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Bilingual discourse and cross-cultural fertilisation: Sanskrit and Tamil in medieval India

 | 
Whitney Cox
, 
Vincenzo Vergiani

Section II. Regulating language: grammars and literary theories

Caught in Translation: Ideologies of literary language in Kerala’s Maṇipravāḷam

Rich Freeman

Texte intégral

  • 1 There is now nearly a century’s scholarship of primary editorial, translating, and commentarial wo (...)

1The project of “translation” between the Tamil and Sanskrit traditions of learned literary production has periodically engaged my interests as a linguistic and historical anthropologist over more than two decades. This has been centrally focused on a normative text of Kerala which tried to sanction and partly describe a regionally based literary language and literature poised between these two traditions. The 14th-century treatise, the Līlātilakam (hereafter LT), was written in Sanskrit as an attempt to authorize and regularize literary efforts in a hybrid literature it called Maṇipravāḷam, based on the principled amalgamation of its regional language, as a kind of “Tamil”, with the language and poetics of classical Sanskrit. While I have written elsewhere of the ideology of language this text exhibits in relation to the emergence of a specifically Kerala regional and linguistic identity (Freeman 1998; 2006), and in relation to that region’s previous and subsequent literatures (Freeman 2003), I wish to focus here in some greater detail on the issues of what it means to “translate” between literary traditions, and how the LT catches or was caught in that historic moment.1

2The multi-stratal grammatical or constituent complexity of languages that culminates in literatures and their genres is reflexively intensified when there are further genres of meta-treatises which attempt to formalize and intervene in producing and critically judging “literature” and its linguistic forms. Both Sanskrit and Tamil, of course, had centuries of such meta-treatises (grammars, poetics, and various hybrid works) along with their larger corpora of substantive literary production that exemplified and were in dialectic with these scholastic enterprises of analysis and intervention. Furthermore, as the pieces in this volume variously illustrate, these two linguistically discrepant traditions were in a long, and complexly mediated historical dialogue with each other, not just at linguistic, but various other cultural levels.

3It was this milieu into which the LT entered, rather late in the day, with its own novel and complex meta-linguistic/literary project. Most immediately, it sought to authorize the production of a literature which hybridized the Kerala language with Sanskrit, for composition according to the conventions of high Sanskrit poetry (kāvya). But since that Kerala language was itself problematically still called “Tamil” (for reasons of dialectal and political history that may be variously argued), the LT simultaneously strove to declare and succinctly demonstrate the linguistic autonomy of its vernacular base-language (bhāṣā), against the long literary and linguistic legacy of the adjoining Tamil country. Since the dominant Sanskrit traditions, however, showed little inkling or concern with the nature or workings of Tamil or Dravidian languages or literatures, our Kerala author had to resort to Tamil-language descriptive treatises to argue the linguistic coherence and worthiness of Kēraḷabhāṣā for emulating the literary conventions of Sanskrit. The process of ideologically “translating” its literature away from Tamil and into Sanskrit thus exposes for debate the constituent hierarchies of the literary language that this process entailed, ranging from the phonological, morpho-phonemic, syntactic, and lexical levels, all the way through a fairly systematic application of Sanskrit poetics to these linguistic forms. In part because of the prior existence of extensive meta-treatments in both Sanskrit and Tamil, the LT had to strategically craft at each level a patchwork of selective engagements with one or both of these supervening linguistic/literary traditions in order to ideologically situate its preferred literary forms.

  • 2 My theoretical concerns and modes of analysis draw broadly on an anthropological linguistics which (...)

4While I am preparing a more detailed and comprehensive monographic analysis of this text, my intention here is to give some sense of the levels of linguistic and poetic detailing the surrounding Sanskrit and Tamil traditions motivated in the author of the LT. In keeping with my theoretical orientation towards an “ideology of language”, or “practice” approach to literature, I will also point out some instances where these engagements with language analysis were articulated at higher levels in the semiotic hierarchy of aesthetic and cultural concerns of our text’s Kerala authors.2 I will be necessarily schematic in many of these characterizations, but also hope to give some examples of the intensively detailed engagements of this text with the learned traditions of Sanskrit and Tamil. My hope is that this Kerala text, launched from a self-consciously inter-cultural positioning between the Tamil and Sanskrit literary traditions, may provide some interesting perspectives on how a historical lingui-culture actually negotiated its language and poetics in the shadow of these two classical complexes.

1. The global project and structure of the Līlātilakam

  • 3 Under one interpretation, the use of mad-uktam, “what I have said”, in padyam 11 of the commentato (...)
  • 4 One of the foremost editors of the text has concluded that the few copies of the LT circulated amo (...)

5The expository matrix of the LT is written entirely in Sanskrit, structured in the form of aphoristic sūtras with an accompanying commentary (usually described by modern commentators as a vṛtti). Throughout, however, this commentary gives more than 200 stanzas of Kerala Maṇipravāḷam exemplifying the grammatical and poetic forms that it either recommends or disparages. In this way it structurally mirrors the form of many Sanskrit treatises of Alaṁkāraśāstra or poetics, except that it is inter-linguistic between the exposition and the cited verses. Though there has been some debate among modern pandits as to whether the two Sanskrit strata of sūtras and comment are by the same author, it seems unlikely to me that the sūtras could have stood on their own as a text worthy of preservation or elaboration, without the commentary, and there is a bit of textual evidence that supports this.3 There is apparently little manuscript evidence for this text that has survived the modern pandits who published it, and therefore no text-critical evidence worthy of the name, that can be brought to bear on any of these issues. And despite the fame the text has achieved in modern Kerala, there seems to be no evidence for the existence of more than a single manuscript transmission in the pre-modern.4 While this does nothing to diminish the importance of the text’s reportage from its own time, it does cast serious doubt on the historical influence such a project may have had in the actual production of subsequent Kerala literature.

  • 5 yat saṁskṛtakāvyasya prayojanaṃ kathyate nimittaṁ ca asyāpi tad eva maṇipravāḷakāvyasya mantavyam (...)
  • 6 bhāṣāsaṁskṛtayogo maṇipravāḷam (LT 1).
  • 7 yogas sannāhas sahṛdayahṛdayāvarjjanaviṣayaḥ (p. 281).
  • 8 The verse is found in Kāmasūtra 1.4.37, and in the Sarasvatīkaṇṭhābharaṇam 2.12. nātyantaṃ saṃskṛt (...)
  • 9 I follow the usage of the text throughout, which calls the people the Kēraḷas, as an eponymous eth (...)
  • 10 Some important recent reflections on the nature of Tamil in relation to regional and cultural iden (...)

6In keeping with the presentational form of the text, its overall goal is clearly to expound and defend Kerala Maṇipravāḷam as fully worthy of Sanskrit models of literariness. The opening line of the commentary declares that whatever motives, skills, merits, virtues, and rewards pertain to composing high poetry in Sanskrit should be considered to apply to Maṇipravāḷam poetry (kāvya), as well.5 The definition of this literary form is then given in the opening sūtra,Maṇipravāḷam is the union (yoga) of Sanskrit and the vernacular (bhāṣā)”.6 This union means the equipping of the combined language in a regulated fashion with all the formal features of Sanskrit poetics and metrics so that it gladdens the hearts of aesthetes (sahṛdaya) schooled in that poetics.7 Slightly later, the text indeed cites a Sanskrit verse of pan-Indic scope which extols the combining of Sanskrit and regional vernaculars as bestowing fame in the world of poetic conclaves.8 An evident problem arises immediately, however, with this particular vernacular, for the LT must specify from the outset that the bhāṣā that goes into its Maṇipravāḷam is the particular speech of the Kēraḷas, Kēraḷa-bhāṣā.9 This is because the regional self-designation for the very bhāṣā whose verses the author wants to cite, as used by the Kēraḷas themselves, is “Tamil”! Our author must therefore advance arguments to show that this “Tamil” is not that of the neighboring Tamil realms, not that of the Cōḻa-, or Pāṇḍya-bhāṣās, which would collectively claim this Tamil as their own, and demote the Kēraḷa-bhāṣā to a mere (and distorted) regional dialect (deśa-bhāṣā).10

  • 11 Benjamin Lee Whorf used the term “reactance” to refer to patterns of co-occurring words or other l (...)

7The LT’s whole project of turning a version of regional “Tamil”, what would otherwise be just another dialect, into high literature on the model of the Sanskrit literary (and therefore, also, grammatical) tradition, raises a slew of substantive and theoretical challenges at several levels. There are first issues of serious type-mismatch in trying to shoe horn a Dravidian language, with its very different grammatical structures, categories, and reactances, into the terminological matrix of Pāṇinian grammar.11 It is to cope with this, that partial resort is made to the Tamil grammatical tradition, which fits the facts of Kerala language better in most typological respects than Sanskrit, despite Tamil’s own long, panditic engagement with Sanskrit ideologies of language and poetics. To the extent that the LT’s Maṇipravāḷam entails a declaration of linguistic and poetic independence from Tamil, however, this resort is also hazardous, for it risks being thereby dragged back into the ambit of Tamil’s well-developed models of grammar and poetics, and of seeming paltry before the latter’s enormous and polished literary corpus. What we thus find in the LT are debates at two different levels: one level concerns substantive, constituent language forms, since it actually seeks to interweave Sanskrit and its own Bhāṣā, grammatically, morphologically, and lexically, for drafting into Sanskrit literary forms; the other level concerns more theoretical maneuvers of the meta-languages of the different grammars and poetics, as it seeks to find principles to sanction its particular literary amalgam. The two levels overlap and implicate each other, however, and despite the explicit bias at the macro-level of literary standards towards Sanskrit, the models of Tamil keep surfacing in interesting ways.

  • 12 I have reviewed and analyzed a number of these arguments from the text’s first and second chapters (...)
  • 13 The LT uses bhāṣā, “speech”, as a collective or mass noun for entire languages, as we’ve seen, but (...)

8Architecturally, the text attempts a rough bifurcation of its eight chapters between the first three, dealing largely with grammar and linguistic composition, and the last five, applying Sanskrit poetics to this linguistic content. Throughout, these issues are exemplified in verses from Kerala Maṇipravāḷam. The first chapter argues for the principled and unique basis of Maṇipravāḷam, including the integrity of its constituent Kēraḷabhāṣā, its autonomy from neighboring Tamil, and the independence of Maṇipravāḷam from the norms of Tamil grammar and literature.12 The second chapter, dedicated to “words” (bhāṣā)13 deals with both lexicon and morphology, as these interact through trying to mix and match Sanskrit and Tamil verbal roots and nominal stems in the process of submitting them to each others’ morphological affixes and processes. It is in this context that we find a basic treatment of the nominal and verbal morphology of the Kēraḷa-bhāṣā that moderns celebrate as the first grammatical treatment of what later develops into Malayalam. The third chapter is dedicated entirely to the morpho-phonemic processes of sandhi. The remaining five chapters then shiftto the poetics, each discretely dedicated by subject to the conventional Sanskritic categories of poetic faults (doṣas), merits (guṇas), ornaments of sound (śabdālaṅkāras), those of sense (arthālaṅkāras), and aesthetic emotional experiences (rasas). Despite the attempt at neatly dividing the linguistic and poetic concerns in this way, both internally and from each other, elements from the different domains and from the different language traditions, keep intruding on each other in revealing ways.

2. Phonological disquisitions

9The LT is part of the dominant, substantialist trend in Indic language theory which takes the stuff of literature to be its words and their sounds. I will turn to the words below to provide an introduction for a more intensive sampling of the LT’s treatment of nominal case-morphology to which I will dedicate a substantial mid-section of this paper. As for the sounds, phonology is treated rather schematically, but representatively enough for the author’s purposes. It is clearly informed by the Tamil tradition of recognizing what is distinctive between Sanskrit and Tamil phonologically, where the former is altered to bring it into harmony with the latter for inclusion in Tamil literature. The Tolkāppiyam, for instance, recognizes Sanskrit’s “northern words” (vaṭacol) and sanctions their inclusion in its poetry, once they have been phonologically transformed (2.9.5–6). The later Naṉṉūl expands on this to stipulate the exact set of correspondences for conversion of the Sanskrit phonemes into “Tamil” (146–49). The LT clearly knows and uses this discussion, but reframes the project: it equips Dravidian language for Sanskrit models of literature, by treating the former’s phonology from the perspective of Sanskrit, and thereby keeping the latter intact, as the primary reference system, within Maṇipravāḷam. Early on in the discussion of what “Dravidian” means, the author says the Dravidians such as the Kēraḷas, Cōḻas, and Pāṇḍyas compose their works in a special phonematic inventory, the Dramiḍa-saṁghāta, which is succinctly characterized as follows:

  • 14 dramiḍasaṁghāto mātṛkā vargamadhyatrayoṣmabhiḥ ṛ-ḷ-varṇavisarjanīyaiś ca rahitā dīrgheṇeva hrasvab (...)

