Malayalam grammar

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Malayalam is one of the Dravidian languages and as such has an agglutinative grammar. The word order is generally subject–object–verb, although other orders are often employed for reasons such as emphasis. Nouns are inflected for case and number, whilst verbs are conjugated for tense, mood and causativity (and also in archaic language for person, gender, number and polarity). Being the linguistic successor of the macaronic Manipravalam, Malayalam grammar is based on Sanskrit too.

Nouns[edit]

The declensional paradigms for some common nouns and pronouns are given below. As Malayalam is an agglutinative language, it is difficult to delineate the cases strictly and determine how many there are, although seven or eight is the generally accepted number. Alveolar plosives and nasals (although the modern Malayalam script does not distinguish the latter from the dental nasal) are marked with a macron below, following the convention of the National Library at Kolkata romanization.

Personal pronouns[edit]

Vocative forms are given in parentheses after the nominative, as the only pronominal vocatives that are used are the third person ones, which only occur in compounds.

Singular Plural
Case First person Second person Third person (masculine) Third person (feminine) First person (exclusive) First person (inclusive) Second person Third Person
Nominative ñāṉ nī, ningal avaṉ (voc. avaṉē) avaḷ (voc. avaḷē) ñaṅgaḷ nām/ nammaḷ niṅṅaḷ avar (voc. avarē)
Accusative eṉṉe niṉṉe avaṉe avaḷe ñaṅgaḷe nammale niṅgaḷe avaru
Genitive eṉṯe (also eṉ, eṉṉuṭe) niṉṯe (also niṉ, niṉṉuṭe) avaṉṯe (also avaṉuṭe) avaḷuṭe ñaṅgaḷuṭe (also ñaṅguṭe) nammuṭe niṅgaḷuṭe avaruṭe
Dative eṉikku niṉakku avaṉu avaḷkku ñammaḷkku namukku niṅgaḷkku avarkku
Instrumental eṉṉāl niṉṉāl avaṉāl avaḷāl ñaṅgaḷāl (also ñaṅṅāl) nammāl niṅgaḷāl (also niṅṅāl) avarāl
Locative eṉṉil (also eṅkal) niṉṉil (also niṅkal) avaṉil (also avaṅkal) avaḷil (also avaḷkal) ñaṅgaḷil nammil niṅgaḷil avaril (also avaṟkal)
Sociative eṉṉōṭu niṉṉōṭu avaṉōṭu avaḷōṭu ñaṅgaḷōṭu nammōṭu niṅgaḷōṭu avarōṭu

Other nouns[edit]

The following are examples of some of the most common declensional patterns.

Word tree elephant human dog
Case Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural Singular Plural
Nominative maram maraṅṅaḷ āṉa āṉakaḷ maṉuṣyaṉ maṉuṣyar paṭṭi paṭṭikaḷ
Vocative maramē maraṅṅaḷē āṉē āṉakaḷē maṉuṣyā maṉuṣyarē paṭṭī paṭṭikaḷē
Accusative maratte maraṅṅaḷe āṉaye āṉakaḷe maṉuṣyaṉe maṉuṣyare paṭṭiye paṭṭikaḷe
Genitive marattiṉṯe maraṅṅaḷuṭe āṉayuṭe āṉakaḷuṭe maṉuṣyaṉṯe maṉuṣyaruṭe paṭṭiyuṭe paṭṭikaḷuṭe
Dative marattinu maraṅṅaḷkku āṉaykku āṉakaḷkku maṉuṣyaṉu maṉuṣyarkku paṭṭiykku paṭṭikaḷkku
Instrumental marattāl maraṅṅaḷāl āṉayāl āṉakaḷāl maṉuṣyaṉāl maṉuṣyarāl paṭṭiyāl paṭṭikaḷāl
Locative marattil maraṅṅaḷil āṉayil āṉakaḷil maṉuṣyaṉil maṉuṣyaril paṭṭiyil paṭṭikaḷil
Sociative marattōṭu maraṅṅaḷōṭu āṉayōṭu āṉakaḷōṭu maṉuṣyaṉōṭu maṉuṣyarōṭu paṭṭiyōṭu paṭṭikaḷōṭu

Sandhi[edit]

There are basically two genres of Sandhi used in Malayalam - one group unique to Malayalam, and other one common with Sanskrit. Thus, we have the "Malayala Sandhi" and "Samskrita Sandhi".

