Only words...

Rita Dhital


How many of us will ever take a dictionary into our hands unless we want to know the meaning of a word? Very few among us like to or actually read a dictionary for pleasure sake. But Tika B Karki’s study has dictionaries of multiple languages and type strewn around the place. Which makes one wonder how intriguing a passion this gentleman has about linguistic anthropology.

“Lexicography may not be a subject of interest to many but once you are into it, it gives you a lot of pleasure,” says Karki. Trained to teach English as a foreign

language from UK, Karki, who earlier taught English in many parts of

the country, turned to teaching Nepali language to foreigners when he worked for Peace Corps Volunteers in various parts of the world. Karki served with Peace Corps Nepal in various positions for 33 years. Some of his works include ‘Basic Course in Spoken Nepali (1974)’ and ‘A Beginner’s Course in Spoken Nepali (1996)’ that he co-authored with Chij K. Shrestha.

“My proficiency, prowess and active relationship in two very different yet very dear languages really encouraged me to publish a dictionary for users of both the languages, tourists, expatriates and people of Western origin as well as the community of bilingual or trilingual Nepalis where I hail from,” says Karki. Karki’s love for travelling, trekking and meeting people has taken him to almost 72 districts of Nepal that helped him compile his latest work — a Nepali to English dictionary — confirming the words, their correct accent and their usage in different parts of the country.

The Nepali-English dictionary is a collection of detailed information of contemporary spoken and written Nepali. It strives to satisfy the basic needs of foreigners, to develop their receptive and productive skills and aims to enhance the ability of the learners to compose as well as understand sentences.

Karki says: “This dictionary aims to meet the needs of foreign professionals, diplomats, tourists, trekkers, translators and interpreters alike”. A key feature of the dictionary is that it contains more than 9,000 words used in contemporary spoken and written Nepali. Every entry begins with a headword spelt phonetically using the Roman alphabet,

followed by its written Devanagari form, the word class and translated meanings in English, accompanied in most cases in italic type with examples showing how the headword is used in specific context.

If a word has alternative pronunciations, the most frequent and native pronunciation is given first followed by the less frequent ones separated by slashes. In addition, illustrations have been used to better convey meanings of 56 culturally specific words. This dictionary is not just a list of words and their meanings. Appendices on Nepali proverbs, fruits, vegetables, Nepali names and geographical names, etc. are useful addition to the dictionary. The dictionary gives the reader extra help by referring them to pictures, all designed to make it user friendly.

Another new feature is that words on the list are chosen principally according to their frequency in the language. The size of the list is determined by the minimum requirement for producing definitions in natural Nepali that are both accurate and easy to understand.

We can see Karki’s hard work, enthusiasm and meticulous attention to detail at every stage of the project.