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19 September, 2007

The Kural

There is a form of poetry called the kural in Tamil. It is best known by the classic Thirukural, a book of 1330 kurals written by Valluvar in the 1st century BC. A kural is a poem of seven words, four in the first line and three in the second, and addresses a wide variety of subjects. The first (and most famous) kural is

"Agara mudala ezhuthellam adhi
bagavan mudatrae ulagu."


A-kara (the letter a) is the first of all writing
God is the first of all being.

One feature peculiar to Tamil compared to English is that two words can be merged into one, while they must be hyphenated in English, whicha allows the seven-word rule to be applied rigidly.

Here's a link for more information.

In reply, David Israel said
The Wikipedia item about the Kural points, in turn, to Venpa for a discussion of the metrical form used by the Kural.

It is explained to be this sequence—
cheer cheer cheer cheer
cheer cheer eetru-cheer
mdash;where "cheer" is explained to be roughtly equivalent (in effect) to the English iamb. My question: what is the eetru cheer roughly equivalent to, in terms of English prosody? Also, besides just the metrical verse form, what should one know about the formal grammar of the sentence?

Establishing that, it could be possible to attempt writing
something like an English Kural, maybe. :-)
Ozymandias replied:

The kural is a form of venpa poetry, consisting of 1 and 3/4th feet. Venpa can go upto 11 and 3/4th feet.

The basic Tamil poetic unit is the asai, which can be can be monosyllabic (ner) or bisyllabic (nirai). 1-4 asais make a cheer, though 4-asai cheers are not used in venpa poetry.

Four cheers make a foot or 'adi', which is the line of the poem. A a venpa poem is one where the last line is just 3/4th foot (eetr-adi). An eetru-cheer is a truncated cheer.

1-asai cheers: These can only occur in the end, and that too they must be either a naal (1 long vowel) or a malar (2 short vowels).

2-asai cheers: 4 types are possible (nerner, nernirai, nirainer, nirainirai) and all are allowed except in the last cheer. The last cheer (which is truncated) must be either naal-short (long-short) or malar-short (short-short-short).

3-asai cheers: Though 8 types of asai combinations are possible, only the nirai-X-ner cheer and ner-X-nirai cheer are allowed. Both long and short vowel ners and nirais are allowed.

Three rules govern the assembly of cheers:

a)X-ner must be followed by nirai-X or nirai-X-ner.
b)X-nirai must be followed by ner-X or ner-X-nirai.
c)nirai-X-ner must be followed by ner-X or ner-X-nirai.

I hope with these rules once can make up an English venpa quite easily.


© Ozymandias.

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