Are Baluchi of Dravidian origin

Dravidian languages

The Dravidian languages (also Dravidian) form a language family widespread in South Asia. Its distribution area mainly includes the southern part of India including parts of Sri Lanka, as well as individual language islands in central India and Pakistan. The 27 Dravidian languages ​​have a total of over 240 million speakers. This makes the Dravidian language family the sixth largest language family in the world. The four main Dravidian languages ​​are Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam.

Distribution area of ​​the Dravidian languages

The Dravidian languages ​​are not genetically related to the Indo-Aryan languages ​​spoken in northern South Asia, but they have had a strong typological influence. In return, most of today's Dravidian languages ​​have adopted many individual words, especially from Sanskrit, the classical language of Hinduism.

Origin and history of language

Geographical distribution

Distribution area of ​​the most important Dravidian languages

The Dravidian languages ​​have their main distribution area in the south of India, while in the north of the subcontinent mainly Indo-Aryan languages ​​are spoken. There are also scattered Dravidian language islands in central and northern India as well as in Pakistan.

The four largest Dravidian languages ​​belong to the total of 22 official languages ​​of India and are each official language in one of the five southernmost states of the country: The largest Dravidian language, Telugu, is spoken in the states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and has around 81 million speakers. Tamil is spoken by a total of 76 million people, mainly in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and parts of Sri Lanka (5 million). Kannada is common in the state of Karnataka. The number of speakers is 44 million. Malayalam, the language of the state of Kerala, is spoken by 35 million people.

Also in the south Indian heartland of the Dravidian language area, around the city of Mangaluru on the west coast of Karnataka, about 1.8 million people speak Tulu, which has a certain literary tradition. Kodava, which is widespread in the interior of Karnataka, has around 110,000 speakers and has only been in written use for a few years. In the Nilgiri Mountains between Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala there are some smaller illiterate languages ​​used by the tribal population (Adivasi), which are summarized as Niligiri languages: Badaga (130,000 speakers), Kota (2,000), Irula (200,000) and Toda (600).

In central and northern India as well as Bangladesh and Nepal, especially in inaccessible mountain and forest areas, there are a number of linguistic islands of illiterate Dravidian tribal languages. These include Gondi (3 million speakers in a widely dispersed area in Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Orissa), Kolami (130,000, Maharashtra and Telangana), Konda (60,000), Gadaba (both on the border between Andhra Pradesh and Orissa ), Naiki (Maharashtra) and Parji (50,000, Chhattisgarh). The closely related idioms Kui (940,000), Kuwi (160,000), Pengo and Manda, all of which are spoken in Orissa, are often summarized as Kondh languages. Further north, Kurukh is spoken by 2 million speakers in Jharkhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Tripura, Bangladesh and the Terai in Nepal. Malto (230,000 speakers) is also common in northern India and Bangladesh. Today, the Brahui (2.2 million speakers) spoken in Balochistan in the Pakistani-Afghan border region is completely isolated from the rest of the Dravidian language area. It is unclear whether this distant exclave represents a remnant of the original range of the Dravidian languages ​​before the spread of Indo-Aryan, or whether the Brahuis immigrated from central India later.

As a result of migration processes during the British colonial period, Dravidian languages ​​have been used in greater numbers since the 19th century, among others. also spoken in Singapore, Malaysia, South Africa, Mauritius and Réunion. In Singapore, Tamil is one of four official languages. More recently, many speakers of Dravidian languages ​​have emigrated to Europe, North America and the Gulf States.


The Dravidian languages ​​are divided into the northern group, central group and - according to speakers - the southern group, the latter being divided into South-Central Dravidian (also called South II) and the actual South Dravidian (South I) (cf.Krishnamurti 2003). Even if these terms are geographical, they are still a linguistically justifiable genetic classification. An important isogloss according to which the subgroups can be divided is the formation of the perfect: While the central group is the original auxiliary verb man received, this has been shortened in the south-central group or has completely failed, in the southern group, on the other hand, it is given by the auxiliary verb iru replaced. In addition, the subgroups show phonological differences: in the South Dravidian languages ​​something is more or less original * c- failed (e.g. * cāṟu "Six"> Tamil āṟu). In the south-central Dravidian group, a metathesis of the apical sounds has taken place, so that sound sequences occur at the beginning of the word that are not possible in the other Dravidian languages ​​(e.g. * varay “Draw, write”> Telugu vrāyu > rāyu). The central Dravidian group is characterized by an anaptic alternation in the stem syllables (e.g. Kolami teḍep "Cloth", teḍp-ul "Cloths"). In the North Dravidian group, the original * k in front * i held while it was palatalized in the other groups.


