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Reviewed by:
  • Romblomanon dictionary
  • Jason William Lobel
Leonard E. Newell. 2006. Romblomanon dictionary. Manila: Linguistic Society of the Philippines Special Monograph 52. xviii + 848 pp. ISBN 978-971-780-024-0. $30.00. (Available online at

To date, dictionaries for five Central Philippine languages have qualified as "must-haves" for Philippine linguists: Fr. Leo English's twin English–Tagalog (1977) and Tagalog–English (1986) dictionaries; Malcolm Mintz's two-volume 3rd-edition English–Bikol, Bikol–English dictionary (2004); John Wolff's Cebuano–English dictionary (1972); and the SIL Philippines dictionaries for Tausug (Hassan, Ashley, and Ashley 1994) and Masbatenyo (Wolfenden 2001). The publication of the late Leonard Newell's impressive Romblomanon Dictionary brings that total to six.

Having learned during my first fieldwork expedition to Romblon province in 2000 that a Romblomanon dictionary was in the works, I eagerly anticipated publication of the completed project after years of hearing through the grapevine that it was nearing completion. This "first and incomplete dictionary for Romblomanon" (x) is an impressive effort, one that will surely stand the test of time, even if nobody else ever "completes" this supposedly "incomplete" 848-page volume.

The dictionary is divided into four main sections: the introduction (84 pages); the Romblomanon–English dictionary (598 pages); the English–Romblomanon index (150 pages); and appendices (16 pages).

As the title implies, the heart of this dictionary is a 598-page Romblomanon–English dictionary, which contains "approximately 20,000 Romblomanon forms," a generous sampling of the affixed forms of each, and plenty of natural-sounding sentence examples extracted from the author's text corpus. Each headword is followed by a part of speech (n., v., adj., etc.). Unaffixed roots are given as head words, arguably the best, if not the only, approach when dealing with highly agglutinative Philippine-type languages in which mostly two-syllable roots can be affixed with up to six or more syllables of prefixes, infixes, and suffixes.

Complementing the Romblomanon–English core is a 150-page English–Romblomanon finderlist, a typical component of SIL Philippines dictionaries. One can't help but wish that the English–Romblomanon section was a complete reverse dictionary, yet this would bring the page count to 1,300 pages, doubling not only the price of the dictionary but also the price of postage from the SIL Philippines Manila office, especially problematic for customers ordering from outside of the Philippines, which is presumably a large portion of the intended audience. In fairness, many other dictionaries are unidirectional and do not even include a reverse finder list (such as Wolff 1972), so the inclusion of such a reverse list at least makes the task of finding the Romblomanon term for an English word doable, if only a little bit harder and more time-consuming. However, considering the extra size and cost of having a complete two-volume bidirectional set, the tried-and-true SIL Philippines formula is probably a happy medium. [End Page 275]

Other than the 16 pages containing 24 appendices representing various semantic domains, the rest of the dictionary consists of the 84 introductory pages containing notes about the dictionary and a helpful 66-page grammatical overview of a language that has not previously been the subject of a dedicated description. The introduction is divided into 18 pages of front matter, including a helpful, professionally-drawn map; a six-page general introduction; 11 pages of phonology notes; and a 66-page grammar sketch.

This dictionary of Romblomanon is an important contribution to the body of work on Central Philippine languages, which collectively represent the vast majority of the Philippine population, yet represent little of the published work on Philippine languages, largely because the chief proponent of language documentation in the Philippines, the Summer Institute of Linguistics (now "SIL Philippines"), tends to concentrate in the northern and southern parts of the country, with relatively little representation in the central Philippines. Along with Wolfenden (2001), this Romblomanon dictionary is one of only two such dictionaries for Central Bisayan languages, and including Wolff (1972) and Hassan, Ashley, and Ashley (1994), one of only four for Bisayan languages as a whole. SIL Philippines can now pride itself on...