New Frameworks for Community-Informed Dictionary Work

Every dictionary reflects the idiosyncrasies of the language that it documents, the goals of the community that it serves and the mindset of its compilers.

For under-resourced and Indigenous communities, a dictionary contains crucial historical, cultural and territorial information. When languages become endangered, dictionaries become primary tools for language learning. In language communities that have few written records, dictionary-making (known as lexicography) can be very time-consuming and labour intensive.

Traditional lexicography was established by speakers of dominant languages. Our project will develop approaches to dictionary-making that are focused on the needs of under-resourced languages. Working together, speakers, learners, teachers and researchers of Indigenous languages need guidelines that address the specific requirements and goals of community-informed lexicography.

This research project fills a resource gap for Indigenous languages in Canada by offering a framework and toolkit for collaborative, community-informed dictionary work with marginalized languages. We call this process ‘Relational Lexicography’, as it represents a shift towards dictionaries that are created by speakers and with learners of under-resourced languages.

Collaborators: Sarah Dupont, Candace Galla, Gerald Lawson, Patrick Moore, Daisy Rosenblum, Rosalind Williams

Graduate Student Collaborator: Aaron Leon

Student Research Assistants: Meryl Bishop, Jocelyn Boonstra, Ben Chung, Julia Schillo