Irula language

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Native to India
Region Tamil Nadu
Ethnicity Irulas
Native speakers
200,000 (2003)[1]
Tamil script
Language codes
ISO 639-3 iru
Glottolog irul1243[2]
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Irula is a Dravidian language spoken by the Irulas who inhabit the area of the Nilgiri mountains, in the states of Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, India.[3] It is written in the Tamil script.


The language was first described and classified by indologist Kamil Zvelebil, who in 1955 showed that the Irula language is an independent Southern Dravidian language that is akin to Tamil, particularly Old Tamil, with some Kannada-like features. Before that, it was traditionally denied or put to doubt, and Irula was described as a crude or corrupt mixture of Tamil and Kannada.

According to a tentative hypothesis by Kamil Zvelebil, a pre-Dravidian Melanid population that forms the bulk of the Irulas anthropologically began to speak an ancient pre- or proto-Tamil dialect, which was superimposed almost totally on their native (pre-Dravidian) speech. That then became the basis of the language, which must have subsequently been in close contact with the other tribal languages of the Nilgiri area as well as with the large surrounding languages such as Kannada, Tamil and Malayalam.


The tables present the vowel[4] and the consonant[5][6] phonemes of Irula.


Front Central Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

All vowels are centralized by certain neighbouring consonants.[clarification needed] They are then transcribed [ï ë ä ö ü], etc., but they may be closer to [ɨ ɘ æ ɵ ʉ].


Phonemes marked with an asterisk appear only in Zvelebil (2001, p. 157).

Bilabial Dental Alveolar Retroflex Palatal Velar
Nasal m n ɳ ŋ
Stop/Affricate p b t* d* ʈ ɖ k g
Fricative v s
ʝ* j
l ɭ
Rhotic r


  1. ^ Irula at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Irula". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Perialwar (1979), p. 1.
  4. ^ Perialwar (1979), p. 55.
  5. ^ Perialwar (1979), p. 57.
  6. ^ Zvelebil (2001), p. 157.


Further reading[edit]