Feature Article

'Para Demala': a reader's response

[TamilNet, Sunday, 12 August 2007, 01:58 GMT]
A Sinhala reader of TamilNet has come out with the following note on our news feature 'Para Demala', dated 06 August 2007. According to him, the word 'para' is the worst kind of derogatory word in Sinhala, but is used in the sense to mean alien or foreign. It is not connected to the Pa'raiyar community. He further adds that even Sinhala-Buddhist reformers of the calibre of Anagarika Dharmapala had used the phrase 'Para Demala' in a negative sense to mean low-grade aliens.

The TamilNet observations follow:

The negative shades of meanings given for the entry 'para' and related entries in the Clough's Sinhala - English Dictionary are listed here:

Para (noun): enemy, adversary

Para: (adjective): inimical, other, different, foreign, remote, distant, low, vile, mean, worthless, outcast

Para-kula (noun): foreign breed, different race, fetter, band

Para-desa (noun): foreign country, abroad

Parayaa (noun): slave, outcast

Para-rupu (noun):enemy, opponent, adversary

Paravarayaa (noun): shoe maker, immigrant from Tuticoreen (Thooththukkudi in Tamil Nadu. The second meaning seems to be connected to the Paravar community).


It seems, the meanings for 'para' in Sinhala have come from two different lineages; Sanskrit and Tamil.

Para in Sanskrit means 'the other', foreigner, enemy, etc.

Pa'rai, as a noun in Tamil means the drum and as an adjective means anything connected to the drum, drumming and the drummer's community, which was treated as an outcast by Brahminism.

One may notice from the dictionary entries that the Sinhala meanings have come from both linguistic lineages.

The Sinhala alphabet has only one phoneme of R whereas the Tamil alphabet has two phonemes: R and retroflex 'R.

Even though Sinhala has only one R, its phonology is largely Dravidian. It is often pronounced like the Tamil retroflex 'R. Therefore, the word para is never pronounced in Sinhala as it is pronounced in Sanskrit or in Prakrit. It is pronounced as pa'ra.

The Tamils always understand the Sinhala phrase 'Para Demala' in its caste connotations, since they hear it pa'ra.

The word para to mean 'the other,' is pronunced in Tamil as it is in Sanskrit.


Chronology:
06.08.07  "Para Demala"


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