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Applied Linguistic Readings of Tolkappiyam

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Item Code: HAS140
Author: V. Murugan
Publisher: Central Institute Of Classical Tamil, Chennai
Language: English
Edition: 2023
ISBN: 9789381744994
Pages: 328
Other Details 10x6 inch
Weight 648 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

The present book seeks to show that Tolkappiyam is a pioneer in the discipline of applied linguistics, going far beyond the applications of theoretical linguistics to other areas of scholarship in which language is a core component. It also attempts to highlight the enormous contribution of Tolkappiyam to the teaching and learning of languages, both Ll and L2, and to the study of literature. Tolkappiyar's conspicuously scientific approach to realities in language and life, his concept of primary and secondary works, his definition of (semantic) translation, his norms on lexicographic definitions, his conception of the classes of elliptical utterances, his classification of fourfold parts of speech, his conception of the suggestive operators called iraicci and ullurai, his fivefold classification of the latter (closely paralleling what Ezra Pound calls 'poetry of indirection'), and his ecopoetics, among other things, easily transcend the Tamil milieu and become constituents of universal scholarship, a Tamil exemplification of Wellek and Warren's vision of 'general literature'.

About the Author

V. Murugan, a former professor of English, holds a D Litt, Degree in Lexicography and Translation and a Ph.D, in Comparative Literature. He has edited three English-Tamil bilingual dictionaries for different levels for the Oxford University Press, a Tamil-English Dictionary of Literary and Critical Terms in Tamil, and a Tamil- Tamil-English Dictionary A three-time Best Translator award winner, his translations include Tolkappiyam in English, Narrinai in English, Kalittokai in English, Paripatal in English and Tirukkural in English, besides several folk ballads, Kulothungan's epic poem Manuda Yattirai, and selected poems of Bharathiyar and Bharathidasan. He has coedited the 12-volume Kalaignar Karunanidhi in English Translation for the Bharathiar University, edited Tolkappiyam and Narrinai English translation compendiums for the Central Institute of Classical Tamil and the seven-volume Siddha Medicine for the Tamil Academy, Chennai. His many seminar presentations and journal publications are largely on comparative studies of classical Tamil language and literature. His academic visits include the USA, the UK, France and Mauritius. At present, he has been compiling, along with Prof. P. Marudanayagam, a Tamil-Tamil-English Dictionary for the Oxford University Press.


The stimulus for writing this little book is both positive and negative; it is also both intrinsic and extrinsic. These binaries as it were worked in tandem all through the process of writing, defining and shaping the objective of this book as well as its content.

The positive stimulus is: As I had been translating into English this classical Tamil masterpiece in the late 1990s, it was constantly opening my eyes to the invaluable wealth of linguistic information it contains relating to phonology, morphology, syntax and so forth. Then in the beginning of the new millennium's first decade, as I started working on lexicographic practice in Tamil for my UGC postdoctoral research, I saw that there were several things in Tolkappiyam that directly and significantly bore on lexicography on the one hand and translation on the other. As I collected these insights into a coherent whole, they made excellent theories of lexicography and translation. I worked them into two articles and published them in the International Journal of Tamil Culture and Civilization, Illinois, and International Journal of Central University of Kerala. As I edited three translations of Tolkappiyam including mine for the Central Institute of Classical Tamil, Chennai, and as I worked on a paper on Tolkappiyam for presentation at the Tenth International Conference-Seminar of Tamil Studies in Chicago, I could happily land more and more of insights of Tolkappiyar relating to use of language in several areas of academic scholarship.

As regards the negative stimulus: Tolkappivam in Tamil is arguably the earliest complete work of linguistics in the ancient classical traditions of the world. It is complete in the sense that it encompasses both the written and the spoken languages, and it is a grammar of graphology, phonology, syntax, semantics, poetics, prosody and forms of modern academic scholarship. As such, it marks a towering presence without a comparable work in any of the primary classical languages of the world in range and perspective. This apart, Tolkappiyam contains several concepts and ideas that are futuristic in content and spirit, and several others that are pragmatic in character.


With particular regard to facilitating international access to classical Tamil literature, the Central Institute of Classical Tamil (CICT) has been executing a two-pronged academic strategy, namely, (i) translation of classical Tamil literature into English and other selected languages of the world, and (ii) bringing out works of criticism on classical Tamil literature. Translation, a veritable bridge between peoples and cultures, gives a work a larger, linguistically and culturally diverse and variegated readership. Translation is also a tool for comparative study of the work in question, besides serving as an alternative text for teaching and learning on a foreign soil. When we take into account the Eliotian notion of comparison and analysis being the two chief tools of a critic, criticism proper does also require the services of translation.

In keeping with the above objectives of the CICT, translation must necessarily go hand in hand with criticism, the interpretation of literature that studies its meaning, imagery, texture, context, allusions and figurative meanings. For classical literature to open out, be it in the native land or on an alien soil, one needs to complement the other. Writes Northrop Frye, "...our civilization, if it survives at all, will be one in which criticism and literature, that is, the theory and practice of literature itself, will be two parts of one thing." The Institute, therefore, encourages, supports and executes projects of both classes.

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