Tamil dictionary dispute II
D.Wujastyk at ucl.ac.uk
Thu Jul 7 23:24:08 UTC 1994
Note sent to Dominik Wujastyk, distributed with the author's permission.
DICTIONARY OF CONTEMPORARY TAMIL: A NOTE
by S. Ramakrishnan, Cre-A, Madras.
Since language is a product of cultural and technological
forces, it keeps changing. New words come into use; words
disappear; existing words lose some of their senses; or take
on additional senses; forms of words change; grammatical
Therefore, there is need to document periodically the words
and the changes that take place in their meaning content.
Kriyavin Tarkalat Tamil Akarati (Dictionary of Contemporary
Tamil) - from now on DCT - precisely does this. This
dictionary is a major milestone - perhaps the second one in
this century, the first one being the Tamil Lexicon (1926) of
The uniqueness of DCT dictionary is its exclusive focus on the
contemporary variety of Tamil i.e., meanings of Tamil words in
use today. No other existing Tamil dictionary can claim this.
This means that the most important feature of this dictionary
consists of identifying the sense/senses in which a word is
used today. to identify the senses, as many as 40,000 printed
pages of various Tamil texts such as newspaper reports,
government publications, magazine writing, fiction, school
texts etc., were scanned by a team of researchers on the
guidelines provided by the chief editor and a board of
advisors consisting of eminent linguists. More than two years
or 30 person years have been spent in scanning the sources and
creating a citation bank of 150,000 citations, identifying the
lexical items (i.e., the words to be defined). It is based
ont he citations that the senses of a word have been
identified. It is hence evident that even before an entry was
constructed, a great deal of physical and intellectual effort
had gone into the basic work.
At the second stage, a team of specialists in English with
help from the editorial board helped in giving the English
Thus, Kriyavin Tarkalat Tamil Akarati (Tamil-Tamil-English) is
the first dictionary to:
a) list the words in modern Tamil
b) identify the present-day meaning of these
c) give the meanings of words in the form of
d) give the English meanings of these words
This dictionary was published in January 1992. The copyright
of the Dictionary is with me, S Ramakrishnan.
Institute of Indology and Tamil Studies, Koln University,
Germany, without permission from me, has used Kriyavin
Tarkalat Tamil Akarati and has created:
a) an on-line Tamil - English Lexicon (OTL)
which is accessible to all the Tamil scholars with E-
Mail facility all over the world, incorporating all
the words and senses found in DCT together with their
English meanings. The rendering of the English
meanings is exactly as it is in DCT
b) a Tamil-German Dictionary useful not only
to German students of Tamil but also those who want
to translate from Tamil into German. In this
Dictionary IITS has taken all the Headwords from DCT
and rendered into German the English meanings found
in DCT. The order of the entries of the Tamil-German
Dictionary follows exactly the order of entries in
DCT. The Tamil-German Dictionary, according to Dr.
Dieter Kapp, Professor at IITS, Koln, "owes much to
your (i.e., S Ramakrishnan's) path breaking 1992
publication of a Tamil-Tamil-English dictionary with
regard to the new meanings of Tamil words."
Both the actions are badly affecting the sales of DCT and
image of Cre-A: As for the sales, DCT is now available with
me in machine readable form and is priced at an affordable
price to foreign scholars. The investment I made in DCT can
be partly recovered only through sale of hard cover copies
abroad and the machine readable version. The Indian price is
too low and the investment can be recovered only through a
very large print order (which is not happening) over a short
By making available the words in contemporary Tamil identified
by us and their English meanings through a facility which is
right at the table of the scholars, the scholars have been
effectively prevented from buying the machine readable copies.
It is my estimate that I would have sold at least 20 copies of
the machine readable form and realised US $ 40,000. It may be
mentioned that couple of months back we sold a copy to a
Japanese scholar, Professor Kazuhiko Machida of Tokyo
University at US $ 2000.
In the case of Tamil-German dictionary, but lifting en masse
the headwords and translating the English meanings into
German, the IITS has appropriated what rightfully is my
intellectual property. And, in the process, a) by not paying
any compensation to me and b) by not having to spend the huge
sums like we had to do in creating DCT, the IITS has both
robbed me and gained at my expense.
As for the image, Cre-A: is held in high esteem by scholars
for the healthy academic norms we have been following for
twenty years now. These scholars when they see the OTL or the
Tamil- German dictionary, both of which do not carry the
technical information provided in the DCT, would doubt our
integrity and would conclude that we have compromised on our
Dominik Wujastyk Phone (and voice messages): +44 71 611 8467
Wellcome Institute, FAX: +44 71 611 8545
183 Euston Road, London NW1 2BE.
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