The first historical Tamil dictionary is created

Words and How Poets Make Use of Them

The early poetic anthologies of classical Tamil, going back to about the beginning of the Common Era, form part of the great literary heritage of mankind, even if they are still little known in the West. Just the first millennium comprises a tradition of erotic and heroic poetry, but also didactic, epic and devotional collections, along with a sophisticated systems of grammatical, poetical and lexicographical knowledge, which on the one hand was used to train apprentice poets and on the other hand served as the theoretical basis for the appreciation of the connoisseurs. Voluminous commentaries testify to the long-term effort of keeping these texts, so radically different from everyday language, alive and comprehensible. Up to date there is no historical lexicon which would document the development of language and word meanings.


  • an electronic corpus, accompanied by annotated translations and complete analytical glossaries for every word and its derivations
  • critical editions interlinked with the existing digital manuscript corpus where ever possible
  • a historical lexicon informed by commentary glosses and traditional lexicons endowed with crossreferences to the current modern dictionaries

Project Description

The project aims at establishing an electronic corpus of reliable texts (metrical and word-split) of first millennium literature, where possible on the basis of critical editions along with complete concordances and corpus dictionaries which then can serve as the material basis of a historical lexicon.

Editions will also be printed, but the main goal is a bilingual interactive online tool (Englisch and Tamil) that allows direct engagement with the source texts, the exegetical materials and the lexicographic works, traditional and modern.

Tamilex funding

The Long-term Project is funded in the framework of the Academies Programme, which is coordinated by the Union of the German Academies of Sciences and Humanities.

The Long-term Project is being implemented at the department for the Culture and History of India and Tibet of Universität Hamburg as part of the co-ooperation of the academy and the university.

Key facts
Complete title of the Long-term project:

Tamilex. Establishment of an electronic corpus of Classical Tamil literature and the corres­ponding historical lexicon informed by emic exegetical and lexicographical sources


Prof. Dr. Eva Wilden


01.01.2023 to 31.12.2046

For more information

To the project flyer

To the project film

Portrait of the Tamilex Long-term project in Tamil with film footage from the Deutsche Welle team in summer 2023

To the AGATE-Portal (research information system of the Academies of Sciences and Humanities)

University of Hamburg press release of 9 December 2022 on the project launch:
"Eleven million euros in funding. The first historical Tamil dictionary is being created at the University of Hamburg"


Project Tamilex

Abteilung für Kultur und Geschichte Indiens und Tibets
Universität Hamburg
Alsterterasse 1
20354 Hamburg

Prof. Dr. Eva Wilden
E-Mail: eva-wilden(at)
Tel.: +49 40 42838 4917