June 30, 2022

Sparkling International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Studies

Volume 5           Issue 2           April – June 2022           Pages 1-11


Darwin, L.

Assistant Professor, Department of Linguistics, University of Kerala, Kerala, India.



The fishermen’s (Mukkuva) language at Trivandrum has many peculiarities, it may not be considered as Malayalam or dialect of Malayalam.  As same the peculiarities of the language; the society also has its own peculiar features.  This particular society is living at the sea shore of the Trivandrum marine coast.  They have tremendous knowledge about their ecosystem (marine) as well as the climate change in the surroundings of them and they have very high knowledge about fishing and its strategies.  Very important one is that; they have these knowledge, which has accumulated and transfer through their own particular language. As well as other It has its peculiarity; here it is treated as the separate language for the analysis.  This study mainly focuses on noun and verb morphology of the fishermen language using at Trivandrum district.  It has similarities with the Tamil Language, but it is not fully similar to Tamil. In noun morphology here is discussed person, number, gender, and cases; in the case of the verb, morphology deals with the tense forms and personal termination.

Keywords: noun morphology, verb morphology, person, number, gender, case, tense, personal termination.


The language of the fishermen (Mukkuva) community at Trivandrum is entirely different than the other group of people in Trivandrum and Kerala.  They have their own peculiar culture; they are fully dependent on sea and marine fishing for their livelihood.  They are the traditional fishermen in Kerala, still, they are preserving and using their traditional methods for fishing.  This group especially belonging under the Christian faith and especially on Latin Catholic believes.

Mukkuva (Fishermen) community at Trivandrum District

Mukkuva(r) is a traditional fishing community officially termed as Latin Catholic Mukkuva or more recently Latin Catholic, which is a contentious issue. They are mainly located on the west coast of India. They constitute 42% of Kerala’s traditional marine fisherfolk with a population of about 200000 (0.2 million), spread around 30 fishing villages in the capital district of Trivandrum. The border district, Kanyakumari has 40 fishing villages belong to Mukkuvar. Until India’s States Reorganisation Act, 1956 on the linguistic lines (for example, Malayalam and Tamil respectively), both districts were part of the princely state of Travancore. However, the Mukkuva community in both neighboring state districts continues their association with the common historical, religious, linguistic, and cultural orientations. Most of these villages are densely populated, which is a large settlement made up of a series of clusters. They are among the most disadvantaged, disaffected, and economically “backward” communities in the state of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, whose source of living largely depends upon marine fishing and related industries. A unique feature of the Mukkuva community is that its oral language is different from the official languages of both Kerala and Tamilnadu. They speak a mixture of both regional languages. Another key aspect is that these fishermen’s fishing practices are different from other neighboring districts, which are characterized mainly by hook and line fishing that is based in seabed reef-based ecosystems.

Aim of the study

To find out the grammatical peculiarities of Fishermen Language at Trivandrum


Ethnographic research methodology has be en adopted for the data collection, the direct eliciting model has been used for the eliciting of data with a questionnaire and a descriptive grammatical model has been adopted for the data analysis.

Area of the study

The area of the study has sprouted in the coastal areas of the Trivandrum district, from Pozhiyoor to Perumathura.  This group has spread around the coastal belt of the Trivandrum.  They are living as clustered groups, and more than 90% of these people are depending on this income.

The socio-cultural tradition and livelihood of Mukkuvar are largely and deeply connected to the marine ecosystems like estuaries, coastal lines, and the Open Ocean. To understand the history of the Mukkuva community, awareness of the marine ecosystem services is much needed. There is an inseparable relationship between the sea and Mukkuva community. The ocean and the marine environment have become an integral part of the history and upbringing of the community.

Mukkuvar’s language is evolved through its interconnection with the sea and marine environment. The language contains many aspects of the marine environment and marine ecosystems. Acquiring this language is beneficial to have an understanding of the ecology of coastal areas. It is, therefore, the protection of the marine biodiversity also indicates the protection of the local and indigenous languages and vice versa.  And Language also has inseparable relation with them.

