Strength for Today and Bright Hope for Tomorrow

Volume 5 : 9 September 2005

Editor: M. S. Thirumalai, Ph.D.
Associate Editors: B. Mallikarjun, Ph.D.
         Sam Mohanlal, Ph.D.
         B. A. Sharada, Ph.D.
         A. R. Fatihi, Ph.D.




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Copyright © 2004
M. S. Thirumalai


L. Manjulakshi, Ph.D., and Shripad Bhat, Ph.D.


We need a variety of dictionaries for successful education. A single dictionary cannot fulfill all the demands of a student/reader. Along with the general dictionaries, there is also a need for professional, terminological, literal, folk and inter-linguistic dictionaries. Dialect dictionaries help identify the words in use and possibly will help us identify nuances that are either forgotten due to the impact of English or Sanskrit, or downright rejected for prestige reasons. Such identification of words from within a language will enrich the vocabulary and meet the demands listed above.


While compiling a dictionary, usually scholars in India have tended to ignore dialects. Kannada has a long history of dictionary-making, beginning from the dictionary written by Rannakanda of the 10th century till the dictionary produced by the Sahitya Parishat in the 20th century. Here we mention some dictionaries, which have carved a niche in Kannada literature in their own way. They are as follows:

  1. Abhidana Vastukosha of (1145)
  2. Abhinavabhidanam(1398)
  3. Karnataka Shabdasaram (1400)
  4. Karnataka Nighantu (1400)
  5. Chaturasya Nighantu (1450)
  6. Kabbigara kaipidi (1530)
  7. Karnataka Shabdamanjari (1560)
  8. Shabda Ratnakara (1600)
  9. Navaratna kanda (1600)
  10. Nanruta Ratnakara (1600)
  11. Kavi Kantahara (1640)
  12. Aksharadi Nighantu (1748)
  13. Akaradi Nighantu (1775)
  14. Shabdartha Manjari (1810)
  15. Shabda Manjari (1830)
  16. Shabda Sangraha (1874)
  17. Karnataka Kalpadruma (1885)
  18. Shabdamanjari (1890) and
  19. Karnataka Bhaskara Shabdamanjari (1891)

Apart from these dictionaries, we also can find works like Bharata Nighantu (1600), which defines words in the Mahabharata.

It is strange that all these dictionaries and other eminent dictionaries like that of Kittel, and of Karanth and a series of dictionaries by the Sahitya Parishat, have ignored the dialectical usage. Kannada is rich in dialects, such as Havyaka and Sanketi, apart from many regional varieties.


The dictionary by Rev. Kittel, one of the greatest lexicographers of Kannada, provided the researchers with information relating to historical, etymological, philological and critical fields of the language. There are many Sanskrit and Kannada grammar texts and lexicographical works. But they were not compiled in a systematic way. Further they contained only words, synonyms and antonyms.

Rev. F. Kittel, a great scholar in many languages including Sanskrit, studied Kannada and took up the task of compiling a Kannada-English dictionary. He started the compilation in a thorough and systematic manner on the lines of the dictionaries of the Western countries, especially English dictionary.

Rev. F. Kittel's dictionary has some special features. He traveled throughout the length and breadth of Karnataka, contacted people of all classes, collected the words from their dialects and vocabulary. He also compiled proverbs, colloquial terms and slang. He arranged the words in an alphabetical order, giving its root/origin, and function, i.e., parts of speech. He also gave corrupt forms (thadbhava) of pure Sanskrit words (thathsama).

For the compilation of his dictionary, Rev. F. Kittel studied deeply Sanskrit works, and literary works of Old Kannada, Medieval Kannada and Modern Kannada. He has given the apt and correct meanings for Kannada terms. He has further given diacritical marks to facilitate the pronunciation of Kannada words by non-Kannadigas.

The dictionary compiled by Rev. F. Kittel contained 70,000 words. On the literary side, it is a treasure of knowledge. Thus, Rev. F. Kittel may be called the father of Kannada dictionary. If he had not taken up and accomplished such a stupendous task in the 19th century, the present Kannada-English dictionary compiled by Kannada Sahitya Parishat would have taken another century to come into existence.


