Dravidian languages/Catalogs

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An informational catalog, or several catalogs, about Dravidian languages.

List of Dravidian languages

National languages of India are in boldface:


Dravidian languages spoken in South Asia

South Central




Template:Expandsect The most characteristic features of Dravidian languages are:[1]:

  • Dravidian languages are agglutinative.
  • Dravidian languages exhibit the inclusive and exclusive we feature.
  • The major word classes are nouns (substantives, numerals, pronouns), adjectives, verbs, and indeclinables (particles, enclitics, adverbs, interjections, onomatopoetic words, echo words).
  • Proto-Dravidian used only suffixes, never prefixes or infixes, in the construction of inflected forms. Hence, the roots of words always occurred at the beginning. Nouns, verbs, and indeclinable words constituted the original word classes.
  • There are two numbers and four different gender systems, the “original” probably having “male: non-male” in the singular and “person:non-person” in the plural.
  • In a sentence, however complex, only one finite verb occurs, normally at the end, preceded if necessary by a number of gerunds.
  • Word order follows certain basic rules but is relatively free.
  • The main (and probably original) dichotomy in tense is past:non-past. Present tense developed later and independently in each language or subgroup.
  • Verbs are intransitive, transitive, and causative; there are also active and passive forms.
  • All of the positive verb forms have their corresponding negative counterparts, Negative Verbs.


Dravidian languages are noted for the lack of distinction between aspirated and unaspirated stops. While some Dravidian languages (especially Malayalam, Kannada and Telugu) have large numbers of loan words from Sanskrit and other Indo-European languages, in which the orthography shows distinctions in voice and aspiration, the words are pronounced in Dravidian according to different rules of phonology and phonotactics: voicing is allophonic and aspiration of plosives is generally absent, regardless of the spelling of the word. This is not a universal phenomenon and is generally avoided in formal or careful speech, especially when reciting.

For instance, Tamil, like Finnish, Korean, Ainu, and most indigenous Australian languages, does not distinguish between voiced and unvoiced stops. In fact, the Tamil alphabet lacks symbols for voiced and aspirated stops.

Dravidian languages are also characterized by a three-way distinction between dental, alveolar, and retroflex places of articulation as well as large numbers of liquids.

Words starting with vowels

A substantial number of words also begin and end with vowels, which helps the languages' agglutinative property.

karanu (cry), elumbu (bone), adu (that), awade (there), idu (this), illai (no, absent)

adu-idil-illai (that-this-in-absent = that is absent in this)


The numbers from 1 to 10 in various Dravidian languages.

Number Tamil Telugu Kannada Tulu Malayalam Kurukh Kolami Brahui Proto-Dravidian
1 onru okati ondu onji onnu oa okkod asi *oru(1)
2 irandu rendu u radu randu indiŋ irā *iru(2)
3 nru mūdu ru mūji nnu mūnd mūndiŋ musi *muC
4 nālu nālugu nālku nālu nālu kh nāliŋ čār (IE) *nāl
5 aithu ayidu aidu ainu añcu pancē (IE) ayd(3) panč (IE) *cayN
6 āru āaruru āru āji āru soyyē (IE) ār(3) šaš (IE) *caru
7 ēzhu ēduu ēlu ēlu ēzhu sattē (IE) ē(3) haft (IE) *eu
8 ettu enimidi eu ēma eu ahē (IE) enumadī (3) hašt (IE) *eu
9 onpatu tommidi ombattu ormba onbatu naiyē (IE) tomdī (3) nōh (IE) *to
10 pathu padi hattu pattu pathu dassē (IE) padī (3) dah (IE) *pat(tu)
  1. This is the same as another word meaning "one" in another sense in Tamil and Malayalam - the distinction is as between Spanish "un" and "uno".
  2. This is still found in compound words, and has taken on a meaning of "double" in Tamil and Malayalam. For example, irupatu (20, literally meaning "double-ten") or "irai" ("double").
  3. Kolami numbers 5-10 are borrowed from Telugu

Sanskrit influence

Of the literary languages, Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu have been relatively more influenced by the Indo-European Sanskrit and have borrowed the aspirated consonants. Sanskrit words and derivatives are common in Kannada, Malayalam and Telugu. Tamil is the least influenced.

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