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The history of the Development of Dzongkha dictionaries
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The publication of three Dzongkha dictionaries in 2000 will definitely encourage efforts to develop the national language. The English- Dzongkha Dictionary (By Kunzang Thinley and Tenzin Wangdi: KMT Printers; 413 pages. Nu 225) and My Picture Dictionary (By Garab Dorji:

World Wildlife Fund; 73 pages. Nu.200), which is yet to be released, are, in their design and purpose, new developments in the history of Bhutanese lexicography.

The Dzongkha-English Dictionary, which will be published by the Dzongkha Development Commission (DDC) by the end of 2000 will have over 10,000 entries. But the Choeked-Dzongkha Dictionary, being compiled by Geshe Tenzin Wangchuk, a researcher at the DDC, will be the most comprehensive and authoritative one. It will have over 100,000 entries.

The Choeked-Dzongkha Dictionary will be a landmark in the history of Bhutanese lexicography. Vernacular Dzongkha has been spoken for hundreds of years in the country, often with dialectic variation in Haa, Paro, Thed (Punakha) and Wang (Thimphu). There are instances of vernacular Dzongkha writings dating back to the 17th century as reported in a document, which will soon be published by the DDC. However, it was only in 1961 when the "first systematic efforts were undertaken to 'modernise' and codify the national language".

It was in the same year His Late Majesty Jigmi Dorji Wangchuck decreed Dzongkha as Bhutan's national language. Before Dzongkha, Choeked was taught in modern secular Bhutanese schools, even until 1971 due to the unavailability of Dzongkha materials. The breakthrough came when the Dzongkha Division of the Education Department started developing Dzongkha materials.

The first serious Dzongkha Dicitionary was published by the Text Book Division of the Education Department in 1986. It was compiled by Kunzang Thinley, the co-author of the new English-Dzongkha Dictionary, and Choki Dendup. The year really marked the beginning of dictionary compilation in Bhutan. Before that, the development of Dzongkha grammar, manuals and guidebooks assumed greater importance. In fact Dzonkha grammar was extremely necessary to differentiate the evolving written Dzongkha from Choeked.

The New Method Dzongkha Hand Book published in 1971 and written by Bhutan's contemporary scholars like Lopen Nado, Lopen Pemala and Lopen Sanga Tenzin were used for many years in schools in Bhutan. There were attempts to develop grammar, dictionary and manuals in Sharchop all along. Pastor Ralph Hofrenning wrote the first manual of Sharchop grammar in 1955. According to him, 'it is the firstgrammar ever attempted in Gongar, an unwritten language of the far east'. Dasho Tenzin Dorji's unpublished Thongwa Zumshor is a Choeked-Sharchop manual. The latest one is perhaps Susanna Egli-Roduner's Handbook of the Sharchokpa-Lo/Tsangla published in 1987.

An interesting development however, was the compilation of an Anglo-Bhutanese Dzongkha by Fr. Phillip S.D.B, principal of Don Bosco Technical School, Phuntsholing in 1971. In absence of Dzongkha typewriters, all typed English entries were followed by meanings in Dzongkha, which were laboriously written in longhand. This perhaps is the first bilingual dictionary in Bhutan.

Choeked is the basis of written Dzongkha, and therefore, Dzongkha dictionaries, in their origin heavily rely on Choeked. Lam Choechong's Choeked-Dzongkha Dictionary (Q-Reprographics, 1997), the first of its kind has 5881 entries. It is based mainly on the Choeked dictionary of Pelkhang Lotsawa written in 1538. Pelkhang Lotsawa was a disciple of the Eighth Karmapa Michoe Dorji.

The Dzongkha Dictionary, published by the DDC in 1993, is the largest so far, with a total of 7932 words. This and the one published in 1986 are the only two Dzongkha dictionaries. Rinchen Khandu's Dzongkha-English Dictionary is perhaps the first dictionary that uses Dzongkha romanization. Romanzation of Dzongkha was officially adopted in 1991. It therefore, addresses audience, especially foreigners who wishes to learn Dzongkha. But there were already manuals and guidebooks, which either used romanization or phonological transcription, intended to teach Dzongkha to foreigners.

A Guide to Dzongkha in Roman Alphabet written in 1971 by Lt. Rinchen Tshering (RBA) and Major A. Daityar (IMTRAT), A Manual of Spoken Dzongkha by Imaeda Yoshiro and Dzongkha Rabsel Lamzang published by the DDC in 1990 are a few examples. Those who want to learn Dzongkha will find the two new dictionaries helpful. However, there are many distinctions between them, the foremost being what each title suggests: an English-Dzongkha dictionary and a picture dictionary. They are thus very different in style, presentation and content as well. The former has 2120 entries in Dzongkha and 1705 in English. In it, the meanings of words are not given but the words themselves are used in the sentences that follow.

The meanings in Dzongkha are then given, again followed by sentences. Its major drawback is the assumption that users know meanings of words either in Dzongkha or English and would be able to read the other to understand its corresponding meanings. It requires users to have a good command of both English and Dzongkha. It is currently being reviewed by the CAPSD, Education Division to consider its usage in schools. With an entry of over 600 words and pictures and illustrations, My Picture Dictionary is especially designed for children. Beginning with family members, it covers forty three different subjects which includes colours, dresses, every day objects and materials, birds and animals, fruits and vegetables, seasons, games, monasteries and others.

Garab Dorji, a grade XII student, has done all the illustrations and paintings himself. It is primarily a Dzongkha-English dictionary. Both the dictionaries are the first of their kind and available only in paperback editions. Just as creative writings, compilation of dictionaries also appears to be growing in Bhutan. Tashi Tshewang and Namgay Thinley are developing a Dzongkha-English dictionary with a totally different approach. It would also have over 10,000 entries.

Contributed by KUENSEL, Bhutan's National Newspaper 2000

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