The coastal belt of Karnataka has about half-a-dozen dialects of Kannada like Havyaka, Kota, Gauda, Halakki, etc. Here, we have chosen (limited to) two major dictionaries, namely Prof. M. Mariappa Bhat's Havyaka-English dictionary (1983) and the Tulu Lexicon (1989-1997 in 6 vols.) by Rashtrakavi Govinda Pai Samshodhana Kendra, Udupi to account for and highlight the crucial need for a number of categories of dictionaries. Tulu may not be considered as a dialect of Kannada, but it is an important subregional language of Karnataka.

Havyaka has two sub-dialects, namely, Northern Havyaka and Southern Havyaka. Northern and Southern dialects usually referred to the speech of the Havyaka people residing in North Canara and South Canara respectively.

Though we find some monographs and surveys on Kannada dialects by the Deccan College, Pune, Prof. Bhat's dictionary is the pioneering attempt to provide extensive materials on Kannada dialects. His work encouraged other attempts like the one by the reknowed linguist Dr. D. N. S. Bhat's descriptive grammar of Southern Havyaka.

Prof. Mariappa Bhat gained rich experience in dictionary making with his revised version of Kittel's Kannada English dictionary. He also published a revised edition of Manner's Tulu Dictionary with Shankar Kedilaya, published by the University of Madras (1967). These ventures gave him titles like the 'Abhinava Kittel.'

Prof. Bhat's 'A Havyaka-English Dictionary' draws our attention to the dialect's unique features. He followed Kittel's model and used Roman script, but did not identify grammatical categories. He gave synonyms for a word in sister languages or other dialects of Kannada, whereas he did not trace out the etymology of that particular word. Similar word usage in Kannada, Tulu, Tamil, Telugu, or Malayalam is identified with proper sign. For instance, the word "akka," which means elder sister. Collection of the native words is the major objective of his work and, so, Sanskrit or Hindi origin words do not find place in this work. Since Havyaka has no script of its own, it is not possible to find out the exact word form as well as chronology.


Discussion of meaning is a challenging part in dictionary making. For more clarity, the meanings are given in English in this dictionary. Original usage has also been given and also the meaning in English. Then it gives a usage in transliteration

kanji male agittu
The translation is given as
'The calf sucked udder.'

The proverbs are given in a similar way as it is in Kittel dictionary, wherever it is necessary. For example: 'Koorubai.' This is an insect which harms the coconut tree. In relation to this word Prof. Bhat provides a proverb. ondu kuuru-bayi kondare ombattu thengu netta phala, which means 'the killing of a koorubai is equivalent to planting of nine coconut trees.' Word variants also have their place. ummu-Hummu, kinklu-kanklu and so on.

Words from children's language, and figurative uses such as Kombu-horn (fig.)-pride, avenge kombu bayndu 'He has attained/got horn on his head which means he/she has become proud or arrogant' also are also given in of this dictionary. The dictionary also provides a good number of expressions of exclamatory words, address words, onomatopoeic words, different types of suffixes, etc. The words relating to culture, beliefs, values and superstitions, and also proper illustrations are given to indicate their significance and usage.

Some of the words, which are commonly used in Kannada, such as agi, angalu, adipaaya, okuli, kattu, gattu etc., have been identified as Havyaka. It would be difficult to differentiate for the people who use Kannada, Konkani, Havyaka and Tulu as their daily communication medium that which of these words share a common origin. Same phonetic have different meanings in Havyaka and Kannada. For ex : 'appachi' means 'Chikkappa' in Havyaka (Younger uncle) whereas in Kannada it means 'compress' or 'to crush'.

Some words mentioned in the 'Havyaka pada sanchaya' of T.Keshava Bhat are not found in this dictionary such as asale-shaktihiina, iddura-tondare(trouble), kebira-kivudu deafman, etc.

Some words mentioned in this dictionary do not find place in Keshava Bhat's work. The area and informants of the field work might be the reason for this. Some words may have been left out probably without the notice of the field workers.


