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The Cherokee Electronic Dictionary: Balancing the needs of learners, speakers, and linguists

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Title: The Cherokee Electronic Dictionary: Balancing the needs of learners, speakers, and linguists
Authors: Montgomery-Anderson, Brad
Issue Date: 14 Mar 2009
Description: This paper describes the ongoing creation of the Cherokee Electronic Dictionary Database. This project has two main goals: to create a multimedia database of all Cherokee stems, affixes, and phrases and to produce new Cherokee language specialists through the process of creating the database itself. One of the database’s most important features is the listing of words in their stem form, i.e. without their prefixes. Using stems allows learners to correctly produce all the forms of the word and to understand otherwise opaque derivational relationships. The electronic format solves many of the problems traditionally faced by lexicographers of polysynthetic languages; instead of being organized as unnatural stems or as naturally occurring words, the individual entries list both. Another important advantage of the electronic database is that users are able to look up any word, no matter what their dialect or writing system. The entries not only have numerous written examples, but contain sound and occasionally video files as well. Grammatical morphemes are listed and carefully detailed as well. Even though ‘natural citation form’ users have easy access to all the entries, they are also exposed to the main entry, or stem, which helps them understand grammatical rules. This project creates a user-friendly environment for learning about how stems and prefixes are used and combined. The database is being incorporated into Northeastern State University’s Cherokee curriculum, and students are learning how to use it to create sentences as part of homework assignments. The project of creating the dictionary itself is of immense value to the student workers who do the work of database entry. Once they have gained experience with databasing written material, they will move on to the more complex task of gathering data through interviews. The database will also be useful to teachers and curriculum planners who will be able to instantly group words according to semantic or syntactic characteristics. Linguists will be able to browse through stem lists to learn about the historical development of the language. The Language Advisory Council’s task of creating new Cherokee words will be greatly helped by having a database that includes recently created words as well as showing general patterns of word creation. The electronic format allows all users to easily find entries and to organize these entries according to the individual user’s language needs.
Rights: Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported
Appears in Collections:1st International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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