A landmark in the history of lexicography
But who can afford?
Volume 1and Volume 11
Prof Sucharita Gamlath
Printed and published:
Sanhinda Printers and Publishers
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
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
Nontheless, there are two glaring drawbacks on the part of the
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.