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AUTHOR: Krishnamurti, Bhadriraju TITLE: The Dravidian Languages SERIES: Cambridge Language Surveys PUBLISHER: Cambridge University Press YEAR: 2003
Basanti Devi, Associate Professor, JSS Institute of Speech & Hearing, Mysore, India
This book deals with historical and comparative aspects of the Dravidian languages. It will undoubtedly meet the requirements of a variety of readers. The book, a result of extensive research, can be treated as an authentic source book on the entire Dravidian language family, the world's fifth largest; it can be used as a reference book by students as well as scholars of linguistics. More specifically, it will cater to the needs of scholars involved in research in historical and comparative aspects of Dravidian languages. Scholars of contrastive linguistics and linguistic typology will also benefit from it.
The book is divided into eleven chapters including an introduction and a conclusion. A list of tables (pp xii-xiv), note on transliteration and symbols (pp xx-xxii), abbreviations used (pp xxiii-xxvii), bibliography (pp 504-533) and a general index of subjects and names are also provided.
Chapter 1: Introduction The book begins with clarification of the term 'Dravidian' which is generic in nature used to refer to a family of languages. The author also includes a brief discussion of the people speaking these languages and their cultures. Geographic and demographic distribution of the sub-groups as well as individual languages belonging to this family is outlined. The introduction includes a brief note on the typological features of Dravidian languages. It also contains an overview of previous work on these languages. Finally, the author has devoted a few pages to the discussion of affinity between Dravidian languages and some languages spoken outside India and with Harappan.
Chapter 2: Phonology: Descriptive This chapter begins with the sounds of Proto Dravidian. It also offers an explanation for subsequent sound changes in the modern Dravidian languages. This is followed by a description of vowels and consonants found in different groups within the Dravidian family such as South Dravidian I, South Dravidian II, Central Dravidian and North Dravidian. The description includes allophonic variations of these vowels and consonants. Dialectical variations are also mentioned. Some light is thrown on the suprasegmental features. Morphophonemic patterns also find a place. The chapter ends with an appendix containing the phonemic inventories of individual languages with separate tables for vowels and consonants.
Chapter 3: The Writing Systems of the Major Literary Languages The third chapter is devoted to the description of script systems of modern Dravidian languages. Beginning with a brief note on Ashokan Brahmi script, the mother of all major Indian scripts, the chapter contains a discussion of the evolutionary aspects of the major modern Dravidian languages, viz. Telugu, Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam. Proto Telugu & Kannada script developed in sixth century AD. It continued till fifteenth century AD after which they diverged and developed independently. He elaborates on how new symbols were innovated and added to the existing Ashokan Brahmi script to represent sounds peculiar to Tamil. Out of this adapted script called Tamil Brahmi evolved a transitional variety called Vattezuttu. How Malayalam and Tamil scripts developed independently is described at some length. This is supplemented by a chart containing symbols of primary vowels and consonants of each of these two languages as well as vowel diacritics added to consonant symbols. The chapter ends with a table showing symbols of consonant clusters in these languages.
Chapter 4: Phonology: Historical & Comparative This chapter provides both a historical and a comparative treatment of Dravidian phonology. A feature matrix of the consonant sounds of Proto-Dravidian is given in terms of which sound change in the Dravidian languages can be explained. The morphophonemic rules of Proto-Dravidian are elaborated. Every aspect of sound change in each language is discussed at length. The author has identified two types of sound change and has argued that the entire system of sound changes can be attributed to either system-internal pressures or typographical motivation.
Chapter 5: Word Formation: Roots, Stems, Formatives, Derivational Suffixes and Nominal Compounds In the fifth chapter the author deals with all the important aspects of the formation of different types of words. It begins with Caldwell's description of formation of Proto-Dravidian roots. However, the author has differed from Caldwell and reconstructed the primary roots as well as extended stems for Proto-Dravidian with great insight, He hypothesizes that primary derivational suffixes developed from inflectional suffixes are incorporated into the stem. He also cites empirical evidence in support of his hypothesis from several case studies. Stem formatives of both nouns and verbs are discussed at length. Derivational suffixes also form a part of the discussion. He concludes the chapter with a discussion on the structure and composition of compound words in Proto-Dravidian.