Sandhi unique to Malayalam[edit]

There are basically four Sandhi types unique to Malayalam - the "lōpa sandhi", "dvitva sandhi", "āgama sandhi" and "ādēśa sandhi".

Lōpa sandhi or "Rule of loss"[edit]

The Lopa sandhi occurs when the varna at the end of a word is lost when it merges with another word. In most cases, the varna is the "samvr̥tōkāram". (the "closed u sound")

Example : at^u + illa = atilla. (the closed u sound ^u is lost)

Dvitva Sandhi or "Rule of doubling"[edit]

In Malayalam, germination is more in tense consonants and less in lax consonants. When two words combine in which the first is the qualifier and the qualified, the tense consonants initial to the second word germinates.

Example : pōyi + paraññu = pōyipparaññu

Āgama sandhi or "Rule of arrival"[edit]

When two vowels undergo Sandhi, a consonant ("y" or "v") arrives extra to avoid the pronunciation difficulty.

Example : vazhi + ampalam = vazhiyampalam.

Ādēśa Sandhi or "Rule of substitution"[edit]

In this Sandhi, one letter is substituted by another during concatenation.

Example : viṇ + talam = viṇṭalam (t replaced by ṭ)

This sandhi is also includes Sanskrit Sandhi forms like vi + samam = viamam.

Sandhi common with Sanskrit[edit]

These Sandhi rules are basically inherited from Sanskrit, and are used in concatenation of Sanskrit vocabulary which form more than 80% of Malayalam. The rules like savarṇadīrgha sandhi, yaṇ sandhi, guṇa sandhi, vr̥ddhi sandhi and visarga sandhis are used without changes.

Samāsam[edit]

All the Sanskrit samāsa rules are adapted to Malayalam compounds. In Malayalam, the tatpurusha compounds are classified according to the vibhakti they are based on, during compounding. The "alaṅkāraṁ" is also used to classify tatpurusha compounds.

Vr̥ttaṁ[edit]

The vr̥ttaṁ consists of metres of Malayalam prosody. Like Sandhi, there are specific vr̥ttaṁs unique to Malayalam apart from the metres common with Sanskrit. As in case of Sandhi, the Malayalam vrittams are also named in Sanskrit.

Alaṅkāram[edit]

Alaṅkāraṁ or "ornamentation" is also based on Sanskritic grammarian classification. It consists of the different figures of speech used in Malayalam poetry. Being successor to Sanskrit and Manipravalam, most of Sanskrit alankaras are used in Malayalam. Thus, the common figures of speech in poems are rūpakaṁ, utprēkṣā, upamā etc.

Words adopted from Sanskrit[edit]

When words are adopted from Sanskrit, their endings are usually changed to conform to Malayalam norms:

Nouns[edit]

1. Masculine Sanskrit nouns with a Word stem ending in a short "a" take the ending "an" in the nominative singular. For example, Kr̥ṣṇa -> Kr̥ṣṇan. The final "n" is dropped before masculine surnames, honorifics, or titles ending in "an" and beginning with a consonant other than "n" – e.g. Krishna Menon, Krishna Kaniyaan etc., but Krishnan Ezhutthachan. Surnames ending with "ar" or "aḷ" (where these are plural forms of "an" denoting respect) are treated similarly – Krishna Pothuval, Krishna Chakyar, but Krishnan Nair, Krishnan Nambiar, as are Sanskrit surnames such "Varma(n)", "Sharma(n)", or "Gupta(n)" (rare) – e.g. Krishna Varma, Krishna Sharman.[citation needed] If a name is a compound, only the last element undergoes this transformation – e.g. Kr̥ṣṇa + dēva = Kr̥ṣṇadēvan, not Kr̥ṣṇandēvan.

