Jeseri (also known as Jesri or Dweep Bhasha) is a Dravidian language derived from an older form of Malayalam, spoken in the Union Territory of Lakshadweep in India. It is closely related to Malayalam. It is spoken on the islands of Chetlat, Bitra, Kiltan, Kadmath, Amini, Kavarathi, Androth, Agathi, and Kalpeni, in the archipelago of Lakshadweep. Each of these islands has its own dialect. It is hard for a speaker of Malayalam to understand Jeseri, more so, in the case of the idiom spoken by the older people.
The phonology of Jeseri is similar to that of Malayalam, but there are certain notable differences.
The vowels are the same as in Malayalam: a, e, i, o, u - in short and long forms, and a short neutral vowel u.
Very often, the initial short vowels, especially 'u', fall away in Jeseri, compared to Malayalam. For example: rangi (Mal. urangi) - slept, lakka (Mal. ulakka) - pestle.
In some words, the vowels also differ. For example: minne (Mal. munne) - before.
As for the consonants, they are almost as in Malayalam: Labials: p, b, m, f, v Dentals: th, dh, n, s, dzh (borrowed from Arabic) Alveolars: t, d, n, l, r, r(slightly palatal) Retroflexes: t, d, n, l Palatals: ch, j, nj, sh, y Velars: k, g, ng, kh Glottal: h
The differences between Jeseri and Malayalam,in the pronunciation of consonants are as follows: 1. Initial k in Malayalam, often becomes kh in Jeseri: khathu (Mal. kathu) - letter. 2. Initial ch in Malayalam, becomes sh: sholli (Mal.(old) cholli) - said. 3. Initial p in Malayalam, becomes f: fenn (Mal. pennu) - girl. 4. Initial v in Malayalam, becomes b: bili (Mal. vili) - call. 5. The zh sound in Malayalam, becomes either retroflex l (mostly), or y: mala (Mal. mazha) - rain, bayi (Mal. vazhi) - way. 6. The doubled dental nasal: 'nn', is used; but in the present tense, the ablative case, and in the relative particle, 'ennu', and in some other forms is mostly found as 'nd', though 'nn' too is occasionally found in the same forms. 7. The final chillu sounds, that is consonants without the neutral u sound, are pronounced exactly as such, as in Tamil. There are five chillu sounds: n (retroflex), n (alveolar), l (retroflex), l (alveolar), r (alveolar). 8. The final 'm' anusvara sound in Malayalam words is pronounced as 'n' in some words: kaaryan (Mal. kaaryam) - matter.
However, some of these peculiarities in pronunciation have gradually got eroded in the face of the influence of Standard Malayalam, taught in the schools of Lakshadweep, and used widely in Lakshadweep. As for the vocabulary, earlier, Urdu words were widely used; but now, more words from Malayalam can be found.
The grammar shows similarities to Malayalam, especially to the form used in the early part of the twentieth century. The description here is with reference to nouns, pronouns, and verbs. In general, the grammar of Jeseri is much simpler than that of Malayalam, though the meanings of some forms might be difficult to determine, and some rules cannot be accurately determined, as the language has never got a systematic grammar written down.
The case endings for nouns and pronouns are as follows (There are slight changes in stems, and sometimes in endings, for convenience in pronunciation):
Nominative: nil; Accusative: a, na (traces of 'e' suffix exist); Genitive: aa, naa, thaa; Dative: kk, n, oon; Communicative: oda, aa kooda, naa kooda; Instrumental: aa kond, naa kond; Locative: nd, naa ul, l(only in traces); Ablative: nd; Vocative: e, aa;
Sample conjugations for nouns(Here, locative, ablative, and vocative forms are not given, as they are not given in the source book): Nom: kunnikkoya (a male given name); Acc: kunnikwe; Gen: kunnikwe; Dat: kunnikwekk; Com: kunnikweda; Inst: kunnikwekkond;
Nom: faathumma (a female given name); Acc: faathumme; Gen: faathumme; Dat: faathummekk; Com: faathummeda; Inst: faathummekkond;
naan, naam: I; nee: you (sing); on, om, ong: he (remote); ben, bem, beng: he (proximate); ol: she (remote); bel: she (proximate); adh: it (remote); idh: it (proximate);
nom, namma, laaba: we (inclusive); nanga: we (exclusive); ninga: you (plural); aba: they (remote); iba: they (proximate); thaan, thaam, taang: self;
Note: 1. aba, iba: have alternate forms in some places; like ammakka, immakka (meaning those people, these people) in Androth island. 2. The varied forms of on, om, ong, and so on, are those found on different islands. Androth, the easternmost island, has 'on', while the central island of Kavarathi has 'ong', and Agathi, the westernmost island, has 'om'.
