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The Tolkāppiyam (Tamil: தொல்காப்பியம்) is a work on the grammar of the Tamil language and the earliest extant work of Tamil literature. It is written in the form of sootirams(Skt: sutra) or formulae and comprises of three books - the Ezhuttadikaram, the Solladikaram and the Poruladikaram. Each of these books is further divided into nine chapters each. While the exact date of the work is not known, based on linguistic and other evidence, it has been dated variously between 1st BCE and 10th CE . There is also no firm evidence to assign the authorship of this treatise to any one author.
 Etymology of the name
The name Tolkāppiyam derived from the combination of the two words Tonmai and kāppiyam. Tonmai means ancient and Kappiam means literature.
The Tolkappiyam, deals with orthography, phonology, etymology, morphology, semantics, prosody and the subject matter of literature. The Tolkāppiyam classifies the Tamil language into "sentamil" and "kotuntamil". The former refers to the classical Tamil used almost exclusively in literary works and the latter refers to the dialectal Tamil, spoken by the people in the various regions of ancient Tamilakam..
The Tolkappiyam classifies the alphabet into consonants and vowels by analysing the syllables. It starts by defining the alphabet for optimal writing, grammatises the use of words and syntaxes and moves into higher modes of language analysis. The Tolkāppiyam formulated thirty characters and three diacritic like symbols for Tamil. The 12 vowels combine with the 18 consonants bringing the total tally of characters to 247.
 Dating of the Tolkappiyam
The dating of the earliest Tamil grammatical treatise Tolkappiyam has been debated much and has seen wide disagreements amongst scholars in the field.  It has been dated variously between 8000 BCE and 10th CE.
While most of the antediluvian datings which stem mostly from a descriptive commentary in an 10th-12th century work called Iraiyanar AgapporuL, about the existence of three Tamil Academies, which have been rejected as being devoid of any evidence, the genuine disagreements now center around widely divergent dates lying between the third century BCE and sixth century CE. As the Tolkappiyam is often claimed as the earliest extant work of Tamil literature, the dating of Tolkappiyam is inherently tied to the dates ascribed to the birth and development of Tamil literature as a whole.
Not much is known about who the author was or when he lived. Traditionally, it was thought that there could have been only one author but given the fairly long time it seems to have taken for the final redaction of the book to become available, it is reasonable to ascribe the work to multiple authors. Zvelebil speculates that the final redaction may even have been the work of a systematised school of grammar than the work of individuals.
Many authors however, ascribe the work to Jaina traditions and the earliest of the possibly many authors, who has been identified as Tolkappiyanaar to a heterodox Jaina order. Some authors have also speculated that Tolkappiyanaar might have been a Brahmin belonging to the village of kappiya. Vaiyapuri Pillay has suggested that Tolkappiyanaar may have belonged to a heterodox Jaina grammatical tradition called aintiram(a view which other scholars like Burnell, Takanobu and Zvelebil share) and that he was a native of Tiruvatankotu in present day Southern Kerala.
 Influence of Sanskrit
- See also: Aindra school of grammar
The grammar expounded by the Tolkappiyam owes a great deal to Sanskrit. The influence of various Sanskrit works like Manavadharmashastra, Arthashastra, Natyashastra and grammarians like Panini and Patanjali is evident in the Tolkappiyam. Parts of the Collathikaram are, for instance, almost a translation of the Sanskrit texts. The eight feelings mentioned in the Porulathikaram seem to be heavily inspired by the eight rasas or the rasa theory of the Natyashastra.
Tolkāppiyam has also been demonstrated as having been modelled on a post-Paninian system of grammar called Katyantra belonging the 3rd - 4th CE. Burnell compared the Tolkappiyam with the non Paninian Katyantra grammar and concluded that the Tolkappiyam indeed exhibited a strong influence of the non Paninian school of grammar.This Katyantra system in turn has been linked by Burnell to the non-extant pre-Paninian Aindra school of grammar mentioned in the Ashtadhyayi.
