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date: 11 December 2019

Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Summary and Keywords

The Dravidian languages are rich in nominal and verbal morphology. Three nominal gender systems are extant. Pronouns are gender-number marked demonstratives. Gender-number agreement in the DP suggests an incipient classifier system. Oblique cases are layered on a genitive stem; iterative genitive and plural marking is seen. Genitive and dative case mark possession/ experience (there is no verb have), and the adjectival use of property nouns.

Verbs inflect for agreement (in affirmative finite clauses), aspect, causativity, and benefactivity/ reflexivity. Light verbs are ubiquitous as aspect markers and predicate formatives, as are serial verbs. Variants of the quotative verb serve as complementizers and as topic and evidential particles. Disjunctive particles serve as question particles; conjunctive and disjunctive particles on question words derive quantifiers. Reduplication occurs in quantification and anaphor-formation.

Keywords: agreement, case stacking, causative, gender, evidential, light verbs, number, particles, reduplication, serial verbs

A Note on the Transcription

IPA symbols are used, with the following modifications that conform to the transliteration system prevalent in the Dravidian literature:

  1. (1) Long vowels are indicated by doubling a letter: for example, /aa, ii, ee, uu/.

  2. (2) Dravidian has no /v/- /w/ contrast. Where /w/ has been used in Malayalam or Telugu sources, it has been retained; elsewhere, /v/ is used for the bilabial semivowel.

  3. (3) Dental consonants have been left unmarked: /t, d, n/ represent dentals, as in Krishnamurti (2003). Where there is an alveolar–dental contrast (as in Malayalam), the alveolar is marked by a diacritic (subscript bar): for example, ṉ.

  4. (4) The palatalized /k/ in the Malayalam causative suffix is conventionally transliterated /k’/.

1. The Dravidian Language Family

In 1816, five “dialects of South India”—Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Tulu—were argued by a British administrator in Madras (now Chennai) to constitute a language family distinct from the Indo-Aryan language Sanskrit, with which (however) these languages had “intermixed.”1 (The concept of the language family had been mooted in 1786, just thirty years earlier, with Sir William Jones’s discovery of Sanskrit’s affiliation to Indo-European.) Also mentioned were Kodagu (“a local dialect of the same derivation”) and Malto, found further afield to the north and east (in the state of Bihar in independent India).

In 1856, Robert Caldwell suggested the term “Dravidian” for this family, enumerating 12 languages in his Comparative Grammar. In a second edition (1875), Caldwell added a note on the Dravidian elements in Brahui, located to the northwest in Baluchistan, now in Pakistan (and “the farthest removed of the Dravidian languages,” Krishnamurti, 2003, p. 27). Krishnamurti’s The Dravidian Languages (2003) mentions “over 26 languages . . . classified into four genetic subgroups” (p. 19).

The subgrouping was motivated by the discovery of new languages, mainly in central India, between 1950 and 1975.2 The antiquity of proto-Dravidian is a matter of speculation: if it was indeed the language of the Indus Valley civilization, it could date to the early part of the 3rd millennium bce. proto-Dravidian is thought to have branched into proto– South, Central, and North Dravidian; proto–South Dravidian split further into South and South-Central Dravidian (“SD I” and “SD II,” Krishnamurti, 2003, pp. 492ff.). References in the Sanskrit to names of tribes and tribal speech prompt an inference that proto–South Dravidian split away in the 11th century bce. The four south Indian languages that account for over 75% of Dravidian speakers in the early 21st century, namely Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam, have traditions of written literature beginning from the pre-Christian era (Tamil) to the 10th century ce (Malayalam). Some non-literary languages spoken by tribal populations may each have only a couple of thousand speakers (Krishnamurti, 2003, pp. 19–27). These include the North Dravidian languages (comprising Brahui, Malto, and Kurukh, the last spoken in Nepal and in the north Indian states of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, and Orissa) and six Central Dravidian languages.

Our discussion of nominal and verbal inflection (the latter subsuming periphrasis, i.e., light verbs) refers to the subgroups and to the proto-language status of some elements, postulated by the first, comparative philological, phase of morpho-phonological studies in Dravidian (for which Krishnamurti, 2003 is a reliable and authoritative source). The “parts-of-speech system” is the topic of section 4, which mentions also postpositions and prefixation. Particles and reduplication merit a section each, given the cross-linguistic significance of their functions.

2. Nominal Inflection: Person, Number, Gender (PNG) Morphology

The Dravidian third person pronoun is a deictic element suffixed with gender-number (GN) morphology. Table (1), column 1, illustrates this in Kannada.3 proto-Dravidian had a medial deictic element *u- in addition to the distal a- and the proximal i- (Krishnamurti, 2003, p. 253).

The same third person GN morphology appears also in verb agreement (Table 1, column 2). (Malayalam, uniquely, has no verb agreement.) On the noun, GN manifests only sporadically. Column 3 shows a gender-marked noun stem (a/i signaling ‘m./f.’) optionally inflect again for masculine but not feminine GN in the singular. The plural suffix on this noun stem marks number but not gender. (Gender on the noun is discussed again in section 2.2.3)

Table 1. Third Person GN Inflection (Pronominal, Agreement, and Nominal) in Kannada

Pronoun (Kannada)

Verb Agreement (Kannada)

Noun (Kannada)

a-(v)anu [] ‘he’

band-anu ‘came-[]’

huɖug-a-(nu) [] ‘boy’

i-(v)anu [] ‘he’

‘(He) came.’

a-(v)aɭu [] ‘she’

band-aɭu ‘came - []’

huɖug-i-(*aɭu) [*] ‘girl’.

i-(v)aɭu [] ‘she’

‘(She) came.’

a-du [] ‘it’

ban-tu ‘came - []’

i-du [] ‘it’

‘(It) came.’

a-(v)aru [] ‘they’

band-aru ‘came-[]’

huɖug-aru [] ‘boys’

i-(v)aru [] ‘they’

‘(They) came.’

huɖugi-(y)aru []‘girls’

a-vu [] ‘they’

band-avu ‘came- [3]’

i-vu [proximal-3] ‘they’

‘(They) came.’


