Sunday, July 27, 2008

Notes on Dravidian Words - iii

Retroflex Approximant zh:
The retroflex approximant zha is as of now still pronounced by majority of Malayalis and few Tamils (Bhadriraju Krishnamurti)*. It is a rather intriguing sound found in old literature of SD languages. Some of my observations.

1. Present day written and spoken Telugu employs retroflex Da, Kannada employs retroflex La and Tulu employs alveolar(trill or tap ... no idea) ra

2. But many Nilgiri dialects and Malayalam spoken in Kasaragod and many Tamils employ palatal ya.

3. Generally, Telugus use Da, where you find SD-I speakers use La or Ra.
kOLi(Ka)kOri(Tulu)kODi(Te)kOyi (Kasaragod Malayalam)kOzhi(Standard Malayalam) (=chicken)

4. Present day Malayalis turn 'r' sound in foreign words into 'zh' sound.
eg. 1. Parsee is written/pronounced as Pazhsee.
2. University is written as Univezhsity.

Then what could have been the original sound? I used to think, because of my Kannada background, that is basically an exotic La because 'La' is used in Kannada where Tamil/Malayalam use 'zha'. However, I was told by a linguist that *zh sound must be constructed in SD/PD as a rhotic. Of course, this was before I carefully listened to Malayali pronunciation of 'zha'. Malayali pronunciation is exotic 'r'. And according to Wikipedia this is equivalent to present American English retroflex approximant 'r'(in some places). But in my opinion, Malayali pronunciation is retroflex palatal approximant(or exotic 'rya').

It appears AE retroflex r is an allophone of alveolar approximant r (Scottish English). Last night I was listening to this "500 miles" song(which kindled this entry). I thought "Lord" was pronounced like "Loyd" with palatal approximant y.
Listen to Petey, Paul and Mayi singing with the palatal approximant.

My construction of PD sound:
The original PD sound could have been alveolar approximant r. This we can observe in Tulu where alveolar trill or tap r is used. This alveolar approximant r gave rise to retroflex approximant r(zh) (in my opinion, retroflex palatal approximant r) which in turn gave rise to palatal approximant y. Therefore, all three are allophones.

alveolar approximant r -> alveolar trill/tap r (Tulu)
alveolar approximant r/alveolar trill/tap r -> retroflex approximant r/retroflex palatal approximant r -> palatal approximant y (Malayalam,Tamil, few other SD-I tribal languages)

During SD-I and SD-II split, alveolar approximant r, might have given rise to an allophone alveolar plosive d. Which became retroflex plosive in SD-II languages. But I think this should have happened with a big chunk of SD-I speakers too.

alveolar approximant r -> alveolar plosive d -> retroflex plosive D

The influence of geography changed retroflex plosive D into retroflex plosive L in Proto-Kannada.
retroflex plosive D -> retroflex lateral L

Migration to Tamil region:
Based on the above arguments, I would say the youngest Dravidian region, Tamil Nadu, had two defining migration patterns. The Proto-Tamils were mix of Proto-Malayalis (retained in allophones zh, y) and Proto-Kannadigas (retained in L). Standardization of written script probably happened in a region where Proto-Malayali migration was dominant. This script was probably became model for Proto-Kannada script too.

* There is a hilarious story about Malayali zh and Tamil zh. A southern Malayali chieftain was troubled by an unending Tamil migration to his region. He was scared that Malayalis would become minorities in that land. However, it was tough to block the migration as there was a lot of to-and-fro movements from Malayalis too. At the entry point of Tamil/Malayalam regions he created posts and put a 'chicken' test to incoming people. Every person who wants to enter Malayalam region had to pronounce kOzhi. According to the story, Tamils would pronounce it as kOLi (like Kannadigas) and would be turned back.

My wife(the zha Malayali) who doesn't think 'lord' is 'loyd' in that song.


vArttik said...

I think you are way off base with this idle speculation. I do not see any linguistic evidence to consider retroflex PD *ẓ (IPA: [ɻ])originally as an alveolar approximant or an alveolar stop. Please note that the triple-contrast of dental/alveolar/retroflex phonemes in Proto-Dravidian is well-established. In Telugu, *ẓ developing into 'D' or 'r' in the historic era is also well documented[1]. If anything, you may be able to argue that *ẓ was allophonic with retroflex fricative, perhaps, based on the description of this sound in tolkAppiyam, and based on the fact that the early Tamil loan words from Sanskrit have substituted retroflex fricative[ʂ] with ẓ[ɻ].

Here is what Bhadriraju Krishnamurti concludes in the postscript of his seminal paper titled "Proto-Dravidian *z"[2]:

"[...] From its varied developments within individual languages, it appears that the phoneme *ẓ was retained until recent times and later merged with different phonemes, perhaps because of its typological oddity in the broader Indian linguistic area."