(27 languages ​​with 223 million speakers)
  1. North Dravidian: (3 languages, 4.3 million speakers)
    1. Brahui
      1. Brahui (Bra'uidi) (2.2 million)
    2. Kurukh-Malto
      1. Kurukh (Oraon, Kurka, Dhangar) (2.1 million)
      2. Malto (Kumarbhag Paharia) (20k)
  2. Central Dravidian: (6 languages, 240 thousand speakers)
    1. Parji-Gadaba
      1. Parji (100k)
      2. Ollari (10 thousand)
      3. Konekor Gadaba (10 thousand)
    2. Kolami-Naiki
      1. Kolami (115k)
        1. Naikri (2 thousand)
      2. Naiki (Chanda)
  3. South Dravidian:
    1. South Dravidian i. e. S. or South I: (11 languages, 140 million speakers)
      1. Tulu-Koraga
        1. Tulu (Tallu) (2 million)
        2. Koraga (15 thousand) (D Korra, Mudu)
      2. Tamil Kannada
        1. Kannada-Badaga
          1. Kannada (Canarian) (40 million; S2 45 million)
          2. Badaga (250k)
      3. Toda-kota
        1. Toda (0.6k)
        2. Kota (2k)
      4. Tamil Kodagu
      5. Kodagu Korumba
        1. Kodava (Kodagu, Coorgi) (120k)
        2. Kurumba (200k)
      6. Irula
        1. Irula (200k)
      7. Tamil Malayalam
        1. Tamil (66 million, S2 75 million)
        2. Malayalam (33 million)
    2. South Central Dravidian or South II: (7 languages, 78 million speakers)
      1. Gondi-Konda-Kui
        1. Gondi
          1. Gondi (2.6 million)
      2. Konda-kui
        1. Manda-Kui
        2. Manda-Pengo
          1. Manda (4k) (Discovered in 1964)
          2. Pengo (350k)
        3. Kui-Kuwi
          1. Kui (Kandh) (700 thousand)
          2. Kuwi (Khond) (300 thousand)
      3. Conda
        1. Konda (Konda-Dora) (15k)
      4. Telugu
        1. Telugu (74 million)

More dravidian small languages, numbers of speakers

There are reports of a number of other minor Dravidian idioms that have not been adequately researched. It is therefore not possible to determine whether they are independent languages ​​or just dialects of the languages ​​classified here. Ethnologue (2005) lists over 70 Dravidian languages. These additional “languages” are not mentioned in either Steever (1998) or Krishnamurti (2003). These are either dialects or names of tribes that speak one of the Dravidian or Indo-Aryan (!) Languages ​​listed here.

Overall, the number of speakers is relatively uncertain, as there is often no distinction between ethnicity and language proficiency.

Hypotheses about a relationship between the Dravidian languages ​​and the language of the Indus culture or the Elamite language (see below) are not taken into account in this classification.

Linguistic characteristics

Reconstruction of the Proto-Dravidian

Using the methods of comparative linguistics, a Dravidian proto-language can be reconstructed, from which all modern Dravidian languages ​​are derived. According to glottochronological studies, a common Dravidian proto-language could have been around 4000 BC. Before it began to be divided into the various individual languages. The South Dravidian languages ​​would have emerged as the last branch around 1500 BC. Developed apart.[6] Reconstruction is made more difficult by the fact that only four of the Dravidian languages ​​have been documented in writing over a long period of time, and even with these the tradition goes back less far than with the Indo-European languages.


Typologically, the Dravidian languages ​​belong to the agglutinating languages, i.e. they express relationships between the words through monosemantic affixes, in the case of Dravidian almost exclusively suffixes (suffixes). This means that in contrast to inflected languages ​​such as German or Latin, a suffix only fulfills one function and a function is only fulfilled by one suffix. For example, in Tamil the dative becomes plural kōvilkaḷukku "To the temples, to the temples" by combining the plural suffix -kaḷ and the dative suffix -ukku formed while in Latin forms templo and templis the endings -O and -is denote case and number at the same time.

The Dravidian languages ​​distinguish only two basic types of words: nouns and verbs, each of which is inflected differently. There are also undeclinable words that take on the function of adjectives and adverbs.


The following reconstruction of the phonology (phonology) of Protodravidian is based on Krishnamurti: The Dravidian Languages. 2003, pp. 90-93.


The reconstructed Phoneme inventory of Protodravidian comprises five vowels, each of which occurs in a short and long form (cf. * pal "Tooth" and * pāl "Milk"). The diphthongs [⁠ai⁠] and [⁠au⁠] can be understood as sequences of vowels and half vowels, ie / ⁠ay⁠ / and / ⁠av⁠ /. This results in the following vowel system for Protodravidian (the IPA phonetic transcription is given and, if different, the scientific transcription in brackets):

Most of the Dravidian languages ​​spoken today have retained this simple and symmetrical vowel system. In many non-written languages, however, short and long vowels only contrast in the stem syllable. Brahui, under the influence of the neighboring Indo-Aryan and Iranian languages, has the distinction between short and long e lost. Other Dravidian languages ​​have developed additional vowel phonemes: [⁠æː⁠] occurs in many languages ​​in English loan words, but in Telugu it also occurs in native words. Kodava and most of the Nilgiri languages ​​have central vowels. Tulu developed the additional vowels [⁠ɛ⁠] and [⁠ɯ⁠].

