Dec 28, 2023

Tamil is not only a classical language but an eco language too... [தமிழ் ஒரு சூழலியல் மொழி]


Recently I read a book called Tamil oru soozhaliyal mozhi (Tamil is an eco language) written by Mr.Nakeeran. There are many environment-related books have been published in recent years in Tamil which is a welcoming move. This book is very unique among others because this book explains how the Tamil language is very well connected with nature and why the regional languages are most important in the conservation of nature. There are thousands of books in Tamil that manifest the pride of the language. Similarly, there are thousands of books available in the market that talks about nature and the environment in various language. But this particular book connects these two different factors and depicts the uniqueness of this book. It is not an easy job for the writer to connect these two factors and explain them in an understandable way for everyone. But he successfully did this which helps to understand why Tamil is an eco language.

The author starts by describing “A language can hold its eco status only until the nativity of the language is not ruined” which helps to understand how the Tamil language evolved by inheriting the ecological values since Sangam literature and also how the language is affected today with various external factors. He also explains how the damage to the language created gaps between the people and the nature of their own land.

Though the author likes the Tamil language very much, he doesn’t deny the importance of science, environment, and evolution. But he strongly denies the factor “Tamil is the first language” as there is no evidence for that. Such factors add more ethical value to this book. He explains why Tamil is an eco language by quoting many examples from Sangam literature. The references help to understand how people are connected with nature very well for centuries. At the same time, he also blames the Tamil kings who were not concerned about nature much with some examples.

There are many poems in Sangam literature that describe the flowers, trees, birds, etc.. along with the story. There are many people who challenge such details about nature is not necessary for the story. But the author explains here such poems are not only written to explain the story but also to capture the nature of the land. For example, the poem called Narai Narai from Purananooru written by Sathimutha Pulavar is explained by the author in detail. The poem not only explains the color of the bird but also explains the shape of the bird. That’s not exciting. The poem describes that a poor man asking the bird to pass the message to his wife as the bird is a migratory. Based on all these explanations, the author is able to manifest the bird as a White stork.

While explaining the bond between the Tamil language and the land of Tamil, the author explains Tamil is not against any other languages. Also, he explains Tamil is still alive despite too many invasions of other languages because of the special characteristics of the language which is nothing but it is an eco language. Tamil is one of the languages which has multiple words for the same species. For example, Elephant has hundreds of words in Tamil and each word is fit to the animal in various ways. Due to the black in color it is called Kari, due to big foot Pongadi, Due to the dots on its face Pugarmugam, Due to size of the animal Peruma, and many more names explaining the characteristics of the animal. By explaining all in detail, the author worries as most of the kids in Tamil Nadu commonly call the animal an Elephant. He compares the influence of foreign language in Tamil is equivalent to the hunt of the predator on its prey. He blames the parents of the present generation is creating a gap between the language and kids by not teaching Tamil to their kids.

The author is referring to the book “Language Death” written by David Crystal and quoting that every society in this world is connected with the local environment. If the society is losing its natural wealth, that will create a big impact on the society. Such loss will create an impact on language too. The author compares the theory on Tamil as well. We use the word thumbikkai in Tamil which means the trunk of the elephant and he questions what would happen if the animal extinct from the land. We wouldn’t lose only the animal but we would also lose the word thumbikkai.

The author has referred to many poems from the Sangam literature to explain the link between the language and the ecosystem. There are thousands of poems in Tamil that were written two thousand years before including Thirukkural is clearly evidence of how Tamil evolved by inheriting the nature surrounding it. However, there is one reference that I like the most in this book. The author refers to Tholkappiyam which says uyarthinai for people. Though it uses uyar (which means top/up) for people it doesn’t use the word thazhthinai (bottom/down) for all other living things. It uses the word agrinai which means other than uyarthinai. This adds more ethical values to the language. A human speaking language doesn't want to hurt any other creatures on this planet. Can you believe it? Yes, that's the beauty of Tamil.  Tamil is not only a classical language but an eco language too...

 Article Published in Leaf Litter Magazine December 2023. ©Satheesh Muthu Gopal

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