Know the Etymology: 88
Place Name of the Day: Sunday, 27 August 2017


Taṭṭaiya-malai, Oṭṭara-kuḷam, Pālāvōṭai, Āṇṭiyā-puḷiyaṅkuḷam, Koṇṭalup-pilavu, Marutām-pulam

தட்டையமலை, ஒட்டரகுளம், பாலாவோடை, ஆண்டியாபுளியங்குளம், கொண்டலுப்பிலவு, மருதாம்புலம்
Taṭṭaiya-malai, Oṭṭara-kuḷam, Pālāvōṭai, Āṇṭiyā-puḷiyaṅkuḷam, Koṇṭalup-pilavu, Marutām-pulam

Taṭṭai+a+malai
Oṭṭar+kuḷam
Pāl+ā+ōṭai
Āṇṭi+ā+puḷi+am+kuḷam
Kaṇṭai+u+pulavu
Marutu+ām+pulam


The flat hillock or mound (use of A as adjectival suffix or empty morpheme)

The tank of Oṭtar (use of A as genitive case suffix)

The milky-water pond (use of Ā as adjectival suffix or empty morpheme)

The Puḷiyaṅkulam village of the mendicant community (use of Ā as genitive case suffix)

The field found with Koṇḍal trees (use of U as empty morpheme)

The field found with Marutu trees (use of Ām as empty morpheme)


A1 adjectival suffix or empty morpheme (Cāriyai) for conjunction, as in Taṭṭai+a+malai > Taṭṭayamalai: the flat hill; Muḷḷi+a+vaḷai > Muḷḷiyavaḷai: the Muḷḷi plant surroundings (Kuṟuntokai 1: 1 for adjectival usage and Puṟanāṉūṟu: 3: 21 for empty morpheme usage; Tolkāppiyam 119 sanctions for unspecified number of empty morphemes; Āṟumuka Nāvalar lists 23 in Ilakkaṇac-curukkam, among which A and Ā come in)
A2 genitive case suffix, as in Oṭṭar+a+kuḷam > Oṭṭarakuḷam (Puṟanāṉūṟu, 45: 3; the genitive case suffix 'A' comes in Caṅkam literature and in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions. Tolkāppiyam does not list it, but commentators note the existence of it in Tamil. The suffix, widely seen in Caṅkam Tamil usage, was dropped in later Tamil, but it is commonly found in Kannada)
Ā1 adjectival suffix or empty morpheme (Cāriyai) for conjunction, as in Pāl+ōṭai > Pālāvōṭai: the milky water pond (The adjectival suffix usage of Ā is not attested in literary Tamil, but is seen in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions; Mahadevan, Early Tamil Epigraphy, 61; for empty morpheme usage in conjunctions, Tolkāppiyam 119 sanctions for unspecified number of empty morphemes; Āṟumuka Nāvalar lists 23 in Ilakkaṇac-curukkam, among which A and Ā come in)
Ā2 genitive case suffix, as in Kōyil+ā+kaṇṭi > Kōyilākkaṇḍi: the part of the temple; Āṇṭi+ā+puḷi+am+kuḷam > Āṇṭiyā Puḷiyaṅkuḷam: the Puḷiyaṅkuḷam village of the mendicant community (The genitive case suffix Ā is not seen in literary Tamil or in grammatical texts, but noticed in Early Tamil Brahmi inscriptions and in old Kannada (Mahadevan, Early Tamil Epigraphy, 23, 65, 66)
U as in Koṇṭal+u+pilavu: Koṇṭaluppilavu: the field found with Koṇṭal trees (U is a rare usage of empty morpheme/ Cāriyai for conjunction, even though it is listed by Āṟumuka Nāvalar; if Koṇṭalu is the prefix, then it is another linguistic feature)
Ām as in Marutu+ām+pulam > Marutāmpulam: the field seen with Marutu trees (Am is the usual empty morpheme/ Cāriyay, but Ām is used here; this is a rare example)


This column brings out some suffixes and empty morphemes seen in Eezham Tamil place names.

Of particular interest among them is the genitive case (Āṟām Vēṟṟumai) use of A and Ā seen in the place names.

The use of A as genitive case suffix could be widely seen in Caṅkam literature and in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions.

The genitive case use of Ā is not attested in literary Tamil, but is seen in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions and in old Kannada inscriptions, notes I. Mahadevan (ETE, 2003, p. 290, 599). In old Kannada, Ā comes especially after place names and is regarded as earlier than A, the more common genitive suffix in Kannada, Mahadevan further notes, citing many examples.