The word accent is only weakly pronounced in the Dravidian languages ​​and never distinguishes meaning. Usually it falls on the first syllable.


For the Protodravidian the following 17 consonants are reconstructed, all of which except / ⁠r⁠ / and / ⁠ẓ⁠ / can also appear doubled:

What is striking about the Protodravidian consonant system is the distinction between plosives (plosives) according to six articulations: labial, dental, alveolar, retroflex, palatal and velar. The alveolar plosive has only survived in a few languages ​​such as Malayalam, Old Tamil, and many Nilgiri languages. In other South Dravidian languages ​​it has become the vibrant / ⁠ṟ⁠ / between vowels, which contrasts with the flap / ⁠r⁠ /, while these two sounds have coincided in the other languages. As a result, most of the Dravidian languages ​​spoken today no longer have six, but only five different places of articulation. This, and in particular the distinction between retroflex and dental plosives, is characteristic of the languages ​​of South Asia.

Voicelessness and voicing were not meaningful in Protodravidian. The plosives had voiceless allophones at the beginning of the word and in doubling, voiced between vowels and after nasals. In Tamil and Malayalam, this still applies to native words (cf.Tamil paṭṭam[⁠ˈPaʈːʌm⁠] "title" and paṭam[⁠ˈPaɖʌm⁠] "image"). In the other languages, however, there is a contrast between voiceless and voiced plosives (e.g. / ⁠p⁠ / and / ⁠b⁠ /). In addition, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam as well as some non-written languages ​​such as Kolami, Naiki and Kurukh have introduced the distinction between aspirated and unaspirated plosives through loan words from Sanskrit and neighboring modern Indo-Aryan languages ​​(e.g. / ⁠p⁠ /, / ⁠Pʰ⁠ /, / ⁠b⁠ /, / ⁠bʰ⁠ /). This multiplies the number of consonants in these languages ​​(for example Malayalam has 39 consonant phonemes).

The Protodravidian had four nasals. While / ⁠m⁠ / and / ⁠n⁠ / occur in all Dravidian languages, the retroflexe / ⁠ṇ⁠ / has become the dental / ⁠n⁠ / in all languages ​​except those of the South Dravidian branch , and the palatal / ⁠ñ⁠ / has not survived in all languages ​​either. In contrast, the Malayalam, analogous to the plosives, distinguishes six different nasals.

The semi-vowels / ⁠y⁠ / and / ⁠v⁠ / as well as the liquids / ⁠l⁠ / and / ⁠r⁠ / have remained stable in all Dravidian languages. The retroflexe / ⁠ḷ⁠ / has been replaced by / ⁠l⁠ / in all languages ​​except the South Dravidian branch. The retroflex approximant / ⁠ẓ⁠ / only occurs in Tamil and Malayalam. The protodravidian / ⁠h⁠ / only appeared in certain positions and is unique in ancient Tamil as a so-called āytam- Get loud. Where a / ⁠h⁠ / appears in the modern Dravidian languages, it is borrowed or secondary (e.g. Kannada hogu "Go" <* pōku). It is noticeable that there was not a single sibilant in Protodravidian. The sibilants of the modern Dravidian languages ​​are borrowed or secondary. The phonology of individual Dravidian languages ​​has undergone special developments that cannot be discussed in more detail here. Toda has an extremely complex sound system with 41 different consonants.

Alveolar and retroflex consonants could not appear at the beginning of the word in Protodravidian. Consonant clusters were only permitted to a limited extent inside the word. At the end of the word, plosives are always followed by the short auxiliary vowel / ⁠u⁠ /. In modern languages, these rules are partly borrowed from loan words (e.g. Kannada prīti "Love", from Sanskrit), partially overridden by internal sound changes.