10“The Dravidian [phonematic] inventory is the [Sanskrit] syllabary that is devoid of the three middle classes of consonants, the sibilants, the [long and short] varieties of and, and the visarjanīya [], and has added an e and o, that are like the long ones [in Sanskrit], but short, as well as those [phonemes] with [special] pronunciation, [the series] ending in -”.14

11Note that the departure point here is Sanskrit, against which the necessary subtractions and additions are registered to represent the Dravidian phonematic inventory, so as to include the incommensurate set of consonants, “ending in” (i.e.,,, and). The critical difference between the program of the Tamil grammarians and the LT is that while the Tamils seek to convert Sanskrit into Tamil, our author needs the full complement of both phonologies in their discretely original forms, so they can be morphologically, syntactically, and lexically combined for producing the hybrid literature of Maṇipravāḷam.

12The author’s explicit ideology that his Bhāṣā, along with all languages, is derived by degeneration (apabhraṁśa) from Sanskrit, and his description of the phonology from this vantage point do not lead him to ignore the linguistic integrity of the distinctive features of Dravidian phonology. In fact, he argues with an interlocutor against reading the kinds of transformations the Tamil grammarians have wrought on Sanskrit as a general model of phonological degeneration which could be used to undermine the discrete cohesion of the Bhāṣā phonematic system. That rival argument would claim that since such words as puruḻa and viḻam in Bhāṣā were clearly derived from puruṣa and viṣam in Sanskrit, this proves that Dravidian is simply the degeneration (apabhraṁśa) of Sanskrit in all cases, and that the same applies for all the other divergent phonemes of Dravidian phonology which are similarly discussed (including the phonemic conjuncts ṉṟ and ṟṟ, pp. 292–93).

  • 15 tathā cāgastyasūtram — ekara-okara-āyta-ḻakara-ṟakara-ṉakaran tamiḻ potu maṟṟē iti (p. 293). Accor (...)
  • 16 The description clearly draws on Tamil grammars (e.g. Tōlkāppiyam 1.3.11–12). It is interesting th (...)

13The LT counters this by showing in a series of examples of contrastive sets, where the phonetic units vary in direct relation to differences in meaning, that these Bhāṣā sounds are genuinely phonemic in the modern linguistic sense, and functionally independent of Sanskrit. The author incidentally cites a sūtra (perhaps otherwise unattested) from the lost Tamil grammar of Agastya in support of this,15 and even describes the physical manner of articulation for the Dravidian alveolar to differentiate it from its dental counterpart.16 Despite the ideology of language monogenesis from Sanskrit, then, the LT maintains the discrete integrity of the Bhāṣā phonematic system as the basis for the language that it seeks to combine, in a principled and stipulated fashion, with Sanskrit.

  • 17 ac-hal-ityādisaṁjñāvyavahāraḥ, “tasminn iti nirddiṣṭe pūrvasya”, “tasmād ity uttarasya” ityādisaṁk (...)
  • 18 śeṣaṃ prayogāj jñeyaṃ, sūtra 65, and the comment, following (p. 300).

14A major set of phonological considerations pertain to the morphophonemics of sound alteration (sandhi) for Bhāṣā, which make up the third chapter of the LT. I cannot detail any of this here, except to raise a few points of general interest. Though named after the Sanskrit sandhi (rather than the Tamil puṇar nilai, etc.), and relying explicitly on the Pāṇinian technical terms and conventions, (and announcing them as such),17 the substance of these sūtras is drawn from the major Tamil grammatical sources on morpho-phonemics. Though there are some differences and deviations from classical Tamil, the system is clearly derivative, and does not aim at anything like completeness. In fact the last sūtra says, “The rest is to be known from usage”, and then the comment gives a long list of examples, and ends the section with the plea that so many have been enumerated that the reader should figure out the rest from these examples.18 In general, throughout the LT, the principle seems to be to authorize Maṇipravāḷam as rule-governed, by providing just enough exposition to validate and exemplify what is in use, but not to provide an exhaustive derivation of all possible forms and instances. (This seems a common feature of Tamil grammar, and very different from the Pāṇinian model of exhaustive derivation).

15At this point, however, an objector raises an interesting problem. Though Sanskrit sandhi is well established, and the author has laid out the principles for Bhāṣā-sandhi, by what rule does one decide which of these two very different systems to follow when Sanskrit and Bhāṣā words combine in various configurations in compound? The answer seems to be that while the Bhāṣā sandhis are generally favored for Maṇipravāḷam, it depends on the register of relative vernacularization or Sanskritization to which the words belong. The example is given of the compound candra-k-kala (“moon’s crescent”, both elements being Sanskrit-derived), where, since the terminal vowel of -kalā in proper Sanskrit has been shortened into its vernacular form, kala, the word itself is taken as vernacularized Sanskrit. Accordingly, the initial k- of the second word is doubled after the final vowel of the first word, according to Bhāṣā sandhi rules. The counter-example, however, leaves one puzzled. This again is a compound of two Sanskrit words, indu-kala (also “moon’s crescent”), where, it is argued, since the word indu- is proper Sanskrit, the initial of the following word is not doubled, since that is not a Sanskrit sandhi. While the logic of these examples is on the surface inconsistent (since candra- and indu- are equally Sanskrit, and -kala is equally vernacularized), what it shows is the operation of a meta-level evaluation of these morpho-phonemic processes that seeks to ideally sort them into one of two respective linguistic registers. This is part of the larger challenge the LT faces of subsuming all of Maṇipravāḷam’s constituent complexity (phonological, morphological, lexical, etc.) under a supervening, categorically dualistic ideology of language. That ideology is operationalized all the way up to its culmination in literary aesthetics, under the linguistically labeled, dichotomizing cultural processes of vernacularization vs. Sanskritization (bhāṣī-vs. saṁskṛtī-karaṇa). This is perhaps clearest, at a linguistic level, under the ideologies of the “word” (pada) to which I next briefly turn.

3. The amalgam of words

16The second chapter of the LT, which lays out the kinds of words (bhāṣās) that make up Bhāṣā, along with their grammatical forms, begins with a broad overview of the ethnolinguistic taxonomy of words and their interrelations. Bhāṣā words themselves come in different varieties: those that are autonomously local (deśī, rūḍha), those that are adapted from other regional languages (bhāṣāntara-bhava), those that are the same as other regional languages (bhāṣāntara-sama), those that recognizably come from Sanskrit (saṁskṛta-bhava), those that are the same as Sanskrit except for their grammatical terminations (saṁskṛta-rūpa), and those that take on Sanskrit morphological endings and elements (saṁskṛtī-kṛta). Then there are, finally, pure Sanskrit words, and those Sanskrit words that are variously vernacularized (bhāṣī-kṛta, LT 12–19).

17Throughout this chapter and the first, where the character of Maṇipravāḷam is initially laid out and defended, there are complementary levels of an ideology of language identity at work: the first shows a comparative concern with recognizable “historical” derivation and affinity of forms across languages, (all languages coming ultimately from Sanskrit, through degeneration); while the second maintains that whatever the various sources of derivation, languages have their own internal and integral order (vyavasthā), that the author demonstrates by showing the interdependence of lexical and grammatical constituency within Bhāṣā. Putting these two together gives a perspective on inter-regional language relations of Kēraḷa-bhāṣā with surrounding languages, but also establishes the principle for its own independence, lexically and structurally, as the basis for grounding its own hybrid literary tradition of Maṇipravāḷam within the wider inter-regional sphere.

18As I have argued elsewhere, the construct of Dravidian-ness (Dramiḍatva—where Dramiḍa is the Sanskritization of “Tamil”), uses language affinity as an index of political, literary, and religious affiliation to project a supervening cultural category to which Kēraḷas can belong, while simultaneously demoting the other Tamils (Cōḻa and Pāṇḍya) to regional congeners on a par with the Kēraḷas (Freeman 1999). “Tamil” is thus split into two hierarchical levels, a lower one pertaining to regional language cultures, and a higher one (additionally marked by the hypernym “Dravidian”) tied to transregional and historical claims on shared socio-cultural, linguistic, and literary traditions. One of the most interesting cultural-historical facts to emerge from the LT is that categorical notions of “Dravidian” were not a colonial invention, and that certain Indian intellectuals in the 14th century had been arguing for an even wider affiliation for Dravidian that would have included the Āndhras and the Karnāṭakas, marking all of what we call South India as Dravidian. This is attested through our author’s rejection of the latter thesis, on the interesting grounds that their languages are too different from that of the Śrī Vaiṣṇava Tamil canonical corpus, identified by the LT as the “Dravidian Veda” (p. 282). The still arguable closeness of the Kēraḷas’ language to this corpus, (evidenced by a rival genre to Maṇipravāḷam, that I will take up, shortly), the calling of their language by the name Tamil, and the memory of the Kēraḷas’ claims to being one among the Triumvirate of Kings (Muvēntar), celebrated in the Caṅkam literary corpus, all secured their Dravidian bona fides in the cultural world-view of the LT.

  • 19 Agastya is merely invoked by name, but Tolkāppiyam 2.9.1 is cited by LT in its entirety. See Chevi (...)
  • 20 na bhāṣāyām bhāṣāntaraṁ samāviśati, vyavasthāvilayaprasaṁgāt. pāṇḍyabhāṣālakṣaṇe tu digbhāṣeti dig (...)

19But another aspect of this war of words in the Kēraḷas’ struggles for linguistic autonomy surfaces in the LT’s wariness over the clear perception that the Pāṇḍyas and Cōḻas actually possessed, and maintained claims on, the classical Tamil literature in a way the Kēraḷas did not. Much of the wrangling in the first chapter circles around the historical evidence of the Tamil Caṅkam corpus, its grammars, and lexicons, belonging centrally to these other Tamils. The attack on the independence of Bhāṣā is that its own words, both of an everyday nature, and of its literary varieties, are attested in these others’ literature and its authorizing treatises. Therefore, as this learned and ancient Tamil tradition itself could be construed as claiming through its texts (citing Agastya and the Tolkāppiyam), the Kēraḷa-bhāṣā is merely a regional dialect (digbhāṣā or ticaiccol) of Pāṇḍya-bhāṣā (p. 286).19 The LT refutes this appropriation of its identity by learned Tamils through asserting that there are only borrowing relationships of similar words between adjoining languages, based on similarity, and not absorption or ownership of the one by the other. And again, the reason for this is the inviolable principle of the integrity of discrete language structures.20

  • 21 The examples LT gives of such archaisms in Tamil are āṭū [sic], makaṭū [sic], and nāṭuri which are (...)
  • 22 The LT clearly intends the contrast between “ordinary” (sāmānya-) and “special usage” (viśeṣa-vyav (...)

20Aside from this substantive claim of subordination internal to the earlier Tamil literature, the other aspect of this problem had to do with the current status-differential between written representation by learned treatises of Pāṇḍyan Tamil, and the admitted absence of such in Kerala, which had therefore to rely only on existing usage (vyavahāra). The LT responded to this challenge on two fronts. First it pointed out that the Tamil treatises themselves retain all sorts of archaic and arcane words and usages that were not actually found in contemporary Pāṇḍyan and Cōḻa Tamil, so that the latter could hardly claim a greater legitimacy for their language based on such traditions, nor could this authorize their linguistic or literary hegemony over the Kēraḷas.21 Secondly, usage (vyavahāra) itself must be recognized as both of the everyday (sāmānya) and specialized (viśeṣa) literary varieties.22 Kerala has such a latter variety, and if special uses found there were also in Tamil treatises, and not in everyday Kēraḷa-bhāṣā, then the situation was just as it was with the Pāṇḍyas and Cōḻas. And anyway, the learned treatises are themselves only based on such literary usage (p. 284). Bhāṣā has such usage, and the LT is just such a treatise written for this purpose (p. 288).

21If the inter-regional sphere was one in which Kēraḷa-bhāṣā had to be defended against other varieties of spoken and literary Tamil, then the local sphere was also one where varieties of Bhāṣā and its literary standards had to be internally policed. The LT is quite clear that there are two broad varieties of Bhāṣā: an inferior one, current among the “wretched folk” (pāmara-jana); and a superior variety of speech, the basis for Maṇipravāḷam, current among the members of the upper three castes (trai-varṇika, p. 290). In Kerala, this latter category included only Brahmans, their temple servants, and a few royal elites, and excluded the bulk of the dominant agrarian and martial groups such as the Nāyar. This latter group provided Brahman manors with their agricultural managers, domestic servants, and personal attendants, and women from these castes were objects of Maṇipravāḷam poetry, as we shall see.

