By Stacy Pratt
These were some of the questions discussed in Dr. Pamela Munro’s closing keynote address, “Documenting Native Languages: What Should We Put in the Dictionary?” The presentation was part of the Indigenous Languages Documentation and Revitalization Seminar at the 41st annual Symposium on the American Indian at NSU Friday evening.
Munro was in Tahlequah as the guest scholar for the Oklahoma Workshop on Native Languages, which took place Saturday and Sunday. She is a Distinguished Professor of Linguistics at the University of California-San Diego and the co-author, with Catherine Willmond, of the first Chicksaw language textbook, “Let’s Speak Chickasaw: Chikashshanompa’ Kilanompoli’,” winner of the 2010 Leonard Bloomfield Book Award. She has also published dictionaries and grammar books of the Mohave, Cahuilla, Kawaiisu, Wolof and San Lucas Quiavini Zapotec languages, as well as many other articles and books on languages and linguistics.
But words and spelling are not the only factors involved, Munro said. Human elements also face both writers and users of dictionaries, especially when it comes to dictionaries of indigenous languages spoken by few people.
“What about words that some people don’t want to see in the dictionary?” Munro asked.