First and second person pronouns neither mark gender nor trigger gender agreement, differently from, for example, Hindi/ Urdu, where morphologically unmarked speaker/hearer pronouns trigger gender agreement.

proto-Dravidian had three gender systems. One, the system of South Dravidian in Table 1 (m. /f. /n. in the singular, [+/-human] in the plural), ostensibly coincides with natural gender boundaries. A second system extant in Central and South-Central Dravidian (except Telugu) makes the gender cut between [male human] and all others. Krishnamurti (2003) argues for the historical primacy of this [+/˗m] system, and observes (p. 205n1) that the Tolkaapiyam (a pre-ce grammatical treatise, the earliest textual source for Tamil) treats Dravidian gender in terms of ‘high/ low’ rather than natural gender. A third system, in North Dravidian and Telugu (South-Central Dravidian), retains the [+/˗m] gender cut in the singular, but shifts to a [+/˗human] cut in the plural. In Telugu, thus, waaɖu ‘he’ is in opposition to adi ‘she, it’, but in the plural, waaru ‘they’ is [+human]. (Telugu has since invented the feminine singular pronouns aame, aaviɖa ‘she’, but these continue to trigger the ‘neuter’ or non-masculine agreement suffix -di.) Malto (North Dravidian) has invented a distinction between singular feminine and neuter pronouns in some case forms (accusative, instrumental, ablative, and locative), but not in the genitive or dative.

2.2 Number

Telugu appears to grammaticize Number. It treats as [plural] the mass nouns ‘water’ and ‘milk’ (1a,b) (cf. Smith, 2016). As (2) shows, the language does distinguish plural from mass N elsewhere. The plural in (1) has no accompanying sense of intensification, unlike in comparable data from languages like Modern Greek (Balusu, personal communication).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The homophony of the plural marker -lu in (2a) with the word-final -ɭu/lu in (1a,b) suggests a reanalysis of the latter as the trigger for plural agreement.4 However, in (3a), biyyam ‘rice’, which is morphologically singular (compare raktam ‘blood’ in (2b)) triggers plural agreement.5 It patterns with the plural-marked cereals waɖɭu ‘paddy,’ pesalu ‘green gram’, and kandulu ‘red gram’ (cf. Krishnamurti & Gwynn, 1985).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

2.2.1 Clusivity

proto-Dravidian distinguished exclusive and inclusive first person plurals *ya(a)m and *ña(a)m, forms “preserved intact” in Central and North Dravidian (Krishnamurti, 2003, p. 248). Tamil exclusive ‘we’ naangaɭ and inclusive ‘we’ naam (literary)/ naambaɭ are traceable to proto-South Dravidian. Telugu is said to have “restored” an inclusive plural manamu ‘we’ “by morphological innovation” (the exclusive ‘we’ is meemu).

2.2.2 Wh- Pronouns

Like the third person pronouns in Table 1, wh- pronouns consist of a wh- stem inflected for gender and number. But singular forms may be derogatory, or may not exist.

Table 2. Gender-Number Inflection on wh-Pronouns



yev-aɭ ‘







Mal. –












2.2.3 Gender-Number on Nouns; Plural Double Marking

The gender-number suffixes -a(n) ( and -ar ( are nominal suffixes traceable to proto-Dravidian (Zvelebil, 1990, pp. 20–21). The suffix - in Tables 12 is an innovation in South Dravidian. proto-Dravidian had a nominal suffix -i/-tti. This suffix is currently seen on nouns (Table 3), and (in Tamil and Malayalam) in quantifier/numeral agreement in the DP (section 2.3). A proto-Dravidian [˗hum] plural suffix -kaɭ has generalized to [+hum] nouns, and may appear redundantly after the suffix -ar. “The use of -kaɭ added to -ar as a plural marker” occurs “even in Cankam Tamil” (ca. 300 bce–300 ce, RA) (Krishnamurti, (2003, pp. 213, 217); for example, arac-ar-kaɭ ‘kings’. In section 3.1, we note a comparable iterativity of genitive case markers. Lehmann (1993, p. 20), noting plural double marking in contemporary Tamil, suggests that -gaɭ is the plural, -ar merely an honorific. However, -gaɭ is clearly a (redundant) honorific that doubles the honorific -ar in swami-(av-ar)-gaɭ ‘the honourable priest’. Indeed, in some dialects of Tamil, -gaɭ (sometimes pronounced ) functions as honorific addressee agreement, parallel to Kannada rii and Telugu aɳɖi (Amritavalli, 1991).

Table 3. Nouns Marked for Gender-Number


-a(n) (

-i/-tti ( / - (

-ar (pl.) / -gaɭ (pl.)


vaɳɳaan ‘washerman’

vaɳɳaatti ‘washerwoman’


paiyan ‘boy’


nanban ‘friend.m


nanbar ‘friends’

veele-kaar-an ‘work-er-m.’

veele-kaar-aa ‘work-er-pl.

taleiv-an ‘headman, leader’

veele-kaar-i ‘work-er-f.’

taleiv-ar ‘head- pl., leaders’

mag-an ‘son’

taleiv-i ‘head- f., leader- f.’

mak-kaɭ ‘children’


vɨɨDɨ-gaɭ ‘house-pl.’


cerɨppɨ-kaar-an ‘youth.m’ (lit. ‘youth-person- m.’)

cerɨppɨ-kaara-tti ‘youth.f


‘young people’


geɭey-a(nu) ‘male friend’

geɭeyati ‘female friend’

geɭeyaru ‘friends’

huDug-a(nu) ‘boy’

huDug-i ‘girl’

huDug-aru ‘boys’

huDug-i-(y)aru ‘girls’

2.3 Gender-Number Agreement on Post-Nominal Q/ Num

Pre-nominal quantifiers do not agree with the noun. Post-nominally, they and the numerals 1–2/3/5 inflect for gender-number (Table 4). Malayalam, which has no subject-verb agreement, displays post-nominal Q/Num agreement. Loanwords (for example, ‘students’) also trigger post-nominal agreement.

Table 4. Number Agreement in the Post-Nominal Quantifier


cila kuʐandegaɭ

‘some children’



cil-ar [pl.]