  • 23 The term āriya-citaivu is most likely taken from the Cēṉāvaraiyam (9.398–4). While I have not foun (...)
  • 24 pāṇḍyabhāṣāsārūpyaṃ bāhulyena pāṭṭil [sic!] kēraḷabhāṣāyāṃ bhavati.

22In terms of literary languages and genres internal to Kerala, the LT contrasts its own Maṇipravāḷam forms with a genre called Pāṭṭŭ that seems the continuation of all the standard features of classical Tamil literature in Kerala. Part of the treatment I reviewed earlier for the description of Dravidian phonology is applied in this discussion, since the signature feature of Pāṭṭŭ is that, like literary Tamil, it converts the phonetics of all Sanskrit borrowings into the Dravidian syllabary, according to “āriaccitevu” [sic] (degrading of Āryan [words]), and nine varieties of “distortions” (vikāra) permitted by the grammars of Pāṇḍya-bhāṣā for literary use.23 As importantly, as the one example of Pāṭṭŭ cited illustrates, the Tamil features of alliterative binding (etukai and mōṉai) in the stanza structures, and the “special meters” (vṛtta-viśeṣa) of classical Tamil are used, which are divergent from the “well-known” (prasiddha) Sanskrit meters used exclusively in Maṇipravāḷam. Finally, it is noted that there is “a lot of similarity with Pāṇḍya-bhāṣā in the Kēraḷa-bhāṣā found in Pāṭṭŭ” (p. 290).24 Interestingly, however, the phonological forms that are cited as instances of this standard Tamil, actually fit the same profile used elsewhere to characterize the speech of “the Kēraḷas of base caste” (hīna-jāti), whose Bhāṣā is said to be like Cōḻa-bhāṣā, as well (p. 290). What therefore becomes clear is that there was a strong presence of a fairly standard Tamil phonology among both lower castes in Kerala, and amongst learned Kerala Tamil literati, against whose standards the innovations and phonetic divergence of Maṇipravāḷam were being asserted.

23Aside from a handful of phonetic and grammatical shifts that the Kēraḷa-bhāṣā was undergoing, compared to standard Tamil, the main demarcation of Maṇipravāḷam was, as we shall see in the treatment of case-morphology, an overt, but practically regulated embrace of Sanskrit. And in spite of the marked bifurcation between Maṇipravāḷam and Pāṭṭŭ, there were a number of actual positions in Kerala literary production that were staked out along this continuum, aside from simple considerations of high and low speech varieties, or simple Tamil vs. Sanskrit models. For instance, there was a variety of what looks like Maṇipravāḷam in terms of combining refined Kēraḷa-bhāṣā with Sanskrit, and doing so with poetic art, that is nevertheless rejected at the outset of the LT. This concerns the so-called “Tamil” of the drummers (mārdaṅgika) in the temple theater, which does not rise to the level of Maṇipravāḷam, because although it is has plenty of Sanskrit nominal bases (prātipadika), it does not utilize Sanskrit case-endings, but only those of Bhāṣā. And so, as the argument goes, when the terminations of words are Bhāṣā, their sense of Bhāṣā-ness predominates over the Sanskrit (p. 282).

24Not only should there be Sanskrit with full-blown Sanskrit morphology embedded in Maṇipravāḷam, but as our initial taxonomy of words above shows, Sanskrit morphology can be added ad libitum onto Kēraḷa-bhāṣā roots and stems. While it is admitted that this is used only in poetry (sandarbhe or kavi-karmaṇi) and not in ordinary discourse (sāmānya-vyavahāra), the effects can be quite astonishing. Not only are Bhāṣā noun-stems declined as though they were Sanskrit (e.g. koṅkayā, ūṇ-uṟakau), but participles (e.g. kēḻantī) and periphrastic perfects (e.g. pōkkāñ-cakre) are exemplified as being formed from Bhāṣā verbal roots, as well. Most bizarrely, the LT gives a verse in which each line begins with perfects, as though one could intelligibly form these by Sanskrit reduplication of Dravidian roots (pūk-, cūṭ-, tal-, and maṇṭ-):

  • 25 “The ‘Boars’ entered the pavilion / each one snatched the garland and donned it / beat each other (...)

pupūkirē pantal-akattu sūkarāś
cucūṭirē māla-paṟicc-orōttarē
tatallirē tammil atīva ghōramāy
mamaṇṭirē kŏṇṭu maṇṇāṭṭi tanneyuṁ25

25Such playful mangling of the local Bhāṣā in the interest of displaying Sanskritic learning is remarkable. But the LT follows this with a sūtra that says its counter-process, the use of Sanskrit that has been vernacularized (bhāṣī-kṛta), is really ubiquitous (LT 19). It explains that unlike the previous examples, which are clearly literary in their context, Sanskrit words that take vernacular terminations are used by the well-born in everyday interaction. And the author goes on to sanction what we encountered earlier from the different context of sandhi: the free compounding of Bhāṣā and Sanskrit words, which he claims were also an everyday usage (p. 294).

26Against this notion of the ubiquity and naturalness of Sanskrit, however, there is a curious case of sandhi that I want to detail, because of what it shows about these native Sanskritists’ linguistic reflexes. While it will be recalled that the LT argues that sandhis should essentially conform to their own separate registers, as to whether the words in compound are predominantly Sanskrit or Bhāṣā, the final kind of sandhi sanctioned in the LT suggests a messier pattern of linguistic interference. This is the approved doubling of the ś and s in compounds like āṉaś-śāstra (“elephant-science”), or perika-s-sāram (“a great matter”). The explanation that this happens because the Sanskrit words śāstra and sāra have been vernacularized, and so the initials ś and s have been doubled after the vowel, just as the stops k, c, t, and p would be in Bhāṣā, raises an objection. The objection is that these consonants belong to Sanskrit, and are not among the eighteen consonants that belong to Bhāṣā. The response to this objection is that while the division of eighteen consonants is according to the “way of the Tamils” (tamiḻa-mārgeṇa), the discursive usage of the upper three castes (traivarṇika) exhibits contact with Sanskrit phonology. Thus they have uses like “sarggisrōḷiccu” (< tarkkicc-oḷiccu?), dhaṭiyan (< taṭiyan), and aśśiri (< a-śrī), as well as using many better-maintained Sanskrit words like īśvaran, daivam, pūja, etc. that are only slightly vernacularized (bhāṣī-kṛtya). Because words like śāstram and sāram are similarly vernacularized, the s and ś, which occur in the same positions of phonetic articulation as the Dravidian stops t and c, are therefore doubled (sūtra 65, pp. 300–1). While this description is perspicuous, penetrating, and doubtless in the main, correct, it shows exactly the opposite of what it ideologically intends. For it shows the Brahmanical castes not to be Sanskritizing as though the language were natural to them. Rather, it shows that they hyper-Sanskritize in terms of surface phonology, where they struggle to make Dravidian words sound exotically Sanskritic, and already Sanskritic ones sound more so. Simultaneously, when it comes to the more basic level of defining word boundaries and their (quasi-) syntactic marking in compounds, they revert to treating what are actually Sanskrit phonemes, analogically, according to their own underlying and native sense of Dravidian phonological processes. I conclude my overview of phonology and words with this interaction between them, because I think it shows a clear dimension of conflict in the constituent linguistic levels at work in the ideology of Sanskritizing Dravidian languages.

4. Making the case for “case”

  • 26 This grammatical material was originally presented at our conference in Cambridge (May 2009), foll (...)
  • 27 My anthropological approach comprehends language as a social semiotic which subsumes all those cog (...)
  • 28 Chevillard’s two volumes on the Cēṉāvaraiyam (1996; 2008b) are an invaluable tool for exploring me (...)

27In turning to a sample of the more nuts-and-bolts grammar broached in the LT, I have chosen to deal with part of the treatment of case morphology.26 The LT was a legatee, jointly, to the significantly divergent Sanskrit and Tamil traditions. Even in their largely descriptive or derivational ventures, both these traditions were necessarily resorting to and furthering certain ideologies of language. For, in dealing with the issues of “case-grammar”, both were also grappling with the categorization and purchase (or projection) of their nominal types on the logical and social relations between people, things, and states of affairs in the world.27 Both were also trying to implement meta-categories in their own meta-languages for describing how those categorizations worked and what forms signaled them in a principled way, within their respective languages.28

  • 29 E.g., cf. the morphemes in the Sanskrit, devān, where the single affix -ān is simultaneously parad (...)

28The fit between the very notion of the “case”, however, and their larger language structures is quite different, because the typological principles of the languages are themselves different. As a highly inflecting language, Sanskrit has a large inventory of mutating nominal affixes, each of which simultaneously signals several semantic domains (number, gender, and “case”). Semantically, “case” represents certain generalized, fuzzy, categorical dimensions that seem to emerge from similarities in the formal patterning of the affixes, when we extrapolate, analogically, across their use with the different nominal stems. These core semantic notions then invite schematization into the declensional paradigms of the seven “cases” formalized in Sanskrit grammar. By contrast, in its tendencies as an agglutinating language, Tamil has an inventory of discrete, variously derived, and largely unrelated affixes, with separately standing semantic contributions that are added on serially to indicate their semantic and syntactic relations.29 There had been a long tendency to squeeze the facts of Tamil and other Dravidian languages into the categories of Sanskrit case-grammar when the LT came along with its extension of this practice to the divergent Kēraḷa-bhāṣā. There was also the legacy of Tamil grammar, however, which, even as it sought to accommodate much of the cachet of Sanskrit grammar, registered its own resistance in terms of alternative categories and terms, more in keeping with the facts of its own linguistic forms and structures. The LT drew on both of these traditions in different ways that we will turn to in a moment.

  • 30 The reverence in which Pāṇini is held can produce real obstacles to disentangling the form of his (...)

29The other legacy of Sanskrit grammar, however, was not just the substantive description of the language, but the enshrined project, strategies, and terminology of Pāṇini’s grammar. The tangled program of his grammar, with its stringently elaborated ideals of derivation, the intricate coding and nesting of its meta-language and rules, and the peculiar notions of language it incorporated, affected nearly every branch of elite Indic learning, literary production, and criticism from the early classical age into modernity.30 To an appreciable extent, the Tamil grammatical tradition made different categorical choices with different descriptive technology, but there is still much important debate and ongoing research into the extent and nature of the borrowing and inter-cultural accommodation it made with Sanskrit. At any rate, we can appreciate a bit of this intellectual universe through the LT’s attempts at a grammatical description of Kēraḷa-bhāṣā by taking a partial look at how it handles the Sanskritically labeled “case-endings” (vibhakti).

30Having established the functional linguistic autonomy of Bhāṣā in lexicon and phonology, from both Sanskrit and mainstream Tamil, the LT proceeds to treat its nominal morphology:

In distinctions of the meaning of these, there are distinctions among the final components.
Now that part of Bhāṣā [-words], case-endings, etc. is being ascertained. “Distinctions of the meaning” pertains to such as the ‘mere stem’, etc., and to gender and number. “Of these” [means] of [the words of] Bhāṣā.

  • 31 arthaviśeṣesyāḥ parabhāgaviśeṣaḥ. saṃprati bhāṣāyā vibhaktyādyaṃśo nirūpyate. arthaviśeṣaḥ prāt (...)

That is eight-fold, three-fold, and two-fold
“That” is the “distinction among the final components”; “eightfold” [refers to] case-endings; “three-fold” [refers to] gender; and “two-fold” [refers to] number.31

  • 32 There is a large secondary literature on the subject and endless wrangles over the function and na (...)
  • 33 There are terms in Tolkāppiyam used to differentiate case-markers (urupu, etc.) from their case-ca (...)

31The terminology of the case-endings (vibhakti) here is predominantly that of Pāṇini, though altered in certain ways to accommodate a different set of linguistic facts which draws on the Tamil tradition, and without substantively embracing Pāṇini’s ideology of verbal agencies represented in his kāraka program. For Pāṇini, case endings (vibhakti) were partly assigned with reference to a separate, abstract set of actional categories, the kārakas (literally “doers”), that mediated syntactically between semantic idealizations of case-roles in the sentential grammar, and the factual assignment of nominal affixes in the language. (And as usual, there were complex nestings of rules within the grammar to get from one domain to the other).32 The Tamil functional equivalent of the case ending, vēṟṟumai (literally, “differential”), was more directly associated with the signal-form, rather than mediated by kārakas, so that, as stated in the LT’s sūtra, a difference in meaning was directly indicated by a different suffix.33 So while the terminology of vibhakti in the LT was Sanskritic, I would argue that the more semiotically direct logic was in keeping with Tamil practice and understanding.