Chapter 6: Nominals: Nouns, Pronouns, Numerals and Time and Place Adverbs In the beginning of this chapter, the author focuses on gender-number contrasts with reference to demonstrative pronouns. There seem to be three dominant types of gender-number distinctions in Dravidian. Each has been separately claimed to represent the Proto-Dravidian system by different scholars. The author reaffirms his earlier view (Krishnamurti 1961) that type II represents Proto-Dravidian. He also includes a summary of the arguments that he presented earlier. Discussion of gender-number marking in finite verbs and nominal derivation is followed by a section on reconstruction of gender-number suffixes. The case system is discussed at length including examples of case markers in the subgroups of these languages. The pronoun and number (cardinal and ordinal) systems are also described. The chapter ends with an appendix containing paradigms of nominal declensions in some of the Dravidian languages.
Chapter 7: The Verb In this the longest chapter of the book, the author sheds light on various aspects of verb structure in Dravidian. It begins with a note on canonical structures of roots which are common for nouns, verbs and adjectives. He also sheds light on the morphological aspects of the verbal base. The author identifies three main patterns in the formation of transitive causative stems and elaborates on them. The chapter includes discussion of tense, gender, number and person markers. It also deals with finite and nonfinite verbs in different groups of Dravidian languages. Concepts of negation and mood also find a place. The author argues that the continuous form of tense in Dravidian is an independent innovation and no proto-form can be reconstructed. A special discussion is made of serial verbs which is a peculiar feature of Dravidian. The chapter ends with a note on complex predicates and auxiliaries.
Chapter 8: Adjectives, Adverbs and Clitics The author begins this chapter with a brief summary of how other authors have treated adjectives in Dravidian. Then he reconstructs the basic adjectives for Proto-Dravidian corresponding to different semantic types. He also elaborates on the details of basic and derived adjectives in the modern Dravidian. He delves into the etymological aspects of adverbs which are generally derived forms, citing examples from individual languages. Having reconstructed four clitics for Proto- Dravidian, the author then elaborates on their corresponding forms in modern Dravidian.
Chapter 9: Syntax In this chapter the author deviates from the norm that he has followed throughout the book. There is no reconstruction of Proto-Dravidian syntactic forms. He has restricted discussion of syntax to the four literary languages. Simple, complex, and compound sentences are analyzed highlighting the structural patterns of their constituents corresponding to different types. He has established that all the four literary languages follow similar syntactic patterns.
Chapter 10: Lexicon Dravidian lexicon is divided into two groups viz. native and borrowed. The loan words come from three distinct sources viz. Indo-Aryan, Perso-Arabic and Western languages like English and Portuguese. He has explained with illustration how words of Indo-Aryan origin entered these languages via Pali & Prakrit rather than from Sanskrit directly. The process of nativization of these words in the respective languages conforming to their phonological rules is illustrated. The borrowing of words from other languages is also discussed. Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam have taken borrowing as a natural process. But in Tamil there has been a deliberate effort to replace words of Sanskrit origin with native words. This chapter also includes a discussion of semantic fields and onomatopoeic words.
Chapter 11: Conclusion: A Summary and Overview The concluding chapter contains a summary of the book and an overview of research of Dravidian by previous scholars. The author reiterates the arguments for making a new sub-grouping of the Dravidian languages based on evidence from phonological as well as morphological features. Desiderata, which forms the concluding part of this chapter, contains suggestions of viable topics for future research in comparative and historical Dravidian.
The book is undoubtedly a significant contribution to the study of historical and comparative aspects of Dravidian languages. It is also significant from typological perspective. The book is well organized, coherent and highly informative. The author presents an enormous data in a systematic way, from minor non-literary languages to the major literary ones. In fact, the vast amount of data from minor languages adds to the strength of the book. His conclusions, which differ from those of other scholars, are well supported by this data. Each topic in the book is dealt with utmost detail.
The last chapter containing summary and overview makes it particularly user-friendly as it helps the reader to keep track of what has been said in previous chapters. The desiderata are especially useful for scholars interested in future research in this area.
However, the chapter on syntax is less informative and there is no reconstruction of Proto-Dravidian forms. The book would have been even more comprehensive if syntax had been dealt with as extensively as phonology and morphology.
Nonetheless, the book will serve as a great sourcebook for students, scholars, and teachers of linguistics.
Krishnamurti, Bh. 1961. Telugu Verbal Bases: A Comparative and Descriptive Study. UCPL 24, Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Basanti Devi received her PhD on 'A Contrastive Study of Assamese
and Kannada' from University of Mysore, India. She has been
teaching linguistics to speech and hearing students for the past twenty
years. In 2003 she was awarded senior fellowship to work
on 'Representation of Women in Assamese Fiction' by Sahitya
Akademi, New Delhi. Her research interests are in sociolinguistics,
psycholinguistics, clinical linguistics, language and gender, and
literature. Currently she is an associate professor of linguistics at JSS
Institute of Speech and Hearing, Mysore, India.