‘some children’


cila kuʈʈigaɭ

as above



cil-ar [pl.]

as above


konni pillalu

as above



kond-aru [pl.]

as above


kelavu makkaɭu

as above



kelav-aru [pl.]

as above


kelavu sʈudenʈugaɭu

‘some students’




‘some students’

In Tamil, the post-nominal agreement suffix -tti differs from the verb agreement suffix -. Malayalam, which has no verb agreement, permits both - and-tti in post-nominal agreement. In Kannada, the nonhuman numeral ondu ‘one’ cannot inflect for gender and cannot occur post-nominally; only the [+hum] numeral obb-, which can inflect, can occur both pre- and post-nominally. Numerals larger than 3 (or in Telugu, 5), if post-nominal, must occur with a [+hum] noun or classifier (for example, peerɨ, jana ‘persons’ in Table 5).6

Table 5. Gender-Number Agreement in the Post-Nominal Numeral


oru paiyan

‘a boy’


paiyan oruvan/ oruttan

‘a boy’

oru vaɳɳaatti ‘a washerwoman’


vaɳɳaatti orutti

‘a washerwoman’


oru maɳɳaatti ‘a washerwoman’


maɳɳaatti orutti/ oruvaɭ

‘a washerwoman’


obba/ ondu huɖuganu

‘a boy’


huɖuganu obbanu (*ondu/ *ondanu) ‘a boy’

obba/ondu huɖugi

‘a girl’



obbaɭu (*ondu/ *ondaɭu) ‘a girl’

obba/ondu sʈudenʈu

‘a student’ ~

sʈudenʈ obbanu/ obbaɭu ‘a student (m./ f.)’


eeʐɨ pasangaɭɨ ‘seven children’


pasangaɭɨ eeʐɨ peerɨ ‘children seven persons’


yeeɭu huɖugaru ‘seven children’


huɖugaru yeeɭu jana ‘children seven persons’

The inflected quantifiers and numerals can be case-marked and stand alone as indefinite pronouns.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

2.4 Gender-Number Agreement on Predicative and Post-Nominal Adjectives

Attributive (i.e., prenominal) adjectives do not agree with the noun.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Predicative adjectives are suffixed with a proform that agrees for gender and number but has invariant 3p. inflection (as evident in (7a–b)). This accords with the generalization that adjectives do not agree for person (Baker, 2008). (Apparent exceptions in Telugu are illustrated in (9).) Example (7b) shows also that speaker-hearer pronouns trigger gender agreement with predicate adjectives, though (as noted in section 2.1) they do not trigger gender agreement on the verb. (In (7), the equative copula is null. The Dravidian equative copula is overt only in Malayalam.)


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

A post-nominal adjective in the DP must also carry the agreeing proform. Such an adjective is preferably interpreted as predicative unless a postposed numeral or quantifier follows it (as in (8)).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Telugu predicative adjectives show person agreement. In (9b–c), an agreement morpheme that marks person follows the (3p.) proform suffixed to the adjective in (9a–c). Balusu (2014) argues that a separate Predicate node hosts Person.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Predicative adjectives like oɭɭeyavanu (lit. ‘good-he’) are sometimes said to “incorporate” a pronoun avanu ‘he’ (for example, Sridhar, 2007, p. 275). However, pronouns do not normally allow attributive adjectives (*oɭɭeya naanu/ niinu/ avanu *‘good me/ you/ he’). The putative third person pronoun in the predicate adjective is not referential. Inflected adjectives, like inflected Q/Num in (4), serve as indefinite noun phrases (oɭɭeyavanu ‘a good man’). The proform occurs also on the relative participle in headless relative clauses: baruv-a-avaru ‘come-relative ppl.-proform’ ‘they who come’.

2.4 ‘Monstrous Agreement’

An interesting feature of Dravidian verb agreement is that in a clause embedded under a speech predicate, the embedded verb may show first person agreement, though the speaker (its remote antecedent) is a matrix third person subject.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Sundaresan (2013), examining this pattern in Tamil, shows that there is no shift to direct speech in the embedded clause. She treats it as an indexical shift, and labels it “monstrous agreement.”

3. Nominal Inflection: Case

3.1 The Oblique Stem (Case Stacking); Iterative Genitive Marking

The nominative case is unmarked. The Dravidian oblique stem is the genitive N.7 This is evident in the pronominal paradigms, which exhibit stem suppletion.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Genitive inflection on the oblique stem (traditionally termed an augment or increment) has the proto-language variants *tt, *i, *a, and *n (Krishnamurti, 2003, p. 226). The *a is seen in the Kannada data in (12), and the Telugu in (13). Telugu also attests *i in (14).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The “most widely represented augment” -tt- replaces the final nasal of the Tamil nominatives in (15). This is a productive process that applies to loanwords, for example, English system. Kannada -d- in (16) is presumably the “weakened” variant of -tt-.8


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Malayalam “obligatorily takes two augments -tt- and -in- in dative and genitive cases”: mara-tt-in ‘of the tree’ (Krishnamurti, 2003, p. 219, citing Asher & Kumari, 1997, pp. 191–194). We note that -in (as also -an) is itself a combination of the two proto genitive markers i /a and n, in Krishnamurti’s schema of “permutations and combinations of the different augments” (p. 226). The Telugu numeral/ quantifier genitive marker -inʈi- (described as a “complex augment” in-tt-i, p. 225) therefore shows a four-fold combination of proto elements: i+n+tt+i.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The Dravidian oblique conjugation thus argues for case-stacking on the genitive, and iterative genitive-marking in genitive/oblique stem formation, reminiscent of the weakening and strengthening of negative markers in the Jespersen cycle.

3.2 The Accusative Case Marker

The overt realization of accusative case on the object is contingent on its animacy, or its specificity/ definiteness, as in Hindi or Turkish.

3.3 A Note on Dative and Genitive Case

We have noted in passing the patterning together of dative and genitive case. In Malto, these two cases have resisted the invention of a distinction between feminine and neuter singular pronouns (section 2.1); in Malayalam, these two cases take a stem with two augments (section 3.1). We discuss further data where dative and genitive pattern together, relevant to Kayne’s proposal (2010) that “all datives originate DP-internally.”

Both cases express possession. The genitive appears on prenominal possessors, the dative on possessors whose possessions appear in the predicate (where English uses have). The (so-called) dative-of-possession is instantiated in the Kannada (18). Dravidian does not have a verb have; the verb in (18) is be. Kayne’s proposal (1993) that have is a be incorporated into a dative case or preposition suggests that the dative case that manifests on the possessor in the Kannada (18) occurs also in the English translation of (18), albeit incorporated into the verb have.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

A well-known feature of the Dravidian (more generally, South Asian) languages is that experiencers are case marked dative. Long considered an areal feature, the “dative subject” has been argued from a universalist perspective (Amritavalli & Jayaseelan, 2003) to correlate with the paucity of the adjectival category in Dravidian (discussed in section 4). In the dative experiencer construction (19), the experience surfaces as a noun ‘anger’ and not as an adjective ‘angry.’