Currently, the Mukkuva community is controlled and led by the Catholic (Latin) clergy; they represent most of the socio-political and economic forums regarding community affairs and their support, interests and in some cases, their approval is sought after even by the Government and other organizations. Though modern education and the English language are promoted by the Catholic Church in the community, some others highlighted the evidence that there were deliberate efforts to discourage education in the coastal communities during the period of Portuguese control. The local village parish priest is the main leader or ex-officio who looks after not only the religious aspects but also the socio-economic concerns of the community including the management of educational institutions. Most of their village Festivals are strongly influenced by religious activities. Believe in many facets of the Virgin Mary is a noteworthy feature. Propagation of religion is very high and participation in religious activities is mandatory, they become more of a religious community.

However, some community members are skeptical about the concentration of power in the hands of the Catholic clergy and the religious identity in the place of community identity which is closely connected to their ancestral roots. They cited that the Church establishments have not made any efforts to preserve and promote coastal language and culture; instead, they try to demolish them and portray fishermen and their families as ‘subaltern and uncivilized people’ because of their indigenous characteristics.

The Social Statistical data of the fishermen at Trivandrum District is revealing their maintenance of language and their social and linguistic dynamics over a period also will be revealed.  The Social statistical data are given below;

Table 1. Marine fishermen population at Trivandrum – 2012-2013


Source: Kerala Marine Fisheries Statistics-2015

The above-mentioned data shows that the population size of this community is living in the 72KM of the coastal line, the very much interesting factor is that; 80% of these people are living within 50 meters from the shore in this coastal line.  This indicates that the density of the population of this area is very much higher than the other areas.  It can be treated as a slum, nowadays other high cast people are treating them like that only, especially in the schools’ teachers are saying as they are coastal areas (toRa) so let them be like that, this is the attitude can be seen from the schools and other caste peoples.  This type of attitude may be one of the reasons behind dropping out of school.  The high density of population may be one of the reasons to get more contact with each other in all the times, through that they could be maintained their language.

Table 2. Educational status

DistrictPrimaryHigher SecondaryAbove Higher SecondaryUnschooled*

*Children below 5 years are excluded. 

Source: Marine Fisheries Census 2010

The above-mentioned data says that one-third of the total population is under un education, but two-third of the total population is getting education through various educational institutions. For the development of the fishermen community, the Latin Catholic Archdiocese is running so many educational institutions in these areas, especially these institutions where situated among the fishermen area.  Even two-third of the population is getting an education, and then they are still maintaining their language.  This data shows that education is not a factor in the endangerment of a language, but it can be changed or modified by the individual spoken variety of language.  Most of these people are bilinguals, they can understand Malayalam and they can speak a little bit of Malayalam.  Because of the education, those people got interested to watch Malayalam movies and songs, but in earlier days they were not listening to Malayalam movies and songs.  A very interesting thing is that in the earlier days Masses in the church and other activities in the churches were done in the Tamil language because their language has more resemblance with the Tamil language.

Table 3. Profile of marine fishermen at Trivandrum -2010

DistrictFishing villageFishermen familyTraditional fishermen FamiliesBPL FamiliesFisherfolk population

Source: Marine Fisheries Census 2010

The above data shows that the active fishermen of this group are one-third of the total population of the group, which means more than 90% of the group members are depending on their income from the fishing.  This shows that the traditional occupation is very much influencing their daily life as well as their language usage.  Because without using this language they could not properly communicate their idea about their traditional occupation and the marine ecology, as well as they could not communicate properly about climate change, atmosphere changes, and changes in the sea.  Because they knew the terminologies of all these are only on their own their language.   Some of these explanations are given below;

