Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Pakistan's Urdu Dictionary Project

Participating using Skype in an Esperanto language-festival recently in Maribor, Slovenia, I spoke on Urdu - the language and the culture. The longish report is on my Esperanto blog, and here's the link to the 15-or-so slides I had prepared for the 90-minute session (which included images of a kurtaa, salvaar kamiiz, some delicious birayaanii, and a couple of verses with Esperanto translations - and all the Urdu is in Nagari!).

While looking around on the Net, I came across a report by Rauf Parekh on Pakistan's Urdu Dictionary Project. Dr Parekh traces the interesting history of the project, its predecessors and sources of inspiration (the OED, of course, among others), the scholars associated with the project, and the project's ups and downs. But he also tells us that 21 volumes have already appeared and the last is under preparation! A truly magnificent project! And as he reminds us:

"Moreover, after the publication of the last volume, there still remains to be published an index and a bibliography enlisting the works cited. It would definitely take another volume. Then there is the project of shorter versions of the dictionary and many other spin-offs such as dictionaries of synonyms, antonyms, idioms, proverbs and technical terms."

Dr Parekh also informs us that:

"A similar scheme was launched in India and several scholars were hired by the Indian government to compile a greater Urdu dictionary. But the project in India could not take off and it was abandoned probably due to lack of political will and Urdu’s comparatively lesser status in India. By now the Indian scholars, too, had begun to look to the UDB [Urdu Dictionary Board] for an authentic dictionary...."

Let us hope that this project will further deepen the collaboration between the two countries on this shared cultural treasure - Urdu.

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