French poet Jean Maurice Cocteau had once said, “The greatest masterpiece in literature is only a dictionary out of order.”
A dictionary is crucial not only for learners but scholars too. The humble words arranged in alphabetical order can turn fiery if one learns how to put them together.
Pilgrim K Lakiang, a former state government employee, has penned a Khasi-Khasi-English dictionary that is not only useful to the Khasi-speaking population in the state but also the non-Khasi who are eager to learn the local language.
There are many dictionaries of Khasi words but Lakiang’s is the first Khasi-Khasi-English dictionary, which the author dedicates to his grandmother Simplisia Syndur Lakiang.
The dictionary is a “labour of love”, says David Syiemlieh, former chairman of the UPSC, in his appreciation.
“He has given his time and energy even at this age to bring out for the community, academicians, linguists and the general reader, a book that will invite attention for its approach, detail and inclusiveness,” writes Syiemlieh.
The first Khasi-English Dictionary was written by Nissor Singh. But the earlier dictionaries “went into the details of the Khasi language with emphasis on the Cherra speech” and Lakiang’s “singular contribution to this branch of literature is his understanding of the community, its language and regional variations”, according to Syiemlieh.
The author does not write about the Cherra lingua only but chooses to encompass every possible vocabulary from every part of Khasi and Jaintia Hills. There are modern words which are popularly used today and this makes the dictionary relevant to this time. There are over 5,000 words. The dictionary explains a Khasi word or expression, whatever the grammatical form, in Khasi itself as a first step before translating it to English.
There is a short note on each alphabet and when necessary, the author writes about the nuances of usage. For instance, about the alphabet ‘O’, Lakiang writes, “When we talk about ‘O’ we have to remember that we invariably pronounce using that English ‘O’. This happens especially in towns and among colleagues when English words and pronunciation is liberally used.”
Lakiang, fondly called Bah Pil, was born at Kdong-Biar Dulong in Jowai. He had worked as a teacher in several schools. Later, he joined the state transport department. He is one of the founding members of Don Bosco Past Pupils’ Association. He taught Khasi to priests at Holy Cross who were from Canada and posted in erstwhile East Pakistan.
Lakiang is also a playwright. His dictionary comes at the right time as 2019 is the year of indigenous tribes as declared by the United Nations.
Book: Khasi-Khasi-English Dictionary; Author: Pilgrim K Lakiang; Publisher:
Banalari World Cars; Pages: 366;
Price: Rs 500