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Languages that lack adjectives use property nouns such as koopa ‘anger’ in an adjectival function, and morphologically encode the adjectival use of property nouns as “possession” (Koontz-Garboden & Francez, 2010). English have, which expresses possession, occurs with property nouns: have a fever, have (no) wisdom/ sorrow/ anger. The dative experiencer construction (19) is thus a predicative possessive expression like (18). English also has a vestigial of-genitive adjectival construction (a man of property, circles of light, rings of gold, words of wisdom); correspondingly, in Kannada the property noun koopa ‘anger’ occurs in the genitive case (as an attribute) in (20).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

3.3.1 A Dative Case in Adjectives, and on Axial Parts and Verbs

We have said that dative case manifests in predicative possession structures in two ways: in have, or on the possessor argument of be. In Kannada, perhaps uniquely, dative case manifests in a third way: on the property noun, in a small set of nouns denoting physical properties. This is seen in the paradigm (21a–c). In (21a), the property noun occurs in the genitive, attributively. In (21b–c), the property noun is predicative. Dative case appears on the possessor/ experiencer subject in (21b) (in Kannada as in English, (21b) is fully idiomatic where the topic of discourse is a requisite width or its absence). In (21c), dative case appears on the property noun, and the possessor/ experiencer is nominative, not dative.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Not all property nouns permit all three constructions in (21).9 Amritavalli and Jayaseelan (2003) suggest that dative case on the property noun in (21c) serves to “adjectivalize” it.10

Dative and genitive case in Kannada both serve to build up expressions denoting regions or places (designated ‘axial parts’ by Svenonius, 2006, for example, in front of) from part-denoting nouns or stems (the front of) (Amritavalli, 2007b). In Malayalam, the verbalizing and causativizing suffix -ik’k’ is homophonous with dative case; Jayaseelan (2013) suggests that the Malayalam verb originates as a nominal that incorporates into dative case.

3.4 Case on Nonfinite Verb Forms

Gerunds in argument positions are case marked accordingly; for example, in the Kannada (22), the gerundive object of ‘let know’ is marked accusative. The subject of the gerund is not genitive. Gerunds have an unmarked subject that looks like a nominative; derived nominals have genitive subjects (Amritavalli & Jayaseelan, 2005, p. 183).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

3.4.1 A Categorial Neutralization of Dative-Marked Gerunds and Infinitives

Kannada purposive clauses (23), complements to verbs like try (24), and prohibitive or possibility complements to be (25) instantiate either a gerund or an infinitive that is dative-marked (i.e., gerunds and infinitives neutralize into a single nonfinite category in these environments). Hyper-correction in standard written language may omit dative case in (23)(24).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Where dative case cannot occur, infinitives are clearly distinguished from gerunds. Only infinitives occur as complements to the passive auxiliary (26) or negation (27).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

(The auxiliary in (26) can indeed take a dative case-marked nonfinite complement, which is indifferently an infinitive or a gerund, but the resulting sentence has a possibility reading: ‘It has been possible to build a house there.’)


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Negation does permit a case-less gerundive complement, but the tense-interpretation of the clause changes to nonpast (‘He does not come’). (The dative-marked nonfinite complement to a negative verb has been illustrated in (25).)

4. Are There Adjectives in Dravidian?

Syntactic theory acknowledges that not all the lexical categories may be primitive. Many languages lack A and P (Hale & Keyser, 1993). The question of whether underived adjectives exist in Dravidian has been extensively debated.11 In defense of their existence, a handful of attributives are usually cited, including the number and quantifier words discussed in section 2.3. There are about 30 such proto-Dravidian roots.

A very productive morphological strategy (that applies, e.g., to English loanwords) “adjectivalizes” or “adverbializes” a noun by suffixing it with -aa (Tam.), aayi- (Mal.), -aagi (Kan.) or -gaa (Tel.). The first three suffixes clearly have their provenance in past participial forms of a verb ‘to become’ in these languages. Telugu gaa is perhaps related to an infinitival form kaa of that verb. These suffixes occur also on predicate nominals (‘elect X president’). They occur on the noun complement in copular clauses with an overt copula. Only (28a) is glossed; the glosses are parallel for (28b,c).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The examples in (28) indicate a temporary state of difficulty. These stage-level predicates contrast with corresponding unsuffixed, individual-level predicative nouns in copula-less clauses (Amritavalli, 2013).

Telugu (and Tamil) appear to allow a -gaa/-aa suffixed noun in the dative subject construction. This might be restricted to stage-level predicates. The contrasting nominative and dative subject examples (29)(30) are from Krishnamurti (1990–1991, his translations, my gloss).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Balusu (2016) explores some properties of the Telugu -gaa adjective.

4.1 The Possible Absence of Prefixes and Postpositions

Dravidianists have described its morphology as agglutinative and suffixing (“suffixation is the only type of affixation that occurs in Dravidian,” Zvelebil, 1990, p. 16). However, Aronoff and Sridhar (1988) argue for a small set of productive prefixes in Kannada, distinguishing them from the first element in corresponding compounds (but see Tirumalesh, 1997 for a reiteration of the traditional position).

Dravidian postpositions are nominal or verbal in origin. Nominal postpositions like meele ‘on, top’ in Kannada take genitive arguments, and can be case-marked: Kan. adara meel-inda ‘it-gen. top-abl.’ ‘from on top of it.’ Tamil poole ‘like, similar to’ is a frozen form of a defunct verb poolum (Lehmann, 1993, p. 10); a cognate verb hoolisu ‘to resemble’ is extant in Kannada. Jayaseelan (1997 [2017, p. 624n15]) notes that “Malayalam postpositions, like patti ‘about’ or koṇḍə ‘with,’ are non-finite forms of verbal roots.”

5.Verbal Inflection

5.1 Tense, Finiteness, and Agreement

In Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu, only affirmative finite verbs inflect for “tense” and agreement. Finite negative clauses have the lexical verb in a matrix infinitive or gerund form. Negation has finite and nonfinite forms; finite negation licenses the nonfinite matrix verb. Malayalam, which lost agreement around the 14th century (Krishnamurti, 2003, pp. 302, 307–309), allows apparently “tensed” verb forms in finite affirmative as well as negative clauses but retains a distinction between finite and nonfinite negation. The implications of these facts are discussed in Amritavalli (2014).

Modals take infinitive complements. There are affirmative and negative modals. Some modals inflect for agreement.

