Brahmin Tamil

Brahmin Tamil or Braahmik is the name for a number of closely related Tamil dialects used by the Tamil Brahmin communities (Iyers and Iyengars) of Tamil Nadu and in the neighbouring states.


Braahmik is the proposed name for these dialects Fact|date=February 2007.

The 2 dialects are

* The Thanju style, spoken in Tamil Nadu, mainly represented by Tanjore or Thanjavur, and

* The Paalu style spoken in Kerala mainly represented by Palghat or Palakkad.

There are two main differences between these two styles :

# In the words ending in "m" and "n" preceded by a vowel, the vowel is nasalised but the [nasal consonants" themselves are not pronounced except when followed by a word beginning with a vowel in the Thanju style. In the Paalu style the nasal consonants in these cases are always pronounced.
# There is also often a difference in the vocabulary of the two styles. To give only one example, the word for 'news' is "samaachaaram" in Thanju, but "varthamaanam" in Paalu.

Both styles of Brahmin Tamil dialects augment their vocabulary by freely borrowing from Tamil, Sanskrit and English.

A common orthography based on the latin alphabet has been proposed for both styles of Braahmik.Fact|date=February 2007

The Braahmik Alphabet

*Short vowels : "a, i, u, e, o"
*Long vowels : "aa, ii /ie, uu, ee, oo"
*Diphthongs : "ai / ei, au"
*Velar consonants : "k, g"
*Palatal consonants : "ch, j"
*Retroflex consonants : "t, d"
*Dental consonants : "th, dh"
*Labial consonants : "p, b"
*Velar nasal : "ng"
*Palatal nasal : "nj"
*Retroflex nasal : "hn"
*Dental or Alveolar nasal : "n"
*Bilabial nasal : "m"
*Fricatives and continuants : "y, r, l, v, zh, hl, sz, sh, s, h, rr, z"

Many of these can occur as geminates : "kk, gg, nng, nnj, hnn, mm, nn, cch, jj, tt, dd, tth, ddh, pp, bb, ll, hll, trr"

There are also aspirated stop consonants : "kh, gh, chh, jh, t'h, d'h, thh, dhh, ph, bh"

"Idhu" 'this, this is'. The link verb 'to be' is not used in the present tense. There is no article, definite or indefinite. 'This table' as a full sentence means 'this is a table'.

The final "-u" in words is pronounced as an unrounded back vowel, something between "i" and "u".

Nouns are followed by postpositions like "kite" 'near', "le" 'in' or "kiizhe" 'below'. There are also compound postpostions made up of a postposition plus noun plus postposition like "k adi le" 'below'. The verb "iruku" means 'is' or 'there is'.

Nouns are in an oblique form before a preposition. Most nouns have no special oblique form. Many have. "Pusthahath" is the oblique form of "pusthaham". Sometimes between the oblique form and the postposition a dummy particle like "u" or "n" is placed. "Chevar" has an oblique form "chevath". English words in English spelling are freely used in Braahmik.


The article 'a' or 'the' has to be understood from context.

Verbs are usually given in their imperative singular form in the dictionary.They form their three main tenses from three different bases. Often the bases are identical. But in most other cases they are different.

The verb "iru" 'to be' is in its imperative singular form.Its present tense base is 'iruk'. In all three tense forms, verbs have different endings for different persons in the singular and plural numbers.

The third person singular neuter form of "iru" is "iruku"

Pronouns and their oblique forms:

In the table below the personal pronouns and their oblique forms are given:

Personal Endings of Past / Present and Future

Cardinal Numerals

1 ohnnu, 2 rendu, 3 muuhnu / muunnu, 4 naalu, 5 anju, 6 aarru, 7 eezhu, 8 etu, 9 ombadhu, 10 pathu.

The verb "iru" does work for both 'to be' and 'to have', The difference is brought out by syntax :

"Avan oru kozhandhei" 'he (is) a child'

"Avan u ku oru kozhandhei iruku" 'he has a child'

"Naan pahna kaaran" 'I am a rich man'

"En kite pahnam iruku" 'I have money'

"King Midas u ku kazhudhei kaadhu" 'King Midas has ass's ears'.

