INTRODUCTION BYTHE TAMIL LEXICON COMMITTEE
HISTORY OF TAMIL LEXICOGRAPHY (BY THE EDITOR)
Lexicography is a growth that has slowly developed its if adown the ages' observes Sir James A.H.Murray.1 The development of Tamil lexicography has been very slow indeed. Though its beginnings were dimly fore shadowed in so early a work as Tolkƒppiyam, the first lexicon with an alphabetical arrangement of words appeared only in the eighteenth century. The history of this development is indicated in the following pages.TOLKAPPIYAM
Tolkƒppiyam, by Tolkƒppiyar, is the earliest grammatical treatise now extant in Tamil. Though its date is still unascertained, we cannot be far wrong in holding that it appeared in the early centuries of the Christian Era.
In this ancient work, there is a chapter (uri-y-iyal) on `qualifying words' or uri-c-col; and this specifically deals with lexical matter. There are two more chapters, one on `particles' (i-ai-y-iyal) and one on `literary usage' (marapiyal), which also contain matters of lexicographical interest. The chapter on `qualifying words' is not exhaustive; only a select number of `hard words' are treated. The author specifically states that there is no necessity subject-matter of the chapter. About 120 words are thus listed and explained. It is interesting to note that some words whose meanings are now very clear are included in this list of `hard words, e.g., தீர்தல், தீர்த்தல், முழுது, பழுது.
A point which interests the lexicographer is the order of words in this chapter. Tolkƒppiyam is in the sutra style, and sutras, like other metrical measures in Tamil, often employ, for mnemonic purposes, etukai or initial rhyme. It is this initial rhyme that has suggested the arrangement of words and their synonyms in uri-y-iyal. There is neither a strictly logical noran alphabetical order.
There is another point which deserves to be mentioned here. Tolkƒppiyar in his chapter on miscellanea (ecca-v-iyal) states that the words
1 The Romance Lecture (1900) : The Evolution of English Lexicography.