The Central Institute of Indian Languages was set up on the I7th July 1969 with a view
to assisting and co-ordinating the development of Indian Languages. The Institute was charged
with the responsibility of serving asa nucleus to bring together all the research and literary
out-put from the various linguistic streams to a common head and narrowing the gap between
basic research and developmental research in the fields of languages and linguistics in India.
The Institute and its four regional centres are thus engaged in research and teaching which
lead to the publication of a wide ranging variety of materials. Materials designed for teaching,
learning at different levels and suited to specific needs is one of the major areas of interest in its
series of publications. Basic research relating to the acquisition of language and study of lang-
uage in its manifold psychological relations constitute another broad range of its interest. These
materials will include materials produced by the members of the staff of the Central Institute
of Indian Languages and its Regional Language Centres and associated Scholars from Universities
and Institutions both Indian and Foreign.
The Central Institute of Indian Languages has initiated the Common Vocabulary Series in
Indian Languages with a view to presenting the range of commonness among vocabularies of the
major languages and thus help evolving a core vocabulary.
The study of vocabulary is a major component in the teaching/learning of a language. Not.
much scientific work has been done on the vocabulary of Indian languages. On the contrary,
vocabularies ‘are considered as the quickest way to business success and one finds that in most of
the so-called quick and easy language learning manuals there are nothing but lists of vocabulary
organized on an ad hoc basis. It is wrong to assume that by merely learning a number of vocabu
lary items one could either speak, read or write alanguage. Yetin the absence of any other
scientifically treated material such lists gain currency even among language teaching institutions.
A lot more work has been done in English producing lists of words for different levels and
for specific uses in comparison with the Indian languages. Lorge’s semantic count of 570 words,
Thorndike’s second 500 words, and West’s General Service List(s) of 2,000 words are meant for
secondary school work. Rejall, Ayres and Flood & West have provided lists of vocabularies
which are useful aids to the fields of science, business, education and other areas. In India such
lists are adopted for the teaching of English. The CIE has prepared lists of words for Science and
Humanities and the study group appointed by the Government of India presided over by
Prof. V. K. Gokak also gives active and passive vocabularies of 2,500 and 2,000 words
respectively meant for ‘Higher Level’. Like Thorndike and Large’s, The Teacher’s Word Book
of 30,000 words, no material exists in Indian Languages and even if something of that dimension
was attempted it wouldnot meet the immediate specific practical demands of text-book
writers7and such other persons who are obliged to work within a controlled vocabulary.
Among the Indian Languages phonemic and morphemic frequencies have been worked out
for Hindi, Gujarati, Marathi, Oriya, Kannada and Malayalam, the last'three yet to be published.
These studies list the frequency of phonemes, morphemes and words in arunning list of one lakh
itmes randomly selected from all levels of written literature. Although these studies are particu
larly useful for devising speed writing, typewriter key boards, €tc., from the point of view of
teaching and learning they are of limited use. For instance given the information that the frequency
of ‘lie’ is 1,227 and that of «s3m’ is 5, how is one to interpret this? Similarly, given that ‘laga’ is
106 and ‘lagatha’ is I, one is faced with parallel problems of interpretation. Do they lie within the
commonest range of vocabulary items? If not, is their teaching to be phased in such a manner that
low frequency items like ‘sam‘ and ‘lagata’ should be postponed until such time their turn comes?
This brings us to the question of computing frequencies on the basis of written as opposed
to spoken material. Spoken material is difficult to collect, but it has its own use. For example, &
word like ‘sam’ will probably have high frequency in spoken Hindi and any one wishing productive
com petence in the language will need it. Similarly, the Thorndike team working for about 20 years
may have found ‘chicken’ to be of high frequency, but not ‘hen’ on the basis of usage. Compounds
like ‘roast chicken’, ‘fried chicken’, ‘chicken sandwich’, etc., naturally establish a higher frequency
for chicken over hen..Yet.‘hen’. may be of greater importance for a text on poultry. Thus,
the importance of the distinction. between list frequency and text frequency has also to be
kept in view by the language teacher, and the material producer.
In Hindi four books deserve special mention. One is "Hindi ki adharbhat sabdavali’ pre
pared by the Central Hindi Institute, Agra. The Second is a frequency count by K. C. Bhatia and
the third and fourth are the ‘Basic Hindi Vocabulary’ 2,000 words and 500 wards published by
the Ministry of Education, Government of India. Different methodological procedures had been
followed in each case keeping in view the frequency of uses and some kind of a vague generality
of concepts. None of these could completely meet the demands for Hindi and could effectively
be used as a model for any other Indian language.
To meet the immediate needs of people engaged in the teaching of Indian languages and
production of material for the purpose, the Central Institute of Indian Languages had initiated two
programmes. The first one is to prepare lists of recall vocabulary of approximately 3,500 words.
45 semantic categories were given to educated native speakers of Indian language who were asked
to recall from their memory vocabulary items connected with those semantic categories. The cate-
gories were compiled so as to include items related to familiar objects and day-to-day experiences.
No dictionary or written record was used for collecting this material. Once this material was avail
able attempts were made to compare the recall vocabulary.lists of cognate languages. In comparing
the lists of Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam, it was felt that a more useful purpose would be
served by indicating the vocabulary items common among the four languages, three languages and
two languages. It is expected that such comparisons will be made among other sub-groups also.
The second project is to prepare common vocabulary between Hindi and any other Indian
language. It was decided to prepare such common vocabularies with Hindi as the base language for
all Indian languages. For this purpose the authors were given freedom to use dictioneries, glossaries
and all sources of written literature including periodicals. These are classifiedto include same
words with same meaning and same words with different meaning with further sub-classification
to include same word, same shape, same meanings same word, different shape, same meaning;
same word with entirely different meaning; same word with expanded meaning and same word
with restricted meaning. It is hoped that eventually these would lead us to a common core vocabu
lary among all the Indian languages. Once these are prepared, it would facilitate the work of
teachers and material producers who would have a certain base for building teaching material for
the new learners. This would further emphasise the cultural miscegenation that has taken place
over the past thousand years leading to a common cultural and linguistic heritage.
I hope that all people working in the field of Indian languages would find these lists useful.
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