25 January, 2021

Dictionaryaha Iti Swaha

Six volumes of a Sanskrit-English lexicon has taken 55 years. The scholars plod along, dodging the funders' axe.

Dictionaryaha Iti Swaha
Words usually tell stories. But words, in this case, have become the story. A very, very long story. Here's the plot: Pune's Deccan College, a 182-year-old archaeology and linguistics research institute, began work on a Sanskrit-to-English dictionary in 1948. Fifty-five years and six volumes later, the translation of words beginning with the first of Sanskrit's 45 letters isn't complete!

There are many twists and turns in this tale, delaying its denouement. For one, the objective of the project. According to A.M. Ghatge, the dictionary's first general editor, each translated expression is to have "all relevant information about Sanskrit words, such as their earliest occurrences, the entire range of their meanings—both common and technical—their provenance at different times and in different branches of learning, their status (as current or obsolete), their derivation and etymology, and the changes in their meanings in their historical development and mutual relations." That is, static one-item word-meanings are anathema in this gigantic lexical undertaking.



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