The Dravidian past tense markers reconstruct to proto-Dravidian, but the nonpast markers are “not all . . . reconstructable” (Krishnamurti, 2003, p. 301: “Different languages have followed independent strategies in forming the present tense”). The past participle is homonymous with the past tense form, and the present participle with the present tense form. The putative past and non–past tense morphemes, and a nonfinite negative morpheme, -a-, all occur in participles, illustrated in the Kannada paradigm in (31).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

5.2 Light Verbs and Serial Verbs

5.2.1 Aspectual Light Verbs

The perfective and progressive tenses are formed with the auxiliary be. (The perfective is illustrated in (32a.ii).) The lexical verb can be followed by up to two light verbs conveying aspectual meaning as in (32b–c), followed by the perfective auxiliary. The final verb is marked for tense or viewpoint aspect.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

5.2.2 Serial Verbs

In a superficially similar “serial verb” construction (SVC) (Jayaseelan, 2004), there is no apparent limit on the number of verbs that can be serialized, and all verbs retain their lexical meaning. All but the final verb display participial (perfective/ progressive/ negative) morphology (Amritavalli, 2007a calls this a “participial adjunct” construction). Sentences may be ambiguous between an SVC and a light verb construction.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

There are lexicalized serial verbs (Sridhar, 2007, p. 288; Jayaseelan, 2004, p. 69); these are based only on the past participle. Steever (1988, p. 45) terms these “compound verbs.”


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Steever (1988) (reviewed in Jayaseelan, 1991) reserves the term “serial verb” for an erstwhile (negative) construction where agreement manifests on each serialized verbal element. He analyzes echo-reduplicated verbs (discussed in section 7.1), where agreement and tense may appear on the lexical verb and its echo, as serial verbs.

5.3 Intransitive, Transitive, and Causative Paradigms

About 1,500 monosyllabic verb roots have been reconstructed to proto-Dravidian. These roots take suffixes indicating, for example, transitivity/ causativity, and reflexivity/ benefactivity.

5.3.1 Stem Alternations

In Tamil, Malayalam, Telugu, and some non-literary Dravidian languages, intransitive-transitive verb paradigms display stem alternations (in (36)) that putatively arise by incorporation of proto-Dravidian tense allomorphs or ‘tense-and-transitivity inflections’ (cf. (35), termed ‘tense-voice suffixes’ in Krishnamurti, 2003, pp. 188ff., 278ff.).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

These are not productive paradigms. Kannada has lost them, as have all Central Dravidian languages. Some verb stems have formed nouns (Kan. uuʈa ‘meal’, Kan. tiini/ Tam. tɨɨʈʈɨ ‘animal feed’). More to the point, causative suffixes have evolved in Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam from (one or more of) these erstwhile tense suffixes and a proto-Dravidian causative morpheme *pi/wi/ppi that could precede them (on transitive stems).

5.3.2 Causative Suffixes and Light Verbs

The suffixes -(p)imp ([˗past]) / -(p)inc ([+past]) (Telugu), -ik’k’/ -ipp (Malayalam), and -is (Kannada), occur on transitive verbs to derive causative verbs.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Telugu -(p)imp/(p)inc are transparently related to proto-causative *pi plus the [˗past] transitive *mpp or [+past] transitive *tt. Malayalam -ik’k’ and -ipp presumably relate to the [˗past] transitives *kk, *pp, retaining the vocalic reflex i of proto-causative *pi/wi/ppi. Kannada -is may similarly have emerged from this vocalic reflex and the proto-Dravidian past transitive *tt by weakening (tt>cc>c). Old Kannada distinguished [˗past] and [+past] causative suffixes -ip, -is.

Currently, Malayalam -ipp is a form of -ik’k’ that dissimilates in the context of an identical following -ik’k’ (Madhavan, 1983), as seen in (38). In (39), the -ik’k’-ending stem of a non-derived transitive verb is also seen to dissimilate to a following causative suffix -ik’k’.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Tamil, which has no causative suffix, uses the light verb vey- ‘put’ for causativization. The light verb takes an infinitival complement.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The causative suffixes illustrated in (37) also occur in verbs derived from category-neutral stems (in (41)), and on verbs derived from Sanskrit nouns (in (42)):


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Currently, however, causative suffixes cannot verbalize borrowed stems. This function is performed by light verbs. A very productive process of verb formation (in the Dravidian as well as Indo-Aryan languages) is for a light verb to take a noun complement, with the verbal complex signifying the action denoted by the noun. This is seen in Table 6, row I. Row II illustrates how light verbs verbalize a Sanskrit noun (these verb forms exist alongside the causative suffixed forms in (42)). Row III shows that current loan words (from English or Hindi/ Urdu) can be verbalized only by light verbs, and not by the causative suffix.

Table 6. Light Verbs as Verbalizers






veele paɳɳ-/cey

kelasa maaɖ-

pani ceey-

paɳi ceyy-/ eɖukk-

work-do ‘work’

work-do ‘work’

work-do ‘work’

work-do/take ‘work’


puuje paɳɳ-

puuje maaɖ-

puuje ceey-

puuje ceyy-

worship-do ‘worship’





apply paɳɳ/cey

apply *-is/ maaɖ-

apply *-inc/ ceey

apply *-ik’k’/ ceyy-

apply-do ‘apply’

apply-do ‘apply’

apply-do ‘apply’

apply-do ‘apply’

5.3.3 Direct and Indirect Causation

In Kannada, some intransitive-transitive verb pairs are related by the causative suffix -is. This suffix is said to be lexically selected (Lidz, 2004), because not all transitives of inchoatives (change of state verbs) manifest -is. However, an observation of Kodandaram (2015) suggests that -is signifies indirect causation of a causee’s self-propelled action. Thus, the transitives of unergative intransitive verbs, whose subjects are agentive, are all marked by -is. (We note that -is never occurs on the unergative intransitives themselves, arguing against its identification with a “little v” node by Lidz.)


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Among the transitives of inchoatives, the boiling of water is marked with -is (in (44a)), but the spilling of water is not (in (44b)). This can be explained if boiling is an action inherent to the causee ‘water’, and must be indirectly caused, whereas spilling must be directly caused.12


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Ekka (1972, pp. 180–181) distinguishes causative elements in Kurukh (North Dravidian) that distinguish between the causee acting voluntarily (-d-, -ʔa) and involuntarily (-tʔa:-) (glosses as in the original).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

5.4 Benefactive and Reflexive

In Tamil, Kannada, and Telugu, a light verb koɭɭ- (literally ‘take’) indicates that the action in the predicate is for the subject’s benefit.13


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

This light verb also licenses strictly local anaphora in reflexive sentences. The long-distance anaphor taan- ‘self’ takes a local antecedent only if the verb is marked by koɭɭ.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Koɭɭ- cannot occur in the dative experiencer construction. The anaphor in ‘Rama was angry with himself’ is licensed by a reduplication of taan-. The first taan- carries the case appropriate to its argument position, while the reduplicated taan- copies the case of the antecedent. A precisely parallel reduplicated structure is found in reciprocal expressions, which reduplicate a pronoun ‘one person’ (Amritavalli, 1984).

