Sketch grammars for dictionaries: Workshop in Cameroon

(August 2009) Linguists representing sixteen African languages are attending a workshop this month conducted by SIL Cameroon in Yaoundé to produce sketch grammars suitable to introduce bilingual or trilingual dictionaries. The UK Kay Williamson Educational Fund (KWEF) will eventually publish several of the dictionaries in which these sketch grammars appear.

Working in various partnerships, SIL is involved in preparing multilingual dictionaries in more than seventy languages of Cameroon, both for the international academic community and for local language populations. SIL has been making dictionary databases available on their Cameroon website by publishing in two electronic formats—searchable databases and downloadable PDFs—with lexicons or dictionaries available in thirty-two languages to date. Approximately a dozen other dictionaries have been published in print, including the two most recent, which were funded by KWEF, one in their local series and one in their international series.

  • Kejom (Babanki)–English Lexicon by Pius W. Akumbu (now a lecturer in linguistics at the University of Buea), with Robert Hedinger, SIL linguistics consultant, Volume 2 in the KWEF local series.
  • Mofu–French–Fulfulde Dictionary by Ken Hollingsworth and Judy Hollingsworth, the first significant (over 5,000 words) SIL-compiled dictionary being funded by KWEF in their international series.

Many of the workshop participants are compiling dictionaries of their own languages. Held 3–28 August, the workshop includes daily lectures, but is primarily devoted to producing sketch grammars in the sixteen selected languages. International linguistics consultants Tom Payne and Doris Payne and several SIL Cameroon linguistics consultants are leading the workshop.

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