Iravalla linguistic heritage – Anaimalai mountains of Tamil Nadu and Kerala


Gnanasundaram, V.

The Iravallan tribe who live in the Anaimalai mountainous region, Coimbatore, Tamilnadu and adjacent Palakad district, Kerala speak generally 1) an indigenous tribal mother tongue viz Iravalla among themselves, which shares the phonological, grammatical and lexical features of both old Tamil and present day Malayalam, 2) the Tamil dialect variety of western region with outsiders and 3) a few among older and middle age group speak Malayalam with Malayalees, whenever they visit Kerala. The Iravalla language variety is not comprehensible to other than the Iravallan community. Iravalla language variety appears to be endangered, as school going younger generation no more speaks the language.

In this paper an attempt has been made to bring out the salient linguistic features, based on the preliminary data collected through field trips. The first interesting feature of this language is that the voiced alveolar tril viz. R. (vallina Rakaram) is a phoneme (and the words with R are kaRi ‘mutton’. ciRRamma ‘mother’s younger sister’ etc.,) contrasting with the alveolar flap viz. r, besides the other phonemes like voiced plosives etc. At the morphological level the finite verbs as verb predicated, like Malayalam do not have person, number and gender distinctions. This is a shared feature of Malayalam. The present tense formative suffix for strong verbs in IRavaila is –ppas in the example kuTippa ‘drink’ (ing.), like old Tamil. This is a shared feature of old Tamil. There are othe shared features at the phonological, morphological and lexical levels which will be discussed in this paper. Some of the sound changes which are significant in Iravalla are also accounted. As old Tamil and present day Malayalam features are found in IRavalla, one can hypothesize that this language variety is historically an older variety of Tamil which was in use at a time when Tamil and Malayalam were not separated in to independent languages. To prove this hypothesis or otherwise, there is scope to undertake a full fledged research in this direction.


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Date Visited: 16 April 2012

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