2. Feminine words ending in a long "ā" or "ī" are changed so that they now end in a short "a" or "i", for example Sītā -> Sīta and Lakṣmī -> Lakṣmi. However, the long vowel still appears in compound words, such as Sītādēvi orLakṣmīdēvi. The long ī is generally reserved for the vocative forms of these names, although in Sanskrit the vocative actually takes a short "i". There are also a small number of nominative "ī" endings that have not been shortened – a prominent example being the word "strī" "woman".

3. Nouns that have a stem in -an and which end with a long "ā" in the masculine nominative singular have a "vŭ" added to them, for exampleBrahmā (stem Brahman) -> Brahmāvŭ. When the same nouns are declined in the neuter and take a short "a" ending in Sanskrit, Malayalam adds an additional "m", e.g. Brahma (neuter nominative singular of Brahman) becomes Brahmam. This is again omitted when forming compounds.[citation needed]

4. Words whose roots end in -an but whose nominative singular ending is -a – for example, the Sanskrit root of "Karma" is actually "Karman" –are also changed. The original root is ignored and "Karma" (the form in Malayalam being "Karmam" because it ends in a short "a") is taken as the basic form of the noun when declining.[1] However, this does not apply to all consonant stems, as "unchangeable" stems such as "manasa" ("mind") and "suhr̥ta (friend)" are identical to the Malayalam nominative singular forms (although the regularly derived "manam" sometimes occurs as an alternative to "manasa").

5. Sanskrit words describing things or animals rather than people with a stem in short "a" end with an "m" Malayalam. For example, Rāmāyaṇa -> Rāmāyaṇam. In most cases, this is actually the same as the Sanskrit ending, which is also "m" (or allophonically anusvara due to Sandhi) in the neuter nominative. However, "things and animals" and "people" are not always differentiated based on whether or not they are sentient beings – for example Narasimha becomes Narasiṃham and not Narasiṃhan, whereas Ananta becomes Anantan even though both are sentient. This does not strictly correspond to the Sanskrit neuter gender, as both "Narasiṃha" and "Ananta" are masculine nouns in the original Sanskrit.

6. Nouns with short vowel stems other than "a", such as "Viṣṇu", "Prajāpati" etc. are declined with the Sanskrit stem acting as the Malayalam nominative singular (the Sanskrit nominative singular is formed by adding a visarga, e.g. Viṣṇuḥ)[citation needed]

7. The original Sanskrit vocative is often used in formal or poetic Malayalam, e.g. "Harē" (for Hari) or "Prabhō" (for "Prabhu" – "lord"). This is restricted to certain contexts – mainly when addressing deities or other exalted individuals, so a normal man named Hari would usually be addressed using a Malayalam vocative such as "Harī". The Sanskrit genitive is also occasionally found in Malayalam poetry, especially the personal pronouns "mama" (my/ mine) and "tava" (thy/ thine). Other cases are less common and generally restricted to the realm of Maṇipravāḷam.

8. Along with these tatsama borrowings, there are also many tadbhava words in common use. These were borrowed into Malayalam before it became distinct from Tamil. As the language did not then accommodate Sanskrit phonology as it now does, words were changed to conform to the Old Tamil phonological system. For example: Kr̥ṣṇa -> Kaṇṇan.[2]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Varma, A.R. Rajaraja (2005). Keralapanineeyam. Kottayam: D C Books. p. 303. ISBN 81-7130-672-1. 
  2. ^ Varma, A.R. Rajaraja (2005). Keralapanineeyam. Kottayam: D C Books. pp. 301–302. ISBN 81-7130-672-1. 

3. Ravi Sankar S Nair 2012 A Grammar of Malayalam www.languageinindia.com/ravisankarmalayalamgrammar.pdf