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Sentence Types In Muduga Language
(Department of Linguistics University of Kerala )

By Dr. N.Rajendran

The hill tribe Mudugas live in the remote forest settlements of the Attappady tribal area, in the Palghat District of Kerala.  According to 1971 Census their total population in Attappady is 2370.  The Mudugas have not changed much by contact with the civilised people or by any of the welfare schemes which the government has implemented for the development of the tribes.  In the matter of education their condition is miserable.  They have a limited culture of their own which they maintain in isolation1.  Regarding their language the Anthropologists and Sociologists who have conducted field work in the tribal areas of Kerala pointed out that the language spoken by Mudugas is a dialect of Tamil with many Tulu words and phrases2.  A discriptive analysis of the language spoken by the Mudugas shows that, even though it has got some similarities with Tamil in the area of grammatical structure, it cannot be treated as a dialect of Tamil3

          A sentence is defined as any form that occurs in absolute position.  The various sentence types in Muduga language can be classified in to three major groups such as simple, complex and compound, which define seven major types of sentence patterns viz., Intransitive, Transitive, Causative, Imperative, Optative, Negative and Interrogative.

 1.      Simple sentence

Simple sentences are those with a single subject and predicate with or without attributes qualifying and modifying the subject noun and predicate verb respectively.  Such sentences are minimally specified with a subject noun and a predicate finite verb.  With respect to the particular verb which occurs in such sentences the structure would show characteristic differences as the case of copular sentences which do not obligatorily demand the presence of the copular verb.  Consequently the following classification can be done.

 1.1    Single verb predicate

e.g.    vanda

     ‘(she) came’

1.2.   Copular types (with optional deletion of copular ‘be’ verb)

e.g.    atu mara aakku

          that tree is

          atu mara

          that tree

          ‘That is a tree’

1.3.   Other types

1.3.1.     With existential ‘be’ verb

(a)   absolute existence

e.g. aandave irukku

          God is

          ‘There is God’

(b)   temporal existence

e.g.  naale agelilu cande irukku

       tomarrow in Agaili market is

       ‘There is market in Agali tomarrow’

(c)   with location

e.g.  coolelu veendu irukku

       in forest animal is

       ‘There is animal in the forest’

(d)   possession thing

e.g.  enaakku pana irukku

       to me money is

       ‘I have money’

(e)   possession quality

e.g.  puuvukk cuuRu irukku

       to flower smell is

       ‘flowerhas smell’

1.3.2.     With nominal and verbal attributives   Nominal attributives

(a)  Possessive

          e.g. ennu mundu

                 ‘My dhoti’

(b)  Demonstrative

e.g.  ennu aa mundu

        my that dhoti

(c)  Numeral

e.g.  ennu aa oru mundu

        my that one dhoti

(d)  Adjectival

e.g.  ennu as oru nalla mundu

        my that one good dhoti

          The adjectival element in the nominal phrase can be extraposed before demonstrative and numeral elements as shown below:

                   e.g.  ennu aa oru nalla mundu

                           my that one good dhoti

                           ennu nalla aa oru mundu

                           my good that one dhoti  Verbal attributieves

(a)   Manner

e.g.  ava melle ponna

        she slowly went

   ‘She went slowly’

(b)   Place

             ava gaddelu poona

              she in field went

           ‘  she went to the field’



(c)   Time

e.g.  ava nigaaRRu vanda

        she yesterday came

    ‘She came yesterday’

(e)  Direction

e.g.  ava vaanikkee ponna

        she straight to the river went

       ‘She went to the river’

          Nominal elements other than attributives illustrated in the foregoing discussion above (like Direct object, Indirect object and other casal nominals) will receive detailed treatment in the discussion of other sentence types. 

2.                      Complex sentence

Complex sentences are constituted by a main sentence with one or more subordinate clauses.  These clauses are characterised by typical occurrence of the predicate non-finite verbs with its subject subordinated to the main sentece.  In fact a sentence which involves a finite verb and one or more non-finite verbs would be complex one.  The following types of subordinate clauses are attested. 