  • 34 Of course, this is not a defect of Pāṇini, if his sole purpose was to create a program for generat (...)

32The example of a case-ending in the first sūtra’s commentary, “the mere stem”, is a further invocation of Pāṇini. This clearly recalls Pāṇini’s quasi-semantic definition of the nominative case, which, because of the way the kāraka system first assigns agency to the verb and its adjuncts, empties the case-function of the nominative of everything but “the mere meaning of the stem” (A. 2.3.46). The notional content of this nominal stem (prātipadika) is itself defined, however, in largely negative terms, as being any meaningful vocable that is not an affix, or a verbal-root, or whatever is followed by particular sets of nominalizing suffixes in Sanskrit (A. 1.2.45–46). Far from being useful as a trans-linguistic characterization, it proves very difficult to abstract any positive notion of the “nominative” case or “nominal stem” from Pāṇini’s grammar, even with regard to Sanskrit itself, apart from their role in his idiosyncratic derivational strategy.34 We will see below, however, how the LT both used this terminology of Pāṇini’s “first” case, and brought it into line with a simpler and more direct formal and syntactic characterization from Tamil grammar.

  • 35 viḷiyeṉa paṭupa koḷḷum peyaroṭu teḷiya tōṉṟum iyaṟkaiya eṉpa. Cēṉāvaraiyar specifies that this man (...)

33The second sūtra and its comment, above, seem to follow the Tamil grammatical tradition’s own historical response to another artifice in Pāṇini’s grammar. Aside from the problems of congruence between the kāraka-roles and case-endings in Pāṇini, within the system of case-endings itself, the vocative is not included as the evident eighth case it would seem, because its formal similarities to the nominative make it easier to derive it as a special usage of the latter (A. 2.3.47–49). The Tolkāppiyam’s dissatisfaction with this is signaled in its opening sūtras on the case-endings, by first stating, clearly with Pāṇini in mind, that while some say there are seven cases (vēṟṟumai), the fact that nouns are marked for call/address (viḷi), means that with this vocative (viḷi), there are eight cases (2.2.1–2). Indeed the facts of Tamil (and Kēraḷa-bhāṣā, and Sanskrit, one could argue) clearly indicate its discrete marking, and a separate chapter in the Tolkāppiyam on the vocative and its forms opens with the principled statement that this case of address “has its nature clearly manifest” (2.4.1).35 The LT, then, simply builds on this finding directly from the Tamil tradition that there are eight cases (vibhakti), without equivocation, without further comment, and without special pleading for the vocative.

34Exactly as with the progression of sūtras in the Tolkāppiyam, and with clearly analogous names and forms, the LT then simply gives a list of its own vibhaktis for Kēraḷa-bhāṣā in the next sūtra:

  • 36 pēr, e, oṭu, kkŭ, ninṟŭ, nnŭ, il, viḷi ity aṣṭakam. atra prathamāṣṭamāv arthau. anye śabdāḥ (LT 22 (...)

pēr, e, oṭu, kkŭ, ninṟŭ, nnŭ, il, viḷi”: these are the eight [vibhakti].
Herein the first and the eighth are [designated] with regard to meaning; the others are [designated by] the vocables.36

  • 37 Cf. Tolkāppiyam’s sūtra on the eight vēṟṟumai: avaitām, peyar, ai, oṭu, ku, iṉ, atu, kaṇ, viḷi, eṉ (...)

35In keeping with what was said earlier about the simpler Tamil perception of signal-forms mapping directly into differentia of meaning, the comment immediately offers a (possibly apologetic) explanation of the mixed nomenclature of this array of endings. Lacking the abstractions of either the actional structures of the kārakas or the semantic generalizations of the vibhaktis found in Pāṇini for Sanskrit, the middle six “vibhaktis” are simply named through citation of their representative phonetic forms (-e, -oṭu, -kku, etc.), while the first and eighth are descriptively named by their function (pēr and viḷi), just as in the Tamil grammars.37 Then moving to this first, named case, the commentary continues,

  • 38 tatra prathamaḥ parabhāgaviśeṣo yathā kaṇṭan, āna, maram. atra prātipadakamātram evārthaḥ. tad eva (...)

Therein, the “first” [vibhakti] has particular final components; thus, “kaṇṭan, āna, and maram”. Here the meaning is that of the ‘mere stem’ (prātipadika-mātra). And that is itself called “pēr”, since that is what is expressed by the word “nāman”.38

  • 39 The LT clearly attempts to give some typical “nominative” forms here, showing the tendency for man (...)
  • 40 As the Tolkāppiyam says, “The originary case is that mere state in which the noun appears”, eḻuvāy (...)
  • 41 Though I cannot take the space to elaborate my ideas here, the interested reader can compare the L (...)

36Unlike the Sanskrit upon which the LT seeks, at a formal level, to model its Kēraḷa-bhāṣā, there is no formal marking, in a paradigmatic fashion, of “nominative” forms.39 Tamil grammar, therefore, defines the nominative predominantly in its syntactic role as subject in relation to various kinds of predicates. And as in the Tamil grammar, which our author clearly studied, the nominative could therefore be viewed as formally and substantively coincident with the “mere stem”. This stem was not therefore a kind of grammatically constructed operand, abstracted for purposes of derivation, but was actually embodied as the nominative itself, a bare and really occurring word, reflecting the noun’s free-standing substance and nature, on which other cases were constructed. This originary (eḻuvāy) case, as Tamil also called it, was therefore the transparent “name” (pēr) of what, semantically, each noun (pēr) itself substantially represents; this “case” thus names itself as its own referent.40 It therefore seems to me that even though the LT invokes the Pāṇinian terminology (in a perhaps significantly abbreviated form),41 it has a different functional and formal sense of its own nominal grammar. It nevertheless tries, in the final line, to bring this under the authorization of Sanskrit by suggesting that its own chosen designation from the Tamil (pēr/peyar) gains its validation from the Sanskrit equivalent, nāman, which also translates as both “name” and “noun” (but interestingly, is not used by Pāṇini in the latter sense).

37The complex negotiations between practically Tamil grammatical forms and an ideology of conformity to Sanskrit terminological authorization is even more striking when we turn to the handling of the “second” or accusative case.

  • 42 dvitīyo yathā avane, avaḷe, atine, avare, avaṟṟe, ānaye, maratte, marattine atra ekāro hrasvaḥ. ai (...)

The “second” is thus: avane, avaḷe, atine, avare, avaṟṟe, ānaye, maratte, and marattine; and herein, the -e is short. On the other hand, it is only in Pāṇḍya-bhāṣā that one finds -ai [in the same usage], since this -ai in the second [case] is there termed vēṟṟumai. And here [in these examples], such letters as -ttu-, -in-, and -y-which appear between [the stem and the ending] exist as “connectors” (sandhāyaka), just as in the grammar of Pāṇḍyabhāṣā, there are certain letters called cāriyai.42

  • 43 See Tolkāppiyam (2.9.1, 4), Cēṉāvaraiyam (9.397–400) and Chevillard (1996: 472, n. 2; 2008).

38From the perspective of Tamil literati, the accusative -e of this Kēraḷabhāṣā would have been simply a minor feature of regional dialect (ticaiccol), marking it as one of the “crude” regional variants of Tamil (kōṭun-Tamiḻ), as opposed to the “lofty” literary standard (cen-Tamiḻ) of the heartland.43 Here the compensatory thrust of the LT is clearly to draw on the same structural features treated in classical Tamil grammar, but to differentiate the nomenclatures so as to demote the Tamil to the merely regional, Pāṇḍya-bhāṣā, while embracing or coining Sanskritisms for its own, structurally identical features. Thus the -e, (which has to be specified as “short” because Sanskrit had only its long counterpart, and there was no orthography to differentiate the Dravidian vowel), is confirmed as a marker of Sanskrit vibhakti, and here terminologically opposed to the vēṟṟumai designation of -ai, which is merely “Pāṇḍyan”. The imperative even to coin what I believe is a new Sanskritism regarding what Western grammarians view as oblique stem-alteration, is similarly striking. The Tamil tradition viewed these oblique forms as a matter of intervening infixes it called cāriyai (e.g. nom. Maram > acc. mara-tt-e or mara-tt-in-e in the examples), for which there was no direct parallel in Sanskrit. Our author of the LT therefore adapts or invents a Sanskrit word sandhāyaka (“connectors”) for these, clearly on the model of the more regular morpho-phonemic processes of sandhi in Sanskrit, which allows him once again to both draw on the reality of the cāriyai-formation, while deflecting the cultural purchase of classical Tamil grammar on his own Kēraḷabhāṣā as being merely a “Pāṇḍyan” parallel.

39This quest for Sanskritic status authorization of the dialectal-e leads even to a partial embracing of the kāraka-system, where this is abstracted enough from real grammatical relations to have no real impact on the language of the LT. Thus our author continues:

  • 44 atra punaḥ e ity asya nirvartyavikāryaprāpyātmakaṃ karmārthaḥ; na tu kālādhvātyantasaṃyogādikam. n (...)

Here again, this -e conveys the meaning of the [kāraka] “object” (karma) which has the nature of [something that is] produced, modified, or obtained; but not in such cases as of time or distance when they are continuous in extent; nor with respect to co-occurring words. And it is not proper to say [in Kēraḷa-bhāṣā] “he waited throughout the day” (acc.), “they are staying at the village” (acc.), or “[her] brows are between [her] eyes (acc.) and tresses (acc.)”, since such constructions are wrong.44

  • 45 The characterization “syntactico-semantic” for the kārakas is Cardona’s (1974: 279, n. 1). Vincenz (...)
  • 46 This seems likely since this issue is raised in Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya, discussing one of Pāṇini’s(...)

40What the LT does here is argue for applying the most abstractly semantic rendering of the kāraka system’s object-role, as expounded by the famous Sanskrit philosopher-grammarian, Bhartṛhari, to its own little-e of Kēraḷa-bhāṣā. For these subdivisions of the objective kāraka-category, as what is “produced” (nirvartya), “modified” (vikārya), or “obtained” (prāpya), are straight out of Bhartṛhari’s Vākyapadīya, as an attempt to develop semantic generalizations from Pāṇini’s idiosyncratically syntactico-semantic derivational program.45 That the LT can get away with this is only because the categories are so vaguely generalized that they might apply, notionally, to possibly any language’s abstract, meta-categories of actional goals. As soon as one descends to the specifics of the accidence of actual case-marking, however, the vagaries of all those language-specific “idioms” of case-grammar (and both Pāṇini’s kāraka and vibhakti operations are shot through with these) rupture the neatness of categorical generalizations. Thus the uses of the “second” or accusative case for a stretch of time or course of motion over a continuous extent, which the LT raises next, precisely in order to forbid them, are taken directly from one of Pāṇini’s sūtras (A. 2.3.5). Similarly the reference to co-occurring words (upapada) seems taken from the Sanskrit commentarial literature, and pertains to instances where the cases stipulated for related words come into conflict.46 Neither of these language-specific concerns are relevant to Kēraḷa-bhāṣā, however, and so both are rejected. The same restrictive purpose is then pursued through the negative examples of bad usage which follow, for each of these represent the application to Kēraḷa-bhāṣā of Pāṇini’s sūtras (A. 2.3.5; 1.4.48; 2.3.4) where he enjoins Sanskrit uses of the accusative that cannot apply here. Having accepted the kārakas in the abstract for the Sanskrit luster it lends to a dialect marker (-e), the LT’s author must nevertheless reject Pāṇini when he descends to the nuts-and-bolts of actual nominal usage in his very different language.

41While I will not go through the rest of the vibhaktis here in detail, I will just remark on a few instances of peculiarities and the general patterns they indicate that are interesting in trying to relate Sanskrit “declensional” logic to the facts of Kēraḷa-bhāṣā forms and syntax.

  • 47 The same strategy appears in Cēṉāvaraiyam (2.73), where the comment enjoins the inclusion of -ān, (...)

