How Adelaide’s ‘extinct’ Indigenous language Kaurna was brought back to life

Only a few decades ago the Kaurna language was thought to be extinct.

Adelaide’s Kaurna people say it was only ever “sleeping”.

Rob Amery from the University of Adelaide has dedicated his life to reviving Kaurna.

He’s just published the first-ever English to Kaurna dictionary.

“I’m confident that if I got run over by a bus tomorrow it would still continue on,” he said.

“People know enough of the language, know enough of the grammar of Kaurna language to be able to continue the work on without me.”

The Kaurna people’s traditional lands extend from South Australia’s Mid North, through Adelaide, and as far south as the bottom of the Fleurieu Peninsula.

The closest thing to a dictionary before now was written by German missionaries in the 1830s, who documented about 2,000 Kaurna words.

Speaking the language was once forbidden by white Australians, and Kaurna all but faded from use by the 1860s.

Read more: ABC News

Crow Nation celebrates culture, language as new dictionary is published

CROW AGENCY – A drum circle sang songs of victory. A smudging ceremony wiped away the tears. And Crow tribal elders spoke in Apsáalooke (Crow language) about the next generation that has yet to be born.

Friday’s celebration at Little Big Horn College wasn’t just the culmination of a years-long project to capture the words and culture of the Crow people, it was also a testament to saving the words that had been buried deep in many tribal members’ memories, preserving them and making them live again.

On Friday, at a three-hour ceremony, The Language Conservancy, an Indiana-based group focused on preserving languages, especially indigenous tongues, unveiled the “Crow Dictionary,” a massive collection of nearly 850 pages that documents the language and is the first major collection of the language published since 1975.

Not only is the dictionary more user-friendly and modern, it doubles the number of collected words from 5,500 to more than 10,000 – a huge accomplishment for saving a language that had been on the decline, but has recently seen a turnaround as language immersion programs grow on the reservation and a popular phone app has digitized the dictionary.

In many ways, the songs and speeches weren’t just a celebration of the dictionary’s arrival, they were a victory against time itself.

“For other languages, you can go somewhere else in the world to still hear them being spoken,” said Jacob Brien, whose Crow name is Ishkoochìia Chiiakaamnáah. “But this is the only place in the world where you can learn about this and hear it.”

Estimates range on how many people speak Apsáalooke, but many peg the number around 2,000.

Read more: Missoula Current

Cambridge researchers add back swear words and vulgarity to Ancient Greek dictionary removed by the Victorians

The “most innovative dictionary of its kind” has been compiled by Cambridge researchers in a feat that took more than 20 years and even “took over” the editor’s life.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge’s classics faculty have spent 23 years reading Ancient Greek literature to create the Cambridge Greek Lexicon, described by the university as a “monumental piece of scholarship and the most innovative dictionary of its kind in almost 200 years”.

Previous Ancient Greek dictionaries, compiled most recently by the Victorians, either use outdated terminology for the English translations, or would tone down the meaning of vulgar words to make them more modest.

“We spare no blushes,” said editor-in-chief Professor James Diggle. “We do not translate the verb ‘khézō’ as ‘ease oneself, do one’s need’. We translate it as ‘to s***’. Nor do we explain ‘bīnéō’ as ‘illicit intercourse’, but simply translate it by the f-word.”

Researchers pored over every word, working steadily through the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet to build up a clear, modern and accessible guide to the meanings of Ancient Greek words and their development through different contexts and authors.

The book features around 37,000 Greek words drawn from the writings of around 90 different authors and set out across more than 1,500 pages.

It was hoped the project, which began in 1997, might be completed by a single editor within five years.

It was the brainchild of the renowned classical philologist and lexicographer John Chadwick, who died a year later.

The initial plan was to revise the Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon, first published in 1889.

The book had never been revised, but until now has remained the lexicon most commonly used by students in English schools and universities.

Read more: Cambridgeshire Live

World’s oldest and largest Spanish-Chinese dictionary found in UST

Spanish and Taiwanese scholars have discovered the world’s oldest extant and largest Spanish-Chinese dictionary at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Archives.

The 400-year-old “Dictionario Hispanico Sinicum” (DHS) provides not only the Chinese characters and Mandarin terms to Spanish words, but also their equivalent in Hokkien, the language spoken in Taiwan and Fujian province in southeastern China where many of today’s overseas Chinese came from.

In the Philippines, many Chinese speak “Fookien” or “Philippine Hokkien.”

