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On Diction and Syntax- Tholkappiyam

Updated: Mar 31, 2022

Tholkappiyam is the conventional first Tamil Grammar text that ever existed. The author of the text was named after the book’s title and so he is Tholkappiyar. This belongs somewhere between the 6th Century and the 10th Century. The book is the descriptive linguistics of the language Tamil. This book has its ability beyond any present linguists’ ideas. A part of this book discusses styles, meters, diction, and poetic sentiments. In the field of literary theory, this book makes a kind of antithesis between “Poetry dealing with the themes of the external world” and “Poetry dealing with the themes of the internal world” which are called Puram and Agam in the native language (i.e.Tamil).


Words used in poetry are of four classes, they are:

  1. Iyarcol- Used in conformity with the usage of Tamil and without change in meaning.

  2. Thirisol- There are two kinds in it, they are; Synonyms and Homonyms.

  3. Thisaiccol- Which is also called dialectal words. It is spoken in 12 divisions of lands with differences but not in the meaning.

  4. Vadasol- Become fit to be used in Tamil after discarding the northern ones.

Poets say that when these four kinds of words are used in the construction of a poem or poetry then a senant may change into surd.


Syntax in poetry is of four kinds, they are:

  1. Niral Nirai- The mode in which the words stand in a group of verbs and nouns separately.

  2. Sunnam- A mode in which 2 lines of eight sir (measured words) that are grammatically formed may split and join to express the proper meaning of poetry.

  3. Adimari- The position of the lines may be altered without changing the place of the sirs (measured words) and lines may exchange places.

  4. Molimarru- Changing the position of the words to bring out the correct meaning of the stanza and placing them before and after as need be.


Indian Literary Criticism- Theory and Interpretation- G. N. Devy- 2002

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