BENGALURU: Eight volumes of Kannada dictionary, about 10,000 pages and countless words. This is the work of 105-year-old Prof G Venkatasubbiah, a lexicographer who along with other experts developed the Kannada dictionary on par with the Oxford dictionary. From traditional to the new era Kannada, he has documented the richness of the language. It took him 60 years to develop eight volumes of the dictionary, which is the most number of volumes for any Indian language dictionary. While the first volume of the dictionary was printed in 1970, the eighth and final volume appeared in 1995. He has now been awarded with the prestigious Kendra Sahitya Akademi’s literary honour ‘Basha Sanman’ for south zone. The award ceremony is in January at New Delhi.
Did you expected this award?
Definitely not. I thought people has forgotten me. I was surprised to hear about the award at this age.
How did you get so involved with the Kannada dictionary?
When I was doing my MA in Kannada, noted poet and writer B M Srikantaiah came as an examiner for my viva. After asking questions for more than one-and-a-half hours, he said Kannada should be taken to a different level by young people like me. This was in the late 1930s. This stayed with me and I always wanted to do something for the language I loved.
How did it all work out?
In 1943, when a committee was formed under the chairmanship of A R Krishnamurthy, I was among the
scholars who would pick words from various Kannada literary works, right from Pampa to K V Puttappa. After the first volume came, I was assigned to take it forward. We had collected lakhs of words.
Through your dictionary, lakhs of Kannada words were made popular. How did you go about it?
Many words are not used by people in day-to-day conversations. It is only by constantly using such words do they become popular and are kept alive.
What do you think about the ongoing imposition of Hindi?
One should not impose a language. By imposing, it will affect every South Indian language, including Kannada. People should oppose such an imposition by not accepting it. Those opposing this must include people from the field of literature, including media, writers and bloggers.
Using other languages in between Kannada has become a fashion these days. What do you think of that?
By doing this over a period of time, these words from non-Kannada languages will become a part of Kannada. The purity of the language will be lost.
Is there any scope to develop another volume of the dictionary?
Yes. Many new words have emerged and this is going to be a constant change. If the government decides, then there is a scope for another volume of Kannada dictionary.
What is your take on policies regarding Kannada language?
Any government, irrespective of the party and time, should always listen to scholars while implementing or taking any new initiative regarding Kannada language.