2.1.   Participial clauses

2.1.1       Relative participial clause

e.g.  atu nigaaRRu aguta pille aakku

        that yesterday creid-which child is

        ‘It is the child who cried yesterday’

2.1.2.     Verbal participial clause

e.g.  make ooti vanda

        daughter having run came

        ‘Daughter came by running’

2.1.3.     Conditional participial clause

e.g.  nii connaa ava varuva

        you (Sg) if said she will come

        ‘If you said she will come’

2.1.4.     Purposive participial clause

e.g.  ava silima nootiya poona

        she film for seeing went

        ‘She went for seering the film’

2.2.       Complement clause

  e.g.  nii connatu poyi aakku

        you (Sg) said-that lie is

        ‘The fact that you told the thing is not true’

2.2.         Nominalized clause

e.g.  avaltu veppu moosa aakku

        of she cooking bad is

        ‘Her cokking is not good’

 3.                Compound sentence

Compound sentences are those with two or more co-ordinate sentences constituted to function as a single sentence.  This involves conjunction (of elements in both the nominal and verbal phrases of the co-ordinated sentences and often, also between the entire sentences in which case no conjunctive particle is being employed as sentential conjunction here), disjunction andsentence initiation in a discourse. 

3.1.         Conjuction

3.1.1.     Nominal

e.g.  niimu naanumu vandeeRu

        you and I and came

        ‘You and I came’

3.1.2.     verbal

e.g.  ava nagutumu agutumu vanda

        she laughted and cried and came

        ‘She came by laughing and crying’

3.1.3.     Sentential

e.g.  pendu vanda aale poona

        wife came husband went

        ‘Wife came and the husbadn went’

3.2.         Disjunction

3.2.1.     Nominal

e.g.  avanoo naanoo poona

       he or I will go

      ‘Either he or I will go

3.2.2       Verbal

ava agutoo nogutoo poona

she cried or laughed or went

she went either by crying or by laughing

3.3.         Sentence initiation

e.g.  1.  appu nii enna ceyve?

             then you what will do

             ‘Then what will you do?’

2.          aanalu enaakku pana veetu

if so to me money need

‘If so, I need money’


3.          atukontu enaakku caaya veeta

because of that to me tea don’t need

‘Because of that, I don’t want tea’


4.          Intransitive sentences

Intransitive sentences are those which involve intransitive verbs which do not co-occur with object nominals.  These verbs are of the following types:

4.1.   Intransitive verbs > Transitive  verbs

e.g.  1.  eeR-  ‘to climb’ > eeRR -         ‘make to climb’

             ave marattilu eeRine

           he on the tree climbed

           ‘He climbed on the tree’

           avane marattilu eeRRina

           to him on the tree (she) made to climb

           ‘(She) made him to climb on the tree’

          2.  niing-  ‘to move’  >  niikk-    ‘make to move’

               ava niingine

               be moved

               ‘He moved’

                avane niikkina

               to him (she) made to move’

               (she /made him to move)’

          3.   tin  ‘to eat’  >  tiiRR-    ‘make to eat’

               ave paga tinde

              he fruit ate

              ‘He ate fruit’

              avane paga tii RRina

             to him fruit (she) made to eat


               ‘(She) made him to eat the fruit’

          4.  Kita-  ‘to lie’  >  Kitatt-   ‘make to lie’

               ave paayilu kitande

               he on mat (he) lay

               “He lay on the mat’

               avane paayilu kitattina

               to him on mat (she) made to lie

               ‘(She) made him to lie on the mat

4.2.   Intransitive verbs (which will not have transitive counter-parts)

e.g.  ava kulitia

        she bathed

        ‘She bathed’

Intransitive verbs will not co-occur with object nominals unlike the transitive verbs.


5.          Transitive sentence

         The transitive sentences are those which involve transitive verbs of the following types which co-occur with object nominals.  These verbs are of the following types:

e.g.  1.  aatt-  ‘make to dance’  <  aat-  ‘to dance’

            avane aattina

             to him (she) made to dance

             ‘She made him to dance’

            ave aatine

            he danced

            ‘He danced’

   2.   uRaakk-   ‘make to sleep’  <  uRaang   ‘to sleep’

          avane uRaakkina

          to him (she) made to sleep

          ‘(She) made him to sleep’

          ave uRaangine

          he slept

          ‘He slept’

3.          tiiRR-  ‘make to eat’  <  tin-  ‘to eat’

avane miinu tiiRRina

to him fish (she) made to eat

‘(She) madehim to eat fish’

ave miinu tinde

he fish ate

‘He ate fish’

4.          natatt-  ‘make to walk’  <  nata-  ‘to walk’

avane natattina

to him (she) made to walk

‘(She) made him to walk’

ave natande

he walked

‘He walked’


5.2.   Transitive verbs (which will not have instransitive counter-parts)

e.g.  1.  kuti-  ‘to drink’

            ava caaya kutitta

            she tea drank

            ‘She drank tea’

2.       vilaat-  ‘to pay’

ava gaddelu vilaatina

she infield played

‘She played in the field’


The occurrence of the object nominals in intransitive sentences can be illustrated as shown below:

(a)   Direct object nominal

The direct object nominal will be in the accustive case.

e.g.  ave ennana atitte

        he to me beat

        ‘He beat me’

(b)   Indirect object nominal

The indirect object nominal will be in the dative case.

e.g.  ave enaakku oru maatine tande

        he to me one to cow gave

        ‘He gave me a cow’

Generally when an inanimate nominal occurs as direct object, the accusative case will not be added.

e.g.  ave enaakku pana tande

        he to me money gave

        ‘He gave me money’

6.          Causative sentence

          Causative sentences are those which involve a causative verbs which would generally satisfy all syntactic functions of transitives by co-occurring with object nominals but also will have an additional function of co-occurring with a nominal other than object nominals whose syntactic function would be that of an external causer.

e.g.  ava avane aticcina

        she to him caused to beat

      ‘She caused him to beat’

       avvekku aatine kotuccina

       to mother to sheep caused to give

       ‘(She) caused to give the sheep to the mother’

7.          Imperative sentence

7.1.   Imperative sentences are those which involve imperative verbs.  These sentences        would typically involve the second person subject which can be deleted optionally.

e.g.  Sg.  nii     vaa

        ‘you (Sg.) come’


       ‘(you Sg) come’

P1.  nimma    vaayi

       ‘you (P1.) come’


       ‘(you P1.) come’

   The imperative sentence can be preceded by a  vocative nominal in which

case also the second person subject can optinally be deleted.


   e.g.  kakkii  nii  ingu  vaa

       kakki you here come

        ‘Kakki you come here’

       kakkii iingu vaa

       kakki here come

       ‘Kakki come here’


7.2.   Imperative negative

e.g.  nii     pootoo

        ‘You (Sg.) should go’

        nii     poota

        ‘You (Sg.) should not go’

8.          Optative sentence

Optative sentences are those which involve the optative verbs. 

e.g.  ave varaata

       he let come

      ‘Let him come’

       ava paataata

       she let sing

       ‘Let her sing’

9.          Negative sentence

        Negation is effected either by adding a negative marker to the verb stem or by using negative ‘be’ verbs.  The following would illustrate negation in sentences.

9.1.   Sentence negation

9.1.1       Regular verbs

e.g.  ave vande

        ‘He came’

        ave varale

        ‘He did not come’

        ave vaRe

        ‘He comes’

        ave vaRatille

        ‘He does not come’

        ave varuve

        ‘He will come’

        ave varamaatte

        ‘He will not come’


9.1.2.     Imperative verbs

e.g.  nii     pootoo

        ‘You (Sg.) should go’

         nii    poota

         ‘You (Sg.) should not go’

9.1.3.     ‘be’ verbs

e.g.  appe kuurelu irukku

        father in house is

        ‘Father is in the house’

        appe kuurelu ille

        father in house not

        ‘Father is not in the house’

        atu mara aakku

        that tree is

        ‘That is a free’

        atu mara alle

        that tree not

        ‘That is not a tree’

9.2.         Clause negation

9.2.1.     Relative participial clause

e.g.  nigaaRRu vanda pille

        yesterday which came girl

         ‘The girl who came Yesterday’

          nigaaRRu Varatta pille

         Yesterday which did not come girl.

        ‘The girl who donot come Yesterday’

9.2.2 Verbal participle clause

          ava ooti Vanda

          She having run came

        ‘She came by running’

         ava ootate vanda

        ‘She came by running’

        ava ootate vanda

     she without running came

     ‘She came without running’

10.            Interrogative sentence

       Interrogative sentences attested in the speech of Mudugas fall into the following types:

(a)   yes-no questions

(b)   e-questions

10.1.   Yes-no questions

       They are interrogations of statement sentences demanding an answer either yes or no.

10.1.1. With regular verbs

e.g.  ave paatuRe

        he sings

        ‘He is singing’

        ave paatuReyaa?

         he is singing?

         ‘Is he singing?’

         ave ceyve

         he will do

         ‘He will do it’

         ave ceyvo?

         he will do?

         ‘Will he do it?’

         ave vande

         ‘He came’

         ave vandeyaa?

         he did come?

        ‘Did he come?’

10.1.2. With ‘be’ positive verbs

e.g.  appe kuurelu irukku

        father in house is

        ‘Father is in the house’

        appe Kuurelu irukkaa?

        father in house is?

        ‘Is father is in the house’

10.1.3.   With ‘be’ negative verbs

e.g.  itu mara aakku

        this tree is

        ‘It is a tree’

        itu mara alle?

        this tree is it?

        ‘Is it a tree?’

