Lexicography in India is as ancient as the Vedas. Veda nighantu may be considered to be the earliest extant lexicon. Then from about the fourth century B. C. upto about 6th century A. D. we come across illustrious lexicographers such as Yaska, Vyadi, Vararuci, Bhaguri and Amarasimha.
In the several other Indian Languages lexicons under the caption "nighantu" have appeared from the earliest times. Kannada scholars too had realised the necessity and importance of lexicons.
The famous Kannada poet, Ranna (990 A. D.), author of two great campu works, is said to be the pioneer, in the field of lexicography in Kannada. His work "Ranna Kanda" is the earliest lexicon in the Kannada language. It is composed in the popular Kanda metre most suited for old Kannada. Unfortunately the book has not been traced in its entirety; much of it has been lost. Even in the available work we do not find any systematisation with regard to the arrangement of lexical material.
As most of the old Kannada campu kavyas contained an appreciable count of Samskrit words, there arose the necessity of listing meanings of Samskrit words in Kannada. Such a need was met for the first time by Nagavarma II (1145 A. D.) through his work AbhidhanaVastu Kosa and his Kannada commentary of HaIayudha's Abhidhana Ratnamala, This was followed by Nacirajiya, a Kannada commentary of Amarakosa by Naciraja (1300 A. D.).
The next Kannada - Kannada lexicon can be deciphered in some chapters of Sabdamani- darpana, a work on Grammar composed by the celebrated grammarian Kesiraja, round about 1260 A. D. A list of 181 words wherein the I phoneme occurs with lexical meanings varying from a single meaning to as many as five, enumerated in the second chapter under sutra 33 forms a tiny lexicon. The tenth chapter under the caption Prayogasara is exclusively devoted to the meanings of some 233 rare words. The seventh chapter, termed Dhatu Prakarana, comprising of 985 Kannada verbal roots and themes, sets forth the meanings of these items in Sanskrit word s or phrases. If these three portions are arranged, they will constitute a good lexicon for Old Kannada or Halagannada. In fact, Rev. F. Kittel did make use of all these materials in his Dictionary (1894).
Next in chronology to the lexical portions found in Sabdamanidarpana, comes the Karnataka Sabdasara, a lexicon in prose, composed round about 1400 A. D. Herein meanings are given to 1416 wards. It may be mentioned that the author has made good use of Kesiraja's Prayogasara (the chapter tenth of Sabdamanidarpana).
The next work of great merit, wherein Kannada meanings have been given to Sanskrit words is Abhinavabhidhanam or Mangabhidhanam (1398 A. D.) of Mangaraja*,... a Kannada lexical work in Vardhaka Satpadi metre. Mangaraja has planned his lexicon on the model of Halayudha's Abhidhana Ratnamala, In the division of chapters, he closely follows Halayudha as detailed hereunder :--
1) Swarga Kanda, 2) Bhu Kanda, 3) Patala Kanda, 4) Samanya Kanda and 5) Nanartha Kanda.
There are evidences in the work to show that Nagavarma's (1145) Abhidhana Vastu Kosa and his Kannada commentary of Abhidhana Ratnamala have been bodily incorporated in many places.
Mangabhidhana is useful for understanding the Kannada meanings of Sanskrit words which occur in Kannada classical works. With the help of this work one is also able to know the correct meanings of many old Kannada words which have become obsolete today. Useful information is furnished about fine arts, horses, army divisions, weapons, ornaments, measures, etc. Some of them are peculiar to Karnataka. Words of foreign sources such as kagada (paper), dauti (inkstand), kalamu (pen), trasu (balance), which had entered into the language by about the close of the 14th century have been included here. This would- incidentally throw some light on the history of some of the foreign loan words in Kannada.
Mangabhidhana contains useful information on diverse topics, besides furnishing correct meanings of words. In those days, when the art of printing was unknown, the work must have been a boon to students of language, for they could easily learn by heart the lexicon -in verse and acquire great command over the vocabulary.
Another lexicon, belonging to about the same period as Karnataka Sabdasara (1400 A: D.) is Kabbigara Kaipidi, a lexicon. in verse. The work is in Kanda metre. Nothing is known about the author.
Next in chronology is the Caturasya Nighantu (1450 A. D.) by the Author, Caturasya Bommarasa, a Virasaiva poet. This also is a lexicon in verse, composed in Kanda metre.
There is a second Kabbigara Kaipidi, composed (C. 1530 A. D.) by Linga Mantri, a Virasaiva poet. This too is in verse, composed in Vardhakasatpadi metre and quite a valuable work.
By about 1560 A. D. the Halagannada lexicon, Karnataka Sabdamabjari was composed in verse (Vardhaka Satpadi metre) by Virakta Tontadarya.
