Malayalam repays its first lexicographer

Sat 03 Dec 2016

Hermann Gundert  

Authoritative biography of the German linguist is out

The Malayalam language has finally repaid its debt to its first lexicographer, Hermann Gundert.

When Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University published the most authoritative biography of Gundert in Malayalam as a translation from German on Friday, the language passed yet another milestone by saluting the German linguist, who contributed much to the language of Kerala.

The original Gundert biography, published in German by Albert Frenz, remains the most authoritative of his biographies. Dr. Frenz, a scion of the Gundert family, had penned the book after gleaning innumerable records and visiting most places Gundert visited during his lifetime.

Noted Malayalam sociologist N.V. Hafiz Mohammed translated the German biography into Malayalam.

“This is a golden feather in our cap,” said Malayalam University Vice-Chancellor K. Jayakumar.

Huge contribution

He said it was a tribute to the man who gave the Malayalam language so much to boast about. The Hermann Gundert Chair, set up by the Tubingen University, a varsity in Germany, initiated the publication.

Historian M.G.S. Narayanan released the book at a function held in Kozhikode on Friday evening. Gundert’s family members, Christoph Albert Frenz and Margaret Frenz, were among those who attended the function.

In 11 chapters, the book extensively touches upon the 20 years Gundert spent in Thalasseri and his salad days in Tubingen.

The Gundert Chair has also published a rare book of the German linguist in Malayalam discovered at the Tubingen University.

The 60-odd page manuscript, titled Kerala Natakam (Kerala Drama), published by retaining the original on the left hand side and paraphrasing on the right, is expected to throw new light on the social milieu of Kerala during the time of Thunchath Ezhuthachan, a 15th-century poet.

Malayalam professors from the university were virtually agape at finding a wide variety of invaluable books, including Kerala Natakam , collected and preserved by Gundert at Tubingen University.


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