Friday, August 04, 2006

Language tidbits

A large number of Bangaloreans can speak Tamil. But there is a simple way to distinguish the native speaker of Tamil from a Kannadiga who learnt it: Where the former will use app'DiyA ("is that so?"), the latter will say AmAvA. As in:

"nALaikki Madras pOrEn." ("I am going to Madras tomorrow.")
"app'DiyA / AmAvA?" ("Is that so?")

This is because the Kannada equivalent of app'DiyA is audA. And audu ("yes") translates to AmA in spoken Tamil.

* * *

In my opinion, a Tamil-speaker can learn Kannada easier by comparing Kannada expressions to their equivalents in formal (rather than spoken) Tamil. This is because Tamil words are often shortened when used colloquially and the similarities between the two languages may not be readily apparent.

For example, vanduviTTu ("after coming") becomes vandu'TTu in spoken Tamil, but the Kannada bandbiTTu is closer to the first form. So also, vandukoNDu (becomes vandu'NDu) & bandkoNDu; vanduviDu (becomes vandu'Du) & bandbiDu.

* * *

Did you know that in Sanskrit, the letter व which now has the sound V, was originally W?

Of the consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet, य, र, ल and व (which make up the penultimate row of the Varnamala) are considered to be "semi-vowels," as each of them is formed when two vowels combine. य (ya) arises out of the sandhi of the vowels इ (i) and अ (a). That is,
इ + अ -> य
And,
ऋ + अ -> र
ऌ + अ -> ल
Finally,
उ + अ -> व
When the vowels उ (u) and अ (a) combine to form व, as you can see, the resultant sound is better represented by W. I am curious how it evolved into a V. I find this surprising since the W sound is after all easier on the mouth than V.

And the preponderance of W's in the names of Sri Lankan cricket players (Wickremasinghe, Samaraweera) makes me wonder if, in Sinhalese, the letter has retained the original sound.

* * *

Hindi has a number of dialects - Khadiboli, Braj-bhasha, Awadhi, etc. But few may know of the existence of a southern dialect of Hindi. It's called Carnatic Hindi, the language as sung by Carnatic musicians!

The main languages of Carnatic music are, of course, Telugu, Sanskrit, Tamil and Kannada. A share of the pie was given to Hindi by the royal composer Swati Tirunal, who created 36 songs in the language. One of them begins:
रामचन्द्र प्रभो, तुम बिन
जाने कौन खबर ले मेरी!
A Carnatic musician would pronounce it thus:
rAmachandra prabhO, tuma bina
jAnE kauna khabara le mErI!
... without eliding the 'a' sounds as a Hindi-speaker would do (tum bin jAne etc.)!

And I approve of it. Such a pronunciation gels with that of the south Indian languages (including Sanskrit) that a Carnatic aficianado is attuned to.

Meera bhajans, when pronounced in Carnatic Hindi, appear an integral part of the Carnatic repository:
morE to giridhara gopAla
dUsarO na koyI...
... while a playback of MS Subbulakshmi's Hanuman Chalisa
SrI guru charaNa sarOja raja
nija mana mukura sudhAri
... runs seamlessly from that of any south Indian household regular such as the Siva Panchakshara Stotram.

- - - -

PS: I apologise to all readers for the long silence.

21 comments :

Manjunatha said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Manjunatha said...

Welcome back!

This is because the Kannada equivalent of app'DiyA is audA. And audu ("yes") translates to AmA in spoken Tamil.

In modern literary Kannada that expression should be haudu and not audu. As a side note, the Tamil dominated Alasoor or Ulsoor is generally written as halasooru( halasu (jack fruit) + ooru) in Kannada.

I believe that word should be from the old Kannada word 'appudu'.

appudu -> ahudu (p->h) -> haudu

So appaDiya is in fact close to appudu of old kannada.


Did you know that in Sanskrit, the letter व which now has the sound V, was originally W?


Is it possible to prove original sound is 'b' and not 'v' in Dravidian languages? :-).

Srikanth said...

Manjunatha,

Welcome back!
Thanks!

In modern literary Kannada that expression should be haudu and not audu.
In Tamilnadu, we all go through a course where our ears are trained to not detect H sounds. It's mandatory. Else, we are not issued ration cards. ;-)

Is it possible to prove original sound is 'b' and not 'v' in Dravidian languages? :-)

My theory would be that since B is easier to sound than V, B came later. :-)

Manjunatha said...

My theory would be that since B is easier to sound than V, B came later. :-)

Could you please list out some of the Tamil words in common usage with sound 'b'?

Srikanth said...

Manjunatha,
Sorry for the delay - the day was tight.

Could you please list out some of the Tamil words in common usage with sound 'b'?
Oh, you refer to the words that emerged after evolving from those with v-sounds? ;-)

The theory in my previous comment was arrived at after intense deliberation of 1.5 minutes. I was just kidding there. I have no idea which was the original sound.

SimblyDimply said...

"without eliding the 'a' sounds as a Hindi-speaker would do (tum bin jAne etc.)!

And I approve of it. Such a pronunciation gels with that of the south Indian languages (including Sanskrit) that a Carnatic aficianado is attuned to."

Interesting post! I feel the Carnatic Hindi pronunciation is hideous. It takes a little bit of effort to understand how a language is sounded and do justice to it. I am talking about the same analysis you did with kannada and tamil phonetics. If the same thought be applied to Hindi, then the distortion of Hindi by South Indians can stop. Approvals of distortions do no good to anybody.

Also, if the Carnatic audience does want more linguistic variety, while they are already grappling with telugu, kannada, tamil and sanskrit, then it is only proper that it be done properly. It is only proper that that language be "sounded" right in the art of worshiping sounds!

SimblyDimply said...