Starting the 11th-12th CE, several commentaries came to light. Of these, the one by Ilampuranar dated to the 11th or 12th CE is considered one of the best and most comprehensive. This was followed by a commentary dateable to 1275 AD by Cenavaraiyar which however, dealt only with the Collatikaram. A commentary by Peraciriyar which is heavily indebted to the Nannul followed. This commentary which can be dated to the 12th or 13th CE, if not later, frequently quotes from the Dandiyalankaram and Yapparunkalam, the former being a standard medieval rhetorica and the latter being a detailed treatise on Tamil prosody. Naccinarkiniyar's commentary, which can be dated to the 14th if not 15-16th century follows. Naccinarkiniyar, himself being a scholar of both Tamil and Sanskrit quotes from Parimelalakar's works. Teyvaccilaiyar's commentary follows in the 16th or 17th century. Finally, the latest available commentary, that of Kallatar comes to light. Of these commentaries, those of "Ilampooranar", "Deivachilaiyaaar" and "Natchinaarkiniyar" is regarded highly and the triumvarate are also called "Urai-asiriyargal".
The Tolkāppiyam consists of three books each of which is divided into 9 chapters. The books are called atikarams (Sanskrit:adhikara). The three books are
Ezhuththathikaaram is further subdivided into the following 9 sections - Nuul Marabu, Mozhi Marabu, PiRappiyal, PuNaRiyal, Thokai Marabu, Urubiyal, Uyir Mayangial, PuLLi Mayangial and the KutriyalukarappunaRiyal.
Nuul Marabu - This section enumerates the characters of the language, organises them into consonants, vowels and diacritic symbols. The vowels are sub classified into short and long vowels based on duration of pronunciation. Similarly, the consonants are sub classified into three categories based on the stress.
Mozhi Marabu - This section defines rules which specify where in a word can a letter not occur and which letter can not come after a particular letter. It also describes elision, which is the reduction in the duration of sound of a phoneme when preceded by or followed by certain other sounds. The rules are well-defined and unambiguous. They are categorised into 5 classes based on the phoneme which undergoes elision.
- Kutriyalukaram - the (lip unrounded) vowel sound u
- Kutriyalikaram - the vowel sound i(as the vowel in 'lip')
- Aiykaarakkurukkam - the diphthong ai
- Oukaarakkurukkam - the diphthong au
- Aaythakkurukkam - the special character (aaytham)
PiRappiyal - This is a section on articulatory phonetics. It talks about pronunciation methods of the phonemes at the level of diaphragm, larynx, jaws, tongue position, teeth, lips and nose. The visual representation of the letters is also explained.
PuNaRiyal - This section talks about the changes to words due to the following word i.e. it specifies rules that govern the transformations on the last phonem of a word (nilaimozhi iiRu) because of the first phonem of the following word (varumozhi muthal) when used in a sentence.
Urubiyal - This section talks about the word modifiers that are added at the end of nouns and pronouns when they are used as an object as opposed to when they are used as subjects.
PuLLi - Pulli concept is one of the distinguishing feature among the tamil characters. Although it is not unique and brahmi also has pulli. It is distinguished by placement . According to tolkappiam which talks about pulli and its position, that is on top of the alphabet instead of side as in Brahmi. This is also one of the characteristics of tamil brahmi according to Mr. Mahadevan. The first inscription of this type of pulli is in vallam by pallvas dated 7-8th century AD by Mahendra varman pallava. KutriyalukarappunaRiyal
Sollathikaaram deals with words and parts of speech. It classifies Tamil words into four categories - iyar chol(Words in common usage, thiri chol(words used in Tamil literature), vata chol(words borrowed from Sanskrit), thisai chol(words borrowed from other languages. There are certain rules to be adhered to in borrowing words from Sanskrit. The borrowed words need to strictly conform to the Tamil phonetic system and be written in the Tamil script.
The chapter Sollathikaaram is sub divided into the following 9 sections - KiLaviyaakkam, VEtRumaiyiyal, VEtrumaimayangial, ViLimaRabu, Peyariyal, Vinaiyiyal, Idaiyiyal, Uriyiyal and the Echchaviyal.
