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From Bulcke to Maurya!: Review of the Parable International English-Hindi Dictionary

An English-Hindi dictionary that’s a ready reckoner

books Updated: Apr 21, 2017 21:21 IST
Vinod Sharma
Abhai Maurya
Abhai Maurya(Courtesy the author)

Father Camil Bulcke was a Belgian Jesuit missionary who attained fame in India for his mastery of the Hindi language. My father gifted me his English-Hindi dictionary that was my prized possession for years.

It was in the eighties through the nineties. So I was immediately interested when Prof Abhai Maurya, founder vice-chancellor of the Hyderabad-based Central University of English and Foreign Languages, presented me his lexicographical work -- an English-Hindi dictionary published by Parable International.

“This one has encyclopedic range,” claimed Maurya as I spoke wistfully about Bulcke. The tome that took nine years completing couldn’t have been better timed. For just the other day, the new government in Uttar Pradesh made teaching English compulsory in government schools from class 1 instead of class 5.

That creates an instant demand for cross-language dictionaries such as Maurya’s. His compilation is learner friendly to the extent that it has a separate section on internet lingo including text messages and chat abbreviations. For instance, what does A3 mean? Anytime, anywhere, any-place in English; kahin bhi, kabhi bhi in Hindi!

The lexicographer had felt the need for such a dictionary in the middle of his earlier works: the Russian-English-Hindi essential dictionary, the Russian-English Concise Naval Dictionary, and a translation of the Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary in Hindi.

In single-handedly putting together the 1900-page reference book, he has created a resource he direly missed in his earlier years as a scholar and author. The real worth of Maurya’s labour is in its inclusion of contemporary words -- such as post-truth -- complete with their etymology and usage.

Entries in the dictionary are in lemma form: words of the same root arranged under one headword (or entry) with their pronunciation in Hindi. What follows is the grammatical label or category of the entry as noun, adjective, determiner, pronoun, adverb etcetera.

Frequently used international abbreviations and acronyms are listed in alphabetical order. Greek, Latin, French, Russian, Spanish words figure with their pronunciation and translation in Hindi. Names of countries, their capital cities and geographical milestones are mentioned in English and Hindi -- all for the benefit of the uninitiated.

Maurya does not have an exact count of entries. But the number of words and their derivatives exceeds the number of words in any advanced learners’ dictionary, he claims. Word combinations or partner-words figure under paragraphs titled collocations. The same is true of phrases, idioms, proverbs and winged-words assembled under the subtitle P&I.

Read more: A dictionary’s slow birth

Take for instance the word ‘back’, a noun that’s also used as adverb. The dictionary contains 10 meanings of ‘back’ as noun, 11 as adjective and 13 as verb. Next in the sequence are derived words: backache, backbiting, backbone and backburner in alphabetical order.

Then there’s collocation or joining up of naturally combining words, also called partner words: back issue, back number, back end, back passage, back shift, back stab et al.

Now et al, the Latin word that I’ve used, figures with its Hindi equivalent: aur anya chezein. That makes it one ready reckoner of a dictionary.