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Two American Indian Dictionary Projects Introduction William Frawley L he DSNA has an impressive tradition ofdistinguished scholarship on the languages of Europe and an increasing concern for dictionaries of the languages elsewhere in the world, e.g., Asia (Carr 1990), Africa (Gouws 1991), and the islands ofthe Antilles (Winer 1991). What about all those other languages—especially those indigenous to the place that gives the Society half its acronym: N(orth) A(merica)? This is not to criticize the Society. Accounts of Amerindian lexicography are most readily found in the anthropology and linguistics literature . Still, the relative absence of studies on these languages in the forums of the DSNA is unfortunate, because this work can be very instructive for the lexicography profession at large. Seeing this, I decided to bring together four individuals working on dictionaries of Native American languages to present their work at the Society's 1995 biennial meeting in Cleveland. Michael Krauss (University of Alaska) surveyed lexicographical efforts on Alaskan languages . Pamela Munro (UCLA) discussed her current preparation of a dictionary of Zapotee and the lessons of her earlier work on Chicasaw. Oswald Werner (Northwestern University) looked at the ways ethnography , encyclopediography, and lexicography can inform each other, with Navajo as an illustration. Kenneth Hill (University ofArizona) described his efforts, especially the computer applications, to complete the largescale Hopi dictionary. The discussion ranged from the nuts-and-bolts of dictionary making to theoretical considerations of definitions. Two of the papers, Munro's and Hill's, are published here. The kinds of problems faced by these lexicographers are often similar to the ones faced by those working in the European tradition— and both similar and different solutions come up. Importantly, these lexicographers sometimes ask different questions with, as one might expect , very special answers. _________________American Indian Dictionary Projects______________127 Similar problems, similar answers How do you compose the entry? What is the orthography? More broadly, what is the relationship of lexicography to the tradition of literacy ? With the stabilization of orthography, these questions are no longer as prominent in Western lexicography as they once were, but they raise important epistemological and political issues. The choice of orthographic form has quite serious consequences for the dictionary as a social, historical, and pedagogical document and the perception of it by its users. Munro notes that, in writing forms, you have to respect native intuitions . You have to make the forms reproducible and accurate, but not cumbersome. A bad orthography can make the users—who, frequently in the case ofAmerindian lexicography, are also new to literacy in their own language—memorize odd spellings. These are the very design questions that plagued the earliest compilers ofdictionaries ofEuropean languages . In this connection, Hill observes that Hopi already has an orthography that can be capitalized on in writing entries. But it needs emendations for accuracy and regularity, and for the support of the larger project of full-scale Hopi literacy. Much effort has been put into making the Hopi dictionary look like a "regular dictionary," so that reading and writing Hopi, with the support of a standardized wordbook, would not seem separate from the surrounding dominant literate tradition in which Hopi finds itself. (Note that such a coordinated relationship to context is not always the desired solution. Compare the re-Arabization efforts in North Africa and the function of the dictionary in local literacies in Southern Africa). Perhaps a more important issue is the role of the dictionary in preserving the language and culture (see Hale and others, 1992). Munro and Hill (and Werner and Krauss, in their oral presentations) agree that the dictionary is in many ways the linchpin of informational stabilization. This is a point that can be traced throughout the history of lexicography: dictionaries were one of the first books in emergent Hittite literacy (see Frawley, 1987). Similar problems, different answers How do you choose the headword? In principle, the answer to this is in large measure dictated by the language defined. But in the 128______________________William Frawley practice of Native American lexicography, this is quite troublesome to carry out because the languages can be highly synthetic. So this old problem of dictionary making needs some special answers. Hill notes that for Hopi...

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Additional Information

ISSN
2160-5076
Print ISSN
0197-6745
Pages
pp. 126-130
Launched on MUSE
2012-04-04
Open Access
No
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