Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The beginning 2

Continued from the previous post

"In the first place, he has argued that the island of Ceylon as well as the language spoken there were known in ancient times as Ilam and that the name of the language was later corrupted to Elu. These factors, in his opinion, "should lead one to conclude prima facie that, at the earliest times, Ilam was occupied , at least in the main, by a Tamil speaking people”. This argument is far from logical. Presumably it rests on the fact Ilam is now used only in Tamil as a name for Ceylon. But the origin of this name, far from indicating that the island was occupied by Tamil speaking people in ancient times, shows that the people from whose name Ilam is derived were Sinhalese. The earliest occurrence of this name is in the Brahmi inscriptions of South India. In these inscriptions, from Tirupparankunram and Sittannavasal, occurs the Prakrit form of this name, namely Ila. Evidently it is from this Prakrit form that the Tamil Ilam is derived. It could be shown that Ila is derived from Sinhala through the Pali Sihala, or more probably through another Prakrit form Sihila………. Thus, Ilam could be derived from the name Sihala and would therefore, mean the land of the Sinhalese rather than indicate that Ceylon was originally settled by the Tamils. Gnanapragasar's arguments, on this score, will become groundless. The derivation of Ilam from Sinhala is accepted by leading Tamil scholars. (S. Vaiyapuri Pillai, Madras Tamil Lexicon p 382 & S. Krishnaswamy Aiyangar in the Preface to S. Rasanayagam's Ancient Jaffna)"

"Secondly, Gnanapragasar has argued that the original inhabitants of Ceylon came from South India and that these pre-Aryan aborigines were Dravidians who seem to have spoken a Tamil dialect. He bases this on the assumption that the pre Aryan inhabitants of India represent an earlier wave of immigrants from the Mediterranean area and that no trace of any language other than Tamil is found in India till the arrival of the Indo-Aryans. Although the pre-historic relations between India and Ceylon are undeniable, the rest of his arguments are based on mere assumptions. It is not true to say that all the non-Aryan inhabitants of India were necessarily Dravidian. There were others as well, chief among whom were the Munda speaking people. The chronology of the Dravidian migration to India is itself an unsettled question."

"His third argument is that 'hundreds of Tamil place-names in Ceylon are pre-Sinhalese. He has given a few examples of elements of present-day Sinhalese place-names and what have been considered by him to be their Tamil origins. It is clear that this argument is based on superficial similarities and not on any historical study of the development or evolution of these names. This could be seen in the two sets of elements as well as from their phonological development. He has claimed, for instance, that the Sinhalese element dena, meaning 'low-lying land or valley', is derived from Tamil tinai, meaning corn. But dena and its more common variant deniya are derived from Sanskrit droni (=valley), through the Pali doni and medieval Sinhalese dona and deni.

The fourth argument that Sinhalese is based on Tamil and that, therefore, 'the original inhabitants of Ceylon' spoke Tamil is unconvincing. Gnanapragasar arrives at this conclusion by adopting unscientific methods in his linguistic research. One can only quote the views of Wilhelm Geiger on this matter:- 'Gnanapragasar's methods are not at all Indian; they are simply a relapse into the old practice of comparing two or more words of the most distant languages merely on the basis of similar sounds without any consideration for chronology, for phonological principles, or for the historical development of words and forms.' ".

To be continued...

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