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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: September 2009

1 - Introduction


The name Dravidian

Robert Caldwell (1856, 3rd edn, repr. 1956: 3–6) was the first to use ‘Dravidian’ as a generic name of the major language family, next to Indo-Aryan (a branch of Indo-European), spoken in the Indian subcontinent. The new name was an adaptation of a Sanskrit term draviḍa- (adj drāviḍa-) which was traditionally used to designate the Tamil language and people, in some contexts, and in others, vaguely the south Indian peoples. Caldwell says:

The word I have chosen is ‘Dravidian’, from Drāviḍa, the adjectival form of Draviḍa. This term, it is true, has sometimes been used, and is still sometimes used, in almost as restricted a sense as that of Tamil itself, so that though on the whole it is the best term I can find, I admit it is not perfectly free from ambiguity. It is a term which has already been used more or less distinctively by Sanskrit philologists, as a generic appellation for the South Indian people and their languages, and it is the only single term they ever seem to have used in this manner. I have, therefore, no doubt of the propriety of adopting it.

(1956: 4)

Caldwell refers to the use of Drāviḍa- as a language name by Kumārilabhaṭṭa's Tantravārttika (seventh century AD) (1956: 4).

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The Dravidian Languages
  • Online ISBN: 9780511486876
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