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A grammar-driven bilingual digital dictionary for Cayuga (Iroquoian)


Lexical access in Cayuga is especially difficult because of obligatory prefixation. For example, the related words in (a) should occur under the same lemma or citation form, but would be scattered throughout the dictionary if listed alphabetically.

(a) A partial Cayuga verb paradigm (stem: -nę:ye:s or -hnę:ye:s to be tall)

aknihnę:ye:s   we two (exclusive) are tall

dwahnę:ye:s   we all (inclusive) are tall

ehnę:ye:s   she, someone is tall

gahnę:ye:s   it is tall

hahnę:ye:s   he is tall

knę:ye:s   I am tall

A typical solution is to use units like the stem [-hnę:ye:s] for the citation form. However, virtually no one knows how to identify the stem. Fortunately, digital dictionaries promise to solve the problem of user access in Iroquoian languages. We present a digital dictionary that exploits the unique grammatical properties of Cayuga to facilitate word look-up.

Our digital dictionary refers to a database of whole words and removes the finite set of affixes, returning a stem-like unit. A relaxed search algorithm then returns a list of words which partially or wholly match the stem-like unit. The advantage of this approach is that the end-user only has know whole word forms to get the desired results. This makes the Cayuga dictionary accessible to lay-people in a way that was not previously possible.