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A landmark in the history of lexicography

But who can afford?



Sanhinda Ingirisi-

Sinhala Maha


Volume 1and Volume 11


Prof Sucharita Gamlath

Printed and published:

Sanhinda Printers and Publishers Pvt.Ltd.

Price: Rs.10,000.00


The largest ever English Sinhala Dictionary in the history of lexicons in Sri Lanka, Ingirisi Sinhala Maha Shabdakoshaya was launched recently at the BMICH Colombo, the venue also for the 11th International Book Fair 2009.

Perfect timing for the launch of the two-volume lexicon; any more publicity would not have been needed to get the message across. And for decades, there has been a greatly felt need for a comprehensive dictionary among the Sinhala learners, scribes, readers and the like who seek knowledge and information available in English.

Lexicographer is Professor Sucharitha Gamlath, a retired university don of many disciplines and an erudite of several oriental and occidental languages. The printer and publisher is Upul Shantha Sannasgala (Sanhinda Printers and Publishers Pvt. Ltd.).

The dictionary claims to consist more than 500,000 words. Of them about 100,000 words are new entries - some of which the lexicographer coined or added, combing Sinhala classical literature or folklore. In the introducing pages in Volume 1, he cites some of the words he has thus added.Eg. For the term pot-bellied, his choice of the Sinhala word is mahodara, a word from Sri Lankan Buddhist literature. The Buddha, in one of his journeys to the island has reconciled a war between two yakka brothers chulodara and mahodara, 'the small- bellied and the pot -bellied'. The two terms for the English word 'pigeon' in the dictionary are para pathaya and kalareviya found in Parevi Sandesa Kavyaya, a work of poetry from Kotte Period. Kiriththama for 'craft,' visaharuva for 'antidote', pirivahanava for 'recite' and parammarana for 'posthumous' are some of the many new words one would find here.

'Spelling rules' is an important section where English spelling rules are explained with examples: a useful section in the dictionary for a student of Sinhala medium learning the language or to any other learner who would wish to dispel any point of doubt in the usage of the language.

History of lexicography, History of Sinhala Language, The Tree of Indo-European languages and Phonetics of Sinhala Language, are valuable sources for any learner doing higher studies in the langyage.The nineteen appendices provide the learner with general knowledge, be it for writing or for any other purpose in day-to-day usage of the language; Birds of Sri Lanka, Botanical Names of SriLanka, American and British English, Properties of the Elements, to mention a few. One more section of terminology in computer technology has added to the richness of the lexicon.

Indisputably, this is the most comprehensive and modern dictionary available to a Sinhala learner today since the publication of Malalasekera Sinhala Ingrisi Shabdakoshaya in 1949 compiled and edited by Professor G. P. Malalasekera and published by Gunasena and Co. Ltd. This dictionary has gone into several editions by now serving thousands of students, academics as well as many other users. Notwithstanding, as the years went by with the new editions the dictionary did not grow significantly in the number of new words. The words added in a couple of editions were woefully few in spite of the editing tasks handled by a reputed learned panel, some of them being senior university professors and language pundits.

It was some three decades ago when Professor Sucharitha Gamlath started compiling the dictionary on the insistence of his well-meaning friends as well as the call of his conscience. Many hardships, pecuniary difficulties, in addition to the problems he had to grapple with in connection with his university profession came his way during the years. They would have been the benign tests of his power of endurance and sanity. At the end, he accomplished the epoch-making task!

Upul Shantha Sannasgala should be congratulated for undertaking the daunting task of printing and publishing the two volumes. Investing on a task of this nature would not bring you quick dividends; no any quicker than a love story-novel targeting the young readers of today's teledrama viewer generation!

Nontheless, there are two glaring drawbacks on the part of the printer/publisher.

One, the high price of the dictionary Rs.10, 000.

If the genuine motive was serving the learning community in the country, which was symbolic in the act of presenting the first copies to two school-going young people by the publisher at the launch, the lexicon should have been marked and sold for half the current price, Rs. 5000 or a little more, which an average middle-class parent would bear even with difficulty for the sake of his/her child's education.

The quality of the volumes, more specifically the quality of the printing paper used, is also not satisfactory. The paper would not resist the constant turning of pages for references in the long run; moreover, it pauses the question of durability of the heavy volumes, 1204 pages and 2404 pages respectively. The transparent quality of the flimsy paper results in blurring the view on the surface page.


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