Sunday, October 28, 2018

410. Homonyms in Tulu language.

The antique vs.the modern: Relics of  regalia in Barkur town, Udupi district.

Ancient words that have survived in a region, when properly recognized and analysed without bias, are like old antique coins that can be useful tools in deciphering the paleo (past) socio-linguistic environment of the terrain. This is true of coastal Karnataka and the Tulunadu. In this context, I would like to point out that some of our old words, inclusive of place names, have been grossly misinterpreted, especially because of the dual or more than two possible meanings associated with them.
 The homonyms in English language are similar sounding words with differing meanings. For example, the English homonymous word ‘fair’ basically has dual meanings such as (1) a festive congregation or exhibition or (2) justified, free from dishonesty.  In the similar vein, we can find homonym words, words sounding similar but with differing meaning in Tulu language.
A homophone is a type of homonym where the sound is similar but the spelling and the meaning are different. Homonyms and homophones in a language may possibly indicate incorporation of similar sounding words from ancient cultures that prevailed once upon a time in the region.
Homonyms and homophones prevailing in Tulu language have a special historical significance as they can through significant light on the obscure aspects of socio-linguistic heritage we have inherited.
 We shall discuss in this post a few Tulu and relevant coastal homonyms and homophones, whose original meanings have largely been either obscure or misinterpreted or misunderstood features of our heritage.

Bari is a well known common Tulu word used for distinguishing the inherited surname of an individual. A person can have two “bari” tags inherited from his or her two parents, but usually matrilineal ‘bari’ is recognized and honored especially while deciding traditional matrimonial alliances in community circles.
Bari in Tulu is a homonymous word. Even though, the word ‘bari’ is a common word in Tulu, most of the Tulu people consider the ordinary meaning of the word: namely, the side. In Kannada areas of the coast, the word has been morphed into ‘bari’ > ‘bali’ or   even “balli” especially in Kundapura and in parts of Uttara Kannada. Interestingly, the Kannada words ‘bali’ means proximity and “balli” means tendril or creeper or thread.
However, the ancient word ‘bari’ has another meaning namely, the house. In ancient days a person in the community was identified by the name of his house!  This practice was also common in Kerala where they use the word “illam” or the house. This original meaning of the word “bari” has unfortunately been forgotten during the course of prolonged history!
Similarly, especially in northern India, in ancient days, the persons were identified (or tagged) by the name of their cowsheds (‘goshāla’) or the “gothra”.
Incidentally, the homonymous word ‘bari’ signifies the ancient heritage of Tulu language. The word was a part of Munda/Prakrit language and sub-cultures that prevailed in this land during early centuries of the Common Era. The word ‘bari’, having the meaning of house, still exists in eastern and northeastern parts of India especially in Bengali and other allied languages.

‘Nari’  (short a; ನರಿ ) is not a common word in Tulu. It is a common Kannada word for jackal. The common word for jackal in Tulu is ‘kuduke’. However, you can find place names in Tulunadu such as ‘Naringana’(ನರಿಂಗಣ) and ‘Narimogaru’ (ನರಿಮೊಗರು).
The ancient word ‘nari’ in tribal languages represented tiger (not jackal) and we can find this still preserved and existing in the neighboring Kodava language. Incidentally, Tulu has forgotten the original tribal word ‘nari’ which has been shifted to jackal and original tribal word replaced by ‘pili’ (ಪಿಲಿ), a word from Dravida lingual lineage.
The word " nari" in Tulu has another meanings such as (a) dented  (b) broken or (c) wet, soft and rotten.  But these meanings would not appear appropriate in terms of toponyms.

