Colloquium: A Dictionary for a Polysynthetic Language

February 2, 3:30-5pm, Cobb 201
Jerry Sadock, University of Chicago

This is a report on the first stage of the construction of an English-Kalaallisut (West Greenlandic) dictionary funded by NSF. Lenore Grenoble and I are cooperating on this project in conjunction with Oqaasileriffik, the Greenland Language Secretariat, directed by Carl Christian Olsen. The last Kalaallisut-English dictionary was written in 1927 and is woefully inadequate for and unrepresentative of today’s language. The problems that will be addressed under the grant include the boundaries of lexicalization in English and Kalaallisut, the inclusion of dialect variation is a dictionary for an emerging nation, and the design and scope of an interactive, digital, bilingual dictionary. It is this last goal that I will talk about in my colloquium presentation.

The highly synthetic character of Kalaallisut necessitates an electronic resource to supplement a print dictionary. For a learner of Kalaallisut who has only a print dictionary at hand, the task of determining the meaning of a single word a txt can be painful, time consuming, and end in failure. I will illustrate the problem and demonstrate how available web resources might be utilized in constructing an e-dictionary for Kalaallisut.