Nominal morphology

Number and gender

The Dravidian languages ​​have two numbers, singular and plural. The singular is unmarked, the plural is expressed by a suffix. Come as plural suffixes * - (n) k (k) a (see Kui kōḍi-ŋga "Cows", Brahui bā-k "Mouths"), * -ḷ (see Telugu goḍugu-lu "Umbrellas", Ollari ki-l "Hands") and the combination of these two * - (n) k (k) aḷ (see Tamil maraṅ-kaḷ "Trees," Kannada mane-gaḷ "Houses").[7]

With regard to gender, the individual Dravidian languages ​​have different systems. What they have in common is that the grammatical gender (gender) always corresponds to the natural gender (sex) of the word. In addition to individual special developments, there are three main types in which the categories "male" or "non-male" as well as "human" and "non-human" play a central role:

  1. The South Dravidian languages ​​differentiate in the singular between masculine (human, male), feminine (human, non-male) and neuter (non-human), in the plural only between epiconum (human) and neuter (non-human).
  2. The central Dravidian and many south-central Dravidian languages ​​differentiate between masculine and non-masculine in both the singular and the plural.
  3. Telugu and the North Dravidian languages ​​differentiate in the singular between masculine and non-masculine, in the plural, on the other hand, between epiconum and neuter.

There is no consensus as to which of these three types is the original.[8] The demonstrative pronouns of the three languages ​​Tamil (South Dravidian, type 1), Kolami (central Dravidian, type 2) and Telugu (south-central Dravidian, type 3) are listed as examples for the different types of pleasure systems:

m. Sg.f. Sg.n. Sg.m. pl.f. pl.n. pl.
Tamil avaṉavaḷatuavarkaḷavai
Kolami at theadavradav
Telugu vāḍuadivāruavi

The gender is not explicitly marked for all nouns. That's how it is in Telugu anna "Older brother" masculine and amma “Mother” non-masculine, without this being evident from the pure form of the word. However, many nouns are formed with certain suffixes that express gender and number. For Protodravidian the suffixes *-at or. * -anṯ for the singular masculine (cf.Tamil mak-aṉ "Son", Telugu tammu-ṇḍu "younger brother"), * -aḷ and * -i for the singular feminine (cf. Kannada mag-aḷ "Daughter", Malto maq-i "Girls") as well * -ar for the plural masculine or epiconum (cf.Malayalam iru-var "Two people", Kurukh āl-ar "Men") reconstruct.[9]


The Dravidian languages ​​express case relationships with suffixes. The number of cases varies in the individual languages ​​between four (Telugu) and eleven (Brahui). However, it is often difficult to draw a line between case suffixes and post positions.[10]

The nominative is always the unmarked basic form of the word. The other cases are formed by adding suffixes to an obliquus stem. The obliquus can either be identical to the nominative or be formed by certain suffixes (e.g. Tamil maram "Tree": obliquus mara-ttu). Several obliquus suffixes can be reconstructed for Protodravidian, which are made up of the minimal components * -i-, * -a-, * -n- and * -tt- are composed.[11] In many languages, the obliquus is identical to the genitive.

Proto-Dravidian case suffixes can be reconstructed for the three cases accusative, dative and genitive. Other case suffixes only occur in individual branches of Dravidian.[12]

  • Accusative: * -ay (Tamil yāṉaiy-ai "The elephant", Malayalam avan-e "Him," Brahui dā shar-e "This village (acc.)"); * -Vn (Telugu bhārya-nu "The wife (acc.)", Gondi kōndat-ūn “The ox”, Ollari ḍurka-n "The panther")
  • Dative: * - (n) k (k) - (Tamil uṅkaḷ-ukku "You" Telugu pani-ki "For work," Kolami ella-ŋ "to the house")
  • Genitive: - * a / ā (Kannada avar-ā "His", Gondi kallē-n-ā "The thief," Brahui xarās-t-ā "Of the bull"); *-in (Tamil aracan-iṉ "The king", Toda ok-n "The older sister", Ollari sēpal-in "Of the girl")


Personal pronouns occur in the 1st and 2nd person. In the 1st person plural there is an inclusive and exclusive form, i. That is, a distinction is made as to whether the person addressed is included. There is also a reflexive pronoun that relates to the subject of the sentence and corresponds in its formation to the personal pronouns. The personal and reflexive pronouns reconstructed for Protodravidian are listed in the table below. There are also special developments in some languages: The south and south-central Dravidian languages ​​have the * ñ-Initially the 1st person plural including also transferred to the 1st person singular (cf.Malayalam ñān, but obliquus en < * yan). The differences between the forms for the inclusive and exclusive We are partially blurred, the Kannada has completely abandoned this distinction. The languages ​​of the Tamil Kodagu group have created a new exclusive we by adding the plural suffix (cf.Tamil nām "We (incl.)", nāṅ-kaḷ "We (excl.)").[13]

1. Sg. * yān* yanI
1st pl. Excl. * yām* yamwe (excl.)
1st pl. Incl. * ñām* ñamwe (incl.)
2nd Sg. * nīn* ninyou
2nd pl * nīm* nimyou
Refl. Sg. * tān* tan(he / she / it) himself
Refl. Pl. * tām* tam(herself

