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  • A Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary / Peskotomuhkati Wolastoqewi Latuwewakon
  • Keren Rice (bio)
David A. Francis and Robert M. Leavitt, with Margaret Apt. A Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary / Peskotomuhkati Wolastoqewi Latuwewakon. University of Maine Press and Goose Lane Editions. 2008. 1214. $55.00

Peskotomuhkati Wolastoqewi Latuwewakon / A Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary (PWL) is a monumental work. The editors, David Francis and Robert Leavitt, have worked together since the 1970s, joined by Margaret Apt in 1996. PWL thus results from decades of research, as is obvious in the acknowledgements, which thank over one hundred people, highlighting the true community nature of this work.

Wayne Newell, director of Native Language and Cultural Services in Indian Township, Maine, begins the foreword:

When I was a young boy growing up at Sipayik, everyone in the community spoke Passamaquoddy as their first language. I can even recall people who did not understand English, who used translators when they talked to state bureaucrats about their needs. Since then I have also heard stories from Indian Township of little girls translating between elders and the priest at confession. This kind of language interaction was so very common that I took it for granted that the language would never change. [End Page 305]

Newell then discusses changes that began in the 1950s, observing that children were fluent in the language as the 1970s began, but by decade's end, had limited understanding. He writes, 'Use of the language had declined more rapidly than I had believed possible. The local system at Indian Township began developing curriculum that utilized the language in school, community, and church activities . . . I began to formulate long-term goals: What would help future generations continue learning and speaking the language?' Newell began to imagine a comprehensive dictionary. He ends, 'For nearly half a century many individuals, including myself, have been committed to making sure that the next generation has the tools and methodology essential to their own creativity in future endeavors. This dictionary stands as the centerpiece of our commitment.'

In the preface, Imelda and David Perley of Tobique, New Brunswick say, 'The Passamaquoddy-Maliseet Dictionary is . . . an essential publication required for the revival, maintenance, and preservation of Passamaquoddy-Maliseet language.' They continue, 'In our view, the dictionary represents a Sacred Bundle containing ancestral teachings, values, beliefs, and worldviews. The dictionary also symbolizes a 'language bank' . . . for present and future generations.'

To someone unfamiliar with the disrupted language transmission in many Aboriginal communities, such statements might need contextualizing. Dictionaries being compiled in communities across the country represent words of a generation who grew up speaking a language that today is often acquired only as a second language. These dictionaries help enable people to keep those languages and cultures. This places a large responsibility on the shoulders of dictionary compilers as sustainers of the language.

PWL provides historical context and introduces language and culture, language structure, and dictionary use. The section on language and culture begins with a statement that is often heard about Aboriginal languages - the language provides speakers with the sense that they are 'connected with the environment.' PWL helps the reader understand this through discussion of the conceptualization of space, sharing of personal space and power, and creation stories, among others. PWL examines loanwords as well as the creation of terms for things for which one might expect loans. An example comes from the number of baseball terms in the language, with few adapted from English.

It is impossible to convey the magnitude of PWL in limited space. I thus mention just a few points to give the reader a sense of its richness. The Peskotomuhkati Wolastoqewi Latuwewakon-Passamaquoddy-Maliseet section includes headwords, translations, grammatical information, and wonderful example sentences that are carefully chosen, replete with information about traditional and contemporary life, and details about culture, [End Page 306] attitudes, and humour. As an example, motapehe 's/he goes downhill,' has two illustrative sentences; one is given here: Pol nmotapahan nuhkomossok naka naciptuwan nikuwoss pocetesol ('First I'm going down to my grandmother's and getting potatoes for my mother'). The noun ponapsqahson 'stone pipe (for smoking)' has three illustrations; two are given here. Ponapsqahson yaq wolahsone ('They say a stone pipe draws easily'). Nuhkomoss...


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pp. 305-307
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