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A Short Resume of the Work of the International School of Dravidian Linguistics
Menamkulam, Thiruvananthapuram 695 586

The Silver Jubilee Year


It was the late C. Achutha Menon who as Chief Minister felt about the great strides made in Russia, USA and other countries in linguistics and solidly stood behind the proposal for the formation of the International School of Dravidian Linguistics (ISDL), which celebrated for a year its completion of twenty-five years of its work in 2002.

Mahatma Gandhi dreamt of an oceanic circle of uniting into smaller circles and later big and bigger circles the people and the nation.

The ISDL had a humble beginning and initially worked in an old house at Kunnumpuram in Vanchiyoor, Trivandrum. In 1982, it purchased 27 acres from St. Xavier's College management. Now with fourteen buildings and an excellent library, a speech laboratory, a language laboratory, a computer unit and two museums, it functions as a hub of research activities.

Besides a biannual called International Journal of Dravidian Linguistics, a peer reviewed journal has worldwide distribution, it has 104 publications of long-lasting value. The Dravidian Encyclopaedia in three volumes, the Encyclopaedia of Dravidian Tribes in three volumes and the Handbooks of Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Kerala are its prestigious publications.

The Historical Grammar of Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam and Tamil and the description of several Tribal languages of the Dravidian family hitherto unknown to scholars are its noteworthy publications.

As Senior Fellows in research, T.P. Meenakshisundaram, E. Annamalai, V.Sp. Manickam for Tamil, K.N. Eluttaccan, N.V. Krishna Warrier, P. Govinda Pillai, G.K. Panikkar, Puthusseri Ramachandran, K. Retnamma, M.P. Sankunni Nair for Malayalam, D.N.S. Bhat, M.M. Bhat, D. Jaware Gowda, J.S. Kully, R.C. Hiremath for Kannada, P.S. Subrahmanyam, B. Purushottam for Telugu are a few senior Scholars who enjoyed the Fellowships.

When Prof. Sukumar Sen and Sudhi Bhushan Bhattacharya were invited as Senior Fellows, the Government of West Bengal funded substantially for an impressive building in the name of Gurudev Rabindranatha Tagore, a good library in Bengali and on Bengal. Several young men and women worked in this Unit and the relationship continues with West Bengal.

The spread of Dravidian languages, especially Brahui in Pakistan, Iran and in Afghanistan, was focused by ISDL. About six lakhs live there. ISDL sent Prof. G.K. Panikkar to survey in Iran and received a Pakistani, Dr. Abdul Razzaq Sabir, in the campus at Trivandrum for six weeks. Its Journal published for the first time the existence of Dangar, a Dravidian language spoken in Nepal.

Two senior scholars, J.D. Singh of Kurukshetra University and S.M. Katre, formerly of Deccan College, Pune, who lived in the USA, were awarded financial support to complete their work on the interpretation of Paanini, the great Grammarian of Sanskrit.

Courses in Malayalam, Tamil, Bengali, Kannada, Telugu, Gujarati and Sanskrit were conducted for Indian and foreign scholars. The beneficiaries so far are from USA (25), France, Netherlands and Germany (12 each), UK and Japan (7 each), Sweden and Zambia (5 each), Australia (3), Russia (2) and Pakistan, Philippines, Czechoslovakia and Poland (1 each). The scholars from north India, associated with ISDL, are considerable in number.

A recent advance made by the ISDL is in Voicing Braille Script in Malayalam which when commercialised will be a boon to blind scholars who now study by using the Braille Script. The Department of Science and Technology gave a modest grant for carrying out this work.

Another development, which has several implications for language research, is the study of the Brain. The ISDL admits speech defective children for correction, observes their improvements and puts forth hypotheses.

The extensive 27 acres of sea-sand has been converted into greenery like the Aranyakas of Rishis and the library, the laboratories, the museums and the active researchers offer an environment to study areas untouched by others.

A detailed write-up is available for distribution for those who require it. The Silver Jubilee Celebrations were inaugurated by His Excellency Justice Sri. Sukhdev Singh Khang on 10th February 2002. Nearly 150 delegates from India and a few from foreign countries attended this three-day Conference of Dravidian linguists. The Presidential Address was delivered by Prof. N. Sivarama Murthy, former Director of the International Telugu Institute, P.S. Telugu University, Hyderabad.

Prof. G. K. Panikkar

Former Director, ISDL

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