42With the introduction of the “third” or instrumental case, a certain confusion seems to arise, since it is given, paradigmatically, as it were, as -oṭu, but this is more usually understood as semantically an “associative” case. It is presumably placed here because there is no such “case” in Sanskrit, and it has to go somewhere. This is then conceded to be but a partial representative (upalakṣaṇa) of this “case”, after which the more truly “instrumental” and unrelated endings -āl and -koṇṭŭ are noted and exemplified.47 What this shows is general throughout: there are multiple, unrelated markers for the “cases”, where postpositions of various sorts and derivation are functionally equivalent or complementary over related, but partly differentiated semantic ranges. Conversely, the same markers may be used for different cases, and this is exactly the situation with old Tamil (Rajam 1992: 302–4).

  • 48 The LT here follows the same strategy of Cēṉāvaraiyam by treating the unmarked object as under “co (...)

43The “instrumental” -koṇṭŭ, for instance, is transparently nothing but an adverbial participle of the verb koḷ- “to take, seize” and is employed to express instrument, cause or constituent material, among other uses. While koṇṭŭ is further today understood to optionally govern the accusative, showing that these postpositions/cases may be compounded (-e-k-koṇṭŭ), the LT denies that this -e marks the “second” case, asserting that it is instead just another “connector” (sandhāyaka), as it has rechristened the old Tamil cāriyai. There are indeed many other invocations of such sandhāyaka through the remaining cases treated, but the-e occurs nowhere else in such a function, and I believe that this interpretation is insisted upon to make this “instrumental” seem more like a unitary marker of vibhakti, since there can be no compounding of case-endings in Sanskrit. Further evidence for this imperative towards case-hood is the attempt to make the accusative, which is systematically unmarked in the case of non-rational or non-human objects, seem more consistent by assimilating the unmarked usage to a later elision (lopa) of endings that occur in Sanskrit nominal compounding; and this, even though a sentence like “(someone) saw the garland” (māla kaṇṭu), is neither a compound, nor a nominal formation!48 The need to fill the slot of Sanskrit’s “fifth” or ablative case is also clearly met by combining various possible “locatives” (-il, -mēl) with the adverbial participle of the verb “to stand” (ninnŭ), but these are, again, treated as unitary affixes.

44And finally, the lead exemplar of the “sixth” or genitive case is actually the main marker of the “fourth” or dative case. Although the more regular forms of the prototypical genitive are then listed in the commentary, I believe this oddity is motivated because our author had the widespread Dravidian construction of possession in mind, where the dative stands regularly for the possessing subject, with the possessed object in the nominative, either with or without the copula verb. This last example thus points to one of those “idioms” of case-grammar on the Bhāṣā/Tamil side of the equation that we saw the invocation of Pāṇini’s sūtras represented for special uses of the accusative in Sanskrit. There are indeed similar allusions to Pāṇini’s sūtras for the other cases throughout this section of the LT, exemplifying how wrong these usages are when cast into Bhāṣā grammar.

45In terms of general conclusions on this engagement with nominal morphology, we can see that the LT was attempting to “translate” the very different structures of its language’s morphology, coming historically out of Tamil, into that of Sanskrit through reconfiguring the meta-language of their respective grammatical traditions. The facts of the Tamil vēṟṟumai (which were already fudged towards construing them as “cases” out of their actual constituency of varied, post-positional nominal markers), were turned into the “cases” of Sanskrit vibhakti, and the Tamil cāriyai (“inflectional increments”), were analogized to a kind of internal sandhi under the appropriate Sanskrit neologism of sandhāyaka. The embarrassing Bhāṣā tendency not to mark its “accusative” was assimilated to a kind of Sanskrit compounding (samāsa) between subject and predicate with ellision (lopa) of the case-marker. The Pāṇinian metalinguistic treatment of case-semantics, the kārakas, was partly invoked for legitimating Kerala forms, but when it came to applying this to actual case-assignment, Pāṇini’s specific rules were calqued into Bhāṣā as negative examples of what not to do. In short, in terms of the ideology of language at work in the LT, I have tried to show how even in the infrastructural detail of stipulating and analyzing the nominal case-morphology, meta-semiotic framings are deployed for its particular project of Sanskritizing, implemented through the technical language chosen, and many of the particulars of analysis. These apparent minutiae of grammar are therefore pregnant with the ideology of language, and are framed by higher levels of the LT’s project to which I will now turn.

5. Sanskrit poetics in the Kerala context

46It is easy in this focus on the LT as a “grammar” to forget that this is not its primary purpose. While grammar is only thematically central to the first three chapters, the remaining bulk of the work’s eight chapters is harnessed to the larger project of treating Sanskrit poetics as it applies to crafting Maṇipravāḷam literature out of the combination of Sanskrit and Bhāṣā. This poetics, as noted in the introductory review of the LT’s contents, is nearly entirely Sanskritic in its organization and terminology. But since Sanskrit poetics is very much concerned with formal and logical relations among and between words and sounds, and since the figures of sound or sense in the LT seize on examples of Maṇipravāḷam as their subject matter, we may expect intercultural reactances to emerge in the poetics analogous to what we encountered with the case-grammar categories. In extending this model of interacting linguistic levels to poetics in this way, we must widen our analytic net to take into consideration the thematic concerns and socio-cultural content and context of the Maṇipravāḷam literature itself. The study thus becomes, of necessity, both anthropological and historical. And while the relative brevity of the text’s treatment of poetics, like that of the grammar, may make it seem rather pedestrian on a first, superficial reading, the understanding of the LT’s larger project turns out to be integrally related to the poetics, which indeed conditions much of its grammar and the relations between the grammar, literature, and the social purposes and content of the literature. In illustration of these, I will take up just a handful of examples where the poetics engages formal features of the literature, on the one hand, and issues of content, on the other. As the briefest of backgrounds to these, however, I will just sketch the most essential contours for what I have been researching of the poetic, socio-historical, and political context.

  • 49 The briefest sketch of this regional history was given in Freeman (1998: 42–3), but there are a nu (...)
  • 50 In addition to the four dozen examples in the aforementioned commentary on the Alaṁkārasarvasva, t (...)

47In terms of the historical context, it has become relatively certain to me that the LT’s larger project of legitimating Kēraḷa-bhāṣā for the production of Maṇipravāḷam literature in the trans-regional medium of Sanskrit gained political stimulus from a unique event in the history of Kerala and South India. A couple generations prior to the LT, a king from Kerala, Ravi Varma, claimed to have conquered all of South India from his capitals in Travancore and Quilon, and to have been its sovereign during the first quarter of the 14th century. Though largely ignored by South Indian historians as of little consequence, some of his inscriptions in the Tamil country do in fact confirm his conquests, and celebrate his sovereignty.49 But however brief and insignificant his presence may have seemed outside of Kerala, within his own territory his rule marked a political and cultural efflorescence in Travancore whose legacy lingered on in those courts for many generations. There was clearly a raft of courtly production in Sanskrit around Ravi Varma, who is celebrated as the author of a play, the Pradyumnābhyudaya (1910), and as the brains behind a major commentary on Ruyyaka’s poetic treatise, Alaṁkārasarvasva (1915). He is indeed lauded, (often as the Dakṣiṇa-Bhoja, “The Bhoja of the South”, after that famous poet-king), in scores of commemorative poems which occur in these and other works, including those that found their way into Kerala and Tamil inscriptions. This legacy continued among his descendents, and there are a series of intertextual references in Maṇipravāḷam literature and in the content of the LT’s exemplifying stanzas to confirm their mutual associations with this line of Travancore kings.50 While I cannot detail the relations between these texts and inscriptions here, the broadest point I want to make is that it can hardly be accidental that the legacy of Ravi Varma’s claim to political conquest of the Pāṇḍyas and Cōḻas coincides with the LT’s novel claims for the linguistic and poetic independence of Kēraḷabhāṣā from these long-standing polities and their cultural hegemony.

48Although the courtly culture of Travancore was one of the major patronage bases for Maṇipravāḷam, the producers themselves were unmistakably Brahmans and their allied traivarṇika formation of elite, largely sacerdotal castes, which we have already encountered in the LT itself. Notoriously, the restriction that only the eldest Brahman males of a sibling cohort could legitimately wed and reproduce within their own caste, led to the socially regularized sexual liaisons of many junior Brahman males with women of the matrilineal castes of Śūdra grade. These included most lineages of kings and chiefs in Kerala, many of whom were sired, proudly, in their matrilineal castes by Brahman fathers. Of equal notoriety (and embarrassment for modern Malayalis), is the fact that much Maṇipravāḷam literature is a celebration of these sexual liaisons, a poetry of praise and seduction aimed at chiefly Nāyar women as love-objects. Of the 209 verses from Maṇipravāḷam poems cited in the LT, 154 of them are reportedly dedicated to sexual themes (Nair 1971: 176). What this literature therefore provides us is a fairly intimate peek into the Kerala reflex of what Burton Stein long ago typified as the Brahman-Peasant (or -Śūdra) alliance in the Tamil country (Stein 1980: 85). In Kerala, that alliance was connubial, it was reproductive, it entailed a sexual politics of power and knowledge, and Maṇipravāḷam (and arguably, modern Malayalam) was its outcome. In this context, the tracking of the intimate entwining of Kerala “Tamil” literature with that of Sanskrit, and of their respective knowledge systems of language and grammar, thus raises questions of social and anthropological history which I continue to explore in this literature, and in the LT as the only formalized treatise on Maṇipravāḷam.

  • 51 For this reason, I greatly anticipate the publishing of Whitney Cox’s researches on the relationsh (...)
  • 52 Cf. LT (sūtras 137–38, p. 317) and Alaṅkārasarvasva (Śāstrī 1915: 10 ff.).

49The poetics of the LT draws, sometimes explicitly, on the named poetic theorists of the greater Sanskrit tradition, listing, describing, and exemplifying the various categories of guṇas, doṣas, alaṁkāras, etc., as illustrated in selected Maṇipravāḷam verses. The history of the particular choices, categories, and authors followed should itself prove illuminating, especially in the context of the wider history of poetic adaptation within the neighboring Tamil and Kannada traditions.51 Within this Travancore (Vēṇāṭu) milieu, for instance, the Alaṁkārasarvasva gains a certain prominence through the commentary authored at the court of Ravi Varma and attributed (however improbably) to disquisitions of the king himself. I believe this accounts for its influence on the LT’s poetics, which has perhaps been greater than realized. The Alaṅkārasarvasva served as a kind of handbook, coming out of the prestigious Kashmiri lineage of Ānandavardhana and Abhinavagupta, summarizing its philosophical aesthetics at the outset, but then devolving to its main purpose of describing and cataloging all the alaṅkāras. A considerable number of the LT’s descriptions of alaṅkāras and their sequence of treatment follow the Alaṅkārasarvasva, and the important opening sūtras and comment introducing vyaṅgya (“suggestion”) in the eighth chapter seem to adopt its condensation of the Kashmiri masters, as well as some of its wording.52

  • 53 kaṭṭempatukkup paṭṭempatallatu pāṭṭempatetukaiyil ākātu [sic] iti (padyam 84, ff.), citing Kārikai(...)
  • 54 From Kāvyādarśa 1.56: candre śaranniśottaṃse kundastabakavibhrame / indranīlanibhaṃ lakṣma sandadh (...)

