On polysemy in Tamil and other Indian languages

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Mohanty, Panchanan
Arulmozi, S.
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Scholars (e.g. Burrow 1968:300) have expressed surprise regarding the very small number of borrowed words from Sanskrit in Tamil as opposed to the other three major literary Dravidian languages, i.e. Telugu, Kannada, and Malayalam. But there is no detailed discussion as to why it has happened in Tamil when other Dravidian languages possess a lot of Sanskrit borrowings. We want to argue here that the small number of consonant letters in Tamil alphabet is responsible for it. And its natural outcome is that other Dravidian languages have borrowed from Sanskrit whenever necessary whereas Tamil has managed its situation by developing polysemy. In other words, Tamil is more polysemous compared to its sister languages. In fact, we want to propose that if a language has a smaller alphabet than others, it has to be more polysemous than the latter. In this paper, we will demonstrate it with examples from Tamil vis-a-vis their cognates in Telugu.
Global Wordnet Conference, GWC 2010