Colleagues share expertise in Papua New Guinea dictionary workshop

Workshop leaders and participants from the Sissano community began the process of developing a dictionary during the two-week event. Theirs is among the multitude of languages in the world never before documented in the form of a dictionary.

(November 2012) Recently, members of nine language communities in the Aitape area of Papua New Guinea’s Sandaun Province (West Sepik) attended a two-week dictionary-making workshop. These languages have never before been documented in the form of a dictionary. The workshop was led by local people involved with language development in the region who had previously attended an SIL lexicography workshop. This event provided an opportunity to share their new skills and information with colleagues.

Preceding the workshop was a week of computer training. Though the workshop leaders were proficient at using computers through their involvement with language development in their communities, for some participants this was a totally new experience. With mentoring from more experienced computer users, by the end of the week all participants had gained proficiency in operating netbooks and typing.

During the main workshop, attendees learned how to write definitions and example sentences, how to handle multiple meanings and how to identify the parts of speech in their respective languages. During afternoon sessions, participants applied these elements of theory, making use of their newly acquired computer skills to begin building their dictionaries with an SIL-developed program called WeSay. By the end of the two weeks, participants had printed sample pages and were ready to begin initial community testing for their dictionaries. In a follow-up workshop scheduled for 2013, participants will continue to build on their skills and expand their dictionaries.

man reads through new dictionary portionWorkshop organizers noted that the highlight of the workshop was participants' enthusiasm for learning about the grammar of their languages. One participant from the Bauni-Pou community commented on how he can already see that being able to identify the parts of speech in his language will be very helpful for his language development work.

With over eight hundred living languages, Papua New Guinea (PNG) is one of the most linguistically diverse countries in the world. SIL has been involved in supporting language development in PNG since 1956.



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