50Even within this thorough-going (if regionally inflected) embrace of Sanskrit poetics, however, the pull of the Tamil and of local traditions can be found surfacing, sometimes prominently, within these discussions. One of these instances, which points to a more general process of accommodating convergences between Sanskrit and Tamil, can be found in the LT’s treatment of anuprāsa, alliteration. It will be recalled that earlier, in the rejected genre of Pāṭṭu, one of the Tamil features enjoined there was the presence of two named patterns of alliteration, called etuka and mōna. While these are two of the four patterns of verbal “stringing” (toṭai) that link lines within a classical Tamil poetic stanza, and come in many sub-varieties in later Tamil treatises, the LT defines them in their basic, canonical forms. Etuka (T. etukai) is when the second letter of each line is the same (or similar), and mōna (T. mōṉai) is when the first letter of each line is the same (or similar) to the first letter of the second part of the line. The author notes after the definition of etuka, that this is what is called pādānuprāsa, “alliteration of lines”. When we turn to the section of the LT on śabdālaṁkāras, “figures of sound”, we find only the most general definition of anuprāsa, as the laying down of similar letters. There is, in fact, little agreement between Sanskrit theorists on the kinds and varieties of alliteration they prescribe, and even whether they consider the topic among the specific ornamental alaṁkāras or more essential “virtues” (guṇas) of general phonic structure, though the LT has clear ideas on the matter. What is telling, however, is that our author then goes on to prescribe and illustrate two (or three) special varieties of anuprāsa. The first, called mukhānuprāsa, consists of two sub-types, one where the first syllables of words (pada) are the same or similar, and the second, where the first syllables of the lines (pāda) are so. In fact, the examples given would qualify perfectly for the Tamil mōṉai, since the pada-alliteration is not between each word, but falls at the first and last half of each line, while the second variety is the dominant type which the Tamil calls aṭi-(“line-”) mōṉai. The second type of alliterative patterning is called, rather inadequately, pādānuprāsa, (“line-alliteration”) but is defined as occurring where the second letters in lines are the same or similar, and the example given is, of course, fully congruent with the earlier etuka. The modeling on the Tamil is still closer, however. For while the comment on the sūtra’s initial Sanskritic definition of anuprāsa said that the alliteration pertains only to consonants, while the vowels of those syllables can be similar or dissimilar, this laxity finds restriction earlier in the sūtras. In the section of the LT on the doṣas of poetry, a disapproved, “distorted” anuprāsa’s irregularity is exemplified by a verse in which the alliterative syllables’ accompanying vowels show a mismatch of long with short ones (LT 86, padyam 84). The authority for this rejection is then, remarkably, lines taken from the work on classical Tamil prosody, the Yāpparuṅkalakkārikai, which stipulates that long and short vowels cannot co-occur for etukai.53 The LT then goes on to say this is indeed the “etuka” of the Pāṇḍyas, but that there is also the opinion that it is pādānuprāsam (which of course our author accepts), and it cites a verse of the famous Sanskrit theorist, Daṇḍin, exemplifying such an anuprāsa, which also happens to have the alliteration on its second syllable (padyam 85).54 (Of course, this is probably no coincidence, since Daṇḍin lived and wrote in Tamil Nadu). What this whole discussion shows, then, is that our author was quite happy to accommodate as much of his “Dravidian” practices as his Sanskrit terminology could accommodate, and I believe the tendency to construe anuprāsa as archetypically equivalent to etukai and mōṉai is reminiscent of the tendency we saw earlier in sandhi to produce Dravidian phonological patterns, under the veneer of a hyper-Sanskritization. This strategy of using Sanskrit labels for a Dravidian aesthetic continues more massively in the later works of the Maṇipravāḷam genre that mixed poetry and prose, the campu. There those “special meters” of “Tamil” that were excluded as symptomatic of Pāṭṭu in the LT, were partly re-accommodated as good Maṇipravāḷam under the guise of “prose” (gadya). Smuggled back in under this label, these stanzas happily co-existed with the properly metered poetry (padyam) of their Sanskrit counterparts. There was thus a continuation of local poetic practices and sensibilities that lingers on, even under the intense rhetorical force to Sanskritize.

  • 55 bhujaśikharasya vaṃśāṅkureṇôpamā pāṇḍyabhāṣāprabandhe lakṣyate, yathā āṭamait tōḷi kūṭalum aṇaṅke (...)

51My second example, from the chapter on “ornaments of meaning” (arthālaṅkāras), is a more consciously (and oddly) appended instance of preserving an image that would be otherwise lost to Sanskrit. After the LT gives a relatively extended treatment of that most important figure of “metaphor” (upamā), it adds, “there is a metaphor in Pāṇḍyabhāṣā works which describes shoulders as bamboo shoots”, and then it gives an instance from another citation from Yāpparuṅkalakkārikai.55 Indeed, this metaphor of the bamboo-shoulders of young women is one of the commonest but most strikingly odd ones in Tamil literature, occurring under all kinds of synonyms. I do not recall ever encountering this image in Sanskrit or Maṇipravāḷam, but will hope to learn whether it occurs in the latter, given its special mention in our text.

52The social context of this literature’s heavy investment in Brahman-Śūdra sexual alliances is both manifest in the content of the Maṇipravāḷam verses (which requires extended study, in its own right), but also impinges on the poetics. In one instance this is primarily concerned with a formal feature of the poetry, but in another, it strikes to the very heart of the aesthetic validity of the literature from an orthodox, Brahmanical perspective.

  • 56 The discussion occurs at pp. 306–7, covering padyams 115–18.

53The first instance occurs again as an odd addendum to a discussion, this time at the end of the chapter on poetic faults (doṣa)56 (pp. 306–7, padyams 115–18). The complaint raised is that it is improper for poets to give names to their female subjects, especially if they are given names ending in mountains (-mala), rivers (-puḻa), family clans (-kula), tanks (kuḷa), locales (-dēśa), and so on. The latter are deemed inappropriate to women’s natures and spoil the rasa of eroticism (śṛṅgāra). What is being referred to here is exactly the way the dominant castes were (and often still are) named in Kerala, after their matrilineal manors, which are often place-names, indexed to various natural features, locales, and such. Study of several of these Maṇipravāḷam works has convinced me that these poems of praise to women were indeed deliberately tied to the prominence of their lineage manors, and that this was part of what I’ve called a “libidinal economy” (e.g. Freeman 2007) of alliance between matrilineal kings, chiefly and martial families, and Brahmans who were patronized by them through education, arts, and the temple. The LT then goes on to say that if such women are to be given names, they should take the form of pseudonyms such as “Flower Nymph” (Pūmēnakā), “Flower Garland” (Pūmālikā), and so on, that accord with erotic, aesthetic sensibilities. Such poetic sobriquets indeed came to attach themselves to the women and their manors celebrated in Maṇipravāḷam, and are retained as the names of the poetic works in their praise. Our author then continues, however, to point out that many good poems are written to women using their ordinary, given (saṁskāra-) names, and chides those poets who think they must first struggle to come up with a novel name for a woman, before they can compose poetry to them. This whole discussion, then, highlights how certain aesthetic conventions for heroines in Sanskrit literature came into conflict with social facts and literary practices growing out of those in medieval Kerala.

  • 57 Pp. 306–7, padyams 106 ff.

54Another concern with poetic defect is raised in this same section, but striking deeper into the aesthetic core of the Brahman-Śūdra sexual liaison.57 With the discussion of how the constancy of erotic sentiment can be thematically spoiled if the heroine’s affections are directed towards another lover, an objection suddenly comes to the fore. The dissenter points out that the subject matter of this literature is courtesans (veśyā), so there can be no question of their maintaining any sexual fidelity (pativrata); hence, there is no sustained desire, and no genuine eroticism on their part. Our author’s defense of these relations and application to them of erotic poetics is quite remarkable. He admits, firstly, that if there is indifference in the woman for her suitor, there is no erotic potential, and there ends the matter. But if a courtesan can, in the interest of money, feign desire and become both compliant and behave without aversion towards her client, then that will be enough for him, and she becomes an apt object of desire. If even after receiving money she has an aversion for him, however, then again the case is admitted to be lost. The next retort is simply that courtesans are contemptible, and never have genuine desires, against which the author cites a long and remarkable passage. This declares that courtesans do indeed experience likes, dislikes, and passions, just like any other women, and are attracted to handsome, youthful, eloquent, and fortunate men, irrespective of monetary gain. Since such men are rare, courtesans turn to others for pleasure or profit, and if there is no pleasure, then they still, naturally, take their profit. Such men with no money or other redeeming features then blame the courtesans for their heartlessness. But these women simply hold up a mirror that reflects such men’s own defects in a way that the men’s own artless wives do not. Besides, if even his own father, siblings, and relatives are averse to the man who lacks money and good qualities, why blame the courtesan? The author then concludes by affirming that where love is present with courtesans, there is indeed apt scope for erotic poetry, and he gives several verses of Maṇipravāḷam exemplifying such feelings.

55Recalling that the Brahman ideology allowed legitimate marriage and reproduction only through primogeniture, the only conjugal love that most younger Brahmans experienced was with women of the lower, matrilineal castes. From a pan-Indic, orthodox perspective, such relations were classed as mere concubinage. In Kerala, however, these relations were, in fact, entirely compatible with the internal matrilineal marital ethos of these dominant martial and kingly castes themselves, and the cultural and sexual intercourse with Brahmans was a source of honor for these manors and their women. Since much of Maṇipravāḷam literature was centrally dedicated to these relationships, and since its authors obviously lavished the full weight of their Sanskrit (and Tamil) learning on its production and authorization, an attack on the legitimacy of its basic emotional and aesthetic experience around the seduction, love, and praise of these women elicited this spirited, and revealing defense. The hybrid nature of the literature was reflective of the hybrid nature of its milieu, which was socially and physically reproduced through systematic, if ideologically discrepant, inter-caste inter-relations.

  • 58 evaṃ samādhyādayo gantavyāḥ, pp. 306 ff.

56To turn back from the content of the literature, one last time, to the broadest characterization and defense of its form, I want to consider a final stock-taking the LT makes at the close of its discussion of all the “ornamentation” that makes Maṇipravāḷam “literature”. After cataloguing and describing 27 different figures of meaning (arthālaṅkara), the author proposes a giant “etcetera”, saying that other such figures or virtues of literature that could continue into a potential list of dozens more “are to be understood in the same way”.58 An objector seizes on this to ask exactly how these constituent forms are to be understood, since these have neither been specifically exemplified in Maṇipravāḷam literature (as lakṣya), and since there are no corresponding treatises (lakṣaṇa) describing and authorizing their use. Furthermore, who could the interlocutors to these discussions be, since no one has ever heard of any authorities on Maṇipravāḷam? And one cannot resort to either Sanskrit poetry or Pāṇḍya-bhāṣā works, the way our author has, since he has established that these are completely different languages.

57Our author’s involved answer to these challenges resorts back to the underlying genetic ideology of language origins in Sanskrit, extending it from the level of words to the structures of literature. The poetic figures that he has not treated can be understood, he maintains, from their authoritative characterization (lakṣaṇa); and that is the characterization of Sanskrit poetry. This characterization can apply to the extent that its particular figures and their particular characterizations can be found in Bhāṣā. So when we say that “metaphor is similarity (sādṛśya)” we find a corresponding Bhāṣā verse claiming a woman’s face is similar to a lotus. Though the model for this may go back to other Bhāṣā usages, it will not form an infinite (an-ādi) regressus, since Bhāṣā has an origin (āditva), and that origin is Sanskrit. As proof of this, he then cites a Sanskrit verse, (from the poetic treatise of Daṇḍin) in which the same metaphor of face-as-lotus (padmam ivānanam) appears, and he reasons that the Bhāṣā image must come from some such Sanskrit. So the upshot of this argument is that if word origins go back to Sanskrit, then so do the internal logical structures of the figures by which the words are related to each other in Sanskrit poetry.

58The objector then moves to the matrix of the poetic forms, the metric composition of lines and verses, which he calls the “metrical principle” (śloka-nyāya). How, he asks, when the poems and treatises are in Sanskrit, and the metrics particularized in and for that language (as chandas), can these be applied to Bhāṣā? The answer is that even though Bhāṣā is a base, insignificant, degraded regional language compared to Sanskrit, since they are both similarly constituted of words (śabdatvāviśeṣa), the words of Bhāṣā can also take on the nature of (Sanskrit!) metrical composition (ślokī-bhāva). It is also clear, from this context, why there is the insistence that only Sanskrit meters qualify for Maṇipravāḷam.

  • 59 evaṃ sati saṃskṛtakāvyalakṣaṇokta eva nyāyo maṇipravāḷakāvyalakṣaṇe ‘pi nyāyaḥ; kevalaṃ bhāṣāsparś (...)
  • 60 bhāṣānāṃ parasparabhede ‘pi upamānopameyādinyāyas sarvatrasaṁvādībhavitum arhati, p. 317.

59The model of Sanskrit then entails not simply language in the grammatical sense, but the projection of that as both the figurative internal workings of poetry and the matrix of its metrical formation. This is an ideology that is supposed to simultaneously encompass Bhāṣā, accommodate its particularities, and elevate it to the status of poetry. “Thus it’s established that the very principles stated as characteristic of Sanskrit poetry are the principles of Maṇipravāḷam poetry as well, with the particulars being only what concerns the Bhāṣā.”59 That ideology does not admit more than the particulars, which means that while it does admit many of the facts of Tamil grammar, it does not allow resort to Tamil models of the literary. And this is because Sanskrit supervenes not just over Bhāṣā, but over all languages. Speaking of the Sanskrit poetic theorists such as Bhāmaha and others, our author concludes, “Although languages are different from each other, principles like metaphors, their objects, etc., are universally liable to similarly correspond.”60 But, of course, the universality of these correspondences is always grounded and legitimated only in Sanskrit.

