2ND LEAD (Adds dictionary background, cover photo)

American Mission Jaffna Dictionary 1842, released in Colombo

[TamilNet, Monday, 15 May 2006, 16:38 GMT]
"The republishing of the 'Jaffna Dictionary' published 163 years ago by the American Mission Press in 1842 is a welcome gesture at a time when even books published in 1950 are no more to be seen," said Professor K. Sivathamby at the Book release event held at the Sangarapillai Hall in Colombo Tamil Sangam (CTS) in Rudra Mawatte, Sunday around 4. 30 p.m, presided by Mr. Kumaraswamy Somasundaram, President of CTS, said sources in Colombo.

Yalpana Akarati, The Jaffna Dictionary
Yalpana Akarati, The Jaffna Dictionary
The Jaffna Dictionary, the result of the quest for Tamil equivalent terms for English words in relation to the propagation of Christianity in the early 19th century, and republished in 2005 by Chennai Tamizh Mann Pathippagam under trying circumstances was released by Colombo Semamadu Book Stall at the Colombo Tamil Sangam, added the sources.

The Dictionary containing 60000 words in more than 1000 pages has commendations from Prof. K. Sivathamby, Prof. S. Sivalingarasa and Rev. Jebanesan PhD.

Mr. K. Ilavazhagan, Publisher of Tamizh Mann Pathippagam and Mr. Ira. Ilankumaran, Establisher of Trichirapalli Thriuvalluvar Thavachalai and Prof. K. Sivathamby were the special guests in this event which ended with Playwright Kulanthai Shanmugalingam's play titled 'Enthayum Thayum' was staged.

The author of TAMIL LEXICOGRAPHY, Gregory James, notes in his work, that the American missionary Joseph Knight, who had arrived in Jaffna in 1818, began learning Tamil, assisted by Gabriel Tissera and Peter Percival, collected material for the compilation of a TAMIL SYNONYM DICTIONARY. Knight died before his dictionary was completed, and his manuscripts passed into the hands of his compatriot Levi Spaulding. Knight had also begun work on an ENGLISH-TAMIL DICTIONARY and a TAMIL-ENGLISH DICTIONARY, both of whose manuscripts were also taken over by Spaulding after the former's death. In 1842, the American Mission Press in Jaffna published A MANUAL DICTIONARY OF THE TAMIL LANGUAGE (also known as the JAFFNA DICTIONARY or the MANIPAY DICTIONARY), which had been begun by Knight with the assistance of Chandrasekhara Panditar and Vedegiri Mudaliar, and whose editorship Spaulding had assumed. In the Peadbody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, there is a manuscript of this dictionary (owned by the Andover Newton theological School).

Tamil was one of the earliest languages of Indian sub-continent to be learned by Europeans, and it was the first language of the Indian sub-continent to be printed in a book, the Cartilha.. e lingoa Tamul & Portugues (Lisbon 1554), a 59-page Tamil-Portuguese religious reader, printed in the Roman script. The first book printed in an Indian sub-continent language was the Tamil 16 page Tamil Doctrina Christiana by Henrique Henriques and Manoel de Sao Pedro (Quilon 1578).

Because of its historical importance and its extensive literature, Tamil has been the object of considerable study by foreigners, yet still relatively few non-Indians have penetrated it, wrote Mr. James Gregory, who has done an extensive research in the subject of Tamil Lexicography in 1991.


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