10.1.4. With nominal predicate

e.g.  itu caaRoo?

        it is it curry?

        ‘Is it curry?’

10.2.   e – questions

      This group includes interrogative nominals involving the interrogative base e-/ee- and also aaur (who) which do not actually have the e- element, but instead an aa- element.  The interrogative workds are listed below:

enna     ‘what’

eetu     ‘which’

aaru     ‘who’

eengu   ‘where’

eppu     ‘when’

ettine   ‘how much’

ecce     ‘how’

The morphological structure of the interrogative words is given below:


Interrogative base




























‘how much’












 The following chart will further illustrate the interrogative words


Interrogative words











‘personal name’











+ human




+ location




+ temporal




+ quantitative


‘that much’


+ manner


‘in that manner’

e.g.  enna

atu enna veendu aakku?

that what animal is

‘What animal is that?’


atu oru maatu

that one cow

‘That is a cow’


ava enna tinnuRa?

she what eats?

‘What is she eating?’


ava paga tinnuRa

she fruit eats

‘She is eating fruit’


ninnu peeru enna?

your name what?

‘What is your name?’


ennu peeru kakki

my name Kakki

‘My name is Kakki’



          atu eetu veendu?

          that which animal

          ‘Which animal is that?’


          atu aane aakku

          that elephant is

          ‘That is an elephant’


          ninnu kuure eetu?

          your house which

          ‘Which is your house?’


          ennu kuure atu

          my house that

          ‘That is my house’


          atu  cetu pille?

          that which girl

          ‘Which is that girl?’


          atu ennu maka

          that my daughter

          ‘That is my daughter’



          atu aaru?

          that who?

          ‘Who is that?’


          atu ennappe

          that my father

          ‘That is my father’


          ninnu kuure eengu irukku?

          your house where is

          ‘Where is your house?’


          ennu kuure aangu irukku

          my house there is

          ‘My house is there’



          nii eppu vande?

          you when came

          ‘When did you come?’


          naanu nigaaRRu vande

          I yesterday came

          ‘I came yesterday’


          nii ettine ruupaayi kotutte?

          you how many rupees gave

          ‘How many rupees you gave?’


          naanu attine ruupaayi kotutte

          I that much rupees gave

          ‘I gave that much of rupees’


          ava ecce poona?

          she how went

          ‘How did she go?’


          ava acce poona

          she in that manner went

          ‘She went in that manner’

11.          Basic word order types

11.1.   Subject + Verb

e.g.  ava vanda

        ‘She came’

11.2.   Subject  +  Direct object  + Verb

e.g.  ava paga tinda

        she fruit ate

        ‘She ate fruit’

11.2.1. Direct object  +  Subject  +  Verb

e.g.  paga ava tinda

        fruit she ate

        ‘She ate fruit’

11.3.  Subject  +  Indirect object  +  Direct object   +  Verb

          e.g.  ave enaakku paga tande

                  he to me fruit gave

                  ‘He gave me fruit’

11.3.1.   Indirect object  +  Subject  +  Direct object  +  Verb

e.g.  enaakku ave paga tande

        to me he fruit gave

        ‘He gave me fruit’

11.3.2.   Subject  +  Direct object  +  Indirect object  +  Verb

e.g.  ave paga enaakku tande

        he fruit to me gave’He gave the fruit to me’



Andrewskutty  A.P. (1973) Language of the Laccadive Island.

                   Ph. D. Thesis (Unpublished).  University of Kerala, Trivandrum.


Hiremath, R.C. (1961) Structure of Kannade, Karnatak University, Dharwar.


Luiz, A.A.D. (1962) Tribes of Kerala, Bharatiya Admjati Sevak Sangh, New Delhi.


Rajendran, N (1978) Description of the Language of Mudugas,

                   Ph. D Thesis (Unpublished), University of Kerala, Trivandrum


          Rajendran N(1979) “Cultural Description of Mudugas – A Hill Tribes of       Attappady”.

          Journal of Kerala Studies Vol. VI Parts III  & IV, Department of History,

          University of Kerala, Trivandrum.


          Rajendran N (1985) “Language and Culture of Mudugas” International Journal of

          Dravidian Linguistics, Vol XIV., No. 1. Dravidian Linguistics

          Association, Trivandrum.


Thurston  Edgar, (1975) Castes and Tribes of Southern India, Vol, V.

          Cosmo Publications, New Delhi.


·         * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

1.      For more details about the culture of Mudugas see Rajendran. N (1979)

2.      For more details about the Muduga Language see Rajendran. N (1978)


3.  Luiz,  A.A.D. (1962).



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