The demonstrative pronouns also serve as the third person's personal pronouns. They consist of an initial vowel that expresses deixis and a suffix that expresses number and gender. There are three levels of deixis: The distant deixis starts with the initial vowel * a-, the middle deixis with * u- and the Nahdeixis with * i- educated. The same deictic elements occur in local (“here”, “there”) and temporal adverbs (“now”, “then”). The original threefold distinction of deixis (e.g. Kota avn "He, that", U.N "He, this one", ivn “He, this one”) has only survived in a few languages ​​spoken today. Interrogative pronouns are formed analogously to the demonstrative pronouns and are based on the initial syllable * ya- marked (e.g. Kota evn "which one").[14]


Community Dravidian roots can be reconstructed for the basic numbers up to “one hundred”. Only Telugu has a native numeral for "thousand" (vēyi). The other Dravidian languages ​​have borrowed their numeral for “thousand” from Indo-Aryan (Tamil, Malayalam āyiram, Kannada sāvira, Kota cāvrm * sāsira sahasra). The numerals for “one hundred thousand” and “ten million”, which can be found in the Dravidian languages ​​as in the other languages ​​of South Asia, also come from Sanskrit (cf. Lakh and Crore). Many of the Dravidian tribal languages ​​of central and north India have adopted numerals from the neighboring non-Dravidian languages ​​on a large scale. B. in Malto only "one" and "two" of Dravidian origin.

The Dravidian numerals follow the decimal system, i.e. H. composite numbers are formed as multiples of 10 (e.g. Telugu ira-vay okaṭi (2 × 10 + 1) "twenty-one"). A special feature of the South Dravidian languages ​​is that the numerals for 9, 90 and 900 are derived from the next higher unit. So let yourself be in Tamil oṉ-patu "Nine" as "one less than ten" and toṇ-ṇūṟu Analyze “ninety” as “nine (tenths) of a hundred”. Kurukh and Malto, under the influence of neighboring Munda languages, developed a vigesimal system with 20 as a base (e.g. Malto kōṛi-ond ēke (20 × 1 + 1) "twenty-one").[15]

1* onṯuoṉṟuonnuonduokaṭi
2* iraṇṭuiraṇṭuraṇṭueraḍureṇḍu
3* mūnṯumūṉṟumūnnumūrumūḍu
4* nālnk (k) Vnāṉkunālunālkunālugu
5* caymtuaintuañcuaituaidu
6* cāṯuāṟuāṟuāruāru
7* ēẓ / * eẓVēẓuēẓuēḷuēḍḍu
8* eṇṭṭueṭṭueṭṭueṇṭuenimidi
9* toḷ / * toṇoṉpatuonpatuombattutommidi
10* pahtupattupattuhattupadi
100* nūṯnūṟunūṟunūrunūru

Verbal morphology

The Dravidian verb is formed by adding suffixes for tense and mode as well as personal suffixes to the root of the word. This is how the Tamil word comes to be varukiṟēṉ "I come" from the verb stem varu-, the present tense suffix -kiṟ and the 1st person singular suffix -ēṉ together. In Proto-Dravidian there are only two tenses, past and non-past, while many daughter languages ​​have developed a more complex tense system. The negation is expressed synthetically using a special negative verb form (cf. Kondakitan "he made", kiʔetan "He didn't"). The verb stem can be modified in many Dravidian languages ​​with stem-forming suffixes. This is how Malto heads the tribe nud- "Hide" the reflexive verb stem nudɣr- "Hide" from.

Infinite verb forms are dependent on either a following verb or a following noun. They are used to form more complex syntactic constructions. Verbal compounds can be formed in Dravidian, this is Tamil konṭuvara "Bring" composed of an infinite form of the verb koḷḷa "Hold" and the verb vara "come".


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Evidence would be required to show that the properties mentioned are typical for SOV languages. Classical Latin and ancient Greek, for example, also have SOV as a typical sentence order (despite formally free sentence order), but attributes are often not in front of their reference word and both languages ​​almost only know prepositions.

The Dravidian languages ​​are characterized by a fixed phrase-subject-object-verb (SOV). Accordingly, the subject is in the first place in the sentence (it can only be preceded by circumstances of the time and place) and the predicate always at the end of the sentence. As is characteristic of SOV languages, in the Dravidian languages ​​attributes always come before their reference word, subordinate clauses before main clauses, full verbs before auxiliary verbs and postpositions are used instead of prepositions. Only in the North Dravidian languages ​​has the rigid SOV word sequence been relaxed.