The Mukkuva community’s language has the potential of revealing rich marine and coastal ecological and biodiversity data. A vast array of words is used to describe waves (kaṭal), wind (kaattu), ocean currents (valivu), astronomical objects (i.e. veḷḷi or meen, seabed ecosystems (i.e. paaru), directions (meelaa or kiiḷaa), and much other ocean-related knowledge. The waves have many shapes and forms as described by fishermen. They are classified according to their source to various definite directions as meelaakkaṭal (from the western/northern side), kiiḷaakkaṭal (from the western/northern side), nerukaṭal (from straight ahead), ottameeṭu (single wave), eraṭṭameṭu or erṇameṭu (double waves). During meelaakkaṭal, there is a phenomenon called kaṭalvaayniiṭṭam-giving more space to the shore.  The fishermen say that the waves are commonly caused by winds or wind movements. Sometimes waves are also caused by the gravitation pull of the moon and the sun; they call tides (high tides and low tides-veeliyeettam, and veliyeṛakkam). The monsoon waves are rough and they can be extremely dangerous. Their description sounds like the constant restless motion of seawater. This knowledge is very important to assess the threats and risks for fishing and ocean voyages. The fishermen categorize major winds or wind systems into 8 wind directions: a) kooṭa or kara kaatu (towards the ocean/easterly wind or wind comes from the east), b) koṇṭal or kaṭal kaattu (towards the coast/shore or western wind or wind comes from the west) c) kaccaan kaattu (towards the south, from the north) d) vaaṭa kaattu, (towards the north, from the south), e) kaccaan kooṭa (towards the southwest, from the northeast), f) kaccaan koṇṭal (towards the southeast, from the northwest) g) vaaṭa kooṭa (towards the northwest, from the southeast) and h) vaaṭa koṇṭal (towards the northeast, from the southwest the coast).

Games and Hobbies among the fisherfolk of Trivandrum

They have various verities of games and hobbies, nowadays most of the other area people are playing only cricket and football, these people still maintain their earlier verities of games and some of the hobbies.  Some of the games and hobbies are given below;

Card playing (ciiṭṭu kaḷi) all age people are playing

kacci kaḷi ( children are playing)

potti kaḷi (children are playing)

uppu pantu kaḷi (children are Playing)

kiḷitaṭṭu kaḷi ( younger and children are playing)

vaaḷi kaḷi (children are playing)

oruḷa kaḷi (children are playing, it is just like a game of hockey, but it will play only on monsoon season, and the playground is at the sea bed.)

cuppi paṇam kaḷi (shell games, children are playing)

Most of these games are related to sand it can play on the sand only, its rules and regulations are in their mother tongue, others can’t understand and play.  These are the games are playing by the people till now, which means this group is preserving their cultural games and through that, they are maintaining their language also, without using their tongue they can’t continue with these games.

Grammatical analysis of the fishermen (Mukkuva) language at Trivandrum

In this analysis there are major two portions of the language is analyzing; one is Noun Morphology and another one is Verb Morphology.  The Noun morphology portion, it is dealing Person, Number, Gender, and Cases.  The verb Morphology portion, it is dealing with Tense Forms and Personal terminologies of the Language.

Noun morphology

A noun is a term used in the grammatical classification of words, traditionally defined as the name of a person, place, or thing, etc. But the ugliness associated with the notion of ‘name and then’ as lead to the linguistic description to analyze this clause in terms of the formal and functional criteria of syntax and morphology.

There are many kinds of nouns. They are; concrete nouns, abstract nouns, countable nouns, uncountable nouns, proper nouns, material nouns, common nouns, etc.

Nouns infect for case (primary and secondary), dependent cross-referencing, and definiteness. There is no grammatical number, but a collective derivation may be employed in case of need. There are two genders; masculine and feminine. Here it is dealing with the Person, Number, Gender, and cases among this language.


A pronoun is a word that is qualifying the noun, it can function as a noun phrase used by itself and that refers either to the participants in the discourse.

Nominative Pronouns:  There are some nominative pronouns are discussed below;

First person nominative

naan vanteen             ‘I came’

naaṅka vantoom        ‘we came’(excl)

naama vantoom         ‘we came (incl)

Second person

nii vantaa                   ‘you came’

niiṅke pooniiru         ‘you (pl) went’

Third person

avan vantaan             ‘he came’

avavantaa                   ‘she came’

atu vantatu                 ‘it came’

atuṅka vantatu          ‘it(pl) came;

avuṅka vanthaaru     ‘they (human) came’

Interrogative pronouns

enne                            ‘what’

eetu                             ‘which’

eṅku                            ‘where’

eppom                        ‘when’

aaru                            ‘who’

aarukke/aarukkola   ‘whose’

eppaṭi                         ‘how’

ettaṛe                          ‘how much’


A number is a grammatical category used for the analysis of word classes displaying such contrast as singular, plural, and dual. There are singular and plural in this language also. The number markers occur after the first person, a second person third person, and reflexives pronominal base.

