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.
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 19 chapters.
0.01 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.
0.02 Important differences between Kannada and Tulu are the pronunciation rule and the pattern of accent. Tulu inherited this accent from proto Dravida. 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.
0.03 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.
0.04 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, noDi, hiDidu, baDidu, yarannu, avarige, nagisu, kuNisu 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.
0.05 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.
0.06 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 lowly Adi-dravida tribes to high caste Brahmins. People of Kasaragod, northern Kerala, also share this language with their Tulunad brethren.
This 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.
0.07 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 grammatic rules for general usage has not been done so far.
Also a few observations can be made regarding usage for the Tulu language in writing and publishing:
1. Excessive usage of –kuLu suffix in Tulu, possibly inspired from the Kannada –gaLu 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, petto, etc –kulu suffix is not appropriate for Tulu, even if this is the general case with Kannada, like maragaLu ,hasugaLu 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, pettolu etc. This feature of -lu suffix for plurals is similar to Telugu. PanDulu (=fruits) , gurumulu (=horses) etc.
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, petta 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, hasum may not be the gender indicator. Because, in the case of Kesiraja’s “Arasam moorkham sachivara sarasvati drohara”, thewords 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.
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 ,boore ,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.
0.08 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.”
The cited words are aptly pertinent to the Tulu speaking people. It is the intention of this work to show that Tulu people can ably portray to the world the rich cultural heritage of their land by engaging themselves in the creation of good literature in their mother tongue.
0.09 This grammatical work is meant to be read by Tulu experts and common Tulu people alike. Tulu people should get the spontaneity and energy as early as possible to read, to write, to express and moreover, to think originally in Tulu.
0.10 In presenting this work, based on my humble short term studies, I respectfully remember the ancient great grammarians like Kesiraja. I entreat Tulu experts to receive this work, forgiving whatever mistakes there may be, and ably guide Tulu people to develop Tulu language on its own strength so that the language of the heritage remains ever immortal.
My father, Budha Shivalli (1923-1982) compiled a book, ‘Tulu Patero’ (paatero=language) on the philology of Tulu language and grammar written in Tulu language using Kannada script during 1982 and it was eventually published in 2004. There are linguists by education and linguists by choice or pure love of the language. Budha Shivalli belonged to the second category. For the benefit of those who are unable to read his original Tulu book, I am presenting a translation of his work in this blog. Since translation takes some time, kindly forgive if my postings -of translations- are slower than your expectation.