According to Mahadevan, the adjectival suffix use of Ā is also not attested by literary Tamil, but is seen in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions.

Both the adjectival and genetic case use of Ā are seen in many Eezham Tamil place names, in addition to its use as empty morpheme in coalescence.

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Genitive case suffix 'A' in Caṅkam usage:

"நின்ன கண்ணியும் ஆர் மிடைந்தன்றே" (புறநானூறு, 45: 3)

"Niṉṉa kaṇṇiyum ār miṭaintaṉṟē" (Puṟanāṉūṟu, 45: 3)

Your garland is made of plaited Ār (Ātti) flowers [Niṉ+a > Niṉṉa: your; the A is genitive case suffix]


Genitive case suffix 'A' in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions:

"குவிர அந்தை வேள் அ தான" (Early Tamil Epigraphy, 2003, 32)

"Kuvira antai vēḷ a tāṉa" (Early Tamil Epigraphy, 2003, 32)

The gift of Kuvira-antai Vēḷ

A is the most frequent genitive suffix in the Tamil Brahmi inscriptions


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Genitive case suffix Ā in Tamil Brahmi inscriptions:

"நல்லி[ய்] ஊர் ஆ பிடந்தை மகள்" (Early Tamil Epigraphy, 2003, 66)

"Nalli[y] ūr ā piṭantai makaḷ" (Early Tamil Epigraphy, 2003, 66)

The daughter of Piṭantai of the village Nalli [Ūr-ā: of the Ūr (village); Ā is genitive case suffix]

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Taṭṭaiya-malai is a place in Oddusuddan division of Mullaiththeevu district. There is another place called Taṭṭā-malai in the same division.

Oṭṭara-kuḷam is found as a tank name and place name near Ceṭṭi-kuḷam in Venkalachcheddikulam division of Vavuniya district (Murunkan OIS).

Pālāvōṭai is in Karainagar Island/ division of Jaffna district.

Āṇṭiyā-puḷiyaṅkuḷam is in Vengalachcheddikulam division of Vavuniya district.

Koṇṭalup-pilavu is a place name in Puthukkudiyiruppu division of Mullaiththeevu district.

Marutām-pulam: is a locality in Polikaṇti East in Vadamaradchi North division of Jaffna district (V. Almanac, 2013-14, p. 154).

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Some related place names:

A as adjectival suffix or empty morpheme for conjunction:

Taṭṭaiya-malai: Oddusuddan, Mullaiththeevu

Muḷḷiya-vaḷai: Karaithuraippattu, Mullaiththeevu

Vaṭṭiya-vaḷai: Tuṉṉālai, Vadamaradchi Northeast, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 211)

Alliya-vattai: Kōppāy, Valikamam East, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 252)

Āḻiya-vaḷai: Vadamaradchi East, Jaffna. Āḻi: sea

Āviya-kuḷam: Moothoor, Trincomalee. Āvi: pond, usually a small constructed pond; Kuḷam also means a pond or tank, usually larger than Āvi

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A as genitive case affix:

Mutaliya-vaḷavu: Kāṅkēyaṉtuṟai, Valikamam North, Jaffna (V. Almanac, 2013-14, p, 117). Mutali: chief

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Ā as adjectival suffix or empty morpheme for conjunction:

Vēṭṭaiyā-muṟippu: Manthai West, Mannar. Vēṭṭai: hunting

Cīṉiyā+mōṭṭai: Karaithuṟaippattu, Mullaiththeevu. Cīṉi: a shrub related to Acacia; Cīṉi+ā+mōṭṭai

Cakkaḷāvōṭai: Karainagar, Jaffna. Cakkaḷai: mud

Maṇṇā-kaṇṭal: Puthukkudiyiruppu, Mullaiththeevu. Maṇ+ā+kaṇṭal

Maṇṇā-kuḷam: Vavuniya North, Vavuniya. Maṇ+ā+kuḷam

Cakkaḷā-vattai: Navuṇṭil, Vadamaradchi Southwest, Jaffna (V. Almanac, 2013-14, p. 93)

Kōṇā-vaḷai: Tirunelvēli, Nallur, Jaffna

Kōṇā-vattai: Addalaichchenai, Amparai

Kottampiyā-kuḷam: Tuṇukkai, Mullaiththeevu.

Kōriyāvaṭi: Puṅkuṭutīvu, Kayts, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 154). Kōri: tower, obelisk; Kōri+aṭi > Kōriyaṭi is the form seen in other instances; here it is Kōri+ā+aṭi

Otiyā-vaḷavu: Polikaṇṭi, Vadamaradchi North, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 173). Oti: a tree; It has to be Oti+am+vaḷavu > Otiyavaḷavu; but here it is Oti+ā+vaḷavu > Otiyāvaḷavu. Note Otiya-malai in Oddusuddan, Mullaiththeevu, where Oti+am+malai has become Otiyamalai in the usual way.

