Sankethi language

Sankethi is distinct from Tamil and is now an independent language according to Dravidian linguists such as Hampa Nagarajaiah. Many still call it a dialect of Tamil in keeping with tradition. It is to be noted that Sankethi can hardly be understood by native Tamil speakers.

This language clearly separated from Tamil around the same time as Malayalam did and is unique in that no contact was retained with the country of origin. Thus the language grew independently. It has certaily been influenced by and borrowed from Kannada and Sanskrit but has some unique characteristics. It shares similarities with Malayalam as well, as the land from which the Sankethis migrated is on the Kerala-Tamilnadu border and they must have spoken a similar tongue in the days gone. Some of the words used in Sanketi are more similar to classical Tamil vocabulary. Sankethi has also retained the proto-Dravidian elements in some places.


The language is highly developed and differentiated in terms of the number of sounds used. It uses all the sounds in Sanskrit or Kannada plus a few more. In particular, the inflection of the sound "a" can change the meaning significantly. "à" can be called the interrogative as it seems to be a development of "e" and gives the meaning of interrogation when placed initially while "a" gives an affirmative meaning.

e.g "àdu" will mean "which" while "adu" means "that". Likewise àttukku= why,to which? and attukku- because of that, to that; àvuñ= which man, avuñ= that man etc.

This sound can of course occur in other places and cause differences in meaning. Another peculiar sound used is the anunAsika/nasal intonation as in avuñ. This is like the sound in Spanish. The presence or absence of this sound at the end of some words can be crucial in differentiating whether it refers to the masculine gender or a feminine/plural.

e.g colnAñ= he said, colnA= she said, they said.

Another unigue feature is the occurrence of the full sound "u" and the half rounded "ù". In Tamil "ù" occurs as a rule at the end of words. There are only a few exceptions. But in Sankethi the 2 sounds are distinct and can cause a change in meaning.

e.g ALu= depth, ALù= to rule, man.

There is also the rare occurrence of a flattend "Ā" as in the English word "bank".

e.g pĀru-grandson.

There is also a clear distinction between voiced and unvoiced consonants unlike in Tamil.


Sankethi has a rich vocabulary. As the community is very close-knit, there also kinship terms aplenty in the Sankethi language. There is much emphasis laid on differentiation of numbers(singular and plural) which is not seen either in spoken Kannada or Tamil. There is also a clear dfferentiation of the tenses and person(1st, 2nd or 3rd). There are 3 genders(masculine, feminine and neuter) and a clear differentiation between the inclusive nad non-inclusive pronoun- nAnga,engaDE vs nAmba/nAma, nammaDE/nambaDE.The case markers are also significantly different from Tamil. One feature, not seen in either Kannada or Tamil is the usage of neuter gender, when the subject is someone young, a child or someone closely related (like a sibling). Nearly all words are vowel-ending and there is a musical quality to the speech. Also most words ending in "a" in kannada including the proper names end in "u" in SankEti. As a rule, words that end in "e" in kannada and "ai" in Tamil end in "a" in Sankethi. This is similar to Malayalam and Telugu.

Negation is indicated by suffixing the appropriate ending. They usually contain "al", "il" or "Ade" and rarely "Ame" and "A" nAñ paNNinEñ- I did, nAñ paNNitillEñ- I did not do paNNallEñ- I will not do paNNAde (rarely paNNAme)- without doing

  • 1st person- Eñ, paNNinEñ- I did, paNNitillEñ- I didn't do
  • 2nd person- a, A- paNNinA- you did, paNNitilla- You didn't do
  • 3rd person- paNNinAñ-he did, paNNinA-she/they did, paNNitilAņ- he didn't do, paNNitillA- she/theydidn't do.


  • adu- that, avhiyA- those, avhA- they
  • adu paNNitu- it did, avhiyA paNNitina- those did, avhA paNNinA- they did
  • adu paNNitilla- it did not do, avhiyA paNNitillina- those did not do , avhA paNnaitillA- they did not do
  • adu paNNalla- it will not do, avhiyA paNNallina- those wont do,avhA paNNallA- they will not do

As for tense

  • past- paNNinEñ- I did
  • Past continuous- paNNANindEñ- I was doing
  • present continuous- paNNANñ rANi/rANEñ- I am doing
  • future- paNNaNi/ paNNaNEñ- I will do
  • future continuous- paNNAN iraNi/iraNEñ- I will be doing

Vibhakti or case endings(illustrated with avuñ and rAmu)[Tamil usage is indicated within square brackets for comparison]{kannada usage given within flower brackets}

  • 1st case- no ending, the prakRti itself will act in the 1st case- avuñ, rAmu [same] {same}
  • 2nd case- a- avana. rAmana [ai-avanai, rAmanai], {an, annu, a-avanan, avanannu, avana, rAmanannu}
  • 3rd case- aNNu- avanaNNu, rAmanaNNu [Al-avanAl, rAmanAl], {in, inda-avanin, avaninda, rAmaninda}
  • 4th case- kù- avanukkù, rAmanukkù [ku-avanukku,rAmanukku], {ge-avanige, rAmanige}
  • 5th case- àNNu,- avańaNNu, rAmańaNNu [in- avanin, rAmanin, avanaiviDa], {in,iginta-avanin, avanigin, avaniginta, rAmaniginta}
  • 6th case- dE,ndE,DE,tE- avandE, rAmandE [adu- avandu, rAmanadu also avanuDaiya]{a, A-avana,avanA, rAmana}
  • 7th case- uL, paDe, al, [kaN, il, uL, mEl] {oL, alli, ali, oLu}
  • 8th(sambOdhana)- by elongating the final vowel or prefixing with DE, dO, aDa, Eyi , Oyi etc


The four subgroups speak distinct dialects which are mutually easily understood. Of the 4 dialects, The Kaushika dialect stands furthest from Tamil.The language has no script of its own. Efforts are on to develop/improvise one. There are some traditional songs in Sankethi. Many have tried their hand at writing prose, poetry and songs in Sankethi.

See also


  1. Dr.Shrikaanth K.Murthy- Article in Sanketi Sangama, February 2006 (Published from Shimoga)
  2. Dravidabhashavijnana by Hampa Nagarajaiah (Published by D.V.K.Murthy publishers, Mysore, India)
  3. Sanketi jananga, samskruti mattu bhashe- C.S.Ramachandarao (Published by Chaitra Pallavi Publishers, Mysore)
  4. Nacharammana Jivana Carite- M.Keshaviah (published from Mysore)

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