Saturday, May 16, 2009

On the Tamil language

The Calcutta Review (published 1855) devoted an entire chapter (pages 158 to 196) on the nuances of the Tamil language, drawing upon research done by several British linguists in the early part of the 19th century. It provides this passage from the book, “In the land of the Vedas” by one Mr Percival:

"Perhaps no language combines greater force with equal brevity; and it may be asserted that no human speech is more close and philosophic in its expression, as an exponent of the mind. The sequence of things, of thought, purpose, action and its results, is always maintained inviolate. Rank and station are provided for by the use of various pronouns, extending to several degrees of honorific expression. The language teems with words expressive of the different degrees of affinity. Where in European languages a long periphrasis would be required, Tamil presents the thing in its own single term: and this fecundity extends to all the ramifications of the family tree. If I speak of a sister I may either take a word that gives the relationship subsisting between us, or I may select one that will indicate our relative ages. Measures and divisions of time are equally minute and expressive. The language, thus specific, gives to the mind a readiness and clearness of conception, whilst its terseness and philosophic idiom afford equal means of lucid utterance.”

Kamban who authored the Tamil version of the Ramayana, gets this glowing tribute:

Kamban, the writer of the Tamil Ramayana, deserves special notice as being a genuine poet. It has been well remarked that no translation of an ancient Poem in rhyme can be faithful, and that no translation of Poetry, unless it be in rhyme, will ever be read. These remarks apply to the Tamil Ramayana. Kamban does not strictly translate, but gives his own version of the story, not differing materially from the original. We have read both, and at times we were at a loss to know to which of the poets the palm of victory was to be assigned. Kamban's Tamil Ramayana may be compared to Pope's Iliad. Valmiki is diffuse and simple; Kamban abridges but elaborates. There is a profusion of ornament at times; here and there abounding in beautiful touches of expression. We believe it will generally be found that a copy deviates from its original, not in becoming simpler, but in the addition of graces, the necessity of which was not felt by those, to whom the first impression belongs.


kennady said...

Tamil language into centamil and kotuntamil. The former refers to the classical Tamil used exclusively by literati in their works and the latter refers to the colloquial Tamil, spoken by the people. This shows that even in those distant days differences had grown to such an extent as to enable the Tamil grammarians to classify the language into written and spoken

Leesa said...

Tamil language is the very popular language.Learning Tamil letters is easy to read written speak and using more places.The Tamil that even in those distant days differences had grown to such an extent as to enable the Tamil grammarians in language.

Michael said...

Tamil language is a rich language. Tamil is the mother of the other languages which are used in India. In Thirukkural, thiruvalluvar says the way to live life and culture of tamilians. Dhevaram ,Thiruvasagam are some of the well known poems in tamil language. This poems are sung in front of the god.