60Translation, even in its most “literal” acceptation, is not simply a matter of finding an “equivalent” expression, but of deconstructing the conflicting dimensions along which various kinds of equivalency could be established, and deciding which to include, and which to reject. And what guides the translator in this process is ideological, in the sense that the selection itself is carried out with reference to the next higher level at which another standard of equivalency is to be established. In the LT the highest manifest level of the text is literature itself, Sanskrit literature, into which Dravidian language and literature is to be “translated”. And this is indexed under the supervening notion of ślokatva (“versedness”), which makes an utterance literary by its being equipped (saṁnāha) with appropriate ornamentation (alaṁkāras) and imbued with aesthetic intent (rasa), all built on the underlying linguistic order (vyavasthā) which it is the purpose of grammar to stipulate, regulate, and simultaneously consolidate. Part of what makes the LT so fascinating and what drives my ongoing project to engage its multiplex layering in a framework that is comprehensively anthropological, is the fact that its own cultural project was explicitly one of intercultural translation, as it struggled to find its own ground worked out in Kerala society between the classical legacies of Sanskrit and Tamil.

Bibliographie

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II. Secondary Sources

Cardona, G. (1974). “Pāṇini’s Kārakas: Agency, Animation, and Identity”. Journal of Indian Philosophy, 2, pp. 231–306.

Chevillard, J.-L. (2008a). “The Concept of Ticai-c-col in Tamil Grammatical Literature and the Regional Diversity of Tamil Classical Literature”. In M. Kannan (Editor), Streams of Language: Dialects in Tamil, pp. 21–51.

Pondichéry: Institut Français de Pondichéry (IFP — Publications de l’Institut Français de Pondichéry no 6).

Chevillard, J-L. (2008b). Companion Volume to the Cēṉāvaraiyam on Tamil Morphology and Syntax. Le commentaire de Cēṉāvaraiyar sur le Collatikāram du Tolkāppiyam, Volume 2. Pondichéry: Institut Français de Pondichéry/École française d’Extrême-Orient (Collection Indologie no 84.2).

Chevillard, J-L. (1996). Le commentaire de Cēṉāvaraiyar sur le Collatikāram du Tolkāppiyam: sur la métalangue grammaticale des maîtres commentateurs tamouls médiévaux. Pondichéry: Institut Français de Pondichéry (Publications du Département d’Indologie no 84.1).

Freeman, J.R. (1998). “Rubies and Coral: A Lapidary Language for Kerala”. Journal of Asian Studies, 57, 1, pp. 38–65.

Freeman, J.R. (2003). “Genre and Society: The Literary Culture of Pre-Modern Kerala”. In S. Pollock (Editor), Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia, pp. 437–500. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Freeman, J.R. (2006). “Literature and the Development of Regional Consciousness in Medieval Kerala”. In R. Vora and A. Feldhaus (Editors), Region, Culture and Politics in India, pp. 27–50. New Delhi: Manohar.

Freeman, J.R. (2007). “Ars Erotica Malabaricus: Libidinal Economy or Social Satire?” Unpublished paper for the Conference, “Receiving the Erotic: Conversations with David Shulman”, Center for South Asian Studies, University of Michigan, April 6th–7th.

Hanks, W.F. (1996). Language and Communicative Practices. Boulder: Westview Press.

Kārttikēyan, S. (1989). Līlātilakaślōkaṅṅaḷ. Kottayam, Kerala: Current Books.

Murugan, V. (2000). Tolkāppiyam in English. Chennai: Institute of Asian Studies.

Nair, K. Ramachandran (1971). Early Manipravalam: A Study. Trivandrum, Kerala: Anjali.

Niklas, U. (1993). The Verses on the Precious Jewel Prosody Composed by Amitacākarar with the Commentary by Kuṇacākarar. Pondichéry: Institut Français de Pondichéry (Publications du Département d’Indologie no 79).

Rajam, V.S. (1992). A Reference Grammar of Classical Tamil Poetry. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society.

Sripathi, M.K. (1995). Naṉṉūl: A Perceptive and Comprehensive Translation in English. Chennai: Author.

Stein, B. (1980). Peasant State and Society in Medieval South India. Delhi-New York: Oxford University Press.

Vielle, Christophe (2008). “La date de la Jaiminīyasaṁhitā du Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa: une confirmation épigraphique du début du XIVème siècle AD”. Indologica Taurinensia, 34, pp. 311–23.

Vielle, Christophe (2010). “Ravivarman Kulaśekhara the Yādava, and Sāgara as the Son of Yādavī: On Real and Ideal Kings in Medieval Kerala according to Inscriptions and Purāṇas”. Paper presented at the International Workshop at Cardiff University, May 26th–29th.

Wentworth, Blake (2011). “Insiders, Outsiders, and the Tamil Tongue.” In Yigal Bronner, Whitney Cox, and Lawrence McCrea (Editors); South Asian Texts in History: Critical Engagements with Sheldon Pollock, pp. 153-176. Ann Arbor, MI: Asia Past and Present, Association of Asian Studies.

Whorf, B.L. (1964). Language, Thought, and Reality: Selected Writings of Benjamin Lee Whorf. Edited by J.B. Carroll. Cambridge Mass.: MIT Press.

Wilden, Eva (2009). “Depictions of Language and Languages in Early Tamil Literature — How Tamil Became Cool and Straight”. Histoire épistémologie language, 31, 2, pp. 117–141.

Notes

1 There is now nearly a century’s scholarship of primary editorial, translating, and commentarial work on the LT, as well as many secondary writings in Malayalam (and a few in English). This is not the context for reviewing this literature, nor is this the place to try to situate the LT in the larger milieu of its preceding regional literature, since the present work has a very different purpose and approach. Both these efforts have been broached in my previous publications (Freeman 1998 and 2003). I hope to offer a fuller review of the relevant literature in my future monograph on this work.

2 My theoretical concerns and modes of analysis draw broadly on an anthropological linguistics which has been extended to “textuality” by a variety of scholars. See the latter part of Hanks (1996) for a clear exposition of many of these linkages. My own engagement with learned treatises that operate at a higher level of reflexivity in terms of the ideology of their textual practices and the meta-languages they use is an attempt to further extend this work.

3 Under one interpretation, the use of mad-uktam, “what I have said”, in padyam 11 of the commentator’s citations, would seem to be both his own verse and refer back to the opening sūtra itself, making him author of both sūtras and commentary. Citations from the LT are given as found in the edition of I. Kuññan Piḷḷa (1985), located by page number for the Sanskrit prose of his appendix, but by individual reference for the sequentially numbered sūtras and the Maṇipravāḷam (and occasionally Sanskrit) verses (padyams) which occur in the main body of Kuññan Piḷḷa’s Malayalam translation.

4 One of the foremost editors of the text has concluded that the few copies of the LT circulated among pandits following its modern discovery were all copies of one manuscript (Kuññan Piḷḷa 1985: 9). A recent attempt to make a “critical edition” of the Maṇipravāḷam verses confirms this state of affairs, and cites variants only from published editions, despite the fact that the author reports having inspected a (the?) single manuscript (Kārttikēyan 1989: 17–18).

5 yat saṁskṛtakāvyasya prayojanaṃ kathyate nimittaṁ ca asyāpi tad eva maṇipravāḷakāvyasya mantavyam (p. 281).

6 bhāṣāsaṁskṛtayogo maṇipravāḷam (LT 1).

7 yogas sannāhas sahṛdayahṛdayāvarjjanaviṣayaḥ (p. 281).

8 The verse is found in Kāmasūtra 1.4.37, and in the Sarasvatīkaṇṭhābharaṇam 2.12. nātyantaṃ saṃskṛtenaiva nātyantaṃ deśabhāṣayā
kathāṃ goṣṭhīṣu kathayan loke bahumato bhavet (padyam 6).

9 I follow the usage of the text throughout, which calls the people the Kēraḷas, as an eponymous ethnonym of their kings (the Cēra[l], of which Kēraḷa is the Sanskrit form), exactly as with the Cōḻa and Pāṇḍya dynasts and their lands. The LT does not give a proper name to the language (as in the modern Maḷayāḷam), other than Kēraḷa-bhāṣā (or simply Bhāṣā), nor does the author refer to the country as other than the “land of the Kēraḷas” (Kēraḷa-dēśa, as the evident calque of Cēra-nāṭu). To translate otherwise seems hazardously anachronistic and ahistorical in terms of the very issues of language and regional identity that most interest me.

10 Some important recent reflections on the nature of Tamil in relation to regional and cultural identity include Chevillard (2008a), Wilden (2009), and Wentworth (2011).

11 Benjamin Lee Whorf used the term “reactance” to refer to patterns of co-occurring words or other linguistic elements that indicate covert types in language, those not explicitly marked in proximate morphology but nonetheless demonstrably part of the necessary overall grammar and syntax (e.g. Whorf 1964: 89).

12 I have reviewed and analyzed a number of these arguments from the text’s first and second chapters, along with the trope of Maṇipravāḷam (“pearls/rubies and coral”) and its resignification, in an earlier publication (Freeman 1999).

13 The LT uses bhāṣā, “speech”, as a collective or mass noun for entire languages, as we’ve seen, but also as a count noun for individual words, as in the usage here, taken up below in more detail.

14 dramiḍasaṁghāto mātṛkā vargamadhyatrayoṣmabhiḥ ṛ-ḷ-varṇavisarjanīyaiś ca rahitā dīrgheṇeva hrasvabhūtena e-kāreṇa o-kāreṇa ca ṉ-antoccāraṇena ca sahitā (p. 282). Whitney Cox has pointed out to me the use of dramiḍasaṁghāta by Sanskrit authors (e.g. Vādijhaṅghāla and Taruṇavācaspati on the Kāvyādarśa 1.13) to refer to the Caṅkam corpus itself. While I have not had the opportunity to consult these authors yet, this extension might very well be underwritten by what I have termed the “substantialist” view of language applied to literature: literature is merely a special aggregate of words, as words are of sounds. The word saṁghāta itself seems to run a similar gamut of extensional uses in Sanskrit.

15 tathā cāgastyasūtram — ekara-okara-āyta-ḻakara-ṟakara-ṉakaran tamiḻ potu maṟṟē iti (p. 293). According to I. Kuññan Piḷḷa, this citation is not found in any attribution from other Tamil grammarians (1985: 78, n. 1)

16 The description clearly draws on Tamil grammars (e.g. Tōlkāppiyam 1.3.11–12). It is interesting that modern Malayalam retains this dental/alveolar contrast as a distinctive feature in pronunciation, but not in orthography (writing both as though dental), while modern Tamil retains the distinction orthographically, but has lost it in pronunciation. Malayalam similarly retains the likely original pronunciation of the alveolars, ṟṟ and ṉṟ, which Tamil has lost.

17 ac-hal-ityādisaṁjñāvyavahāraḥ, “tasminn iti nirddiṣṭe pūrvasya”, “tasmād ity uttarasya” ityādisaṁketavyavahāraḥ pāṇinīyavad iha draṣṭavyaḥ (p. 297).

18 śeṣaṃ prayogāj jñeyaṃ, sūtra 65, and the comment, following (p. 300).

19 Agastya is merely invoked by name, but Tolkāppiyam 2.9.1 is cited by LT in its entirety. See Chevillard (2008a) for an excellent overview of the whole regional dialect issue in Tamil grammar.

20 na bhāṣāyām bhāṣāntaraṁ samāviśati, vyavasthāvilayaprasaṁgāt. pāṇḍyabhāṣālakṣaṇe tu digbhāṣeti digbhāṣā sadṛśabhāṣocyate; na svayaṁ digbhāṣā (p. 286).

21 The examples LT gives of such archaisms in Tamil are āṭū [sic], makaṭū [sic], and nāṭuri which are known only in the “literary usage” (viśeṣa-vyavahāra) of the Cōḻas and Pāṇḍyas, in such works as the Pattuppāṭṭu and Eṭṭuttokai (p. 284). The first pair of words (āṭūu and makaṭūu) are explicitly discussed by Cēṉāvaraiyar as words of the “ancient sages” (tol-āciriyar), no longer current (vaḻakku) in his day (1.1–19; 1.2–2); this and other such instances suggests the LT may have known his work. The third word is an exceptional sandhi of the words nāḻi + uri from Tolkāppiyam (1.7.38).

22 The LT clearly intends the contrast between “ordinary” (sāmānya-) and “special usage” (viśeṣa-vyavahāra) to distinguish conversational or mundane language from that of poetry or literature (the latter being also qualified, for instance, as prabandhātmaka — p. 284).

23 The term āriya-citaivu is most likely taken from the Cēṉāvaraiyam (9.398–4). While I have not found the nine varieties of vikāra as a single aggregate, Nannūl notes six varieties, immediately followed by three kinds of vowel shortening (154–55), while Yāpparuṅkalakkārikai (Kārikai 43) states that its six vikāras are “faultless” when it also adds these latter three (Niklas 1993: 368–373).

