Tulu and Kannada researchers need to learn foreign languages, including Arabic and Greek, to augment their research with the writings about the region by foreign travellers in the early years of the previous millennium, said B.A. Vivek Rai, scholar and former Vice-Chancellor of Kannada University, Hampi.
Addressing the gathering after being handed the ‘Muliya Timmappayya award’ here on Sunday, Mr. Rai cited the insight into the language obtained from letters written in Arabic by merchant Abraham Bel Iju in the 1200s. “He stayed in Mangalore for 17 years, during which, he freed a slave girl named Ashu and even married her. He would write to her in Arabic, and in his letters many Tulu words can be found,” he said.
He said the contributions of poet M. Govind Pai’s fluency in 25 languages added richly to the traditions of Tulu and Kannada through original literature and translations.
Mr. Rai cautioned against the loss of vocabulary, that is replacing Tulu and Kannada words in common usage with English words. He said that with the proliferation of English, Karavali should strive to retain its position as the ‘laboratory of languages’, where the variations in spoken Kannada, Konkani, and Tulu among other languages had created a rich tradition.
Heaping praise on Mr. Rai, Chinnappa Gowda, former Registrar of Mangalore University, said that if Tulu was considered one of the best preserved and researched language it was due to the scholar’s works at Tulu Sahitya Academy. “He had said our job as researchers was not to continuously churn out books, but to create a conducive environment for the language. And with his work ethics and determination, he ensured this happened,” he said, citing a thorough, nearly decade-long effort lead by Mr. Rai to translate Tulu works into other languages, wherein, “it would take around four hours to translate every tulu word”.