A simple sentence consists of a subject and a predicate, which can be either a verb or a noun. There is no copula in Dravidian. The subject is usually in the nominative, in many Dravidian languages ​​the subject is also in the dative in a sentence that expresses a feeling, a perception or a possession. In all Dravidian languages ​​except Malayalam, a verbal predicate is congruent with a nominative subject. Kui and Kuwi have developed a system of congruence between object and verb. In some Dravidian languages ​​(Old Tamil, Gondi) a nominal predicate also takes on personal endings. Examples of simple sentences from Tamil with interlinear translation:

  • avar eṉṉaik kēṭṭār. (he asked me) "He asked me." (nominative subject, verbal predicate)
  • avar eṉ appā. (he my father) "He is my father." (subject in the nominative, nominal predicate)
  • avarukku kōpam vantatu. (Anger came to him) "He became angry." (Subject in the dative, verbal predicate)
  • avarukku oru makaṉ. (for him a son) "He has a son." (subject in the dative, nominal predicate)

Complex sentences consist of a main clause and one or more subordinate clauses. In general, a sentence can only contain one finite verb. The Dravidian languages ​​have no conjunctions; subordinate clauses, like parataxes, are formed by infinite verb forms. These include the infinitive, the verbal participle, which expresses a sequence of actions, and the conditional, which expresses a conditionality. Relative clauses correspond to constructions with the so-called adnominal participles. Examples from Tamil with interlinear translation:

  • avarai varac col. (tell him to come) "Tell him to come." (Infinitive)
  • kaṭaikku pōyi muṭṭaikaḷ koṇṭuvā. (going to the shop-having brought eggs) "Go to the shop and bring eggs." (verbal participle)
  • avaṉ poy coṉṉāl ammā aṭippāḷ. (he lies when-saying mother will-hit) "If he lies, mother will hit him." (conditional)
  • avaṉ coṉṉatu uṇmai. (he says truth) "What he says is true." (adnominal participle)

These constructions are not possible for subordinate clauses with a nominal predicate, since no infinite forms can be formed for a noun. Here you can use the so-called quotative verb (usually an infinite form of “say”), through which the nominal subordinate clause is embedded in the sentence structure. Example from Tamil with interlinear translation:

  • nāṉ avaṉ nallavaṉ eṉṟu niṉaikkiṟēṉ. (I think he is saying good) "I think he is a good man."


Word roots seem to have been monosyllabic in Protodravidian as a rule. Protodravidian words could be simple, derived, or compound. Iterative compounds could be formed by doubling a word, see Tamil avar "he and avaravar "Everyone" or vantu "Coming" and vantu vantu "Always coming back". A special form of the reduplicated compound words are the so-called echo words, in which the first syllable of the second word comes through ki is replaced, see Tamil pustakam "Book" and pustakam-kistakam "Books and the like". The number of verbs is closed in Dravidian. New verbs can only be formed from noun-verb compounds, e.g. B. Tamil vēlai ceyya "Work out" vēlai "Work" and ceyya "do".

In addition to the inherited Dravidian vocabulary, today's Dravidian languages ​​have a large number of words from Sanskrit or later Indo-Aryan languages. In Tamil they make up a relatively small part in the early 20th century, not least due to specific language puristic tendencies, while in Telugu and Malayalam the number of Indo-Aryan loanwords is large. In Brahui, which because of its distance from the other Dravidian languages, was strongly influenced by its neighboring languages, only a tenth of the vocabulary is of Dravidian origin.[16] More recently, like all languages ​​of India, the Dravidian languages ​​have borrowed words from English on a large scale; loanwords from Portuguese are less numerous.

Dravidian words that have found their way into German are "Orange" (via Sanskrit nāraṅga, see Tamil nāram), "Catamaran" (Tamil kaṭṭumaram "[Boat made of] bound tree trunks"), "Mango" (Tamil māṅkāy, Malayalam manna), "Mongoose" and "mongoose" (Telugu muṅgisa, Kannada muṅgisi), "Curry" (Tamil kaṟi) and possibly "Kuli" (Tamil pen, "Wage"). The word glasses is probably derived from a Dravidian etymon for the name of the mineral beryl.

Some dravidian word equations[17]

language fish I below come one)
Proto-Drawid.* mīn* yān* kīẓ ~ kiẓ* varu ~ vā* ōr ~ or ~ on
Tamilmīṉyāṉ, nāṉkīẓvaru, vā-oru, ōr, okka
Malayalammīnñānkīẓ, kiẓuvaru, vā-oru, ōr, okka
Irulanā (nu)kiyevaruor-
Kotamīnatkī, kīṛmvār-, va-ōr, o
Todamīnōnpōr-, pa-wïr, wïd, oš
Badagamīnunā (nu)kīebā-, barondu
Kannadamīnnānukīẓ, keḷaba-, bāru-or, ōr, ondu
Kodagumininānïkï ;, kïlïbar-, ba-orï, ōr, onï
Tulumīnɯyānu, yēnukīḷɯbarpinior, oru
Telugumīnuēnu, nēnukri, k (r) indavaccu, rā-okka, ondu
Gondimīnanā, nannavayaor-, undi
Condamīnnān ​​(u)vā-, ra-or-, unṟ-
Kuimīnuānu, nānuvāvaro-
Pengoān, āneŋvā-ro-
Kolamiatvar-, vāOK-
Maltomīnuēnbareplace-, -ond
Kuruchēnkiyyābarnā-place, on
Brahuiīki-, kē-bar-, ba-asiṭ, on-