The declensions of pronouns show some variations at places. Some pronouns are declined below in the order: Nominative, Accusative, Genitive, Dative, Communicative, Instrumental.
1. naan, nanna/enna, nannaa/ennaa, naakk, nannoda/ennoda/nanna kooda/enna kooda, nannakkond/ennakkond. 2. nee, ninna, ninnaa, neekk, ninnoda/ninna kooda, ninnakkond. 3. on, ona, onaa, on/onoon, onoda/ona kooda, onakkond. 4. ol, ola, olaa, olkk, oloda/ola kooda, olakkond. 5. adh, ayna, aynaa, ayn, aynoda/ayna kooda, aynakkond. 6. nom/laaba, namma, nammaa, nokk/laabakk, nammoda/namma kooda, nammakkond. 7. nanga, nangala/engala, nangalaa/engalaa, nangakk/engakk, nangaloda/engaloda/nangala kooda/engala kooda, nangalakkond/engalakkond. 8. ninga, ningala, ningalaa, ningakk, ningaloda/ningala kooda, ningalakkond. 9. aba, abala, abalaa, abakk, abaloda/abala kooda, abalakkond. 10. thaan, thanna, thannaa, thanakk, thannoda/thanna kooda, thannakkond.
The conjugations of verbs, besides being similar to Malayalam, especially to an older form, are much simpler than in Malayalam.
The verb 'kaanu' - meaning 'see', the same as in Malayalam, is illustrated here.
There are three simple tenses (or four, if a slightly different form of the past tense is taken into account).
1. Present: ending nna/nne; but mostly, the suffix nda/nde, is used. So, kaanunna/kaanunda - sees, is seeing. 2. Past: the stem of the verb may change, and the suffixes may vary as in Malayalam and Tamil, with iya/iye, dha/dhe, tha/the, cha/che, nda/nde, and nna/nne, being the more common ones. So, kanda/kande - saw. However, na/ne may be added to these, making the suffixes iyna/iyne, dhina/dhine, thina/thine, china/chine, ndina/ndine, nnina/nnine, with a slight change in the meaning. So, kandina/kandine, might mean - saw, has seen, had seen, was seeing. 3. Future: the suffix 'um', used in Malayalam is added to the stem. So, kaanum - will see. Sometimes, a different suffix, vaan/vaam or aan/aam may be added to show a future action. So, 'I will see', might be expressed as - naan kaanum/naan kaanuvaam/naan kaanaam.
It is believed that the 'a/e' ending of present and past tense is a remnant of the personal endings in Old Malayalam. The corresponding 'u' ending in Malayalam is sometimes found. However, it is more possible that the primitive - adh, idh, udh, endings evolved into a, e, u.
The negatives of these tenses show some differences:
1. For present tense, the negative is formed by adding vela/ela to the stem, which becomes ppela for some verbs. Not only that, a present negative may also function as a future negative. So, kaanuvela/kaanela - is not seeing, does not see, will not see. 2. For past tense, the negative is formed like in Malayalam, suffixing ela to the past stem. So, kandela - did not see, has not seen. This functions as the negative for both 'kanda' and 'kandina'. 3. For the future tense, the old Malayalam poetic suffix 'aa' is used; but very often the present negative suffix is used. The 'aa' suffix mostly signifies indefinite future, through present negative might also be implied. So, kaanaa/kaanela/kaanuvela - will not see, does not see.
These are far less in number than in Malayalam. They are mostly formed by suffixing 'aana/aane' or 'aarna/aarne' for 'past' meaning, and, 'aakkum/aarkkum' for 'future' meaning. Some other suffixes might be 'naana/naane', and 'eerna/eerne'. Again, these forms are not as abundantly used as in Malayalam, and might have no specific rule as to usage, and are only absorbed while one is with native speakers.
So, we might find the following: kaanundaana - was seeing, kandinaana - had seen, kaanumaana - would see.
The negatives are as follows: kaanuvelaana/kaanelaana - was not seeing, kandelaana - had not seen, has not seen.
These might be substituted by simple tenses and other speech particles too, without any fixed rule.
The interrogative forms are made by suffixing 'aa' with some changes effected. So, kaanundyaa (does/do ... see?) for kaanunda (sees), kandyaa (did ... see?) for kanda (saw), kandinyaa (has/have ... seen?/did .. see?) for kandina, and kaanumaa/kaanunaa/kaanungaa (will ... see?) for kaanum (will see).