Cartoonist compiles first dictionary of Kundapra Kannada

The Kundapra Kannada dictionary by Panju Gangolli.  

Panju Gangolli, noted cartoonist living in Mumbai, has toiled for nearly two decades to come up with the first ever dictionary of his native tongue Kundapra Kannada - a unique dialect of Kannada spoken in and around Kundapura taluk of Udupi district.

The dictionary with over ten thousand words and 1,500 idioms in use in Kundapra Kannada, published with support from Tallur Family Trust, will hit the stands later this month.

Kundapra Kannada is mainly a spoken dialect, but faces threats to usage from factors such as mainstream Kannada, English medium education and a fast vanishing way of life. But the dialect has also seen a resurgence in recent years with the community celebrating a Kundapra Kannada day, stand-up comedy, Yakshagana and other art forms being performed in the dialect.

“I saw my language and several words vanish everyday, prompting me to take up compiling a dictionary, so that these words were at least recorded somewhere,” said Mr. Gangolli. The dictionary has three criteria for the inclusion of a word - it must be exclusively in use in Kundapra Kannada and not in mainstream Kannada; it must be words from Kannada that have taken on a different meaning in the dialect; or words that may have originated from the same source but sound very different in the dialect.

Coming from an agricultural large joint family of over 35 people, work for the dictionary began at home. “Since there have been no dictionaries in the past, I had to source words from the field directly. Every few months, I would return to my village and go hunting for words in the villages, armed with a tape recorder and a book,” he said. Soon, a few other friends joined the efforts. He went about systematically recording words under various categories like animals, foods, those connected to various rituals, linked to various professions, swear words and the rich heritage of songs. “We have also collected nearly 1,500 songs, which will be released in a second volume in the next two years,” he said.

The exercise made Mr. Gangolli a word detective of sorts. “I am now trained to always keep my ears open and be ever conscious of the words being used. Now the dictionary has gone for print, but I continue to find new words. Words are like kites, you have to catch them when you hear them. If you don’t do it immediately, they may be lost forever,” he said.

For instance, the word - hajaanharad, used as an affectionate scolding for naughty children, sent him searching for its meaning for over three years. “People in my own family used it, but nobody knew how this word came about. After searching for people who knew about it all over the region, a person in my village gave me a clue. The word haja means a wooden plank tied to an ox’s neck to control its movement. Hajaanharad means someone who has even broken free from a haja tied around its neck, indicating they are uncontrollable. I was so elated to finally find the meaning of this word, an excitement that I can feel even today,” he said.

Mr. Gangolli says Kundapra Kannada was only a regional variant of Halegannada that has miraculously remained largely untouched by further variations in mainstream Kannada. “For instance, we call mother abbe, a word even Raghavanka uses. The widespread use of bindu - for instance, what is oota in Kannada is oonta in the dialect, is also seen in Halegannada. When we were young, my father used to write oonta, aanta while we learnt it as oota and aata in school. We always thought my father doesn’t know Kannada well, only to now realise he was speaking our language,” he said.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 3:41:40 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/cartoonist-compiles-first-dictionary-of-kundapra-kannada/article33604714.ece

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