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The Kalaallisut‐English Dictionary Project

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Title: The Kalaallisut‐English Dictionary Project
Issue Date: 01 Mar 2013
Description: Kalaallisut (West Greenlandic, iso‐639‐3 kal) is an Inuit language spoken in Greenland and is the official language of the country. In this presentation we discuss a collaborative project initiated by the Greenland Language Secretariat (Oqaasileriffik) to create a bilingual Kalaallisut‐English dictionary, aimed at two groups of users, Kalaallisut speakers who are learning English and English speakers learning Kalaallisut. We discuss the content and format of the dictionary, the underlying principles upon which it is being created, and the collaborative process itself. This collaborative project involves researchers from Greenland and the US.

The dictionary, intended to include something in the order of 25,000‐35,000 entries, aims to provide the necessary information for both sets of users to both comprehend and produce both languages. The two languages are typologically distinct and there is limited correspondence between what counts as a word in each language. Kalaallisut is highly polysynthetic with very productive derivational and inflectional morphology, providing challenges for what constitutes a lexical entry versus which forms are one‐off creations by speakers. Language learners need information not only about word meaning, but also about “word” creation. By the same token, much of the grammatical information included in English words is encoded in Kalaallisut suffixes, providing challenges for Kalaallisut speakers learning English.

The team began its work by establishing a core set of principles including:

1. The dictionary is based on the modern standard language, as currently spoken, with all entries approved by the Greenland Language Council (Oqaasiliortut).
2. The dictionary is usage‐driven.
3. The dictionary does not replace a reference grammar but provides an
internal word grammar, i.e., it includes necessary and sufficient information for a user to generate correct word forms in both languages.
4. Irregular, unpredictable or otherwise not transparent forms need to be included.
5. The dictionary should include all necessary information for proper usage such as collocations, style and register information

These principles are illustrated with sample entries from both languages. Entries are created through a collaborative process, but final approval of all material rests
with Oqaasiliortut, the Language Council, which is part of the Greenland Self‐ Government. This particular project illustrates not only the importance of the concrete linguistic entries, but also the significance of the collaborative process of dictionary making, and the approval process, which is controlled by the local government.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:3rd International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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