"Enga thaathaa ku romba vayas aachu" 'My gandfather is very old'.

"Kozhandhei ki pathu vayasu" 'The child is 10 years old'.

"En kite oru pusthaham iruku" 'I have a book'.

"Ena k oru thambi irukaan" 'I have a younger brother'.

Braahmik uses English words freely, especially when discussing science subjects or when referring to modern equipment of western origin.

The infinitive form of some verbs can also serve as an adjective: "Nerreia" (infinitive of "nerrei (nerreiar, nereinj, nerreiuv)" 'to fill up, fill to the brim'). As an adjective it means 'a lot of'

English verbs can be turned into a braahmik verb by placing the verb "pahnnu" after the English infinitive :

"Arrange pahnnu" 'to arrange'

The past participle of one or more verbs followed by another verb is a common construction, often translatable by a single word in English : "Vaangi thaa" 'buy (for me), buy and give'

"Eduthu kondu vaa (eduthundu vaa), kondu vandhu thaa" 'bring'

"Kuutindu poo" 'accompany, escort'

"Arrange pahnni vei" 'keep smth. arranged' (ordinary)

"Arrange pahnni vech iru" 'keep smth arranged. (perfective)

Possessive Pronouns

Corresponding to the English possessive adjectives (mu, your, his, her, our, etc.), there are possessive pronouns (mine, yours, his, hers, ours, etc.)

In Braahmik too there are possessive pronouns corresponding to the possessive adjectives.Negative Forms of Verbs:

The negative form of the verb common to the simple past and present is obtained by placing the negative particle "lei" after the infinitive form of a verb. The verb "maaten, maate, ...." placed after the infinitive form, acts as the future negative:

"Naan pooha lei" 'I didn't go, I don't go, I am not going"'Naan pooha maaten" 'I will not go, I am not going"

Participial Nouns

Participial nouns referring to the action indicated by the verb are formed by affixing "-adhu" to the present or past tense bases/The future participial noun of the same kind is obtained by placing the participial nouns "pooradhu" or "poonadhu" after the infinitive of a verb:

"Kalambra oodaradhu odambu ku nalladhu" 'Running in the morning is good for the body'."Padichadhu manasu le nikahnum" 'What was studied must be retained in the mind'.

The participial noun can also refer to the person or thing that performed the action. In this case the endings attached to the present and past bases are:

"-an" (m sg), "-a(hl)" (f sg), "-ar" (hon sg), "-dhu" (n sg), "-vaa(hl)" (pl) "-adhu(ha(hl))":

"Vandhavan, (-vahl, -dhu) yaaru ?" 'Who is the one that came ?'

"Vandhavaahl u k ellaam szaapadu pootaa" 'They served lunch for all who came".

Exercises 6:

Exercise 6.1: Translate into English

1.Indha pakam poonadhu on thambi a ?2.Naan innei ki Madraas u ku poo lei.3.Nahlei ki pooha poore a ?4.Vehli le poonavaahl ellaam aathu ku vandhutaahl a ?

Exercise 6.2: Translate into Braahmik:

1.Go home. .2.I won't go to the office tomorrow.

3.If you come, I will also come.

4.Did you have school yesterday ?

The Imperative (2 nd p) Singular and Plural Forms of Verbs

The negative imperative

The negative imperative forms are obtained from the infinitive form by removing the final "-a" and attaching "-aadhe, aadheum, aadhengo / aadheungo / aadhungo":

"Indha edam szuddham aa illei. Nier inge varaadheum, ange e irum" ' This place is not clean. (Please) don't come here, (sir), Please stay there itself'.

Impersonal Verbs

Braahmik has a number of imprsoanal verbs that have only the 3 rd person neuter singular form.

