Malayalam university is planning to incorporate 6000 words used by tribal communities in Kerala. Tribal linguist Kandamala Ramachandran is in the final stages of creating the 2,000-page directory which will be included in the e-dictionary of Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University. 

Adi, Kullu, Pire are words that we don't use or hear frequently. They all means the same, the house, and are used by Kattunayaka, Adiya and Paniya tribes respectively. We will also incorporate a voice-enabled feature to help users understand the correct pronunciation of the words. The grammatical categorisation, etymology and social context of the words will also be explained, Malayalam University vice-chancellor K Jayakumar said. 

Ramachandran had been travelling across the state for past 16 years in search of the language used by various tribes. He is on a mission to save the tradition and culture of tribals, and this led to work on the tribal dictionary. Himself a Kuruma tribal from Wayanad, he has collected words used by Paniya, Kuruma, Adiya, Kattunayka and Oorali tribes and is yet to collect words used by Kurichyas of Mananthavady. "It was the vice-chancellor who invited me to provide tribal words for the dictionary. The compilation is in the final stage and will be completed by this month-end," Ramachandran said. 

"The dictionary will be brought out in May/June. As many as 1.5 lakh are compiled yet though over 3.5 lakh words are being used in Malayalam. The Sabdatharavali, which is older than a century contains only one lakh words. However, most words used in daily life are not included in dictionaries. By including tribal language, we aim to enhance the number of words. This will also help to make provisions to support Ramachandran financially," the vice-chancellor said. 

The lexicon aims to equip teachers with linguistic skills to interact with tribal students and stem the attrition rate. "Now the medium used is Malayalam, which is far different from their language. They must be taught in their own language along with Malayalam and folklore at the elementary level. It will help to bring children into the mainstream," said Agali Vocational HSS teacher Sindhu. 

She has spent 15 years researching the linguistic alienation faced by Kurumba, Muduga and Irula tribes of Attappadi. "Students feel alienated when they are introduced to Malayalam all of a sudden. It is important to use tribal language at least in Anganwadis," she said.