This English–Kannada Dictionary Breaks New Ground

Renowned linguist Dr. D. N. Shankara Bhat’s new English-Kannada dictionary titled English-Kannada Padanerake (Kannada: ಇಂಗ್ಲಿಶ್-ಕನ್ನಡ ಪದನೆರಕೆ) was released last Sunday. It has been co-authored by Y Bharath Kumar and Vivek Shankar, both engineers by profession with interest in the field of linguistics.

While there are several English-Kannada dictionaries already available in the market, this work is quite different from the rest in three key aspects –
  • The Kannada synonyms of English words provided in the dictionary are all mostly native Kannada words, with a very minimal number having their roots in other languages
  • Along with native Kannada words in popular use, it also includes newly coined words, especially those corresponding to the fields of commerce, science, technology, and other modern fields of study 
  • It has a sizable number of words coined by commoners and enthusiasts through the Facebook group Pada Pada Kannada Padane
In all, there are about 18,000 English words listed in the dictionary, to which, about 45,000 Kannada equivalents have been provided. It also contains several detailed examples illustrating the use of words in their different shades of meaning.

A good portion of words contained in most Kannada dictionaries of today are of Sanskrit origin that are not easily comprehensible to a common Kannada speaker. This is particularly true of words used in the fields of science and technology. Such words, owing to their unfamiliarity, appear quite complex and largely fail to convey the intended meaning.

As of today, not much work has been done in building science vocabulary in Kannada. We are mostly reliant on English, which makes learning difficult for commoners. And whatever new Kannada words that have been coined, especially the terminologies used in scientific literature, are mostly constructed from Sanskrit root words. Most of these words, as said above, appear complex and not easily understandable. 

This dictionary tries to fill the gap by providing words that are easy to comprehend and use. Kannada equivalents to scientific terms provided in the new dictionary are very close to native words used in common speech. The use of native words in coining new terms also has the inherent advantage of making use of native Kannada grammatical rules. Hence, not only is it easy to comprehend a new word and the associated concept, subject matter experts and common Kannada speakers alike can coin new words all by themselves.

By coining words that are closer to people’s language, and using them in building content in science and technology, several issues concerned with learning can be effectively resolved over a period of time, serving as an enabler to students studying science in the Kannada medium. 

And these concerns are not just limited to Kannada, but pervasive across many other Indian languages. Such language communities too should consider coining words in their own languages to build their word stock, chiefly scientific lexicon, by the use of well-known and commonly used words.

Needless to say, the dictionary is just the first step in the long journey of building corpus in Kannada. It is unprecedented in that excepting a few individual attempts at coining words in native Kannada no other initiative has yet taken up the task in such an organized manner and scale.

The dictionary, released last Sunday, will be available in the market shortly. One may follow Dr. Bhat’s website for the latest updates.