Nāyi (ನಾಯಿ) is a common name for dog in most of the Dravidian languages including Tulu and Kannada. Therefore, while analyzing   place names like Nayampali, Nayibasadi etc. in Tulu region, some of our earlier researchers have attributed the meaning of dog to the word nāyi. It is interesting to note that there are ancient place names all over India containing the prefix of nayi. The word nayi (ನಯಿ), originally   derived from Prakrit, in all India context suggests new and not dog!
Historical correlations as pointed out above also suggest that the Prakrit was a dominant language in parts of south India especially ancient equivalents of Maharashtra, Karnataka and coastal Tulunadu. Thus it is logical to assume that the word nayi in ancient place names of Tulunadu also means new rather than dog! Further it was a common practice to name new towns with prefix tags suggestive of newness such as pudu, posa, hosa, nayi, nava etc.
Gokarna is a well known coastal place in Uttara Kannada district, often interpreted as northern boundary of ancient Tulunadu. The place name is usually interpreted based on its usual sound that echoes a Sanskrit word go+karna which simply means ear of the cow. 
However, if we look for Prakrit words in the place name then we find that the word gokar means serpent, snake or Nāga. Since –Na is a common spatial suffix indicative of settlement or village (as we find in place names like Marne, Muddann, Belmann, etc), the Prakrit word Gokarna is equivalent of Nāgur or even Uchila in connotation. As a counter proof, we find numerous villages across India containing the word gokar including the place name Gokarana. (see: Post 366. Mystery of Gokarna and Havyaka).
Thus,  gokar (Prakrit) = Nāga, serpent . Gokar+Na= Nāga village; Nāgur.
Further the Gokarna region is also known as  Havika, Haviga(> Haiga) or Havyaka. A simple analysis of the word reveals that these words are Kannada equivalents of the word Gokarna.
 (Haviga= hāvu+ga. Havika= hāvu +ka;  hāvu=serpent; ka or ga= village).

Gokarna, Havyaka and the Nāga cult
It is well known that the ancient cult of Nāga worship, once widely prevalent all over India, has remained steadfast in coastal Karnataka, especially in Tulunadu. The original meaning associated with the word Gokarna and Havika (Havyaka), as explained here, further strengthens our notion of historical prevalence of the ancient Naga cult in Uttara Kannada, where the influence of Nāga cult is under waning stage as a consequence of domination of subsequent religious cults.

Homonyms and their dual meanings discussed in this post are:
(a) Bari (ಬರಿ) =1.Side (Dravida origin); 2.House (Munda derivation)
(b) Nari (ನರಿ) =1.Jackal 2. Tiger (Tribal origin, also exists now in Kodava)
(c) Nayi=1.Dog (< nāyi, ನಾಯಿ); 2. New. ( ನಯಿ:Prakrit derivation).
(d) Gokarna (ಗೋಕರ್ಣ) =1. Cow’s  ear. (Sanskrit   derivation);  2. Nāga village (< gokar+Na. Prakrit derivation)

Readers may contribute their considered opinions in the comment section, with or without including their independent analysis of words and place names, for the benefit of healthy discussions and further interpretations.

Blog Archive

Books for Reference

  • A Comparative Study of Tulu Dialects By Dr. Padmanabha Kekunnaya. Govinda Pai Reserach Centre, UDupi. 1994
  • Koti Chennaya: Janapadiya Adhyayana. By Dr. Vamana Nandavar. Hemanshu Prakashana ,Mangalore.2001.
  • Male kudiyaru. Dr B. A.Viveka Rai and D.Yadupathi Gowda, Mangalore University,1996.
  • Mogaveera Samskriti By Venkataraja Punimchattaya. Karnataka Sahitya Academy.1993.
  • Mugeraru:Jananga Janapada Adhyayana. By Dr Abhaya Kumar Kaukradi.Kannada & Culture Directorate,Bangalore & Karnataka Tulu Academy, Mangalore,1997.
  • Puttubalakeya Pad-danagalu. Ed: Dr B.A.Viveka Rai,Yadupati Gowda and Rajashri, Sri Dharmasthala Manjunatheswara Tulu Peeta. Mangalore University.2004
  • Se'erige. Ed:Dr K.Chinnapa Gowda.Madipu Prakashana,Mangalagangotri,2000.
  • Studies in Tuluva History and Dr P Gururaja Bhat (1975).Milagres College,Kallinapur,Udupi.
  • Taulava Sanskriti by Dr.B.A.Viveka Rai, Sahyadri Prakashana,Mysore 1977
  • TuLu naaDu-nuDi By Dr.PalthaDi Ramakrishna Achar, Puttur.
  • TuLu NighanTu. (Editor in Chief: Dr U.P.Upadhyaya, Govinda Pai Research Centre,Udupi. Six volumes. 1988 to 1997
  • Tulu Patero-A Philology & Grammar of Tulu Language by Budhananda Shivalli.2004.Mandira Prakashana Mangalore. p.317. (The book is in Tulu Language using Kannada script)
  • TuLunadina ShasanagaLa Sanskritika Adhyayana. By Shaila T. Verma (2002) Jnanodaya Prakashana,Bangalore, p.304.(Kannada)
  • Tuluvala Baliyendre. Compiled by N.A.Sheenappa Hegde,Polali,Sri Devi Prakashana,Parkala,1929/1999

A Coastal estuary

A Coastal estuary
Holegadde near Honavar,Uttara Kannada dist, Karnataka

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