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-nnu : relative clause/embedded sentence marker.

In Literary Tamil there is a verb ͨ en- which historically meant `say, think, mean' and occurred in all finite and non-finite forms. In ST the stem of this verb has the form -n- but not all the finite forms occur. Furthermore, it is not clear that syntactically it is a verb in all of these structures, though it is common in Tamil grammatical tradition to always treat it thus. The most common form of it is the `past participle' which in spoken BT is -nnu and in NBT -nnu. If we take this item to be a verb, it would mean literally, `having said, thought, meant', but since it is used in many different ways, not all of which can be assumed to overtly represent explicit oral or mental activity, it is more convenient to consider -nnu and its finite forms to represent a number of different things in Tamil grammar; primarily, we see it as a form that is being GRAMMATICALIZED to function as a syntactic marker of various sorts, not as a lexical verb.This is evident also from its reduced phonological form, i.e. lacking the original initial vowel.

The commonest use of -nnu is as a marker of relative clauses, which in English are usually marked with THAT, as in:

Ԩ ¨ ׶Ԩƨ
naan varuveen-nnu sonneen. `I said that I would come.'

The English relative clause marker, THAT, is often deleted, as in `I said (that) I would come' but in Tamil the -nnu is always present in surface structure. Many kinds of other embedded sentences and clauses are followed by -nnu in Tamil, and we will consider -nnu in these to be simply a marker that something is embedded, i.e. originates in another clause or sentence but is brought into the MATRIX sentence by some process. Usually what precedes -nnu is a complete sentence, i.e., it could stand alone without that which follows -nnu. When non-sentences precede it, nnu it must take a different form; these are discussed in § 7.3, § 7.4, and § 7.5 below.



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Haorld_F.Schiffman