Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 8 August 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Tolkaappiyam - Kaviraajamaarga
A Brief Note of Comparison

A. Boologarambai, Ph.D.


This paper tries to compare the first grammatical work of Tamil Tolkaappiyam and the first grammatical work of Kannada Kaviraajamaarga.

A comparative study of grammars of two different languages helps us to appreciate their commonness and specialty. The main aim of this paper is to bring together these two grammars and briefly see the similarities and differences between them. Even though the two languages belong to the same language group within the same language family, there are some differences.


Tolkaappiyam is the earliest available grammar in Tamil. It belongs to third century B.C. There are three main divisions in this grammar. Each division has nine chapters. In total, there are 27 chapters with 1611 nuuRpaa or sutra or aphorisms . Tolkaappiyam is a grammar of both the common usage and the literary usage (vazhakku and ceyyuL). Tolkaappiyar deals not only with phonology, morphology and syntax but also poetics and rhetoric and the way the world is categorized (poruL). The division on poruL is a special feature of this grammatical work. This is a part that deals with, among other things, how one enters into wedded life.

Tolkappiyam makes several references to the dialects of Tamil and other adjacent languages. It is largely a grammar of written Tamil, but takes into account the possibilities of variation through the spoken medium. The grapheme-phoneme interconnection is highlighted. Graphemics is also part of the grammar within phonology. Morphophonemics is described in great detail even as morphology and syntax are dealt within the same division, highlighting the interconnection and interdependence between the two. Semantics and discourse are also dealt with.

The language of Tolkaappiyam is amazingly simple, straightforward and full of content and analysis. There are references to various religious or sectarian practices, but the writer seems to adopt a sort of neutral position relating to deities, but deals with principles of nature and the world with many significant thoughts. The descriptive and explanatory power of the grammar presented and the technical terms coined and used are distinctly Tamil with very little dependence, if any, on other sources.


Kaviraajamarga is the earliest available writing on grammar, rhetoric, and poetics in the Kannada language. It is a lakshana grantha and it is the first attempt of writing the grammar of Kannada. The author of Kaviraajamarga was King Nripatunga Amoghavarsha I (850 AD).

It is the earliest existing literary work in Kannada. It is based partly on an earlier Sanskrit writing Kavyadarsa. It is an interesting piece of writing on literary criticism and poetics meant to standardize various written Kannada dialects used in literature in previous centuries.

The author of this treatise has mentioned many references from the pre - Kannada Ramayana and Mahabharata and also his own poetry references (references to Kannada works by early writers such as king Durvinita of the 6th century and Ravikriti, the author of the Aihole record of 630 AD).

From the references made in this writing to earlier Kannada poetry and literature it is clear that a considerable body of work in prose and poetry must have existed in the preceding centuries.

Kavirajamaarga makes important references not only to earlier Kannada writers and poets but also to early literary styles in vogue in the various written dialects of Kannada. The aim of this writing was to standardize these written styles. The king mentions two styles of composition, the "Bedande" and the "Chatthana" and indicates that these styles were recognized as earlier styles.

The name 'Kavirajamaarga' means literary royal path for poets and scholars (Kavishiksha). It is an important milestone in the literary growth of Kannada and is a guide book to the Kannada grammar that existed in that period. It laid a royal road of guiding many aspiring writers. This treatise helps us to know more about the Kannada country, people and their culture.

Regarding Kavirajamarga, Dr. A.Murigeppa is of the opinion that the reference to Kannada grammar made in this study, here and there, is not a full-fledged work on grammar. It is a work of prosody. Apart from that, it has helped the growth of a variety of literary traditions. K. Venkatachalam (Kaviraajamaarga, 2002, preface vii) mentions that a person who is well versed in pre-old Kannada can understand kavirajamaarga clearly.

Tolkaappiyam and Kaviraajamarga A Comparison

Tolkaappiyam is the earliest available grammar which is a 'muula nuul' - "primary Work". Regarding Kavirajamarga, some persons are of the opinion that it is the translation of the Sanskrit Treatise taNDi's kaaviyaadarsam; and some persons are of the opinion that kaaviyaadarsam is the primary work and kavirajamarga is the "Secondary Work".

Divisions or Parts of Tolkaappiyam and Kavirajamaarga

Tolkaappiyam contains three parts and they are:

i) Treatise on phonology (Ezhuttathikaaram). This part with nine chapters deals with the pronunciation, positions, combinations usage, etc., of the letters of the Tamil alphabet in 483 aphorisms.

ii) The treatise on Morphology (Collathikaaram) with nine chapters deals with the formation of words, cases, nouns, verbs, verbal suffixes, qualificatives etc. of Tamil words in 463 aphorisms.

iii) The treatise on literary study (PoruLathikaaram) also contains nine chapters which speak about the themes of literature and methods of literary appreciation. It contains altogether 665 aphorisms.

Like Tolkaappiyam, Kavirajamaarga also contains three 'paricceethams' (taNdi's three main divisions 'carukkam', 'ilampakam' and 'paricceetham').

Each paricceetham contains padyams. First paricceetham, that is the introductory part of the grammatical work, presents the praise of the king Nirubhatunga, the goddess Saraswathi and the poets, the grammar of kavya and its divisions 'poetry' style and the 'prose' style, the description of the Kannada county and its boundaries, four errors of a treatise, nine common errors, country errors, common preface, etc. It contains 150 padyams.

The second paricceetham deals with the prosody of words. The prosody of a kavya, and the methods of expressing it, combination of foot, combination of words, some words, case markers lengthening, repetition, prasaas, grammatical rules, Sanskrit rules and the Dravidian rules, ten main rules, nine rasas, picture poems, one letter songs, two letter songs, rare words, yamakam, nuDi, varNac cudhakam, etc. It contains 155 padyams.

The third paricceetham deals with 36 kinds of alankaaraas (prosodies) and ends with the praising of the king Nirubhatunga. It contains 231 padyams. Apart from these, five additional padyams are also available in Kavurajamarga.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

A Study of Structural Duplication in Tamil and Telugu - A Doctoral Dissertation | Computational Linguistics as a Curriculum for Engineering Students in India | A Discourse Analysis of R. K. Narayan's The Man-eater of Malgudi | Sense of Place and Sense of Dislocation in Amitav Ghosh's The Glass Palace | Teaching English Language Skills for Law - A Malaysian Case Study | Bi/Multilingualism and Issues in Management of Communication Disorders With Emphasis on Indian Perspectives | Role of English as a Tool for Communication in Tamil Society | The Frequency of the Passive in Indian English | Light Verbs in Gojri | The Core Functions of the English Modals - Speech Act Approach | Phonological Mean Length of Utterance (Pmlu) in Kannada-Speaking Children | Tolkaappiyam - Kaviraajamaarga - A Brief Note of Comparison | A Review of A Quick Guide to Postgraduate Supervision | Procedure to Develop Competency Based Self-Learning Materials | HOME PAGE of August 2009 Issue | HOME PAGE | CONTACT EDITOR

A. Boologarambai, Ph.D.
Department of Tamil and Translation Studies
Dravidian University
Kuppam 517 425
Andhra Pradesh, India

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