Karnataka

Stagnation of lexicographic work caused him concern

At his centenary celebrations in 2012, G. Venkatasubbaiah had appealed for the lexicon branch of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat to be reopened.  

G. Venkatasubbaiah was nagged by one concern during his last days: work on the monumental eight-part dictionary put together over five decades by two generation of lexicographers, including himself, had stopped in 1994. It has neither been revised nor updated, while the language had changed tremendously.

Every two or three decades, at least 10% new words get added to a language, he opined, and advocated that the dictionary needs to be revised, like the Oxford English Dictionary. At his centenary celebrations in 2012, he appealed for the lexicon branch of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat (KSP) to be reopened.

“Hire a dozen young lexicographers and work on updating the dictionary and creating new bilingual and trilingual dictionaries,” he said, even offering to train them. While the then Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar had expressed support for the project, nothing has come of it till date. The dictionary is yet to even be digitised in an accessible manner.

Though proud of his work to create the authoritative dictionary, GV, being an erudite lexicographer, was aware of its limitations too. The dictionary was created exclusively after going through 1,750 works of literature and not the spoken word. He had called for a linguistic survey of Kannada-speaking areas to fill this gap, which never happened till date. “None of the politicians are interested in such projects these days,” GV often lamented.

Noted Kannada linguist K.V. Narayana, while acknowledging the towering contributions of GV, said though he identified the new challenges, he did not address them, for which age could have been a reason. “The Kannada-Kannada dictionary suffers from exclusion of the spoken word, sticking to a standard shishta Kannada and a bias towards the language spoken in the Old Mysore region,” he said.

Prof. Narayana said a true tribute to GV would be to take his work forward, update it. “Probably his was the last major lexicographical work in Kannada. While there have been individual efforts like a dictionary of Kundapra Kannada, Morasunadu Kannada, Persian words in Kannada that have come out, there has been no institutional effort to build a dictionary on modern Kannada,” he said.

There has been a corpus of nearly 10 million Kannada word entries created at the Central Institute of Indian Languages, which can be the base for such an effort, but has sadly remained inaccessible to Kannada scholars, Prof. Narayana lamented.

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Printable version | May 17, 2021 8:56:43 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/stagnation-of-lexicographic-work-caused-him-concern/article34362410.ece

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