"A large number of Bangaloreans can speak Tamil. But there is a simple way to distinguish the native speaker of Tamil from a Kannadiga who learnt it:"

True! Sad state of affairs in Bangalore.. the Kannadigas are having to venture out and learn tamil in the wake of tamil-speakers who stay all their lives in Bangalore and refuse to learn Kannada! Soon, Bengalooru will be Bengazhuru! hehe!

Srikanth said...

SimblyDimply,
Thanks for your great comments!

I feel the Carnatic Hindi pronunciation is hideous....the distortion of Hindi by South Indians can stop. Approvals of distortions do no good to anybody.

In Tamilnadu, the lyrics (irrespective of the composition's language) is written in the Tamil script, which has fewer consonants than the other Indian scripts. So one is likely to find pronunciation mistakes in even Telugu/Kannada/Sanskrit krtis rendered by senior vidwans, leave alone Hindi ones. In the current age, when folks can read English or a second Indian language, it is difficult to excuse pronunciation blunders of the younger artistes. I agree with you here.

Having said that, if we take the Hindi rendered by artistes generally known for careful pronunciation (such as MS Subbulakshmi) I feel certain aspects are appropriate for Carnatic music such as:
* Not eliding the final a-sounds.
* Pronouncing the vowel "ai" as done in Sanskrit/s.Indian languages. (Unlike in Hindi, where it becomes "ei". E.g., Maithili -> Meithili), etc.

I would not consider these as distortions.

I also feel it may not be correct to consider the current mainstream Hindi pronunciation as an accurate reference for rendering medieval Hindi of Meerabai, Kabir, Tulasi, etc.

Srikanth said...

Continuing,

Sad state of affairs in Bangalore.. the Kannadigas are having to venture out and learn tamil in the wake of tamil-speakers who stay all their lives in Bangalore and refuse to learn Kannada!

If I were a Kannadiga, probably I'd also be sad at Bangaloreans having to speak in Tamil/Hindi to the new settlers.

Personally, I have learnt enough Kannada to talk to the bus-conductor or the auto-driver. But I still don't know enough to describe an electrical problem to the local electrician. I am thankful he can speak Tamil. :-)

I enjoy learning new languages - so getting to speak Kannada is fun. However, there may be folks who are just happy to go rest after a long work-day, and do not have energy to learn a new language.

Plus, I don't think there are institutes/orgsnisations that teach spoken Kannada here. So even those who wish to learn the language may not have access to any resources. (As you may know, the language of communication in the IT workplace is English. So it's difficult to learn Kannada interacting with peers at work.)

Sree said...

hmm...sadly when deepti spoke of tams in Ulsoor not learning Kannada, she wsnt (i think) referring to recent migrants...ulsoor has a majority of tams who have settled in bangalore for generations. the scene is as pathetic as one needs to know tam to get directions to auto stand in Ulsoor(it happenned to me:(((( )
all that it requires is an open ear n a willing heart. a mere 6 months' stay in chennai has taught me enuf tam to manage the day-to-day communication requirements, n i hv picked up a lil bit of the script too!
guess it also has to do with the 'chaltha hai' attitude of Kannadigas too unlike the strong parochial sentiments of a typical tam...may b coz kannada ddnt have a significant dravidian movement...

Palani Murugan N said...

(Imaginery discussion...)

Me: Naan nalaiku ooruku poraen...
Landlady: AmAvA
Me: AmAvA illa... Apadeeya apadeenthaan solluvaanga...
Landlady: AmAvA
Me: (rolling on the floor)...

(Everyday, I am trying my level best to avoid this discussion to happen with my landlady!)

Srikanth said...

PM!
That was hilarious!

Sunil said...

Srikanth, welcome back, and a nice post again.

Sree.....yes, Ulsoor has a lot of Tams settled for generations, and most of them speak kannada quite well. But it also has a lot of newer immigrants who don't. I think that's terrible, since kannada is such a beautiful, sweet language. But I'm pretty confident that most old time Tamil residents of Bangalore speak kannada quite well. I know plenty of tamil families (ok...it's a little restricted sample size of mostly tambrams....) who speak more kannada than tamil...

But I don't think we should divert this excellent post to a discussion of immigrants not learning kannada in Bangalore....there's a lot of space for that in another post. :-)

Srikanth said...

Hello Sunil,

Thank you!
So are you from Halasooru? :-)

Sohan Mahanto said...

Hi
I wish you could help new Bangaloreans like me on how to pickup the local language (Kannada). Some basic practical examples like talking to autodrivers, busconductors, maids, the dukaanwalah etc. of course many times lot of people know english or hindi, but some practical examples are still necessary. Most of my colleagues are north indians or non-locals and are all in the same boat. as for the locals, they all know hindi.. so no chance for people like us to learn Kannada.

Srikanth said...

Sohan:

Creating a Kannada tutorial has been on my mind for some time. Your comment has kind of spurred me on.

I plan to put up a post soon on this. Keep tuned!

Anonymous said...

Malaysian/Singaporean Tamil people will also say "aamavaa" instaed of "appadiya".

As for Hindi...if Carnatic musicians are insist on singing in Hindi, the least they can do as a courtesy to our ears is mispronounce it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Srican:
Found this book interesting. Covers a lot of original proto-dravidian words and their transitions in Tamil, Kannada and Telugu!
http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&id=nOTmIt3wumwC&dq=history+of+kannada+narasimhachar&printsec=frontcover&source=web&ots=OUQIK7Dw1f&sig=UWcRM6UmxU2_C5XL8iKSSgHj7OU

Srikanth said...

Looks interesting - Thank you!

Anonymous said...

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Alok said...

good to see this blog, can someone suggest the best CD for learning Kannada from Hindi (or English).

Thanks
Alok