Another verse-lexicon in Vardhaka Satpadi metre, Karnataka Sanjivana by Sringira Kavi was, composed round about 1600 A. D. At about the same period there appeared two other lexicons in verse, named Bharata Nighantu and Sabdagama. In Bharata Nighantu are found the meanings of many of the difficult words occurring in Kumara Vyasa Bharata, a great popular epic by the famous poet, Naranappa, also called Kumara Vyasa.
There have also been other useful Kannada lexicons. The Nanartha Ratnakara (1600 A. D.) by Devottama, KaviKanthaharam by Surya Kavi (1638 A. D.)* and the Kannada commentary of Amarakosa by Siddhanti Subramanya Sistri (1872) may be mentioned as some of the important ones in this connection.
From the beginning of the present century there have been some English - Kannada, Kannada - English and Kannaga- Kannada Dictionaries useful for -everyday use. A great Kannada - Kannada Lexicon is on the anvil under the auspices of the Kannada Sahitya Parisat, Bangalore, sponsored by the Government of Mysore.
Another important project for the revision and enlargement of their English - Kannada Dictionary has been undertaken by the University of Mysore.
But the greatest of all the Lexicons in Kannada published so far is Kittel's Kannaga- English Dictionary (1894) about which an account is given in the following pages.
1. Some remarks on the Kannada Language.
The Kannada language, which is the subject 'of the present Dictionary, is one of the languages of Southern India that have sprung from a common origin and form a distinct family ·of tongues, viz. that of the now so-called Dravida (or Dravida), of which Tamil, Malayala, Telugu 'and Tutu are the other principal representatives.
Kannada h; spoken throughout the plateau of Mysore, in the Southern Mahratta country, in some of the western districts of the Nijam's dominions, and to a considerable extent in North and South Canara on the western coast. The number of people by whom Kannada is spoken may be estimated at about ten millions.
It includes three chief dialects - classical, mediaeval, and modern. The first or Ancient Kannada is quite uniform, and shows an extraordinary amount of polish and refinement. It has to the present time been preserved in several works written by Jaina scholars, and appears to have been in common use for literary purposes from at least the 10th to the middle of the 13th century. Its principal characteristics are the elaborate and highly artificial campu composition, - strict adherence to the ·use of now more or less disused case and tense-signs (that towards the end of the mentioned period were fixed in grammatical treatises) and to the rules of syntax,- perspicuity resulting therefrom, - the use of classical Samskrita (also specifically Jaina) words in their unaltered form whenever desirable or. necessary as an 'aid in composition and that of a conventionally received number of Tadbhavas (Samskrita terms changed to suit the tongue of the Kannada people), --the proper distinction between the letters p of the land r,-alliteration carefully based also on this distinction, - and lastly pleasing euphonic junction of letters.
After the Ancient dialect the Medieual Kannada began to appear as contained in the poetry of Saiva arid Lingayta authors. It is, as a rule, written in anyone of the Satpada metres, i somewhat negligent as to the use of suffixes and the rules of syntax and therefore occasionally ambiguous, uses a few new suffixes, contains a number of Tadbhavas not sanctioned by previous authors, has entirely lost the letter r (using r or ! in its stead), and frequently changes the letter p of the present or future verbal suffix and an initial p into h. Its period terminates at about the end of the 15th century. It is, .however, to be observed that also after that time, several works were written in the Medireval as well as in the Classical dialect and style.
From about the 16th century Mediaeval Kannada gradually got the character of the language of the present day or of Modern Kannada, which transition is seen especially in the poetry of the Vaisnavas that dates and prevails from that time. Several ancient verbs and nouns fell into disuse, the letter r. began to be discarded, at least so far as regards its proper position in alliteration, words borrowed from Mahratti and .Hindustani came into use, more frequent omission of suffixes took place, etc.
The third or Modern dialect comprises the present Kannada of prose writings and common conversation. Of these the first have two branches, one being tales, school-books and, letters, and the ,other business-language (especially that of courts of justice). The first branch differs from the second chiefly in so far as it is more exact in the use of inflexional terminations and less abounding in Hindustani and 'Mahratti. 'The language of ordinary conversation (excepting that of the educated classes) may be called a union of the two branches that is less particular in the choice of words; arbitrary about the use of suffixes, and at the same time full of colloquialisms. Many words of the Modern dialect also are Samskrita, especially such as are abstract, religious or scientific terms. The ancient form of the present tense has been changed, most verbal suffixes have been somewhat altered a few of the suffixes of nouns and pronouns have ceased to be used, many verbs, nouns, and particles have become' obsolete, and other verbs and nouns (based on existing roots) have been formed; but in spite of this, of the introduction of much Hindustani and' Mahratti, of the lack of refinement, etc .. the Modern 'dialect is essentially one with the Ancient and Medieval. It is however not uniform, but more or less varies according to localities.
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