Enriching Sinhalese lexicon on psychology
A seminal contribution that a dictionary of psychology, particularly
an English-Sinhala one, would make is that it will enrich the existing
Sinhalese lexicon on Psychology. The Dictionary of Psychology (English
–Sinhala) or Manovidya Shabda Koshaya (Engrisi-Sinhala) by Nandalal
Malagoda, to a greater degree, fulfils a long –felt need for a
comprehensive Sinhalese dictionary of psychology.
One of the important facets of Nanadala’s publication is that it has
set an intellectual precedence as lexicography is a central to the
knowledge production. It will not only facilitate the dissemination of
the latest developments in the field of psychology in Sinhalese but also
enrich the Sinhalese lexicon on psychology, expanding the linguistic
horizons of Sinhala language.
However, lexicographer Nandalal has said in no uncertain terms that
specialised dictionaries such as the one he published should be
periodically updated and reviewed incorporating the latest terms and
thousands of new words and terms that are being added to the field of
Given the sheer complexities and subtleties of concepts in modern
psychology, one of the daunting tasks that a lexicographer faces is to
revise the existing corpus of lexicon in Sinhalese and to make them
reader-friendly so that a reader who may not be familiar with Psychology
also use the dictionary in a profitable manner.
The list of names of the pioneers in the field of psychology and
brief biographies of them towards the end of the book would also provide
readers with further information and in a way encourage the readers to
read more and more publications on Psychology.
Psychology is an academic and applied discipline involving the
scientific study of mental processes and behavior. Psychology also
refers to the application of such knowledge to various spheres of human
activity, including problems of individuals’ daily lives and the
treatment of mental illness.
It is largely concerned with humans, although the behaviour and
mental processes of animals can also be part of psychology research,
either as a subject in its own right, or somewhat more controversially,
as a way of gaining an insight into human psychology by means of
comparison. It does not necessarily refer to the brain or nervous system
and can be framed purely in terms of phenomenological or information
processing theories of mind. Interestingly, an understanding of brain
function is being included in psychological theory and practice,
particularly in areas such as artificial intelligence, neuropsychology,
and cognitive neuroscience.
Lexicography as a discipline
Lexicography, the art and craft of dictionary making, has an
important place in the history of language studies. It is a fact that
from early ages of civilisation dictionaries and glossaries of diverse
types (monolingual, bilingual, general and technical) were compiled and
extensively used in China, India, Middle East, Greece and Rome.
“The early known prototypes of dictionaries were the West Asian
bilingual word lists, dating from the second millennium BC. The world
list contained the Sumerian and Akkadian words inscribed in parallel
columns on clay tablets in cuneiform writing. The contents were
organised thematically, as thesauruses, for easy and quick reference.
After the invention of the alphabet later in the same millennium,
many centuries passed before an alphabetic ordering system became a
common tool for organising information. The list came into existence
because the Akkadians (Babylonians) had inherited through the conquest
of culture and traditions of Sumerians and the use of sets of signs as a
means by which their scribes could learn what was, in effect, the
classical language of writing. Over two thousand years later, in
Mediaeval Europe, the same principle was used when scribes who speak
vernacular languages learned to read and write in Latin. ”, states
Niladri Sekhar Dash of Linguistic Research Unit, Indian Statistical
Institute, Kolkata, in The Art of Lexicography.
From the earlier times, the tradition of dictionary making was
well-established in India. Sekhar Dash states, “An altogether different
style of dictionary preparation flourished in ancient India. It started
with the collection of obscure words as exemplified in Nigahntus,
continued with formation of one of the bases of Nirukta and the
Padapatha during the first millennium BC, and ended with a large group
of Kosas composed during the past fifteen to seventeen hundred years
after the Christian era began.
Thus, a continuous activity of dictionary making in ancient India
provided models for later lexicographical works in the Indo-Ariyan and
Dravidian languages in India. Nigahntu and Nirukta are monumental
examples of early Indian efforts in dictionary making. Since then, a
large number of dictionaries and glossaries are prepared in Sanskrit as
well as in Pali, Prakrit, and Apabhramsha.
Some of them are general purpose dictionaries such as Amarakosa,
while some others are partial ones like - Deshi Namamala, and still
others like Dhatupatha and Ganapatha fall under the category of
technical glossaries. These dictionaries and glossaries follow different
criteria and bases-semantic as well as alphabetic –in their structure
and text presentation.”
Among the specialised dictionaries, the bilingual group is the most
serviceable and frequently used. With the rise of vernacular languages
during the Renaissance, translating to and from Latin had great
importance. Even the most exotic and remote languages have been tackled,
often by religious missionaries with the motive of translating the
Bible. The finding of exact equivalents is more difficult than is
commonly realised, because every language slices up the world in its own
A lexicographer who compiles a specialised dictionary will have to
face the issues of norm which are rather complicated given the fact that
un-adherence of linguistic norm apart from the accuracy of the subject
matter, would render the dictionary useless from the readers’
perspectives. L. P. Stupin identifies some of the cardinal problems of
norm are as
objectivity of norm existence, adequate reflection of language
reality in a dictionary, objectivity and inevitability of language
changes and a role of lexicographer while he/she registers facts of
language and speech. It is noteworthy that Nandala has overcome most of
linguistic issues owing primarily to his excellent knowledge of
Sinhalese and other languages.
Although it is not directly relevance to Nandala’s dictionary of
Psychology, a significant aspect that the lexicographer observes in
compiling the dictionary is the cultural nuances in the source culture
(In this case, primarily the words and the concepts of psychology
originated from Western civilization with strong bearing upon Western
culture and languages), and cultural nuanced in the host culture,
Sinhalese cultural and linguistic pool.
Professor S.G. Ter-Minasova defines language as the instrument of
culture which forms the personality of the speaker by means of world
vision, mentality, attitudes to people and everything else that we call
culture, imposed by and inherent to that very language. She adds that,
if considered from the viewpoints of its structure, functioning and
acquisition, language (native or foreign) possesses the sociocultural
layer or the cultural component as part of itself or the background for
its existential being. At the same time cultural component is not merely
some cultural information related via language, but it is an inseparable
feature of the language, characterizing all its layers and branches.
It can be postulated that there is no better way of learning language
than through culture if the cultural component permeates discourse, text
or a reference book. Language is also an important window on the
universe of thoughts, rituals, beliefs and many like things that
interest cognitive scientists.
However, this linguocultural universe consists of rather different
worlds with specific, though, on the whole, cognisable landscapes. The
necessity of interlingual and intercultural cognition has been discussed
in the Western community of wits starting probably from mid sixties of
the previous century.
Over the years, with the growth of lexicography making, linguistic
and language theories play a pivotal role in the formation of bilingual
dictionaries or specialised dictionaries. One of the latest trends in
lexicography is the use of advanced linguistic and cultural theories.
Culture of lexicography
Nandalal’s attempt should be commended as it would be an attempt to
commence an indigenous culture of lexicography which is a sine qua non
for the systematizing existing body of knowledge in Sinhala and further
strengthening Sinhala as a language of science.
What is noteworthy is that many countries such France, Germany, China
and Japan have been effectively using their native tongues in teaching
complex subjects such as Psychology due to the intellectual culture in
absorbing latest knowledge in the form of translations and lexicography.
The role that lexicographer will have to place in modern context is
vital for the growth and sustenance of the corpus of knowledge in