Feature Article

Sri Lanka's 'Tamil implementation'

[TamilNet, Saturday, 19 July 2008, 04:04 GMT]
The Sri Lankan government and its agencies outside are bent on a propaganda programme of highlighting equal implementation of Tamil as an official language in Sri Lanka, as provided by the 13th amendment of the constitution, to argue the case against secession and to justify themselves to international opinion. But in actual practice there is a planned effort by the state to sinhalicise the very usage of Eezham Tamil itself.

Shown in the example is a signboard of a government department at Rekawa in the down south of Sri Lanka.

Rekawa Turtle Conservation Project
[Photo courtesy: Marine Conservation Society (UK), Website]

The signboard is self-explanatory.

Most of the words and phrases found written in Tamil alphabet in the signboard are either direct transcription of Sinhala words or words of Sanskrit origin.

For example, 'wildlife' is written in Sinhala as 'vanajeeva'. It is translated as 'vanajeevaraasi' in Tamil in the signboard. Both are words of Sanskrit origin. 'Vana-uyir' is the common Tamil word.

'Sponsor' is indicated by the word 'anugrahaya' in Sinhala, which is 'translated' as 'anukkirakam' in Tamil. Such a word is never found used in this sense in Tamil. It is a Sanskrit word, and when used in Tamil, means: 'the grace of God'.

The project's name, 'Turtle Conservation Project,' is translated into Sinhala and then completely transcribed in Tamil alphabet, that too, with mistakes.

Such things happen not because of the dearth of vocabulary in Tamil language.

This is the Tamil language of the Sri Lankan state, found in every sector of governmental usage, not only in the south, but also in the very heartland of the Tamil regions.

The motive behind is to see Eezham Tamil taking up Sinhala words and usages.

It is evident that the Tamil speakers of Sri Lanka, their ideas about Tamil, and their scholars have no role in the government's usage of the language.

Eezham Tamil was once admired even in Tamil Nadu for its Tamilness.

What is seen in the signboard is also an example to understand some recent tendencies in the Sinhala language. When there was a search for technical terms in modern times, the common Sinhala words of Dravidian or old Prakrit origins were neglected as colloquial. Sanskrit terms were brought in liberally, inspired by the Orientalist ideas of Indo-Aryan origins of the Sinhalese.

The Sinhala formation of the Sri Lankan state is trying to impose its ideas of language on Tamils, who in modern times being keen in maintaining the Tamilness of their language, are sensitive to linguistic corruption.


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