Manjunat said...

Thank you very much for your inputs. Some of my idle assumptions and points.

-> I don't agree with PD sounds or there existed fundamental PD sounds.
-> I don't agree with BK. I am more interested in migrations and their routes and consequent sound changes and not linguistics based on literature.
-> I don't think constrained scripts(like Tamil) have any usefulness but scripts with enough symbols (like Malayalam) could be of great importance.
-> I don't think literary languages, standardized at certain regions, have the final say in the development of spoken languages. Though I do understand their forcing power by degrading other variants.
-> I believe we can deduce some of the sound changes by observing similar changes around us even today.

వార్త్తిక్ said...

Manjunat: Thanks for your response. But I am not sure I understand what you do not agree with: If you do not agree that the reconstruction of proto-forms as a method of linguistic analysis, then you are challenging 200 years of scholarship on Historical Linguistics; if you do not agree that a core inventory existed for Proto-Dravidian, then you are challenging 100 years of phonological research in Dravidian linguistics; if you do not agree with the current description of *z, then you are challenging 50 years of Dravidian scholarship that accepted this sound as a retroflex approximant.

Not that there is anything wrong with challenging established theories. Scientific progress is often achieved through challenging and falsifying established theories (of course, only if you accept Popper’s Philosophy of Science!). However, the daunting task of challenging established theories requires an intellectual rigor reflecting a deeper understanding of existing theories, without which any such attempts cannot be but labeled as idle speculations.

Now, coming back to your speculation, here are some of the issues I have with your thesis:

1) What applies to English and other European languages, where retroflex consonants are not markedly contrasted, would not automatically apply to Dravidian languages – esp., when retroflex consonants are so very characteristic of Dravidian.

2) If *z was originally alveolar ‘r’, which later transformed into alveolar plosive ‘d’, as you propose, do we have any remnants of such transformation in SD-II or SD-I? On the contrary, what we have is that all non-literary languages in SD-II viz., Gondi, Konda, Kuvi, Pengo and Manda still showing the reflexes of this sound as retroflex (as ṛ).

3) Alveolar plosive ‘d’ transforming into retroflex plosive ‘D’ is unjustifiable in Dravidian. We have examples of retroflex plosive ‘D’ transforming into denti-alveolar plosive ‘d’, but not the other way round.

4) Can you give some other examples of regular correspondence for retroflex plosive D transforming into retroflex L in Proto-Kannada (outside of your *z proposal)?

5) Even if Tamil is youngest among Dravidian communities, we cannot ignore Tamil, as it provides oldest examples of Dravidian texts.

6) It would be incorrect to accuse Burrow, Emeneau and BhK (who had intense discussions on the description of this sound) of analyzing linguistics purely based on literature. For instance, of 34-pages of BhK’s article on “Proto-Dravidian *z”, only 5 pages are devoted to discuss the reflexes of *z sound in literary languages. Rest of the data is from non-literary languages.

If one notices varied transformations of *z across all subgroups viz., retroflex L, retroflex fricative s, retroflex plosive D, and retroflex flap, alveolar flap r, and palatal approximant y -- retroflex being the dominant -- it is difficult to argue that the original *z was anything but retroflex. Furthermore, as the isoglosses for *z do not run along the subgrouping markings, it is likely that this sound transformed independently in individual languages – which typically indicates that it was a recent change.

I hope you have fun in attempting to trace the migrations and their routes within the subcontinent using linguistics and still nascent genetic geneology!

Manjunat said...

Thank you very much for explaining the exact meaning of "idle speculation".

PD sounds are impossible to form as the language is matrilineal. However, I suppose proto-sounds could be formed in patrilineal languages like IE (Y-Haplogroup of now).

1. I consider this is just an opinion.

2. Thank you for the information. I suppose alveolar approximant turning into alveolar plosive is wrong. It should be the allophone retroflex flap. If we observe Gondi, retroflex flap and retroflex plosive appear together.

3. Agreed. 2. changes that.

4. Do you mean literary evidence? I don't accept them. By the way, according to Wikipedia, the name of Chola dynasty was Chora in the inscriptions. However, now I see it's written as 'Chozha'. Do you have any idea about whether inscriptional 'r' is retroflex zh or alveolar tap/trill r?

5. Yes, Tamil Nadu is the youngest Dravidian region, however, I am not clear about oldest and youngest language concepts(if by Tamil you mean language). True, Tamil texts might have kept words that might have been lost now in other Dravidian languages. However, the sounds of the words are applicable only to that Dravidian region.

6. I just don't agree with them. My starting point is entirely different.

Again I see this just an opinion. I see a clear pattern of allophones (Malayalam), isogloss (Kannada/Telugu) and a mixed group Tamil.