Bilingual road sign (Kannada / English) in Bengaluru

Of the Dravidian languages, only the four major languages ​​Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam are established written languages. Each of these has its own script: the Telugu script, Tamil script, Kannada script and Malayalam script. Like the scriptures of North India, Tibet and Southeast Asia, they belong to the family of Indian scripts. These all come from the 3rd century BC. Documented Brahmi script, the origins of which are unclear. The Dravidian scripts differ from the North Indian scripts in that they have some additional characters for sounds that do not appear in the Indo-Aryan languages. The Tamil script is also characterized by the fact that, due to the phonology of Tamil, it has no characters for voiced and aspirated consonants and the character inventory is therefore significantly reduced. In addition, unlike all other Indian scripts, it does not use ligatures for consonant clusters, but a special diacritical mark.

For the other Dravidian languages, if they are written at all, the script of the respective regional majority language is usually used, e.g. the Kannada script for Kodava, the Devanagari script for Gondi or the Persian-Arabic script, which is also used for the other languages ​​of Pakistan Scripture for Brahui.

Research history

There is an ancient indigenous grammar tradition in India. Both Tamil and Sanskrit grammar have roots going back over 2000 years. As for the relationship between Tamil and Sanskrit, there were two contradicting views in South India: one emphasized the independence and equality of Tamil, which, like Sanskrit, was viewed as a "divine language", the other held Tamil a falsification of the "sacred" Sanskrit.[18]

In the early modern period, mainly Christian missionaries dealt with the Dravidian languages. Here is a page from a Tamil language Bible from 1723.

After Vasco da Gama was the first European seafarer to land in Calicut in 1498, European missionaries came into contact with the Tamil and Malayalam-speaking parts of southern India for the first time in the 16th century. The first European scholar to study Dravidian languages ​​in depth was the Portuguese Jesuit Anrique Anriquez (c. 1520–1600). He wrote a Tamil grammar in 1552, had the first Tamil book printed in 1554 and wrote other Tamil-language literature of religious content.

William Jones, who in 1786 recognized the relationship between Sanskrit, Greek and Latin and thus founded Indo-European studies, considered all contemporary Indian languages ​​to be unrelated to Sanskrit. It was later found that Hindi and the other modern Indo-Aryan languages ​​are related to Sanskrit, but now they went over the top, as it were, and the Dravidian languages ​​were also believed to be descendants of Sanskrit.[19]

The Englishman Francis Whyte Ellis, who worked as a colonial official in Madras, dealt with Tamil and in his foreword to the first Telugu grammar published in 1816 noted for the first time a relationship between Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tulu, Kodagu and Malto, which he summarized as "Dialects of South India". In 1844 the Norwegian Indologist Christian Lassen recognized that Brahui was related to the South Indian languages. The recognition of the independence of the Dravidian languages ​​finally prevailed with the comparative grammar of the Dravidian languages ​​by the Englishman Robert Caldwell published in 1856. The term "Dravidian" comes from Caldwell (previously there was talk of "Dekhan languages" or simply of "South Indian dialects"). He used the Sanskrit word as a template for the term drāviḍa, with which the Indian writer Kumarila Bhatta had already referred to the South Indian languages ​​in the 7th century. Is etymological drāviḍa probably with tamiḻ, the proper name for Tamil.[20]

In the next 50 years after Caldwell, no great advances in the study of the Dravidian languages ​​followed. Indology focused almost exclusively on Sanskrit, while Western scholars studying Dravidian languages ​​mainly limited themselves to compiling dictionaries. The fourth volume of the Linguistic Survey of India devoted himself to the Munda and Dravidian languages ​​and heralded a second active phase in Dravidian linguistics. In the period that followed, numerous new Dravidian languages ​​were discovered, and studies were carried out for the first time on the relationship between Dravidian and other language families and the linguistic contacts between Indo-Aryan and Dravidian languages. Jules Bloch published a synthesis in 1946 entitled Structure grammaticale des langues dravidiennes. In the following years, researchers such as Thomas Burrow, Murray B. Emeneau, Bhadriraju Krishnamurti, P.S. Subrahmanyam, N. Kumaraswami Raja, S.V. Shanmugan, Michail Sergejewitsch Andronow or Kamil V. Zvelebil with the Dravidian languages. In the second half of the 20th century, the terms Dravidian and Tamil studies became established for Dravidian and Tamil philology. Some universities have included Dravidian languages, mostly Tamil, in their courses, in German-speaking countries for example the universities of Cologne, Heidelberg and Berlin (Telugu at Humboldt University).

