For Keralites, door opens to three other Dravidian languages

An 82-year-old class 4 dropout has brought out a dictionary that connects the four south Indian languages.

The multilingual dictionary, a product of 25 years of toil by Thalassery resident Njattyela Sreedharan, is set to be released on November 1. In this dictionary, each of the 16,500 Malayalam words has the corresponding meaning in Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu. For words with multiple meanings, all the different versions are given in the other three languages, Mr. Sreedharan told The Hindu. The tome is priced at ₹1,500.

“In this age, when words and languages are slowly disappearing, the dictionary will be a guide and reference. Through this, even a common man will be able to get a grasp of the words used in the other three languages,” he added.

After dropping out of school, he worked in a beedi factory in Palakkad. He took his ESLC exam (eighth standard public exam) in the meantime and learned Tamil too. He started devoting his time to studies and to teaching for literacy programmes. Soon, he developed an affinity for languages and began to focus on scripts, grammar, and colloquial usages of words.

Idea sprouts

While working as a blueprinter in the Public Works Department, Mr. Sreedharan got acquainted with T.P. Sukumaran, a professor at Nirmalagiri College, Kannur, who suggested a dictionary of dialects in Malayalam. Since he was familiar with Malayalam and Tamil, Mr. Sreedharan considered learning the other two major Dravidian languages, Kannada and Telugu, and compiling a dictionary linking all four.

He learned Kannada from his colleague Govinda Naik and writer C. Raghavan, then stayed in Karnataka for several weeks for a deeper study. An officer at the District Agricultural Farm, Taliparamba, Eashwaraprasad Rao and his wife Seethamma helped him learn Telugu. Mr. Sreedharan then travelled to Nellore in Andhra Pradesh many times to interact with the local people and master the nuances of Telugu.

856 pages

After his retirement in 1994, he diverted all his energy and resources into the dictionary. The State Institute of Languages, Kerala, helped him publish the Malayalam-Tamil dictionary in 2012. However, due to difficulties in proofreading and lack of experts to evaluate the work, the institute backed out of publishing the multilingual work. Now, the Senior Citizens Forum is bringing out the 856-page dictionary, which Mr. Sreedharan terms his ‘great accomplishment.’

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Printable version | Dec 4, 2020 1:18:41 PM |

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