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Being Local - Dēsī and Dēśya as Linguistic Categories in Old Kannada


· Naresh Keerthi Hebrew University (Jerusalem, Israel)


07/27 | 15:50-16:10 UTC+2/CEST


An enduring contribution of the Prakrit grammarians to linguistic thought in India, is the lexical typology of tatsama, tadbhava and dēśī words. This typology has gone beyond the grammar books of Prakrit, to the South Indian languages, whose early grammars adopt this classification, with occasional additions. The earliest grammar of Kannada - the Kavirājamārga (8th century CE), has much discussion about the harmonious combination of words from across these different classes - be it within a compound, or in a prose sentence or in a verse. It appears that notions such as grammatical well-formedness, poetic diction and literary register are all organised around the agreeable synthesis of members of these distinct taxa. This paper will discuss the tatsama-tadbhava-dēśi classification as an exercise in contrastive linguistics, and thereby trace the role of these categories in forging a polyphonic linguistic identity for Kannada. Further, mārga and dēśī are the two tenors that are claimed to characterize literary Kannada. This bipartite classification has a complex history that is enmeshed with the domains of theatre, poetry, dance and music. This paper will also attempt to tease out connections between the two denotations of dēśi – one as a label of linguistic singularity and the other as a marker of poetic alterity.