Sankethi dialect

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Native to Karnataka
Native speakers
(no estimate available)
Language codes
ISO 639-3
Glottolog sank1249[1]

Sankethi is a dialect of Tamil[2] spoken in Karnataka, India by the Sankethi people, who immigrated from Madurai and Sengottai in Tamil Nadu in the 15th century. Its vocabulary has been greatly influenced by Kannada and Malayalam.[3]


The language is highly developed and differentiated in terms of the number of sounds used. It uses all the sounds in Tamil and Sanskrit plus a few more. In particular, the inflection of the sound a can change the meaning significantly. à can be called the interrogative as it seems to be a development of e and gives the meaning of interrogation when placed initially while a gives an affirmative meaning.

e.g àdu will mean which while adu means that - note these are the Kaushika Sankethi ways of pronunciation which are significantly different from the Bettadpura Sankethi pronunciations of the same words - àdi for which and adi for that. Likewise àttukku (Kaushika) or àttukki (Bettadapura)= why, to which? and attukku- because of that, to that; àvuñ= which man, avuñ= that man etc.

This sound can of course occur in other places and cause differences in meaning. Another peculiar sound used is the anunAsika/nasal intonation as in avuñ. This is like the sound in Spanish. The presence or absence of this sound at the end of some words can be crucial in differentiating whether it refers to the masculine gender or a feminine/plural.

e.g colnAñ= he said, colnA= she said, they said.

Another unique feature is the occurrence of the full sound u and the half rounded ù. In Tamil ù occurs as a rule at the end of words. There are only a few exceptions. But in Sankethi the 2 sounds are distinct and can cause a change in meaning.

e.g ALu= depth, ALù= to rule, man.

There is also the rare occurrence of a flattened Ā as in the English word bank.

e.g pĀru-grandson.

There is also a clear distinction between voiced and unvoiced consonants unlike in Tamil.


Sankethi has a rich vocabulary. As the community is very close-knit, there is also kinship terms aplenty in the Sankethi language. There is much emphasis laid on differentiation of numbers(singular and plural) which is not seen either in spoken Kannada or Tamil. There is also a clear differentiation of the tenses and person(1st, 2nd or 3rd). There are 3 genders, masculine, feminine and neuter; and a clear differentiation between the inclusive and non-inclusive pronoun – nAnga, engaDE versus nAmba/nAma, nammaDE/nambaDE. The case markers are also significantly different from Tamil. One feature, not seen in either Kannada or Tamil is the use of the neuter gender, when the subject is someone young, a child or someone closely related (like a sibling). Nearly all words are vowel-ending and there is a musical quality to the speech. Also most words ending in a in Kannada including the proper names end in u in SankEti. As a rule, words that end in e in Kannada and ai in Tamil end in a in Sankethi. This is similar to Malayalam and Telugu.

Negation is indicated by suffixing the appropriate ending. They usually contain al, il or Ade and rarely Ame and A nAñ paNNinEñ- I did, nAñ paNNitillEñ- I did not do paNNallEñ- I will not do paNNAde (rarely paNNAme)- without doing

  • 1st person- Eñ, paNNinEñ- I did, paNNitillEñ- I didn't do
  • 2nd person- a, A- paNNinA- you did, paNNitilla- You didn't do
  • 3rd person- paNNinAñ-he did, paNNinA-she/they did, paNNitilAņ- he didn't do, paNNitillA- she/they didn't do.


  • adu- that, avhiyA- those, avhA- they
  • adu paNNitu- it did, avhiyA paNNitina- those did, avhA paNNinA- they did
  • adu paNNitilla- it did not do, avhiyA paNNitillina- those did not do, avhA paNnaitillA- they did not do
  • adu paNNalla- it will not do, avhiyA paNNallina- those won't do,avhA paNNallA- they will not do

As for tense[edit]

  • past- paNNinEñ- I did
  • Past continuous- paNNANindEñ- I was doing
  • present continuous- paNNANñ rANi/rANEñ- I am doing
  • future- paNNaNi/ paNNaNEñ- I will do
  • future continuous- paNNAN iraNi/iraNEñ- I will be doing

Vibhakti or case endings (illustrated with avuñ and rAmu)[Tamil usage is indicated within square brackets for comparison]{Kannada usage given within flower brackets}

  • 1st case- no ending, the prakRti itself will act in the 1st case- avuñ, rAmu [same] {same}
  • 2nd case- a- avana. rAmana [ai-avanai, rAmanai], {an, annu, a-avanan, avanannu, avana, rAmanannu}
  • 3rd case- aNNu- avanaNNu, rAmanaNNu [Al-avanAl, rAmanAl], {in, inda-avanin, avaninda, rAmaninda}
  • 4th case- kù- avanukkù, rAmanukkù [ku-avanukku,rAmanukku], {ge-avanige, rAmanige}
  • 5th case- àNNu,- avańaNNu, rAmańaNNu [in- avanin, rAmanin, avanaiviDa], {in,iginta-avanin, avanigin, avaniginta, rAmaniginta}
  • 6th case- dE,ndE,DE,tE- avandE, rAmandE [adu- avandu, rAmanadu also avanuDaiya]{a, A-avana,avanA, rAmana}
  • 7th case- uL, paDe, al, [kaN, il, uL, mEl] {oL, alli, ali, oLu}
  • 8th(sambOdhana)- by elongating the final vowel or prefixing with DE, dO, aDa, Eyi, Oyi etc.


Sankhethi is a subdialect of Madurai Tamil, the central dialect in Tamil Nadu that forms the basis of the standard language. However, Sankhethi was strongly influenced (at least in vocabulary) by Kannada after speakers immigrated to Karnataka. The four subgroups of Sankhethi speak distinct dialects which are easily mutually understood. Of them, The Kaushika dialect stands furthest from Tamil. There is no script, but efforts are on to develop one. Many have tried their hand at writing prose, poetry and songs in Sankethi.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Sanketi". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Tamil at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  1. Dr.Shrikaanth K.Murthy- Article in Sanketi Sangama, February 2006 (Published from Shimoga)
  2. Dravidabhashavijnana by Hampa Nagarajaiah (Published by D.V.K.Murthy publishers, Mysore, India)
  3. Sanketi jananga, samskruti mattu bhashe- C.S.Ramachandarao (Published by Chaitra Pallavi Publishers, Mysore)
  4. Nacharammana Jivana Carite- M. Keshaviah (published from Mysore)
  5. Shreyash S -Article in Sanketi Sangama [Published by Chaitra Pallavi Publishers, Bangalore]