Peyariyal - This section deals with nouns.
Vinaiyiyal - This section deals with verbs.
The Tolkāppiyam is possibly the only book on grammar that describes a grammar for life. PoruLathikaaram gives the classification of land types, and seasons and defines modes of life for each of the combinations of land types and seasons for different kinds of people. This chapter is subdivided into the following 9 sections - AkaththiNaiyiyal, PuRaththiNaiyiyal, KaLaviyal, KaRpiyal, PoruLiyal, Meyppaattiyal, Uvamayiyal, SeyyuLiyal and the Marabiyal.
AkaththiNaiyiyal - This section defines the modes of personal life i.e. life of couples.
PuRaththiNaiyiyal - This section defines the modes of one's public life.
Uvamayiyal - The name Uvamayiyal literally translates to the nature or science of metaphors.
 See also
- ^ * Zvelebil, Kamil. 1973. The smile of Murugan on Tamil literature of South India. Leiden: Brill. - Zvelebil dates the Ur-Tolkappiyam to the 1st-2nd BCE
- ^ According to latter commentators, there were twelve regions (panniru nilam) which were the sources of the dialectisms. Zvelebil, Smile of Murugan, p 132.
- ^ 247 = 12 +18 + (12 × 18) + 1
- ^ a b c d Zvelebil, Kamil (1973)
- ^ "The date of tolkappiyam has been variously proposed as lying between 5320 BC and 8th century AD", Takahashi, Takanobu (1995), p18
- ^ a b c The Date of the Tolkappiyam: A Retrospect." Annals of Oriental Research (Madras), Silver Jubilee Volume: 292-317
- ^ a b c d e f g h Takahashi, Takanobu. 1995. Tamil love poetry and poetics. Brill's Indological library, v. 9. Leiden: E.J. Brill., p18
- ^ a b Caldwell, Robert (1974)
- ^ Zvelebil, Kamil. 1973. The smile of Murugan on Tamil literature of South India. Leiden: Brill.
- ^ Hart, George Poems of Ancient Tamil, There can be little question that the grammatical system expounded by the Tolkappiyam owes much to Sanskrit grammar, pp78-79
- ^ Zvelebil, Kamil The smile of Murugan, "...Much more important is the fact that some of the nurpas seem to have been directly influenced by Sanskrit texts such as Manavadharmashastra and Arthashastra, p143
- ^ Zvelebil, Kamil The smile of Murugan, The relationship between Patanjali, an early Skt., grammarian and the Tolk., is well established.
- ^ Zvelebil, Kamil The smile of Murugan, "...Infact, Tolk., Col 419 seems to be almost a translation of Patanjali's Sanskrit text.", p143
- ^ Zvelebil, Kamil The smile of Murugan, In Tolk., Porulatikaram, the eight feelings agree with the eight rasas or moods of Bharata's Natyashastra. I am very much convinced that in this point, Tolk., Porulatikaram is indebted to the Sanskrit source. p143
- ^ Burnell, A. C. (1875)
- ^ Vaiyapuri Pillai in Takahashi's book, p26
- ^ zvelebil in Takahashi's book, p26
- ^ Trautmann, Thomas R. 2006. Languages and nations: the Dravidian proof in colonial Madras. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- ^ The preface of Ilampuranar's twelfth century commentary of the Tolkappiyam, describes it as aindiram nirainda ('comprising aindra'). This annotation was interpreted by Arthur Coke Burnell as alluding to the pre-Paninian Aindra school of Sanskrit grammar mentioned in the Ashtadhyayi.
- ^ Zvelebil, Kamil , The Smile of Murugan, p134
- Zvelebil, Kamil. 1973. The smile of Murugan on Tamil literature of South India. Leiden: Brill.
- Takahashi, Takanobu. 1995. Tamil love poetry and poetics. Brill's Indological library, v. 9. Leiden: E.J. Brill.
- Hart, George L. 1975. The poems of ancient Tamil, their milieu and their Sanskrit counterparts. Berkeley: University of California Press.