books - a feat to be proud of
Professor Emeritus J. B. Disanayaka launched his 80th book the other
day. A proud record indeed! His first book in 1969 was titled 'Bhashaawaka
Rataa Samudaaya' dealing with the variety of patterns in language.
The 80th book also deals with language. He calls it 'Maanava Bhashaa
Praveshaya' (Human Language - an introduction). In between he has
written on varied topics from Sinhala folklore, heritage and culture
to children's stories.
is JB's forte. This is the first book he wrote after his official
retirement (he continues to be a busy academic anyway) and it gives
us an insight into the fascinating subject of language. He identifies
two main tasks of a university don. One is to try and add on something
new to his field, the second is to present that new knowledge both
to academics as well as the masses. He should be a researcher because
it is through research that he could bring in added knowledge, JB
has certainly done his bit not only through books but also through
the media, particularly radio and TV, and regular talks at seminars.
His research into Sinhala folklore produced interesting and valuable
a lengthy foreword in the new book, JB pays tribute to several university
professors who took the initiative in the field of linguistics.
He identifies the late Professor M.W. Sugathapala de Silva as the
pioneer in the field when he introduced the subject in 1959 at the
Peradeniya campus. He was a scholar in Pali and Sanskrit. He made
linguistics a most interesting subject, which JB followed with relish
as an undergrad.
remembers Professor D.E. Hettiarachchi (not many of us knew that
his initials stood for Dayananda Ekanatha) for encouraging him to
do his post-graduate work in linguistics. On a Fulbright scholarship,
JB joined the faculty of linguistics at California University in
Berkeley. On his return, he moved from Peradeniya to the Colombo
University on the invitation of Professor M.B. Ariyapala who initiated
a separate linguistics department at the Colombo University in the
late sixties. Lectures were conducted in both Sinhala and Tamil.
the university restructuring programme, it was later shifted to
the Kelaniya University. The present professor, Dr. Ashoka Premaratne
(a student of JB's) speaking at the book launch, referred to JB's
substantial contribution in the field of linguistics. To see Professor
Ariyapala at the launch was a pleasant surprise to us who were his
students Peradeniya. A pleasing personality, he was always in his
immaculate white national dress except when he joined us for a game
of tennis in white shirt and shorts. So was Professor Hettiarachchi.
three professors, Tissa Abeysekera spoke as "a user of the
language" stressing on the need to be cautious when one uses
the language. He referred to the callous attitude of many present
day users who just do not care about what they say or write. He
gave several instances of how certain words accepted universally
as sacred to a religion are used loosely today. He quoted the classic
case of how the word 'asamasama' (incomparable - used only to refer
to the Buddha) is used to advertise a toothbrush! The word 'dharmishta'
has now been politicized, he said.
Professor Emeritus K. N.O. Dharmadasa lamented on the pathetic state
of the Sinhala language today. "The swabasha policy eliminated
English and the Sinhala language suffered. Pali and Sanskrit were
totally ignored. This too affected Sinhala. And now there is an
attempt to bring back English at the expense of Sinhala. This is
equally disastrous," he pointed out.
new book is the eighth on language and linguistics JB has written
in Sinhala. He has written seven in English as well. Language is
not merely a collection of sounds, letters or words. It is a variety
of patterns with coherence and consistency, JB says. It was to illustrate
this that he wrote his first book on language. The next discussed
the use and analysis of a language. The third was on phonology.
All three books won State literary awards.
awards within a week
Getting out of his sick bed, maestro Premasiri Khemadasa came down
from Kandy to Colombo twice within a week to be at two awards ceremonies
where his contribution to the performing arts was recognized. One
was the Presidential Film Awards which was revived after a lapse
of four years where he collected the Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement.
The others to receive this prestigious award were veteran actor
Tony Ranasinghe, actress Iranganie Serasinghe and cinematographer
D. B. Nihalsinghe.
other award was the Eagle Award for Excellence from Eagle Insurance.
The Company selects two personalities each year and recognizes them
at their annual 'big do' - the Eagle Convention where around 700
members of the field force gather. This time the winners were Khemadasa
and Henry Jayasena both of whom have done immeasurable service towards
the progress of music and drama respectively. Dancing duo Chitrasena
and Vajira were honoured last year.
Khemadasa who underwent a kidney transplant at the Kandy general
hospital a few weeks back is recovering steadily. "The doctors
did a wonderful job and in spite of three surgeries I feel good,"
he told me when he came down to collect his Eagle Award last Tuesday.
He is taking it easy staying at a circuit bungalow at Gannoruwa.