Malayalam has no self-benefactive or reflexive koɭɭ-.14 It marks taan- with an invariant focus marker tanne in local contexts (Jayaseelan, 1997). The converse light verb ‘give’, koɖ- in Kannada and Tamil, signifies that the action of the predicate benefits someone other than the subject.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Both koɭɭ- and koɖ- occur with lexicalized meanings: for example, Kan. karedu-koɭɭ- ‘call-koɭɭ’ ‘bring along (animate object) with,’ heeLi-koɖ- ‘tell-give’ ‘teach’ (also mentioned in (34)).

Koɭɭ- may occur in unaccusative sentences, where its semantic contribution is ill-understood (see Lidz, 2004 for some discussion).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

5.5 Other Stem Inflections

5.5.1 Pluriactional Verbs

Emeneau (1975) discusses a “plural action” suffix -(p)k/ p/ b/ v in Pengo, Kuuvi, and (more marginally) Kui and Manda (South-Central Dravidian), denoting the doing of something many times, or of a number of things, by one or more persons. Some verbs, for example, distribute, occur “only or normally in this formation.” Such plurale tantum forms occur in the languages that have lost the productive paradigm, and are said to have “initiated the inquiry.” For example, the proto-forms *per- ‘to pick up’ and *per-Vowel-kk- ‘to pick up several objects’, retained in Pengo and Kui as pez, pezka and pebg, pesk, occur in Tamil, Malayalam, and others as “plurale tantum with such meanings as ‘. . .glean, . . . collect.” (Cf. the Tamil verbs perikk- ‘pick flowers’; porɨkk- ‘choose and collect, clean (grain) by removing grit, etc.’; perɨkk- ‘sweep’.)

The reciprocal in Pengo/ Kuuvi is formed (Emeneau observes) by a pluriactional verb followed by an auxiliary aa ‘to be’; thus, ‘to seize one another’ is literally ‘to be plurally seizing’.

Emeneau mentions also a Pengo-Kuuvi suffix -a (affirmative), -aja/ -ara (negative), as a grammaticization of a proto-verb *taa- ‘to give to first or second person’ (i.e., to a Speech Event Participant, a Speaker/Hearer). This verb, tar-, is current in Tamil and Malayalam.

5.5.2 A Visibility Suffix for Distal Action/Movement

The South Dravidian language Manda (spoken in one district of Orissa, population unknown) marks verbs with a suffix -ka/-ga when a process or action occurs away from the location of the speech act participants (i.e., it marks distal action or movement). The examples here are from Ramakrishna Reddy (personal communication).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

5.6 The Quotative as Complementizer, Evidential (Hearsay) and Topic Particle

The Dravidian complementizer (ennǝ and its cognates) is known as a ‘quotative’; it is a past participle of a verb of saying. It introduces both interrogative and declarative complements, as also nouns signifying sounds, and quoted words (Jayaseelan, 2014):


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Kannada distinguishes the complementizers that occur in (55a–b). In (55a), endu, the counterpart of Malayalam ennǝ occurs; but in (55b), ennuv-a occurs (a relativized form of endu that introduces finite complements to nouns: Amritavalli, 2013; Sridhar, 2007, p. 41).

A version of the quotative particle invariantly inflected for 3 serves as an evidential (hearsay) particle in Kannada.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

‘He apparently beats his wife; he is said to beat his wife.’

This particle precedes the question particle (Sridhar, 2007, p. 263, his example (932)).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The corresponding Telugu particle is anʈa. The Tamil particle is ãã (a nasalized question particle) or õõ (a nasalized disjunctive functioning as the question particle, discussed in section 6.2).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

A conditional form of the verb of saying serves as a topic particle (Sridhar, 2007, p. 143).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

‘As for the tender coconut, sir, (there is) only [one species worth the name]—the Tipatur one.’15

Sarma (2003, p. 259) mentions the corresponding Tamil topic marker en-raal/ enn-aal ‘if you say,’ “usually shortened to naa.”

6. The Conjunctive and Disjunctive Particles

The particles -um and -oo and their variants are conjunction and disjunction markers.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Finite clauses cannot be conjoined with uu (see Jayaseelan, 2014 and references).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Finite clauses coordinated by the disjunction marker are interpreted as questions (Amritavalli, 2003).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

6.1 Um as an Emphatic Particle

Dravidian um- conveys emphasis, or an “additive” meaning (Jayaseelan, 2016; conjunction markers mark emphasis across languages, for example, Japanese mo).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The conjunction -um also forms what have been called “minimizer” negative polarity items:


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

6.2 Questions and Disjunctions

In Malayalam, the disjunction marker -oo is also the yes-no question particle. This homophony holds in many languages (for example, Sinhala, Japanese, Dutch) and arguably reflects the syntax and semantics of questions (Jayaseelan, 2012). In Kannada, the disjunction marker -oo is restricted to embedded questions, and needs licensing (Amritavalli, 2003, 2013).

A particle -oo occurs also in correlatives.

6.3 Question Words Plus -um/ -oo as Quantifiers

In Dravidian as in, for example, Bangla, Chinese, and Japanese, quantifiers incorporate question words. The Malayalam examples here are from Jayaseelan (2011), who argues that the morphosyntax of question words and quantifiers transparently reflects their semantics.

The disjunction morpheme -oo suffixed to a question word yields an existential quantifier; the conjunction morpheme -um suffixed to a question word yields a universal quantifier. The latter is polarity sensitive.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The universal quantifier has a second form, which incorporates a conditional morpheme.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

As the glosses indicate, the two universal quantifiers occur in different domains. There are a few language-particular variations in their distribution. In Kannada, all wh- conj. forms are negative polarity items, but some Malayalam wh- conj. forms are prohibited in negative contexts.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

In modal/ generic contexts, Kannada allows only wh-if- conj. forms, but Malayalam allows some wh-conj. forms as well. (The modal of permission -aam induces dative case on the subject in (68b).)


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

In polarity questions, only wh-if- conj. forms are licensed, in Malayalam and in Kannada.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

7. Reduplication

Reciprocals and strict anaphors in the dative experiencer construction have a reduplicated structure (as noted in section 5.4).