Singular: There is no specific marker for denoting singular but the human gender marker like -an and -aḷ are also been considered as singular markers.


/ma; ṅka/

naama                         ‘’we’(incl)

naaṅka                        ‘we’ (excl)

niiṅka                          ýou’

avaṅka                        ‘they’

Non-gender plural

/ko, ka,vo,va/ here there is only one marker but with in the markers different people are using different pronunciation for different occasions, these are not conditional and these are free variant forms..

atuko/atuka                           ‘those’

atuva/atuvo                           ‘those’

ceṭivo/ceṭiva/ceṭiko/ceṭika  ‘plants’


Gender is a grammatical category indicating the sets of nouns and pronouns. The three genders are Masculine, Feminine, and Neuter.  Nouns are classified by gender according to the gender of the pronoun that can substitute for them.


/ϕ, -aan, -an,/

aasari  + ϕ                  çarpenter’

puusaari + ϕ              ‘hindu priest’

naavi + an                   ‘barber’

taṭṭ + aan                    ‘goldsmith’

/-kaaran/   it has treated as a maker in some scholars, but here it is not treating as marker, here it is treating –an is the marker and –kaar is the plural marker, from the plural suffix only this singularity, as well as masculine and feminine markers, are occurring.


/-aatti, -atti, -acci, -i, -aaṭṭi /

taṭṭaatti                       ‘goldsmith’

kollatti                        ‘çobler’

meettacci                    ‘muslime women’

veelakkaaṛi                ‘made’

peṇṭaaṭṭi                     ‘wife’

tampuraaṭṭi                ‘queen’


The case is a grammatical category whose value reflects the grammatical function performed by a noun or pronoun in a phrase, clause, or sentence. In some languages, nouns, pronouns, and their modifiers take different inflected forms depending on what case they are in.

A case marker is a free or bound morpheme that indicates the grammatical function of the marked, phrase, or sentence.

There are eight cases have found in this language, the nominative doesn’t have any markers. The cases are; Nominative, accusative, dative, genitive, sociative, instrumental, locative, and vocative.

Dative Case

The dative case is the grammatical case generally used to indicate the noun to which something is given. In general, the dative marker is the indirect object of a verb, although, in some instances, the dative case is used for the direct object of a verb pertaining directly to an act of giving something. This may be concrete or abstract


avaḷukku                                 ‘to her’

avanukku                               ‘to him’

Accusative Case

The accusative case of a noun is the grammatical case used to mark the direct object of a transitive verb. The word which is receives the action of the verb.


avane                                      ‘him’

avaḷe                                       ‘her’

Sociative Case

The sociative case is the case which can express the person in whose company the action is carried out, or to any belonging of people which take part in the action.


avanooṭe                    ‘with him’

avaḷooṭe                     ‘with her’

Genitive Case

The Genitive case is the grammatical case, that marks a noun as modifying another noun. The genitive is the case or function of an inflected form of a noun or pronoun showing ownership, measurement, association, or source.

Here dative plus genitive markers are using together and it became a genitive case, and this can be considered as a double case system one after the other.


avanukkoḷe                ‘of him’

avaḷukkoḷe                  ‘of her’

Locative Case

Locative is the grammatical case which is indicating a location. Locative case expresses the location of someone or something in space, in time, or an abstract domain.

/-i, and –ilu  are the markers but both may be used simultaneously these are free variant forms.

viiṭṭi                             ‘in the house’

viiṭṭilu                         ‘in the house’

Vocative Case

A word or phrase is used to address or listener directly, usually in the form of a personal name, title, or term of endearment.  The vocative is the case used for a noun that identifies a person, animal, objects, etc. being addressed.  In the case of the vocative, here all vowel phonemes lengthened forms are using as a marker.

ammaa                        ‘mother’ (voc)

kaḷḷii                            ‘thief’ Female (voc)

rajuvee                       ‘raju’ (voc)

raasaa                         ‘a lallubii’ (voc)

Verb Morphology

The verb describes the action or occurrence or indicates a state of being. These are the words that denote tense, negative, and other morphological processes by taking respective markers. The Verbs are the class of words that indicate an action or state of being or condition. In other words, a verb in a sentence shows what the subject of the sentence performs.


