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Updated: June 28, 2012 15:43 IST

Encyclopaedia of linguistics

M. S. Balakrishnan Nair
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Bhasasastra Nikhandu by Dr. V.R. Prabhodachandran Nayar
The Hindu Bhasasastra Nikhandu by Dr. V.R. Prabhodachandran Nayar

Bhashasastra Nikhandu by V.R. Prabhodachandran Nayar states at the outset that it is the sum total of the fruits of the author’s studies and research in various areas of linguistics from the 1960’s. With two doctorates to his credit – one from the University of Kerala and the other from the University of London – both in linguistics, Professsor Nayar leaves on his work the stamp of deep scholarship, dedication and a lifelong commitment to scholarly research and promotion of learning.

The volume includes most of the technical terms in linguistics given in alphabetical order with their standard equivalents in Malayalam.

They come with relevant details of information, copious notes, cross-references and directions for follow-up reading.

The work that starts as a glossary, evolves into a dictionary and ends up eventually as a veritable encyclopaedia with a wealth of information that will benefit teachers and scholars pursuing postgraduate studies, as also readers who care to follow knowledge for the sheer pleasure of it.

The main areas the volume covers are phonetics, phonemics, morphology, morphophonemics, lexicology, syntax, semantics, contrastive linguistics, typology, dialectology, multilingualism, language acquisition, language teaching, graphology, error analysis, lexicography, translation studies, stylistics, content analysis, planning and development of language, aphasia, and defects of speech and hearing. It also takes into account interfaces of socio-, psycho-, and neuro-linguistics with the latest advances in computational linguistics.

Lively discussions

Other areas of interest in focus are pragmatics, narratology, discourse analysis, natural languages processing, and language technology with lively discussions of ideas and concepts under various heads.

The volume highlights the Indian tradition of linguistics as well as others that gathered strength in Europe – in London, Prague, Paris and Copenhagen, and goes on to discuss linguistic doctrines such as structuralism, transformation, tagmemics, deconstruction and post-modernism. There are interesting write-ups on the contributions of luminaries such as William Jones, Saussure, Boas, Bloomfield, Chomsky, Jakobson, Peirce, Derrida, Foucault, Wittgenstein and Kristeva.

A fairly long list of veterans from Malayalam such as the Kunjan Pillais (both Sooranad and Elankulam), P.K. Narayana Pillai and others also come alive in these pages. Their work has been assessed in all fairness. Some of the minor contributors among them might, otherwise, have remained unknown.

Taking a close look at some of the topics included, one is impressed with the richness of detail and the thoroughness of the perceptions brought to bear on them.

Hermeneutics, translation, error analysis, linguistics itself and a fairly elaborate section on Malayalam merit a special mention.

The volume can easily be an indispensable companion for a student of languages. It certainly fills a void in reference literature in Malayalam and, in a way, carries the language forward to the club of the richer languages of the world.

Bhashasastra Nikhandu

V.R. Prabhodachandran Nayar

Kerala Bhasha Institute, Thiruvananthapuram

Price: Rs. 500

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