It is good news for the Internet-savvy Assamese fond of his or her language, for there has emerged a worthy cause. Xobdo, a non-profit organisation of volunteers spread across the globe, is inviting others to help develop what it calls the “World’s first and only English-Assamese online dictionary”. Even though the dictionary project (www.xobdo.net) is already on, the team behind it is dreaming big. There is an aim to make it an online access tool to as many languages of Northeast as possible in the near future.
The vision of Xobdo has been stated as, “…to demolish language barrier and thereby fuel mutual understanding and cooperation among the people of the entire North-East India and to bring the languages of the region to the fore-front of the IT age.”
Xobdo is the brainchild of Bikram M Baruah, a petroleum engineer now based in Abu Dhabi. With more volunteers coming together following its launch in 2006, 10,000 words were gathered by December 2007. The target for 2008 is to collate 20,000 words.
According to Buljit Buragohain of Xobdo, the online dictionary seeks to document the languages as they are used today in their original forms. There is no attempt to enforce or express Xobdo’s own viewpoint about any spelling or semantics being right or wrong.
Significantly, it has also been said that Xobdo does not seek to follow any specific dictionary or any glossary or word-list published by any authority or entity; neither does it accept opinions of experts. Rather, it considers the present-day meaning to be the standard as it is evidenced in ‘contemporary use’.
In case of doubts, volunteers opt for a discussion in which the words and their meanings are agreed on. Some of Xobdo’s volunteers, significantly, come with sound background in linguistics studies.
For the information of volunteers, any word to be added in Xobdo must have ‘contemporary use’. In case of a new word coined recently, Xobdo will not add it unless it appears in at least one publication of repute.
Buragohain revealed that anybody could become a member and contribute words to the online dictionary. One can also challenge the spellings or meanings featured in the dictionary. Through discussions with other members of Xobdo a consensus decision has to be taken within a reasonable time frame and the entry has to be updated accordingly.
Next on Xobdo’s agenda is to include words from a variety of NE languages, with the belief that unless that is done, many of the words and their usage would disappear, causing irreparable harm to a culture defined by rich linguistic diversity. Xobdo is particularly keen that volunteers well-acquainted with Boro, Rabha, Karbi and other languages joined its efforts to build in a large corpus of words and their meanings.