Tulu lexicon is another important dictionary. Tulu is one of the important languages belonging to the Dravidian family. History of this language goes back to 2nd century B.C. In a Greek Papyrus, known as Charition, the characters of the western coast of Karnataka spoke a peculiar language, which is now proved to be Tulu. Because of its majestic religious rites, dances, folk songs, social institutions etc., Tulu deserved serious and systematic study.

Rev. Kammerer began collecting the words in 1856, in Tulu language. When he died in 1858, he had prepared a list of 2000 vocabulary units. Later Rev. Manner took up this task and completed it. Manner took help from Kapu Madhwaraya, Mulki Seetharama, Mangalore Sarvottama Pai, and Israel Aron of Basel Mission. His Tulu-English dictionary of about 18,000 words was published in 1886 with the financial support of the then Madras Government.

For the socio-cultural words, the explanation is given on the model of an encyclopaedia. For example, under aati (name of a month), sub-entries aatida puname, aatida agelu, aatiklanja, aati kulluni have been explained with reference to the relevant cultural background and the associated rituals. Further information is available under main and sub entries. For the plant names their uses as edible stuff, as tools of agriculture, as herbs, as components of religious rites are recorded. Botanical names, proverbs, riddles, superstitions relating to them are also recorded. Borrowed words from Arabic, Sanskrit, Hindi, Marathi and from many other languages as well as cognate words from the other Dravidian languages are also mentioned. If the word is obtained from any source it is mentioned and is indicated properly. For example, if a word is obtained from Manner's dictionary, it is indicated.

For non-Dravidian languages like Sanskrit, Arabic, Marathi etc., they are given in Roman script.

Having identified all the dimensions of Tulu language and culture, the 'Tulu Lexicon' has made impressive contributions to the field of language dictionary, with the help of advanced field technology and equipments. This is seen in the presentation of both the formal and informal elements of the language.

Manner's dictionary did not distinguish between the two major sub-dialects of Tulu - one the common Tulu and the other Shivalli Tulu. It had not given synonyms, derivations, etc. Mariyappa Bhat and Shankar Kedilaya rectified these errors and brought out a revised dictionary in 1967. With the help of numerous modern linguists and linguistic approaches, Rastrakavi Govindapai Sambhodhana Kendra, Udupi took up a big task of preparing a Tulu Lexicon project in 1979 and brought out a voluminous work. This dictionary is a cultural encyclopedia incorporating everything related to Tulu life and culture. Words have been collected from literary, child, and folk languages as well as words from agriculture, fishing, hunting and other professions. This dictionary has followed a standard methodology.

There have been two major (i.e., North and South) and five minor dialect areas north-west, north-east, south-west, south-central and south-east. The major Tulu speaking caste groups have been identified. B : Brahmin, J : Jain, H : Harijan , T : Tribal, C : Common to all, and for further speech modification, the sub divisions like b1 : Shivalli Brahmin, b2 : Shiva Brahmin; C1 : Bunt; C2 : Billava; C3 : Mogaveera, etc. On the basis of the pilot survey conducted for this project, different communities were interviewed based on age, profession and sex to collect the data. Along with the lexical items, stories, narrative passages, riddles, idioms, Bhuta oracle, etc., are also collected and given in an appropriate manner. The lexical entries are recorded in two scripts, viz., modified Kannada script as well as the Roman script. General, special, figurative, derogatory and suggested meanings of a word have been given.


Till recently, dialects were neglected by the scholars as well as lexicographers. Modern linguistics changed this type of attitudes after the 1950s and the 60s. Havyaka-English Dictionary and Tulu lexicon made remarkable contributions in this field and made classical scholars to change their attitude towards dialects.

In today's changing academic arena, under the context of globalization, not only dialects but also the humanities and language studies have been ignored. To safeguard our own identity and cultural heritage, there is a dire need for these types of works. Dialect dictionaries can provide useful materials for the preparation of teaching materials, language use in mass media, coining of technical terms, terminologies for advanced study materials and various disciplines in the local languages.



L. Manjulakshi, Ph.D.
Central Institute of Indian Languages
Mysore 570006

Dr.Shripad Bhat
University of Mysore
Mysore 570006, India

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