Newsletter April 2022

Dear Relational Lexicography Partners, Collaborators, Affiliates, and subscribers to our occasional newsletter,

We hope this newsletter finds you as well as can be hoped at a time of ongoing global uncertainty. It’s been a year since we last shared a formal update on the Relational Lexicography project, and although we have been somewhat quiet, we have not been idle! We have lots of updates to share on the various aspects of our project and we hope that you enjoy reading about them below.

Farewells and Welcomes

The Relational Lexicography team has grown and changed in the last year. We say farewell to Research Assistants Meryl Bishop, Sarina Bouvier, Natália Oliveira, and Aiyana Twigg, who have now all successfully graduated. Congratulations to all! As for welcomes, Bailey Trotter has taken over Vicki Sear’s position as Project Coordinator, although Vicki continues to be involved with the RelLex in various capacities. Bailey graduated from UBC Vancouver with a Bachelor’s in Linguistics and is currently part of two Indigenous language dictionary projects alongside her work on RelLex. We are excited to have Zeke Nolan, Kenna McEwan and Holly Davies joining the RelLex team as Undergraduate Research Assistants. Zeke is an anthropology student, completing their degree at UBC Okanagan, and will be taking over from Sarina, continuing to build the online interface for our dictionaries Knowledgebase. Kenna is studying linguistics at UBC Vancouver and will be working on creating the technologies Knowledgebase based on Aiyana’s technology scoping over the last year. Holly is graduating from speech sciences at UBC Vancouver and will be working to finish the Literature Review, which we hope to publish later this year.

Community Partnerships

Selkirk First Nation (SFN) became one of our community partners in August 2020, and we have been working with Language Coordinator, April Baker, Heritage Manager, Teri-Lee Isaac, and other SFN citizens to update, expand and digitize the 1977 Selkirk Indian Language Noun Dictionary using the Mother Tongues interface. We are documenting the process to create a series of guides for updating the upcoming online dictionary, and will be hosting a focus group discussion with SFN in early May, 2022. 

Back in February 2020, we held a focus group discussion with Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn on the dictionary work in which Splatsin community members are engaged. Due to the pandemic, we haven’t had a chance to conduct our follow-up discussion, but we have supported Splatsin in developing QR codes which will be placed around the Tsm7aksaltn and will link to entries for their language on First Voices.


As part of the RelLex project, we have committed to sharing relevant literature and resources. We have two publications planned for 2022. The first, our literature review, is an annotated reference list of scholarly and other relevant literature on dictionaries and dictionary-making with a focus on Indigenous languages, which we plan to publish with UBC Okanagan’s open access Institute for Community Engaged Research (ICER) Press. We have been developing a public-facing Relational Lexicography toolkit of resources that can be used to inform and guide dictionary projects, as — to our knowledge at least — no such accessible literature review exists in support of language workers initiating dictionary projects. Our other upcoming publication outlines the results of our online survey in which respondents were asked to share their experiences working on community-based dictionary projects for Indigenous and other historically marginalized languages. The survey closed last year and we are now hard at work analyzing the results. To find more information on our preliminary results, please visit the Survey page under the “Activities” tab on the Relational Lexicography Website.

A list of recent Publications relating to dictionary work, together with links to read them, can be found on the Relational Lexicography website under the “Activities” tab as well. 

Ferreira and Turin (2022) review and compare five recent publications relating to dictionary work with Indigenous languages, with sections on orthographic choices and representations, entry design, incorporation of neologisms, and software choices. They analyze factors including intended audience and access requirements, reflect on authorship and ownership, commitment to community engagement, and representation of dialectal variation. Finally, they touch on how each dictionary project was funded and resourced. 

Sear and Turin (2021) address how field linguists engaged in dictionary projects of endangered, Indigenous, and under-resourced languages can challenge harmful colonial research practices. They propose that by introducing a degree of criticality and self-reflexivity into lexicography, dictionary work with historically marginalized and under-resourced languages can undergo an ethically productive and theoretical reorientation.  


The original goal of our in-progress Knowledgebase was to develop an online searchable, browsable catalog of known dictionaries of Indigenous and under-resourced languages spoken in North America. While this goal is still central, the Knowledgebase has grown to include information on lexicography technologies as well as Indigenous and under-resourced language dictionaries. Based on responses to our survey, we imagined that this addition would be useful for community-based lexicography projects.

To date, we have fully scoped 18 technologies, and are currently working to add information on each tool to our Knowledgebase website. For each technology, we provide a summary of how it can and has been used, screenshots of the interface when available, some highlights and considerations, any reviews or guides we have been able to locate, and relevant information on access, flexibility and data management (import/export/compatibility with other software and operating systems). The Knowledgebase currently has information publicly available on two of the technologies, and another will be added within the next week. The remainder will be added in the coming months.  

As for our dictionaries Knowledgebase, we have scoped a little over 1,000 dictionaries so far, and have added around 600 of them to our Knowledgebase website. For each dictionary, we identify available information on the language, author(s), how and if speakers are acknowledged in the publication, publication year, format and access. We provide links to open access dictionaries when available, and identify dictionaries that appear to be only accessible in print. We are working towards adding all of the scoped dictionaries to our Knowledgebase over the summer months of 2022, and will continue to add more information as we source and verify it. In the future, we wish to expand the regional search feature beyond provincial and state borders, and perhaps include a map interface. 

Although still in progress, the Dictionaries and Technologies sections of the Knowledgebase are both currently available to view. Both the pages are fully filterable, making information easier to locate. Our hope is that this resource will be useful to people engaged in community-based dictionary projects by providing a place to review earlier work, and learn about the various technologies currently being used to support dictionary projects.

Future Steps

We are looking forward to our upcoming online focus group with SFN, to the publication of our literature review and survey results, and to the full launch of the Dictionaries and Technologies Knowledgebase. 

Once it is safe to do so, we will restart our in-person work with our community partners, Splatsin Tsm7aksaltn and Selkirk First Nation, to support and learn from their community-driven dictionary projects. 

We look forward to sharing occasional updates with you as we go. Thank you for being a part of this project and of our ever-expanding network of partners, collaborators, affiliates, and supporters.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us at:

You can find more information on our website, or view our in-progress Knowledgebase for information on Dictionaries and Technologies.