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Reviewed by:
  • Eastern and Central Arrernte picture dictionary
  • Nick Thieberger
Neil Broad, with Eastern and Central Arrernte speakers (compilers). 2008. Eastern and Central Arrernte picture dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press. x + 179 pp. ISBN 978-186465-0709. $Aust. 24.95.

This latest in a long list of picture dictionaries from the Institute for Aboriginal Development (IAD) Press presents words arranged under fifty topics in Eastern and Central Arrernte (which is the name for a single variety of this Central Australian Pama-Nyungan language), with pictures representing those words, often together with an example sentence. The first 93 pages of the A4 format book display pictures and words with an example sentence (that attempts to "bring into focus some aspect of Arrernte cultural knowledge") entirely in the language, with the next 40 or so pages providing translations of the same terms into English. There are two short texts (60, 68), a kinship diagram (12), and a map of local placenames (20–21). This is all followed by an Eastern and Central Arrernte-to-English wordlist, and then an English finderlist. The final seven pages provide a pronunciation guide. The book is wrapped with an attractive dot painting cover by Amunda Gorey.

While the language is identified with a geographic designation ("Eastern and Central"), it is a variety of Arrernte that has its own internal variation, indicated by cardinal directions—(E), (N), (W), (S)—appended to relevant words in the wordlist and finderlist. The idea for a picture dictionary appears to have come out of a meeting of speakers of Anmatyerr (another Arandic Central Australian language) in 2001, which identified the need to create language materials that would be useful for school children. The IAD picture [End Page 316] dictionary (as template) aims to present a set of some 800 words that can be adapted for use with any Australian language (although the focus is on desert flora and fauna), with more than 400 beautiful line drawings depicting local life, both natural (e.g., twelve images of reptiles, fifty of birds, lots of plants, bush foods, medicines, and grubs) and cultural (e.g., cooking and food preparation, what's happening, weapons, and tools). As these headings indicate, the words are from a range of classes, not just nouns, and illustrations depict both objects and actions.

The definitions and examples are not intended to be as detailed as in a full dictionary; for example, awelye is a 'healing song', with the rather opaque example sentence Awelye antere alyeke-arle 'The traditional healer sings the fat with a healing song'. The dictionary of Eastern and Central Arrernte (Henderson and Dobson 1994) is one of the most detailed dictionaries of an Australian language, and readers interested in more information can refer to the larger work.

In addition to the many language terms provided, there is also a section on "today's things" that includes terms adapted for introduced items, e.g., apwerte 'money' (from 'hill'), pute 'shoe, boot', rapite 'rabbit, nanikute 'goat', and peke-peke 'pig' (but marnte 'bus' is in the "what's happening" section, as are the more transparent loans pathekale 'bicycle' and mwetekaye 'car ').

Since about half of the entries in the wordlist begin with a, this section is further divided to include subsections beginning with ah, ak, al, am, an, and so on. This makes sense, in that it breaks up what would otherwise be eight pages of wordlists.

Typos are not that easy to spot for a nonspeaker of Arrernte, but the word tyerrtye appears after an example sentence (98) when it does not seem to belong there.

IAD Press has established a well-deserved reputation for producing language materials, from introductory story books and learner's guides, through to detailed dictionaries. To date, Australian languages represented using the picture dictionary template include Alyawarr, Central Anmatyerr, Gamilaraay/Yuwaalaraay, Kaytetye, Ngaanyatjarra, Pitjantjatjara/Yankunytjatjara, Warumungu, and Western Arrarnta.

Nick Thieberger
University of Melbourne and University of Hawai'i at Mānoa


Henderson, John, and Veronica Dobson. 1994. Eastern and Central Arrernte to English dictionary. Alice Springs: IAD Press. [End Page 317]


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pp. 316-317
Launched on MUSE
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