Ironically, the dictionary, cataloged in the UST Archives as “Vocabulario Espanol-Chino con caracteres chinos (Tomo 215),” was found with the label, “vale muy poco,” that is, “of little value” for contemporary use.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Henning Klotter of Humboldt University in Berlin. He explained the dictionary is “the most comprehensive collection of Hokkien lexical items” of its time. “[H]istorians will [also] find a wealth of information on the early history of the Spanish-Chinese encounter in the Philippines.”

Read more: Lifestyle. INQ

Do words get removed from a dictionary when people stop using them?

The Second Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary is generally regarded as the single most comprehensive record of the English language to exist. Included in this work are many thousands of words considered completely “obsolete” by lexicographers. You see, in something of a Hotel California of linguistics, once a word has made it into the OED, it can never leave. Whether other dictionaries remove words or not varies from dictionary to dictionary, but major dictionaries who attempt to put out “complete” editions tend to follow suit in never removing words once they make it in. However, the much more common concise editions of all dictionaries do occasionally remove not just obsolete words, but sometimes quite common ones that simply don’t fit and are deemed less important to include than other words for various reasons.

Before we get to how a word becomes obsolete in the eyes of dictionary creators, it’s helpful to understand how a word enters the dictionary in the first place and what it means for a word to be there, with the latter being something of a common misconception.

While it’s very common for people to say something like, “It’s not in the dictionary, so it’s not a word”, this sentiment is rarely if ever, shared by professional word-nerds. One does not have to look hard to find editors at all of the major dictionaries specifically denouncing this popular notion. As co-founder of the phenomenal word reference site Wordnik and one-time chief editor of American Dictionaries at Oxford University Press, including editing the second edition of The New Oxford American Dictionary, Erin McKean, notes,

All words (aside from unintentional errors and malapropisms) are words at their birth. All you have to decide is whether the word in question is the right one for the job. Dictionaries don’t measure realness; they serve as rough proxies for the extent of a word’s use.

Or as noted in the FAQ section of Merriam-Webster’s website,

Most general English dictionaries are designed to include only those words that meet certain criteria of usage across wide areas and over extended periods of time. As a result, they may omit words that are still in the process of becoming established, those that are too highly specialized, or those that are so informal that they are rarely documented in professionally edited writing. The words left out are as real as those that gain entry; the former simply haven’t met the criteria for dictionary entry – at least not yet (newer ones may ultimately gain admission to the dictionary’s pages if they gain sufficient use).

Read more: Qrius

The Time the Oxford English Dictionary Forgot a Word

When the complete edition of what would become the Oxford English Dictionary debuted in 1928, it was lauded as a comprehensive collection of the English language, a glossary so vast—and so thorough—that no other reference book could ever exceed its detail or depth. In total, the project took seven decades to catalogue everything from A to Z, defining a total of 414,825 words. But in the eyes of its editor James Murray, the very first volume of the dictionary was something of an embarrassment: It was missing a word.

Looking back, it’s impressive that more words were not lost. Assembling the OED was a nightmare. Before the first volume—an installment consisting of words beginning with the letters A and B—was published in 1888, multiple editors had taken (and abandoned) the helm, and each regime change created new opportunities for mayhem. When James Murray took command in 1879, the Oxford English Dictionary could best be defined by the word disarray.

The irony of making this massive reference book was that it required millions upon millions of tiny, tiny pieces of paper. Every day, volunteers mailed in thousands of small strips of paper called “quotation slips.” On these slips, volunteers would copy a single sentence from a book, in hopes that this sentence could help illuminate a particular word’s meaning. (For example, the previous sentence might be a good example of the word illuminate. Volunteers would copy that sentence and mail it to Oxford’s editors, who would review it and compare the slip to others to highlight the word illuminate.)

The process helped Oxford’s editors study all of the shades of meaning expressed by a single word, but it was also tedious and messy. With thousands of slips pouring into the OED’s offices every day, things could often go wrong.

And they did.

Some papers were stuffed haphazardly into boxes or bags, where they gathered cobwebs and were forgotten. Words beginning with Pa went missing for 12 years, only to be recovered in County Cavan, Ireland, where somebody was using the papers as kindling. Slips for the letter G were nearly burned with somebody’s trash. In 1879, the entire letter H turned up in Italy. At one point, Murray opened a bag only to find a family of live mice chewing on the paperwork.

When Murray took over, he tried to right the ship. To better organize the project, he built a small building of corrugated iron called the “Scriptorium.” It resembled a sunken tool shed, but it was here—with the help of 1029 built-in pigeonholes—that Murray and his subeditors arranged, sorted, and filed more than a thousand incoming slips every day. Millions of quotations would pass through the Scriptorium, and hundreds of thousands of words would be neatly organized by Murray’s trusty team.

