Tamil dictionary dispute II

Dominik Wujastyk 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.

                     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
          behaviour changes.

          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
          Madras University.

          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
          professional standards.
 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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