7.1 Echo Reduplication

“Echo reduplication” in the Dravidian and other languages of India expresses the meaning et cetera in a deprecatory sense. Lidz (1999) discusses the theoretical implications of echo reduplication in Kannada of phrases, words, and subparts of words. See also Sridhar (2007).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Interrogative pronouns and demonstrative adjectives do not reduplicate. Krishnamurti (2003, p. 389n1) cites Bhat’s observation (1994) that adjectives reduplicate only phrasally:


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

7.2 Distributive Quantification by Reduplication

Reduplication of numerals, pronouns, and nouns gives rise to distributive meanings. The Telugu example (72) has three possible distributive readings (Balusu & Jayaseelan, 2013):


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

The corresponding sentence with a non-reduplicated numeral has only the collective (‘these kids saw two monkeys’) or distributive (‘these kids saw two monkeys each’) interpretations.

A reduplicated third-person plural pronoun forms a distributive quantifier that is a strict (local) anaphor (Balusu & Jayaseelan, 2013).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Sridhar (2007, pp. 23–24) notes the reduplication of question words on a distributive reading.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Noun reduplication is illustrated in (76).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Further Reading


Andronov, M. S. (2003). A comparative grammar of the Dravidian languages. Wiesbaden, Germany: Harrassowitz.Find this resource:

Burrow, T., & Emeneau, M. B. (1984). A Dravidian etymological dictionary (2nd rev. ed.). Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press.Find this resource:

Shanmugam, S. V. (1971). Dravidian nouns: A comparative study. Annamalainagar, India: Annamalai University.Find this resource:

Subrahmanyam, P. S. (1971). Dravidian verb morphology. Annamalainagar, India: Annamalai University.Find this resource:

Subrahmanyam, P. S. (2013). The morphosyntax of the Dravidian languages. Thiruvanantha-puram, India: Dravidian Linguistics Association.Find this resource:


Krishnamurti, B. (1985). An overview of comparative Dravidian studies since “current trends” 5 (1969). Oceanic Linguistics Special Publications, 20, 212–231.Find this resource:


Amritavalli, R. (1984). Anaphorization in Dravidian. CIEFL Working Papers in Linguistics, 1(1) 1–31. Compiled as chapter 25 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Amritavalli, R. (1991). Addressee markers on verbs: A form of agreement? In V. Prakasam & S. V. Parasher (Eds.), Linguistics at large: Papers in honour of S. K. Verma (pp. 38–51). Hyderabad, India: Booklinks.Find this resource:

Amritavalli, R. (2003). Question and negative polarity in the disjunction phrase. Syntax, 6(1), 1–18. Compiled as chapter 6 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Amritavalli, R. (2007a). Syntactic categories and lexical argument structure. In E. Reuland, T. Bhattacharya, & G. Spathas (Eds.), Argument Structure (pp. 49–61). Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins. Compiled as chapter 21 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Amritavalli, R. (2007b). Parts, axial parts and next parts in Kannada. Tromsø Working Papers on Language & Linguistics: Nordlyd, 34(2), 86–101. Compiled as chapter 22 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Amritavalli, R. (2013). Nominal and interrogative complements in Kannada. In Y. Miyamoto, D. Takahashi, H. Maki, M. Ochi, K. Sugisaki, & A. Uchibori (Eds.), Deep insights, broad perspectives: Essays in honor of Mamoru Saito (pp. 1–21). Tokyo, Japan: Kaitakusha. Compiled as chapter 9 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Amritavalli, R. (2014). Separating Tense and Finiteness: Anchoring in Dravidian. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory,32, 283–306. Compiled as chapter 16 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Amritavalli, R., & Jayaseelan, K. A. (2003). The genesis of syntactic categories and parametric variation. In Hang-Jin Yoon (Ed.), Generative grammar in a broader perspective: Proceedings of the 4th GLOW in Asia 2003 (pp. 19–41). Seoul, South Korea: KGGC and Seoul National University. Compiled as chapter 17 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Amritavalli, R., & Jayaseelan, K. A. (2005). Finiteness and negation in Dravidian. In G. Cinque & R. S. Kayne (Eds.), The Oxford handbook of comparative syntax (pp. 178–220). New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Compiled as chapter 13 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Aronoff, M., & Sridhar, S. N. (1988). Prefixation in Kannada. In M. Hammond & M. Noonan (Eds.), Theoretical morphology (pp. 179–191). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.Find this resource:

Asher, R. E., & Kumari, T. C. (1997). Malayalam. London, U.K.: Routledge.Find this resource:

Baker, M. C. (2008). The syntax of agreement and concord. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

Balusu, R. (2014). Person agreement in adjectival predication in Telugu. Handout, LISSIM 8 Workshop, Solang, June 2, 2014.Find this resource:

Balusu, R. (2015). Comparison, predication, and lexical semantics of PC nouns in Telugu. Indian Linguistics, 76(1–2), 1–18.Find this resource:

Balusu, R. (2016). The eventive predicator -gaa in Telugu. Linguistic Analysis, 40, 3–4.Find this resource:

Balusu, R., & Jayaseelan, K. A. (2013). Distributive quantification by reduplication in Dravidian. In K.­H. Gil, S. Harlow & G. Tsoulas (Eds.), Strategies of quantification (pp. 60–86). Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Bhat, D. N. S. (1994). The adjectival category. Amsterdam, The Netherlands: John Benjamins.Find this resource:

Caldwell, R. (1856). A comparative grammar of the Dravidian or South-Indian family of languages. London, U.K.: Harrison.Find this resource:

Ekka, F. (1972). Causative construction in Kurux. In S. Agesthialingom & S. V. Shanmugam (Eds.), Third seminar on Dravidian linguistics (pp. 179–191). Annamalai Nagar, Tamilnadu: Annamalai University.Find this resource:

Emeneau, M. B. (1975). Studies in Dravidian verb stem formation. Journal of the American Oriental Society, 95(1), 1–24.Find this resource:

Francez, I., & Koontz-Garboden, A. (2015). Semantic variation and the grammar of property concepts. Language, 91(3), 533–563.Find this resource:

Hale, K., & Keyser, S. J. (1993). On argument structure and the lexical expression of syntactic relations. In K. Hale & S. J. Keyser (Eds.), The view from Building 20: Essays in honor of Sylvain Bromberger (pp. 53–109). Cambridge MA: MIT Press.Find this resource:

Herur Subramanya, S. (2017). Adjectival expressions and the comparative construction in Kannada (Doctoral dissertation). Submitted to The English & Foreign Languages University, Hyderabad, India.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A. (1991). [(Invited) review of the book The serial verb formation in the Dravidian languages by S. Steever]. Linguistics, 29, 543–549.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A. (1997). Anaphors as pronouns. Studia Linguistica, 51(2), 186–234. Compiled as chapter 26 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A. (2004). The serial verb construction in Malayalam. In V. Dayal & A. Mahajan (Eds.), Clause structure in South Asian languages (pp. 67–91). Boston, MA: Kluwer. Compiled as chapter 19 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A. (2011). Comparative morphology of quantifiers. Lingua, 121(2), 269–286. Compiled as chapter 7 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A. (2012). Question particles and disjunction. Linguistic Analysis, 38(1–2), 35–51. Compiled as chapter 8 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A. (2013). The Dative case in the Malayalam verb. In Y. Miyamoto, D. Takahashi, H. Maki, M. Ochi, K. Sugisaki, & A. Uchibori (Eds.), Deep insights, broad perspectives: Essays in honor of Mamoru Saito (pp. 139–166). Tokyo, Japan: Kaitakusha. Compiled as chapter 23 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A. (2014). Coordination, relativization and finiteness in Dravidian. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory, 32, 191–211. Compiled as chapter 15 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A. (2016). Decomposing coordination: The two operators of coordination. Linguistic Analysis, 40(3–4), 237–253. Compiled as chapter 10 in K. A. Jayaseelan & R. Amritavalli (Eds.), Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar.Find this resource:

Jayaseelan, K. A., & Amritavalli, R. (2017). Dravidian syntax and Universal Grammar. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Kayne, R. S. (1993). Toward a modular theory of auxiliary selection. Studia Linguistica, 47, 3–31. Included in R. S. Kayne, Parameters and universals (pp. 107–130).Find this resource:

Kayne, R. S. (2000). Parameters and universals. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Kayne, R. S. (2010). The DP-internal origin of datives. 4th European dialect syntax workshop, Donostia/San Sebastian.Find this resource:

Krishnamurti, B. (1990–1991). Stative expressions in Indian languages: Some semantic and syntactic aspects. Osmania Papers in Linguistics, 16–17, 39–71.Find this resource:

Krishnamurti, B. (2003). The Dravidian languages. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.Find this resource:

Krishnamurti, B., & Gwynn, J. (1985). A grammar of Modern Telugu. Delhi, India: Oxford University Press.Find this resource:

Kodandaram, S. (2015). The light verb in Kannada in a minimalist framework. Handout, 37th International Conference of the Linguistic Society of India (ICOLSI), JNU, New Delhi, October 15–17.Find this resource:

Koontz-Garboden, A., & Francez, I. (2010). Possessed properties in Ulwa. Natural Language Semantics, 18, 197–240.Find this resource:

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Lidz, J. (1999). Echo reduplication in Kannada: Implications for a theory of word-formation. U Penn Working Papers in Linguistics, 6(3).Find this resource:

Lidz, J. (2004). Causation and reflexivity in Kannada. In V. Dayal & A. Mahajan (Eds.), Clause structure in South Asian languages (pp. 93–130). Boston, MA: Kluwer.Find this resource:

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(1.) Francis Whyte Ellis, in a note to the Introduction to A. D. Campbell’s grammar of Telugu.

(2.) A map showing the distribution of the Dravidian languages is available in Krishnamurti (2003, pp. 18–19).

(3.) The Tamil forms are available in Lehmann (1993, p. 98, Table 16).

(4.) The Kannada cognates haalu, niiru (‘milk’, ‘water’) are not plurals, nor are the Tamil and Malayalam cognates (where the final epenthetic vowel is ɨ: paalɨ ‘milk’).

(5.) Balusu (personal communication) notes that cereals are usually singular in number marking languages.

(6.) The Dravidian languages are not usually considered classifier languages. Krishnamurti (2003, p. 405) notes that Malto, under Tibeto-Burman influence, uses classifiers extensively in numeral phrases. Earlier (p. 390), he refers to guru in the Telugu [+hum] numeral mugguru ‘’as a classifier (compare Kan. obb-anu/ɭu/ru ‘one person-[m./f./]).

(7.) “In several languages, the oblique stem is identical in form with the genitive case form” (Krishnamurti, 2003, p. 218). Some accounts (e.g., Lehmann, 1993, p. 22) treat the genitive case marker as a mere euphonic or inflectional increment.

(8.) The Kannada dative is mara-kke, presumably “strengthened” from mara-d-ge. The accusative is mara-(v)a-nna (suggesting a weakening of -d-). Compare also kaala-kke ‘time, dat.’, kaala-(v)-anna’ ‘time, acc’.

(9.) A child’s height can be a predicative property (ii–iii) but not an attributive property marked with genitive case (i) (a pre-nominal relative clause is fine). Genitive case can license height as an attributive property of inanimates (iv).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

Conversely, substance nouns (e.g., ‘metal’) occur only attributively (v) and not predicatively (vi), as in the English translation (a potential problem for a relative clause origin for all Dravidian adjectives, cf. Menon, 2014).


Morphology in Dravidian Languages


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

(10.) Their account of the syntactic frames of adjectives and property nouns anticipates (and perhaps goes beyond) Francez and Koontz-Garboden’s “Lexical Semantic Variation Hypothesis” (2015), which notes but does not explain the restriction of possessive morphosyntax to property nouns (as against adjectives).

(11.) “Among those who tend to deny or do deny the existence of adjectives as a separate ‘part-of-speech,’ the most prominent are Jules Bloch and M. S. Andronov. Master, Burrow and Zvelebil, on the other hand, accept adjectives as a separate word-class” (Zvelebil, 1990, p. 27n75). Steever (1988, p. 5) observes: “The majority of Dravidian languages distinguish just two parts of speech according to their morphology: noun and verb.” Compare also Menon (2014), Balusu (2015), and Herur (2017).

(12.) Compare the English He makes my blood boil, *He boils my blood.

(13.) Some dialects of Tamil use kiʈʈ- (perhaps a form of an older verb ‘get’) instead of koɭɭ-.

(14.) The light verb must be differentiated from a progressive auxiliary koɭɭ- that occurs in Malayalam (ex. from Jayaseelan, 2004), Tamil, and Kannada.


Morphology in Dravidian Languages

(15.) An informal parallel could be an advertising slogan in English like “If it’s soap, it’s Lux.”