24 pāṇḍyabhāṣāsārūpyaṃ bāhulyena pāṭṭil [sic!] kēraḷabhāṣāyāṃ bhavati.

25 “The ‘Boars’ entered the pavilion / each one snatched the garland and donned it / beat each other horribly / seized the bride and ran away” (padyam 29). The reference is to a faction of Brahmans based in the village of Panniyūr (“Pig-ville”, hence they are sūkarāḥ, “Boars”) who fought with another faction for generations in Kerala. The scene is apparently their disruption of a wedding, and bride-theft, possibly of the rival faction, but I do not know the narrative context.

26 This grammatical material was originally presented at our conference in Cambridge (May 2009), following up on an earlier presentation in Paris (April 2008) for which invitation I am very grateful to Francis Zimmermann. There I met Jean-Luc Chevillard and Émilie Aussant. Aussant has subsequently taken up the same material, and she and Chevillard invited me to Paris for a joint reading with her of the LT’s same nominal morphology section in a workshop “Grammaire Sanskrite Étendue” (November 2009). I thank them both for that latter stimulation to work through this material in more detail.

27 My anthropological approach comprehends language as a social semiotic which subsumes all those cognitive concerns of a more traditional “philosophy of language”, but insists on the immanent socio-cultural pragmatics of all language formulations and use. The label “ideology of language” attempts to capture the (only partly conscious) back-and-forth between the multiple meta-levels of language always operated by socially interested actors positioned in history and culture. It therefore rectifies a dominant strain in linguistics that treats language as a set of abstract and logical operations, as though the latter constituted a “science”, divorced from the socio-cultural matrix which shapes them.

28 Chevillard’s two volumes on the Cēṉāvaraiyam (1996; 2008b) are an invaluable tool for exploring meta-language within the Tamil grammatical tradition, and his essays appended to the second volume mark important explorations in relating this to the wider sense of language and cultural world-view.

29 E.g., cf. the morphemes in the Sanskrit, devān, where the single affix -ān is simultaneously paradigmatic for masculine + plural + accusative; and the Tamil equivalent, teyvarkaḷai, where the stem successively takes -ar (+masc., plural/honorific), -kaḷ (+ plural),-ai (+ accusative).

30 The reverence in which Pāṇini is held can produce real obstacles to disentangling the form of his project from its linguistic purchase and historical effects. The idea that all knowledge systems should be ideally capable of quasi-grammatical formalization along the lines of Pāṇini was also pervasive among Indian intellectuals, and has fed back importantly into the ideology and mystique of Sanskrit grammar itself.

31 arthaviśeṣesyāḥ parabhāgaviśeṣaḥ. saṃprati bhāṣāyā vibhaktyādyaṃśo nirūpyate. arthaviśeṣaḥ prātipadikamātrādiḥ liṅgavacane ca. asyāḥ bhāṣāyāḥ. so ‘ ṣṭadhā tridhā dvidhā ca. sa parabhāgaviśeṣaḥ aṣṭadhā vibhaktayaḥ, tridhā liṅgam, dvidhā vacanam (LT 20–21 [in bold], p. 294).

32 There is a large secondary literature on the subject and endless wrangles over the function and nature of the kārakas, with spin-off debates into the philosophy of language. For some relatively clear expositions, very close to the texts, see Cardona (1974), and Sharma (1987: 141–64). See also Vergiani, in this volume.

33 There are terms in Tolkāppiyam used to differentiate case-markers (urupu, etc.) from their case-categories, vēṟṟumai, when the need arises, but the latter term often suffices happily to cover both. Similarly, there is some reference of cases to more general “causes of action” (toḻil mutal nilai) under the exegetical construal of Cēṉāvaraiyar (3–112), but despite his referring this to the kārakas, the two schemes seem perhaps only tenuously related. More research, however, is needed on the history of the relation between Pāṇini and whatever original strata there may have been in Tamil grammatical thinking on these matters. See Chevillard (2008b: 16–17).

34 Of course, this is not a defect of Pāṇini, if his sole purpose was to create a program for generating correct (sādhu) forms in Sanskrit (Cardona 1974: 283, n. 14).

35 viḷiyeṉa paṭupa koḷḷum peyaroṭu teḷiya tōṉṟum iyaṟkaiya eṉpa. Cēṉāvaraiyar specifies that this manifest nature of the vocative includes those cases where it is not overtly marked (4.118), suggesting that its case-hood is pragmatically apparent and emergent.

36 pēr, e, oṭu, kkŭ, ninṟŭ, nnŭ, il, viḷi ity aṣṭakam. atra prathamāṣṭamāv arthau. anye śabdāḥ (LT 22, p. 294).

37 Cf. Tolkāppiyam’s sūtra on the eight vēṟṟumai: avaitām, peyar, ai, oṭu, ku, iṉ, atu, kaṇ, viḷi, eṉṉum īṟṟa (2.2.3); and Nannūl: peyarē ai āl ku iṉ atu kaṇ viḷi eṉṟu ākum avaṟṟiṉ peyar muṟai (p. 292).

38 tatra prathamaḥ parabhāgaviśeṣo yathā kaṇṭan, āna, maram. atra prātipadakamātram evārthaḥ. tad eva pēr ity ucyate; tasya nāmaśabdavācyatvāt (p. 294).

39 The LT clearly attempts to give some typical “nominative” forms here, showing the tendency for many masculine nouns to end in -an, and non-rational nouns to end in -m, but this is only a partial reflection of gender, not case, and gender is not grammatically assigned, anyway, but is natural.

40 As the Tolkāppiyam says, “The originary case is that mere state in which the noun appears”, eḻuvāy vēṟṟumai peyar tōṉṟu nilaiyē (2.2.4).

41 Though I cannot take the space to elaborate my ideas here, the interested reader can compare the LT’s characterization of the nominative, prātipadikamātram, with that of Pāṇini’s original, prātipadikārtha... mātre (A. 2.3.46), and Cēṉāvaraiyar’s, poruḷ māttiram (62–5) to perhaps see that there is a different relationship between stem, noun, and meaning implied between the Sanskrit and the Bhāṣā/Tamil (even if the latter were attempting to ally themselves with Pāṇini). This subjecthood in Dravidian is perhaps further evidenced by the use of peyar/pēr to also mean “person” as a “human subject” both in reference and enumeration.

42 dvitīyo yathā avane, avaḷe, atine, avare, avaṟṟe, ānaye, maratte, marattine atra ekāro hrasvaḥ. aikāras tu pāṇḍyabhāṣāyām eva. atra vēṟṟumai ity aikārasya dvitīye kathanāt. iha ttŭ, in, y˘ ity ādayo varṇṇā madhye āpatantas sandhāyakā bhavanti; yathā pāṇḍyabhāṣālakṣaṇe cāriyai iti kecid varṇṇāḥ (p. 294).

43 See Tolkāppiyam (2.9.1, 4), Cēṉāvaraiyam (9.397–400) and Chevillard (1996: 472, n. 2; 2008).

44 atra punaḥ e ity asya nirvartyavikāryaprāpyātmakaṃ karmārthaḥ; na tu kālādhvātyantasaṃyogādikam. na copapadāpekṣā. “divasatte ninṟān”; “grāmatte āvasikkinṟōr”; “nētratte kuruḷeyuṃ naṭuvē cilli” ityādi (na) yujyate; asadbandhāt.

45 The characterization “syntactico-semantic” for the kārakas is Cardona’s (1974: 279, n. 1). Vincenzo Vergiani’s study in this volume takes up the similar adaptation of Bhartṛhari’s scheme for object semantics in the Tamil grammatical tradition. It was fortuitous that we converged on this same author from our different regional traditions, and I thank Vincenzo for his careful reading and corrections of my piece.

46 This seems likely since this issue is raised in Patañjali’s Mahābhāṣya, discussing one of Pāṇini’s sūtras that the LT in fact also invokes here (A. 2.3.4), where one of the later “interpretive rules” (paribhāṣā) is quoted for resolving conflicts of case-governance between upapadas (closely “co-occuring words”) and kārakas. See the later compilation of Nāgeśa for this particular paribhāṣā (102) and Sharma (1987: 140) for an illustration of its application.

47 The same strategy appears in Cēṉāvaraiyam (2.73), where the comment enjoins the inclusion of -ān, under the single -oṭu of Tōlkāppiyam’s sūtra (2.2.12). Nannūl, however, gives -āl, -āṉ, -ōṭu, and -oṭu as an outright, multiple listing of endings for this case (297).

48 The LT here follows the same strategy of Cēṉāvaraiyam by treating the unmarked object as under “composition” and referring the ellipsis back to morpho-phonemics (9.420–3). In a world where the subject-predicate syntagm can be treated as a single word, Chevillard asks rightly, “Sommes-nous ici dans une autre logique?” (1996: 512, n. 3). He begins to marshall the resources he has collected to answer this in the final essay in his second volume (2008b: Appendix D, 493–501).

49 The briefest sketch of this regional history was given in Freeman (1998: 42–3), but there are a number of newer sources in Malayalam that are assisting my broader study of this text and its context. For some readily available and important inscriptions of Ravi Varma, see Hultzsch (1979; 1981) and Kielhorn (1979). Christophe Vielle has apparently been extending his work on the Jaiminīyasaṁhitā of the Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa, which he attributes to the court of Ravi Varma (2008), to a wider consideration of this king and the historical milieu of his inscriptions (2010), though I have seen only an abstract of the latter paper. (Thanks to Whitney Cox for calling Vielle’s work to my attention.)

50 In addition to the four dozen examples in the aforementioned commentary on the Alaṁkārasarvasva, there are also many in the closest parallel we have to the LT, the Alaṁkārasaṃkṣepa (1985), an incomplete Sanskrit work on alaṃkāras that exemplifies many of its kārikās with Manipravāḷam verses. For inscriptions, see the verses by Ravi Varma’s poet, Kavibhūṣaṇa at Śrīraṅgam (Kielhorn 1979).

51 For this reason, I greatly anticipate the publishing of Whitney Cox’s researches on the relationship between literary production, poetics, and the specific cultural-political interactions among the later Cōḻas and Cālukyas.

52 Cf. LT (sūtras 137–38, p. 317) and Alaṅkārasarvasva (Śāstrī 1915: 10 ff.).

53 kaṭṭempatukkup paṭṭempatallatu pāṭṭempatetukaiyil ākātu [sic] iti (padyam 84, ff.), citing Kārikai 16 of this Tamil text, which exemplifies how only paṭṭu, and not pāṭṭu, could form etukai with an earlier word kaṭṭu due to discrepant vowel length (Niklas 1993: 106–7).

54 From Kāvyādarśa 1.56: candre śaranniśottaṃse kundastabakavibhrame / indranīlanibhaṃ lakṣma sandadhāty alinaḥ śriyam (Tarkabāgīśa 1863: 54).

55 bhujaśikharasya vaṃśāṅkureṇôpamā pāṇḍyabhāṣāprabandhe lakṣyate, yathā āṭamait tōḷi kūṭalum aṇaṅke iti (p. 313, padyam 143), from Yāpparuṅkalakkārikai 18 (Niklas 1993: 114–5).

56 The discussion occurs at pp. 306–7, covering padyams 115–18.

57 Pp. 306–7, padyams 106 ff.

58 evaṃ samādhyādayo gantavyāḥ, pp. 306 ff.

59 evaṃ sati saṃskṛtakāvyalakṣaṇokta eva nyāyo maṇipravāḷakāvyalakṣaṇe ‘pi nyāyaḥ; kevalaṃ bhāṣāsparśa eva viśeṣa iti sthitam, p. 317.

60 bhāṣānāṃ parasparabhede ‘pi upamānopameyādinyāyas sarvatrasaṁvādībhavitum arhati, p. 317.

Auteur

Visiting Assistant Professor in the Departments of History and Religion at Duke University where he teaches courses on Indian civilization, the anthropology of religion, and Sanskrit. He is a field anthropologist with a background in Sanskrit and Dravidian languages, specializing in Malayalam and Kerala studies, folk religion and possession cults, and Hinduism in South India. Forthcoming publications include, “Śāktism, Polity and Society in Medieval Malabar,” in a volume on Śākta traditions edited by Gavin Flood and Bjarne Olesen, for Routledge Press, and “Arresting Possession: Spirit Mediums in the Multimedia”, in South Asian Festivals on the Move, edited by Axel Michaels, Ute Hüsken, and Kerstin Schier, South Asian Institute, Heidelberg and New Delhi.

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