It is no longer Greek and Latin

Experts are working on Tamil equivalents for medical terminologies

Finding Tamil equivalents for many English medical terminologies is not easy. But a group of experts – both medical professionals and Tamil scholars – have put together a list of Tamil medical terminologies that will now go into a corpus of words.

From now, skeleton could be referred to as “elumbu sattagam” or “kangaalam” in Tamil, while Infant Mortality Rate is “ilanchirar irappu veedham and hyperacidity is “ameelamigai”. The experts have defined plasma as “ooneer”, menopause as “vidaainirutham”, immune system as “yeema mandalam”, skin rash as “thol sinaippu” or “thol porippu” and cephalic as “siranga”. There are a little over 70 words in the list.

This is the first batch of Tamil medical terms that would go into the State government’s “sorkuvai” (collection of words), according to Sudha Seshayyan, Vice-Chancellor of the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University.

The effort to coin Tamil words for medical terminologies began in March when the Tamil Etymological Dictionary Project and the university organised an expert meeting that brought together medical professionals and Tamil scholars. “After the expert committee met to discuss words, we created a group on WhatsApp and started to post words. A few of us at the university discussed and finalised the first list of words,”she said. The Medical Tamil Development Council at the university was involved in finalising the words, she added.

So, how are Tamil equivalents derived? Dr. Seshayyan explained: “We look at the existing meaning of the English term. Then, we see how that word was derived. Many medical terminologies have Latin or Greek roots. Finally, we see if there is an equivalent Tamil word existing, in ancient or modern literature or already used. If not, we coin a new term.”

“We do not want to change if there is an existing word in Tamil. Rather, we see if there is a better word, and come up with an additional word. We give the old word and one more word. It depends on the audience that it will cater to,” she added.

The list has gone through expert and readability checks. However, further improvement may also be done. “We will keep working on more number of words. It is a continuous process. These words will go into ‘sorkuvai’, while the university will keep a reserve of the words and will try to release in some format in the future,” she said.

Dr. Seshayyan said that works to come up with textbooks in Tamil for paramedical courses is under way at the university.

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