Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 9 : 3 March 2009
ISSN 1930-2940

Managing Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.
         Lakhan Gusain, Ph.D.
         K. Karunakaran, Ph.D.
         Jennifer Marie Bayer, Ph.D.



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Plural in Tamil and Telugu - A Comparison

A. Parimalagantham, M.A., M.Phil.


Genetically related languages are grouped as a family like Indo-Aryan, Dravidian, Tibeto-Burman, Austro- Asiatic, etc. Structurally related languages are divided into six categories namely SOV, OVS, VSO, VOS, SVO, and OSV. Among these six categories, Tamil and Telugu belong to SOV (Subject, Object and Verb) group. Tamil and Telugu have three way distinctions in person and two distinctions in number. These are First person singular and plural, Second person singular and plural and Third person singular and plural.

Aim of the Study

The present paper aims to describe the plurals, its surface markers and its functions in usage in Tamil and Telugu.


Plurals are the opposite form of singular. They indicate more than one thing or person. The plural markers are generally added with the nouns in Tamil and Telugu.

Example from Tamil
naay+kaL = naaykaL
kukka+lu = kukkalu "dogs"

Syntactically, when the plural noun occurs in a sentence it has its plural concord/agreement.

Example from Tamil
naaykaL kuraitthana
kukkalu morigaayi "The dogs barked."

Plural Markers

In Tamil, the bound form -kaL is a marker of plural. The agreement marker of this bound form kaL is -ar, -aar, -aarkaL -i and -na. In Telugu the bound form -lu is a marker of plural and the agreement marker for plural -lu is -ru and -yi.

There is a difference between Tamil and Telugu. The marker -kaL occurs with the noun and the verb. But in Telugu the plural marker -lu occurs only with the noun.

In Tamil, if the plural marker -kaL occurs with the human noun, then the plural marker also occurs with the verb as an agreement marker, whereas in Telugu, the plural marker -lu does not occur with the verb as an agreement.

Morphophonemic Changes

When the plural marker -kaL is added with the nouns, the following changes are made.

i) When -kaL is added with the -m ending words, the final m of the noun is changed into nasal n and voiceless velar k changed into voiced velar -g-.
Example from Tamil
maram+kaL = marangaL "trees"
pazham+kaL = pazhangaL "fruits"
ii) When the plural marker -kaL is added with the words like muL, naaL, the final retroflex L of the noun changed into T. But there is a exception with the word kooL "planet" kooL+kaL = kooLkaL "planets".
Example from Tamil
muL+kaL = muTkaL "thorns"
naaL+kaL = naaTkaL "days"
iii) When the -kaL marker is added with the words like kal, col, pal, etc. the final lateral l of the words is changed into trill R.
Example from Tamil
kal+kaL = kaRkaL "stones"
col+kaL = coRkaL "words"
pal+kaL = paRkaL "teeth"

This type of changes occurs only with the single syllable words. When the words have more than one syllable, then, the lateral l in those words are not changed like before. For example, with ural, it will be ural+kaL = uralkaL with kappal "ship" kappal+kaL = kappalkaL "ships".

But in Telugu Bh. Krishnamurti (1985) and P.S.Subramaniam (1974) gave the following morpho-phonemic changes.

Examples from Telugu
i) pilli+lu= pillulu. The final i is changed into u due to the influence of the final u of the plural marker -lu.
ii) guDi+lu = GuLLu. Final syllable is dropped as well as the lateral l is changed into the retroflex LL.

This is only the beginning part of the article. PLEASE CLICK HERE TO READ THE ARTICLE IN PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION.

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A. Parimalagantham, M.A., M.Phil.
Department of Lexicography
P. S. Telugu University
Hyderabad - 500 004
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