Relationships with other languages

According to the current state of research, the Dravidian languages ​​are not demonstrably related to any other language family in the world. They show numerous similarities with the other languages ​​of South Asia, which, however, are undoubtedly not based on genetic relationship, but on mutual rapprochement through millennia of language contact. A possible relationship with the language of the Indus culture, known as "Harappan", could not be proven because the Indus script has not yet been deciphered. Over the past century and a half there have been a multitude of attempts to establish links between the Dravidian languages ​​and other languages ​​or language families. Among these, the theories of a kinship with the Elamite language and the Ural language family are the most promising, although they have not been conclusively proven.

South Asian language federation

The Dravidian languages ​​in the context of the language families of South Asia

The languages ​​native to South Asia belong to four different language families. Besides the Dravidian languages, these are the Indo-European (Indo-Aryan and Iranian subgroup), Austro-Asian (Munda and Mon-Khmer subgroup) and Sino-Tibetan (Tibeto-Burmese subgroup) language families. Although these four language families are not genetically related, they have grown so close through thousands of years of language contact that one speaks of a South Asian language union.

The Dravidian languages ​​share all the important characteristics that make up this linguistic union. The Dravidian languages ​​seem to have had a strong typological (e.g. compound nouns, verbal participles) and also phonological (e.g. the presence of retroflexes, simplification of the consonant clusters in Central Indo-Aryan) influence on the Indo-Aryan languages. In return, the Dravidian languages ​​have largely taken over vocabulary from Sanskrit and other Indo-Aryan languages, which in some cases also had an impact on their phonology (phoneme status of the aspirated consonants).

Dravidian and Harappan

Seal with characters from the Indus script

The language of the Indus or Harappa culture, an early civilization that spread between 2800 and 1800 BC. Developed in the Indus Valley in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent, is unknown. It has come down to us in a series of inscriptions on seals that are written in the as yet undeciphered Indus script. Since the discovery of the Indus script in 1875, numerous attempts have been made to decipher the script and identify the Harappan language. The hypothesis has often been expressed that the bearers of the Indus culture spoke a Dravidian language. As an indication of this, it is stated that a Dravidian language is still spoken today with Brahui in Pakistan and that the Dravidian language area probably extended much further north before the penetration of the Indo-Aryan languages.

In 1964, two research teams, one in the Soviet Union and one in Finland, began independently a computer-aided analysis of the Indus script. Both came to the conclusion that the language is Dravidian. This thesis is based on a structural analysis of the inscriptions, which seems to suggest that the language of the inscriptions was agglutinating. Asko Parpola, the head of the Finnish research group, has been claiming to have at least partially deciphered the Indus script since 1994.[21] He relies on the rebus principle and cases of homonyms. Thus, for example, a symbol that represents a fish would stand for the sequence of sounds * mīnwhich can mean both "fish" and "star" in Proto-Dravidian.

However, because no bilingual texts are known and the corpus of the Harappan inscriptions is limited, a complete decipherment of the Indus script seems difficult or even impossible. Some researchers even deny that the characters are actually writing.[22] The question of whether the bearers of the Indus culture belonged to a Dravidian language group gains a particular political sharpness in the context of a Tamil nationalist discourse: Here, the use of the domains of the Dravidian and the Indus culture often seems to be necessary to determine the identity of modern Tamility.[23] while North Indian researchers claim that the language of the Indus script was an archaic form of Sanskrit.[24] Most researchers, however, consider the relationship between Harappan and the Dravidian languages ​​to be a plausible, albeit unproven, hypothesis.[25]

Dravidian and Elamite

As early as 1856, R. A. Caldwell suspected a relationship between the Dravidian languages ​​and Elamite in his comparative grammar. The Elamite language was spoken in southwestern Iran from the 3rd to the 1st millennium BC and is considered an isolated language, i.e. H. a language with no proven relatives. In the 1970s, the American researcher David W. McAlpin took up this theory again and published a monograph in 1981 in which he claimed to have proven the Elamite-Dravidian relationship.[26] The Elamite-Dravidian hypothesis is based on the one hand on structural similarities (both languages ​​are agglutinative and have parallels in the syntax), on the other hand, McAlpin pointed to a number of similar suffixes and established 81 Elamish-Dravidian word equations. According to McAlpin's hypothesis, Elamish and Dravidian belonged to a common language family, which is also known as "Zagrosian" after their assumed original home in the Zagros Mountains, and would have developed between 5500 and 3000 BC. Chr. Separated from each other.

From the point of view of most other researchers, however, McAlpin's evidence is insufficient to prove a genetic relationship. Zvelebil 1991 speaks of an "attractive hypothesis" for which there is a lot of evidence but no evidence.[27] Steever 1998 considers McAlpin's thesis to be dubious.[28]

Dravidian and Ural