ – ರಾಮನು ಶೂರನಾಗಿದ್ದನು
With regard to this Caldwell says: “Preposition of adjectives and adverbs change place with noun and becomes a post-position in virtue of its governing a case and finally the sentence is concluded by one-all governing finite verb.”
Vocalic harmony is another feature of Dravidian languages. In Tulu for example:
Aye batte – ಅಯೆ ಬತ್ತೆ
Aal battāl – ಆಲ್ ಬತ್ತಲ್
Avu batt’nd- ಅವು ಬಟ್ತ್ಂಡ್
If we notice carefully in the word batte is not a simple e suffix; it is a mild nasal ending suffix ‘en’. In reality ‘I came’ in Tulu should have been -and probably it was so in the past as- ”Yaan batten”. However the end ‘en’ has been now reduced to mild nasal e⁰ wherein ⁰ symbol can be introduced to represent the mild but recognizable relic of former nasal suffix en which has become mild now.
In the present Dravidian languages especially those with script, the words are mostly vowel ending. However, this feature is not found in Tulu language. Tulu words are mostly consonant ending and some of the words also contain consonants in the middle of the words. For example in the Tulu word “malt’d’“ (after doing) at the end “d” is an consonant without vowel at the end. Similarly “t” is another common vowel-less consonant in the middle of the word in Tulu language. This is not the case in other Dravidian languages like Kannada where the equivalent word for malt’d’ is maaDi which has an vowel at the end.
Consonant ending words are quite common in English language. For example lack, labor, land, languish, lantern, lap, last etc. And further in English several vowel ending words that are pronounced as if there are no vowels at the end of the word! For example lake, lame, lane, language, league etc. Presence of different vowels or absence of it affects the meaning of the word. Note the following examples:
kaDapu ಕಡಪು = to cross
kaDupu ಕಡುಪು = to sweeten
kaDepu ಕಡೆಪು = to grind
kaDpu ಕಡ್ಪು = to cut
In Dravidian languages there are two vachanas (numbers), namely singular and plural. Comparatively, in Sanskrit there are three vachanas: singular, double, and plural.
Passive voice is not common in Dravidian languages. Passive voice is common in Sanskrit and English. However in modern Kannada and other languages passive voice apparently was incorporated as a result of influence of English usage patterns.
There are some more minor features that are characteristic of the Dravidian languages.
1. Neuter nouns normally remain singular. Petto meypunDu.
2. There are two types of plurals on first person: Exclusive and inclusive. ‘Enkulu’ in Tulu refers to we ( all of us) in general whereas ‘nama’ stands for we.(all including me).
3. Specific verbs do exist in the Dravidian language to express negative meanings. For example: Ijji, ijjantina, avandina, etc.
4. There are separate words to refer to seniors and juniors among relatives in Dravidian languages. For example elder brother is known as ‘palaye’ or ‘anne’ and younger brother is known as ‘meggye’. There are specific words assigned for elder sister and younger sister ‘Paldi’ and ‘Megdi ‘(or ‘tangadi’), ‘maama-maami’, ‘dodda(mma)-chikka(mma)’ etc.
5. Dravidian languages are characterized by ample usage of consonants such as Ta (t as in tiger) and Da (d as in day), In Tulu Da is used instead of Ta in sister Dravidian languages. For example unTu(=available, or exists; Kannada) is unDu in Tulu.
AaT (=goat; Tamil) = AeD(Tulu) = AaDu(Kannada)
KuruTa (=blind, Tamil) = kuruDa (Kannada) = kuruDe (Tulu)
6. The accent falls on the initial phoneme in some words in Dravidian languages like Tulu. For example in Tulu word ‘barsa’(=rains), the accent falls on the initial ba (as if it is ‘bbarsa’) whereas in Hindi ‘baras’ there is no initial accent.
7. The suffix la appends to certain verb roots and forms additional verbs in Tulu. For example: bar +la > balla (=come). po+la> pola (=go).
In Kannada the la form is missing in similar verb roots. bar > baa or baara (=come). Po > pogu (=go).