Saturday, May 31, 2008

Payyannur Pattu -1

It takes ten minutes for me to read a single line of a Malayalam text and another ten minutes to decipher it. As of now, I have read two lines of payyannUr pATTu. But I am happy that I have come across 'ba' instead of 'va' in the first line itself. According to the editor notes, 'va' and 'ba' interchange freely in the poem.

Incidentally, oldest extant Malayalam works (vaDakkan pATTugaL) come from north Malabar (Kolathunadu or present day Kasaragod and Kannur districts) region or particularly from Kannur region. They are dated from 13th century to 16th century. These folk songs or so-called ballads are about personalities from merchant, cultivator and toddy tapper communities. However, the bards who created them need not be from the same communities. Payyannur Pattu, a story involving a merchant woman, was developed, performed and preserved by washermen[1].

In my previous post, I quoted that Vadakkan Pattugal do not show any Sanskrit or Tamil influence. However, I am not sure about Payyannur Pattu(part of Vadakkan Pattugal or northern ballads). I suppose it shows Sanskrit or Prakrit(that reached the region of Kerala) influence.

Reference:
1. Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia By Sheldon I. Pollock (Google Books, limited preview)

Update: I made a mistake (that I have deleted). I thought Payyannur is in Kasaragod district but it turns out that it's in Kannur district. I visited Payyannur during my primary school days to attend a wedding. At that time all the distance I travelled within Kerala was Kasaragod. Or so I thought. So I had this notion that Payyannur was in Kasaragod.

5 comments:

Maju said...

It takes ten minutes for me to read a single line of a Malayalam text...

Thought you were a native malayalam speaker. :-?

Manjunat said...

No, I am a native speaker of Kannada. I am linguistically Kannadiga but ethnically Malayali. I wonder if that makes any sense.

Maju said...

It makes sense... after I got my research done. I had the vague idea that all people of Kerala (roughly) spoke Malayalam but now I realize the linguistics of the state ae somewhat more complex.

And also, evn if you were native Malayalam speaker, I guess you could have difficulties reding ancient writings in that language anyhow. Much like a native English speaker may find reading the Beowulf, right?

Manjunat said...

I guess I am really cryptic sometimes. But never intended. I guess you take me as a native Keralite. I was born and brought up in Karnataka(lang: Kannada). My mother-tongue is Malayalam. But I belong to border region between Kerala and Karnataka so not really a migrant from Kerala to Karnataka. To complicate the matters my region is a Tulu speaking(another Dravidian language) area.

And also, evn if you were native Malayalam speaker, I guess you could have difficulties reding ancient writings in that language anyhow. Much like a native English speaker may find reading the Beowulf, right?

Well, it has been a disaster reading it. So much so that I can even match my native speaker Malayali wife!

I wasn't expecting so much difficulty or impossibility. I think unlike English, Dravidian languages might not have undergone such drastic changes. My opinion is based on Kannada. Kannada works dating 13-16th century are not that difficult to read. In fact, even literature 1000-1100 years old could be read with some difficulty. I was hoping similar would be the case with this Malayalam work too.

Maju said...

I guess I am really cryptic sometimes. But never intended.

I understand it's not intended, sure. But, IMHO, you may gain a good deal of clarity if you placed yourself in the place of an anonymous reader who knows nothing or little of the background of what you are talking about. While self-satisfaction is certainly a good thing for any writer, being sure that others can understand what you mean is not less important - unless you are just writing for yourself, like in a diary or when taking notes.

I guess you take me as a native Keralite. I was born and brought up in Karnataka(lang: Kannada). My mother-tongue is Malayalam. But I belong to border region between Kerala and Karnataka so not really a migrant from Kerala to Karnataka. To complicate the matters my region is a Tulu speaking(another Dravidian language) area.

That's certainly a complicated background. But with all that veried linguistic knowledge you sure are well placed to get a good idea of Dravidian tongues as whole.

Well, it has been a disaster reading it. So much so that I can even match my native speaker Malayali wife!

I wasn't expecting so much difficulty or impossibility. I think unlike English, Dravidian languages might not have undergone such drastic changes. My opinion is based on Kannada. Kannada works dating 13-16th century are not that difficult to read. In fact, even literature 1000-1100 years old could be read with some difficulty. I was hoping similar would be the case with this Malayalam work too.


I see.

I have often wondered why some languages seem to be more dynamic than others, changing faster. There seems not to be an easy explanation to that phenomenon (though isolation seems to help with conservation) but it certainly challenges the regular change preconceptions of most linguists.