Tense is a morphological category which relates the time of action denoted by the verb to some other time, usually the moment of speaking

Present, Past and Future tenses

Present Tense


pooṇaan                                 ‘he goes’

irikkuṇaan                              ‘he sits’

ooṭuṇa                                    ‘she runes’

Past Tense

/-cc-, -t-, -tt-, -t-, -in-, -nc-, -nt-, -n-/

avan kaḷiccaan           ‘he played’

avan kaṭṭaan              ‘he theft’

ava irunta                   ‘he sat’

avan niṇṇaan             ‘he stood’

naan kaṇṭeen             ‘ I saw’

naan paatteen            ‘I saw’

ava cuṭṭa                     ‘she burnt’

ava ceyta                    ‘she did’

avan koṭuttaan           ‘he gave’

ava pokkina                ‘she raised’

ava veeṇṭiṇa               ‘she bought’

ava karanca                ‘she cried’

atu ventatu                 ‘it cooked’

avan pooṇaan            ‘he went’

avan konnaan            ‘he killed’

ava tinna                     ‘she ate’

Future Tense


avan kaḷiccuvan         ‘he will play’

ava ooṭuva                 ‘she will run’

avan paaṭuvaan         ‘he will sing’

Personal termination

In this language according to the person in the sentence the verb ending will be modified, the person will change the verb ending will also changed.  This types of PNG markers having language are seen in Dravidian family of languages.  So this also been considered as Dravidian family of language. Examples of personal terminations are given below.

naan pooṇeen            ‘I went’ (-een)

naaṅka pooṇoom      ‘we went’ (-oom) (excl)

naama pooṇoom       ‘we went’ (-oom) (incl)

nii pooṇaan                ‘you went’ (-aan)(male)

nii pooṇaa                  ‘you went’ (-aa) (female)

niinka pooṇii             ‘you went’ (-ii) (common)

avan vantaan             ‘he came’ (-aan)

ava pooṇaa                ‘she went’ (-aa)

atu vantatu                 ‘it came’ (-atu)

avuṅka vantaaru       ‘they came’ (-aaru)


This short analysis it is providing immense knowledge and peculiarities of this language.   It shows that this language does not resemble Malayalam or Tamil.  It has Person, Number, Gender markers, and a peculiar case system in the Noun morphology part.  Likewise, the Verb morphology part clearly shows that; its present, past, and future tense markers and its system are entirely different from other languages like Tamil and Malayalam.

The peculiar feature of this language is; that the grammatical portions show that it has its grammatical system.  In the case of the present tense marker is /-ṇ/, only one marker is used, but the same marker is used for the past also.  On some occasions, it’s present tense marker /-ṇ/ is making problems, but it can be clarified only through its context of action.   In the case of personal termination, there are some peculiar features were found.  This analysis shows that this language needs deep study.  The educated people are not less in number, most of the people are literate, and even then, they are maintaining their language.  There are some maintenance factors that are taking a vital role in maintaining the language.  Some of the maintenance factors are given below,

  • The density of the population is very high
  • Geographical concentration is very high
  • Geographical proximity is very high
  • People are living in a clustered manner just like a slum area
  • Still maintaining their traditional occupation and most of them are depending on it
  • Labor migration is very less (for searching or getting other types of jobs, but people are moving for their traditional jobs).
  • Attitude towards traditional occupation is very much high.
  • More active fishermen are getting more attention and demand from the community.
  • Social gathering for relaxation every day is very much high among these groups at the seashore.
  • Forcefully or another way of migration is not happening more from the coastal line.



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Mostefa Abdelhadi. (2017). Language maintenance factors: Reflections on the Arabic language, Asia Pacific Institute of Advanced Research, www.apiar.

Scheduled Tribe Development Department. (2013). Report on the Socio-Economic Status.

Sreenathan, M. (2006). Keralathile Bhashakal, ICKS, University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India.

UNESCO Case Study Report. (2016). Mukkuva Community in South India: socio-religious history and bio-cultural diversity.


To cite this article

Darwin, L. (2022). Grammatical Peculiarity of Fishermen Language at Trivandrum. Sparkling International Journal of Multidisciplinary Research Studies, 5(2), 1-11.

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