AN author dictionary is “a type of reference work which provides information on the vocabulary of a specific author”, wrote Olga Karpova in the introduction to her book English Author Dictionaries.

An author dictionary is based on the text of work or works of an author and is usually compiled in alphabetical order, with citations from the work(s) as evidence of the contexts and connotations. Author dictionary can present the vocabulary of a single author or several authors. For example, words used by Ghalib or words used in Urdu’s panegyric odes by different poets, can be listed in an author dictionary, followed by meaning, along with the details of relevant verses and work(s).

But a concordance is slightly different. Though based on the vocabulary taken from the text of an author, a concordance provides the frequency of words used by that author. For instance, if you want to know how many times Allama Iqbal has used a specific word in his Persian poetry, you will have to consult Sajidullah Tafheemi’s Kashf-ul-Alfaaz-i-Iqbal, in which he has listed each and every word used in Iqbal’s Persian poetical works, along with the lines of the verses wherein such words occur, with references to the work(s). If a word is used by Iqbal, say, 40 times, the concordance will have to quote those 40 verses. A concordance is really a cumbersome and back-breaking work, though now computer-based data has made the job much easier.

English has over 300 author dictionaries, says Karpova, but they “have been neglected in dictionary research”. Situation is not different in Urdu, either. Though we do not have as many author dictionaries as the English language can claim, in Urdu there is a long history of author dictionaries and they too have largely been ignored in dictionary-writing. But researchers were slower to compile authorial concordances in Urdu. Similarly, we have a long list of glossaries of classical Urdu texts, compiled usually for students and general readers who face difficulties in understanding literary texts. Aside from the glossaries appended at the back of many classical works, here is a brief list of glossaries, concordances and author dictionaries published in Urdu:

Master Lakhmi Chand had published three different glossaries form Ajmer in 1889. They enlisted the vocabulary used in Chahaar Dervish and Alf Laila, the classical Urdu daastaans. Another glossary by him was named Lughaat-i-Insha.

Primary Lughaat Ki Farhang was compiled by Moulvi Ferozuddin. Published from Sialkot in 1892, it explained the words used in primary classes.

Farhang-o-Kaleed-i-Nisaab too was a glossary of words used in text books and was published by Paisa Akhbar, Lahore, in 1894.

Annotated glossary of Bagh-o-Bahar was compiled by the well-known orientalist George S.A. Ranking. The book gives in Urdu script the words from Bagh-o-Bahar, Mir Amman’s famous classic, and explains it in English along with pronunciation in Roman script. It was published from Calcutta in 1902.

Muhaavraat-i-Daagh was compiled by Wali Ahmed Khan and first published in 1944. The book gives the alphabetical list of idioms used by Daagh Dehlvi, along with meanings and the illustrative couplets. Lahore’s Maqbool Academy reprinted it in 1988.

Rozmarra-o-Muhaavraa-i-Ghalib was compiled by Prem Pal Ashk and published from Delhi in 1969. It explains idioms used by Ghalib in his Urdu poetry and Urdu prose.

Farhang-i-Anees is a glossary of words used by Mir Anees in his poetry. Compiled by Naib Husaain Naqvi, the first volume appeared from Delhi in 1975 and the second one in 1983.

Farhang-i-Iqbal was compiled by Naseem Amrohvi and Lahore’s Izhar Sons published it. A separate volume by the same name describes Iqbal’s Persian vocabulary and both the volumes have been reprinted several times.

Farhang-i-Nazeer was compiled by Shareef Ahmed Qureshi and published in 1991 from Ghatampur, a small town in UP. It gives Nazeer’s vocabulary with citations. Nazeer Akberabadi is one of the poets of Urdu whose poetry offers the richest, most varied and quite rare vocabulary.

Lughaat-i-Ghalib was compiled by Muhammad Younus Saleem and published by Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Library, Patna, in 1998.

Rasheed Hasan Khan (1925-2006) was one of the most prominent textual critics and researchers of our times. He had compiled and annotated several classical texts of Urdu quite meticulously. The texts edited by him include Fasana-i-Ajaaib, Bagh-o-Bahar, Masnavi Gulzar-i-Naseem, Masna­viyaat-i-Shauq and Masnavi Sahr-ul-Bayan.

Rasheed Hasan Khan had also compiled the glossaries of these classical works in his usual painstaking way and these glossaries were published in one volume by Anjuman Taraqqi-i-Urdu Hind, Delhi, in 2003. A Pakistani edition of this valuable work Kilasiki Adab Ki Farhang was published by Majlis-i-Taraqqi-i-Adab, Lahore, with due permission. This work has recently been reprinted by Majlis. This glossary is a treasured addition to the similar works of Urdu mentioned above.

One hopes lexicographers of Urdu would benefit from such glossaries and author dictionaries.

Published in Dawn, July 15th, 2019


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