One word, however, slipped through the cracks.

Read more: Mental Floss

The Grimm Brothers’ Other Great Project Was Writing a Giant German Dictionary

In 1837, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, the brothers most well known for their eponymous collection of fairy tales, were kicked out of their home. They had been working as professors at the famous University of Göttingen, Germany, when the King of Hanover, who ruled the area, demanded they and other academics swear an oath of loyalty.

The Grimms, along with five other professors, refused. The “Göttingen Seven” were stripped of their posts, and three of them, including Jacob Grimm, were banished from the state. He and his brother retreated to their hometown, Kassel. All of a sudden, the Brothers Grimm needed a new source of income.

They decided to take up an offer they had previously refused, from a publisher based in Frankfurt. They were to create a dictionary of the German language, a project so massive that by the time Jacob and Wilhelm died (in 1863 and 1859, respectively), they had only completed up through E. When the Deutsches Wörterbuch (The German Dictionary) was finally finished, more than a century later, it became the largest German dictionary ever compiled.

Though the project promised to be massive, the Grimms originally expected the job could be accomplished with four volumes. Even as that number began to expand, Jacob estimated it would take about 10 years to complete what had become a total of seven volumes. They planned to use German literature, from Luther to Goethe, from the 16th to the 18th centuries, to identify the words that should be included.

Quickly, though, the project sprawled in both time and space. The Grimms hired readers to comb through key texts, document word use, cite relevant quotations, and submit words cards for inclusion in dictionary. That work was supposed to take a couple of years, until 1839. Instead the brothers were receiving word submissions through the 1840s, as Kelly Kistner, who studied the dictionary as part of her doctoral work at the University of Washington, writes. The process of alphabetizing the submitted words didn’t begin until 1847.

Read more: Atlas Obscura

This man has spent 35 years compiling entries for a 132,000-word online slang dictionary that you can search for free

“Slang dictionaries have always been done by mad people who sit in rooms and make books out of them,” explains Jonathon Green. For 35 years he’s been doing just that: collecting slang words and compiling them into dictionaries.

The biggest of these—Green’s Dictionary of Slang, published in 2010—launches online today (Oct. 12). The online version is made up of 132,000 terms (the original print edition had around 110,000). Users can search for a word and its etymology for free, and subscribers can pay to access a bigger range of citations and a timeline of their evolution.

Finding hundreds and thousands of slang words isn’t a straightforward affair. There is, Green says, “an element of dropping the stone in the pond and seeing where the ripple takes you.”

He sifts through newspaper archives, picking out, say, a columnist from the mid-20th century and reading through their work to pluck out specific terms to trace. He’ll trawl through lyrics, film and TV scripts, fiction, bibliographies in other authors’ books, and box sets—he once watched the entirety of The Wire, and as soon as a word came up, he’d stop, go back, transcribe, and trace it. That particular exercise threw up over 400 citations.

“I need something I can quote, [so] it has to have been recorded,” he says, explaining why he doesn’t do fieldwork. It’s also hard to extract slang. For some people it’s “simply the language they speak and the words they use,” he says. Grasping slang is not so much about getting up to speed with modern or “youth” speech, but observing the latest lexical twist on something.

Read more: Quartz

Documents that Changed the World: Noah Webster’s dictionary, 1828

It’s twilight time for printed dictionaries, whose word-filled bulk weighed down desks, held open doors and by turns inspired and intimidated writers searching for the perfect word.

Lexicography — the making of dictionaries — has gone digital. Though a few are still published, the dictionary’s time as printed, bound documents is almost up.

In this meantime, Joe Janes turns the attention of his Documents that Changed the World podcast series to the man as firmly identified with dictionaries as Hershey is with chocolate, Noah Webster, and the 70,000-word “American Dictionary of the English language” he published in 1828. It was one of the last dictionaries to be compiled by a single person.

Read more: UW Today

Online Dictionary Helps Nigerians Decode Their Names

The names given to a child by southwest Nigeria’s Yoruba people come with a certain meaning, which may be related to something like the time of year or to the circumstances of the child’s birth.

While linguist Kola Tubosun knows the meaning of his name, many of the other Yorubas he has met do not. So, he decided to do something about it.

Launched earlier this month, YorubaName.com is an online dictionary of traditional Yoruba names, aimed at Yoruba people who might have forgotten their name’s meaning or never learned it in the first place.

“The whole idea is to provide a central place where people can find all, hopefully all of the Yoruba names, be able to find its meaning,” said Dadepo Aderemi, the site’s head developer.

Read more: Voice of America