It was about one and a half years ago that I finally I arrived where I had always wanted to be and do what I had always wanted-- teach students, support small language communities and conduct research on African languages on my doorstep. The University of Cape Town and my new colleagues welcomed my efforts to establish the Centre for African Language Diversity-- CALDi as well as The African Language Archive-- TALA and I was recently appointed the Mellon Research Chair: African Language Diversity this initiative. The main aim of CALDi is to train young African scholars in descriptive linguistics and open up space for research into African languages at UCT with the hopes of countering the dominance of African linguistics outside the continent. It has been a great challenge for which my whole career has been a form of preparation...Read more
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Winkler, Elizabeth Grace (1997) _Kpelle-English Dictionary with English-Kpelle Glossary_. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Linguistics Club Publications. 101 pp.
Reviewed by Amanda Seidl <firstname.lastname@example.org>
SYNOPSIS This is a relatively small dictionary of Kpelle (a Western Mande language, as spoken in Bong County, Liberia). It is divided into three sections; an introduction which discusses briefly Kpelle phonological processes and grammar, the main body of the dictionary, and the English-Kpelle glossary.
The intoduction to the dictionary contains three subsections. The first subsection provides some genetic information about Kpelle. The second subsection includes a description of the sound system which includes a brief description of consonant mutations in Kpelle and information about the tonal inventory. The third subsection includes a discussion of Kpelle grammar.
The body of the dictionary begins with a brief description of how to read a dictionary entry as well as a list of abreviations. Because the author of the dictionary uses phonetic transcription she also provides a list of the ordering of the phonetic segments in the dictionary body. The dictionary itself contains just over 1,100 entries. Many entries include example sentences which contain the headword with translations.
The English-Kpelle glossary contains 1,065 English words and their Kpelle glosses and is organized alphabetically.
REVIEW Winkler's dictionary is important because there are few Kpelle dictionaries in existence. In fact this dictionary is only one of two that I have heard of. The downside to this dictionary is that it is fairly brief, but is fairly impressive for a dictionary that began as a project for a field methods class working with just one language consultant!
The methodology for the compilation of the dictionary included using word lists from previous Kpelle glossaries and articles on Kpelle and a list of Mende (a closely related language) words. Winkler also made up her own lists of words from the environment. The result of these various sources combine to make a dictionary which includes a large number of high frequency words, but which in general has more nouns and fewer verbs than most dictionaries.
Because the grammar of the Western Mande language family has been significanly less studied than some other families, some of the categorizations as adjective or verb are sketchy, but Winkler freely admits this deficit and the vague quality of these categorioes is not detrimental to the dictionary's overall readability.
This dictionary is extremely useful for language learners of Kpelle as well as for linguists who are working on Kpelle.
I have one small worry: because the author is not a native speaker I hope that the tone contrasts in the dictionary have been intrumentally checked or that Winkler's ear is better than mine. I am concerned that most of the example sentences in entries contain no examples of tone sandhi. In many related languages, Mende being one, tone sandhi occurs in many environments and although I am willing to believe in this lack of sandhi in Kpelle I think it would be helpful if Winkler stated this fact explicitly in the introduction.
Amanda Seidl. Department of Linguistics. University of Pennsylvania.
I have studied Mende consonant mutations with a language consultant from Sierra Leone. I have also worked at the Linguistic Data Consortiuum and with the African Language Resource Council editing and helping native speaker linguists compile dictionaries. I am currently working on a dissertation on the syntax-phonology interface.
******************************************** Amanda Seidl Department of Linguistics University of Pennsylvania 619 Williams Hall