It has usually a passive sense. The main recipient or subject of the action is a noun or pronoun with the postposition "ku".

A few such verbs are given in the following table:

There is also a defective impersonal verbal particle that has only one form:

*"veehnam, veehnum" 'it is needed'.

*Its negative form is "veendaam, veehnaam" 'it is not needed'.

*This defective verb in its abbreviated form of "-nham, -nhum" and its negative form "-hndaa(m), -hnaam" 'it is not needed' is attached to the infinitive form of any verb, meaning 'it is necessary to' or 'it is not necessary to', translatable by the words 'must' or 'don't':

*The negative forms of the defective impersonal verbs are obtained as follows:

*The infinitive followed by the negative particle "lei" gives the common past and present tense form.

*For the future tense the suffix "-aadhu" is affixed to the infinitive after dropping the final "-a":

*"Ena ku theria lei" 'I cannot / could not see, didn't / don't know'.

*"Theriaadhu" 'I will not be able to (I generally cannot) see, will not know, I don't, as a matter of fact, know'.

*"innei ki mazhei peium a ?" 'Will it rain today ?'

*"Theria lei / theriaadhu" 'I don't know'

*"Maapahlei ki sweets pidikaadhu" 'The bridegroom doesn't like sweets'.

* The use of the particle "e" as "avan irukaan e" 'as for him', "nie iruke e" 'as for you; oh, you, you', "adhu iruk e" 'that one, oh God; as far as that is concerned', has no parallel in English.

* Degrees of comparison are expressed by using the expression "ei vida" followed by an adjective like "peria, chinna" 'great(er), small(er)':

* "idhu adh ei vida peria thapu" 'this is a greater mistake than that'.
* "Nie en ei vida oyaram" 'you are taller than I', where "oyaram" 'height' is a noun.

* Onomotopoetic words followed by "innu, na, nu" give rise to adverbs:

* "Chat na" 'quickly, suddenly', "pahlich nu" 'dazzlingly', "mazha mazha nu" 'sloppily' "O nu, oo nu" 'loudly' as in "kozhandhei oo nu azhudhudhu" 'the child cried loudly'.

* When giving strong advice to children or when admonishing subordinates, instead of 'you should do this, you should do that', a construction that translates 'we did this, we did that, it should be like that' is used :

* "poonom, vandhom innu irukanham" 'you should go quickly and come back quickly'.

* The particle "a" has several meanings, depending on context:

* It converts a statement into a question : "nie padiche a, illei a ?" 'did you study or not ?'

* Placed after any word in a question, it emphasises that word in the question : "idh ei nie a ezhudhine ?" 'is it you who wrote this ?'

* The particle "a" converts a noun into an adverb : Indhy puu azhah a iruku" 'this flower is beautiful'. ("a" is an abbreviation of "aaha", infinitive of the verb "aa" to become).

* The particle "a" (abbr. of "aaha") is used with the link verb in the past and future tenses : "Eng apaa vaadhiaar" 'my father is a teacher', "avar vadhiaar a irundhaar" 'he was a teacher'.

* The particle "a / aal" is a conditional clause or phrase marker: "nie kadei ki poon a, saamaan vangindu vaa.” 'If you go to the shop, buy (and bring) the things'. "Nie padikara paian a irundh a." 'If you are a student'.

* Further numerals : 11 padhin ohnnu / onnu, 12 pannendu / pandhrendu, 13 padhi muuynu / muunnu, 14 padhi naalu, 15 padjin anju, 16 padhin aarru, 17 padhin eezhu, 18 padhin etu, 19 path ombadhu, 20 iruvadhu.

* When giving expression to an approximate number, one may say :

* "ohnn o rend o" or "ohnnu rendu" 'one or two'. "En kite pathu padhin anju ruubaay iruku", 'I have 10 or 15 rupees with me'.

See also

* Sankethi language
* Iyer
* Palakkad Iyers


Dr. P. C. Ganeshsundaram (Sydney)

Rudin (Leningrad / Petrograd)

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