Ever came across words like ‘adi’, ‘Pire’ and ‘Kullu’? They all mean ‘a house’ in the lingo of the Kattunayaka, Paniya and Aidya tribal communities of the state. As many as 6,000 words from several tribal languages and dialects will soon be available at the click of a mouse once the e-dictionary of the Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University is ready
Waynad –based tribal linguist Kndamala Ramachandran is in the final stages of creating a 2,000-page dictionary of Adivasi languages to be incorporated into the Malayalam lexicon. Malayalam University Vice-chancellor K Jayakumar told this correspondent. There will also be a voice-enabled feature to help users understand the correct pronunciation of words. The etymology, grammatical categorization and the social context of words will be explained in detail, he said.
In his early 40s, Ramachandran has been travelling across the state for the past 16 years researching the Kuruma, Paniya, Kattunayaka, Adiya and Oorali languages for the lexicon. Himself a Kuruma tribal from Waynad, he is yet to collect words of the Kurichiyas of Mananthavady. “The vice-chancellor has invited me to the university to provide tribal word inputs for the dictionary,” said Ramachandran. “My compilation is in the final stage. I need two more weeks to collect additional words.”
The lure of tinseldom took him to Chennai at one point of time. Following the advice of award-winning filmmaler O.K.Johny from Waynad, Ramachandran decided to go back and do something to save the culture and tradition of tribals. That is how work on the dictionary began. “The online dictionary will be brought out by May/June,” said the vice-=chancellor. “We have compiled 1.5 lakh wordsthough there may be 3.5 lakh words in usage in Malayalam. The century-old Shabdatharavathi has only one lakh words. Many words used in daily life do not find mention in Mlayalam dictionaries. When we incorporate tribal languages, we will enhance the number of words. We could also make provisions to financially support Ramachandran’s activities.”
This lexicon will go a long way in equipping teachers with linguistic skills to interact with Adivasi students and stem the attrition rate. “The medium for Adivasi children is Malayalam which is alien to them.” Said Agali Vocational HSS teacher Sindhu Sajan.Folklore needed to be taught at the elementary level to bring children into the mnainsteam.” Said Sindhu, who has directed a 30-minute short film “Aggedu Nayaka’ (Mother Tongue) produced by the Palakkad District Panchayat. She has spent 15 years researching the linguistic alienation faced by the Irula, Muduga and Kurumba tribals of Attappadi. “This alienation of students should end. At least in Anganwadis, the tribal language should be used.” She said.
As a step in the right direction, the National Rural Livelihood Mission (NRLM) brings out a quarterly news letter named ‘Othimai’ in the tribal language in Attappadi. Written and edited by local women, it highlights the provisions of the Right to Education Act and various tribal schemes to reach out to the grass root population, said NRLM manager Seema Bhaskar.