Kallāk-kaṭṭuvaṉ: Cuṇṇākam, Valikamam South, Jaffna. Kal+ā+kaṭṭuvaṉ

Nellā-vil: Vēlaṇai, Kayts, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 156). Nel: paddy; Vil: pond; Nel+ā+vil

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Ā as genitive case affix:

Ūmacciyā-koṭṭu-veḷi: Karaithuraippattu, Mullaiththeevu. Koṭṭu: shed, hut, storage hut

Caṅkā-vattai: Kantarōṭai, Valikamam South, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 72)

Paṇṭāriyā-veḷi: Manmunai Southwest, Batticaloa (V. Almanac, 2013-14, p. 104). Paṇṭāri: name of a community, a member of that community; Veḷi: open place

Ceṭṭiyā-kuṟicci: Poonakari, Kilinochchi. Ceṭṭi: merchant community or a member of that community; Ceṭṭi+ā+kuṟicci; note place names like Ceṭṭi-kuḷam

Pāṇā-veṭṭi: Tolpuram, Valikamam West, Jaffna. Pāṇ: = Pāṇar: a community; Veṭṭi: = Veṭṭai: open place

Kottiyā-vattai: Cuṇṇākam, Valikamam South, Jaffna. See column 84

Kollā-vattai: Polikaṇṭi, Vaamaradchi North, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 173). Kol+ā+vattai > Kollāvattai; compare another place name, Kol+piṭṭi > Koṟpiṭṭi

Mūttiyā-vattai: Kaitaṭi, Thenmaradchi, Jaffna (V. Almanac, 2013-14, p. 98). Either Mūti+ā+vattai > Mūtiyāvattai becoming Mūttiyāvattai; or Mūtti+ā+vattai > Mūttiyāvattai

Kaṇakkaṉā-kuḷam: Manthai East, Mullaiththeevu. Kaṇakkaṉ: accountant, one who maintains tax accounts etc. Note the form Kaṇakkaṉ-kuḷam seen in Mannar Town

Kaṅkāṇiyā-kuḷam: Oddusuddan, Mullaiththeevu. Kaṅkāṇi: supervisor

Nīlappiṭṭiyā-kuḷam: Manthai East, Mullaiththeevu. Nīlappiṭṭi: a place (meaning the raised ground plain of indigo plants); Nīlappiṭṭi+ā+kuḷam: the tank of Nīlappiṭṭi

Mutaliyā-vaṭṭai: near Malaiyaṭi, Iṟakkāmam, Amparai (Thirukkovil OIS). Mutali: chief; Vattai: place or grove/ garden; Mutali+ā+vattai

Ayyaṉā-kuḷam: south of Pomparippu, Ilavankulam, Puttalam (Kalpitiya OIS). Note the place name Aiyaṉ-kuḷam in another instance; Aiyaṉ: the deity Aiyaṉār; Aiyaṉ+ā+kuḷam

Tavaciyā-kuḷam: Ammivaittāṉ, Mantahi East, Mullaiththeevu (Vavuniya OIS). Tavaci: hermit; Tavaci+ā+kuḷam

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A, Ā coming by change or drop of the ending:

Cēṇiya-teru: Jaffna city, Jaffna. R dropped in Cēṇiyar+teru

Uṭaiyā-veḷi: Puthukkudiyiruppu, Mullaiththeevu

Uṭaiyā-kiṇaṟṟaṭi: Aḷaveṭṭi, Valikamam North, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 189)

Taṭṭā-teru: Vaṇṇārpaṇṇai, Jaffna. R dropped in Taṭṭār-teru. Taṭṭār: goldsmiths

Vēḷā-tōppu: Irupālai, Valikamam East, Jaffna (V. Almanac, p. 95). Probably N dropped in Vēḷāntōppu or Vēḻar-tōppu

Kaṉṉiyā: Trincomalee Town and Gravets, Trincomalee. Y dropped in Kaṉṉiyāy

Kiṇṇiyā: Kinniya, Trincomalee. Y dropped in Kiṇṇiyāy

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Use of U as empty morpheme:

Kolluk-kuṭi: Vēlaṇai West, Kayts, Jaffna (Balasundaram, p. 156). Kol+u+kuṭi; Kol: ironsmith, the ironsmith community

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Revised: Sunday, 27 August 2017, 18:30

First published: Saturday, 29 March 2008, 11:18

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