Giving meaning to Kuvempu's nonce words

Giving meaning to Kuvempu's nonce words


Nonce words (which means ‘for the once’) are popular in English. Lewis Carroll created words like ‘galumphing’, ‘chortle’ and ‘jabberwocky’. Horace Walpole created the word ‘serendipity.’

While in English some of the words have entered the standard vocabulary, in Kannada many of Kuvempu’s words are a mystery, even to the best of scholars. Kuvempu also used compound words.

To help readers understand the Rashtrakavi’s works better, Kuvempu University in Shimoga is bringing out eight volumes of lexicon in Kannada to be published this year. As many as 16 experts including linguists, poets, modern literature and culture experts worked on this lexicon working for more than a year to compile these volumes.

To be released in August

The University, which will have a copyright over the volumes, will print 1,000 copies of each volume. The ‘Prasaranga’ wing of the University will print copies for sale. The first four volumes will be released in August.

The volumes have been designed in such a manner that the reader can look up a word from a poem or a novel that he or she is reading, find its meaning and the context in which Kuvempu had used it, like in a dictionary.

Most of the words have been backed by pictorial depictions. For instance, ‘Sarda Bill’, a word that figures in Malenadina Chitragalu, a compilation of short stories by Kuvempu, has been described thus, “Sarda Bill – page 53 – It is the name of an Act, drafted in 1929. Popularly known as ‘Sarda Bill’, it was named after Harbildas Sarda, who played a major role in drafting the bill. The legislation here fixed the legal age for marriage as 14 years for girls and 21 for boys. It came into effect on April 1, 1930. The Act was however amended in 1978, where the marriageable age for girls was fixed at 18 years and 21 years for boys. The Act was renamed as Child Marriage Prohibition Act in 2006.”

Prof Shivakumaraswamy Kumarachalya, one of the convenors of the lexicography project, said the first four volumes have been categorised as ‘Poems’, ‘Short stories and Essays’, ‘Drama’, and ‘Poetics and Criticism’, while the other four volumes have been titled ‘Novels’, ‘Epics’, ‘Biography’ and ‘Miscellaneous Articles’. The latter four will be released in December.

“An ordinary dictionary will not help the reader. The volumes have been designed for both scholars and the average reader to help clear their doubts. The objective here was to ascertain the root of the meaning of the unique words that Kuvempu used in compound sentences,” he said. The University, which has so far spent Rs 70 lakh on the project, is in the process of calling for tenders for printing the first four volumes.

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