Sea lexicon for the indian ocean

The ‘Sea Lexicon’ is a collaborative endeavor that aims at the co-creation of a lexicon based on words related to the sea. It is an invitation for a transregional thinking through the perspective of the sea. We focus on words that animate the lives of coastal communities in various languages across the Indian Ocean. Some examples include the monsoon, the boat, the coconut tree, the navigator, the turtle, the sand, the tuna and more. We engage with these words along with the meanings, stories, poems, pictures, beliefs and symbols associated with them. Like the floating waters, we adopt a fluid approach to collecting these words and comparing them in order to understand the circulations of ideas, people and things in the Indian Ocean. Such a comparative perspective can help us trace the roots of these languages to the routes of the sea. In this sense, the project encourages to think beyond the land and territories to the world of islands, lagoons and seas.


We have a team of collaborators who come from diverse backgrounds across different regions of the Indian Ocean such as anthropologists, community members, marine scientists, NGOs  and researchers  who will co-create a multi-authored lexicon. The lexicon will have contributions in Bangla (spoken in India and Bangladesh), Burmese (Myanmar), Dvivehi (Maldives), Gujarati (Gujarat), Jeseri (Lakshadweep Islands), Karen (Andaman and Nicobar Islands), Konkani (Goa), Mahl (Minicoy, Lakshadweep), Malay (Malaysia), Malayalam (Kerala), Sinhalese (Sri Lanka), Tamil (Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka) and Thai (Thailand). Through the sea words, we aim to unravel the uniqueness of these languages along with their interconnectedness to histories of migration, navigation patterns, trade, acculturation, and ecology. At the same time, we foster the importance of documenting the less discussed and unscripted languages of the Indian Ocean with an aim to promote them.


Any native speaker of the language can collaborate in the project without any discrimination based on age, gender or social status. This journey is about thinking through non-western languages in oceanic terms, and about the affects, connections, divergences and convergences that emerge through dipping our toes in water.