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Alaska Native Language Center publishes Haida dictionary


June 09, 2005

A major comprehensive dictionary of the Haida language of Southeastern Alaska and the Queen Charlotte Islands of British Columbia is now available in print. Compiled by John Enrico and co-published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska Native Language Center and Sealaska Heritage Institute, the "Haida Dictionary" is as complete a record of the language as is possible.

"John Enrico is a first-rate linguist who worked with Native Haida speakers to compile a full documentary record of the language," said Tom Alton, ANLC. "This dictionary not only helps to preserve the language, it protects and cultivates a piece of our cultural heritage as well."

Haida is spoken in two major dialects: Southern at Skidegate and Northern at Masset on the Queen Charlotte Islands, with an Alaskan variant of Northern at Hydaburg and Ketchikan.

Published in two volumes, this is the definitive dictionary of Haida. It provides full coverage of the vocabulary, including variant forms, word class, and examples of usage, all by dialect; there are also explanations of word history and derivation. A series of appendices offer detailed information on phonology, semantics of verbs, meanings of classifiers, numbers and kin terms. An English-to-Haida index with about 7,000 items gives the dictionary user a ready tool for finding specific Haida words with reference to the full dictionary entries.

Serious sustained study of Haida began in the 1880s with Anglican missionary publications, mostly translations of religious material. Prominent linguists Franz Boas, John Swanton, Edward Sapir and Emile Benveniste added significantly to the body of scholarship on the language. Assertions by some linguists that Haida is part of the same language family as Athabascan-Eyak and Tlingit remain a source of controversy among language experts.

The modern period of Haida linguistics began in 1972, including the work of Jeff Leer with Erma Lawrence. John Enrico arrived in the Queen Charlottes in 1975 and immediately immersed himself in the language, living in the household of Masset matriarch Florence Davidson. His published documentation of the language includes works on phonology, syntax and songs, and now finally this dictionary. Enrico, as a result of his decades of study, has made a major contribution to the field of Haida linguistics.

The Haida nation may have numbered well over 10,000 at the time of first European contact in 1774. Today, of a total Haida population of about 2,200 in Canada and Alaska, perhaps 40 fluent speakers of the language are still living.

The "Haida Dictionary" will be a valuable resource for language teachers and learners. It is a master reference from which academic linguists may further examine the relationship of Haida to other language families, and educators may develop teaching materials for classrooms at every level. UAF professor emeritus of linguistics Michael Krauss concluded in his foreword that even though this dictionary by itself cannot keep Haida alive as a spoken language, "We can all now breathe a sigh of relief and gratitude to John Enrico that he has provided Haida with the best record that any Native American language can have for future generations."



"Haida Dictionary" - $279 cloth; ISBN 1-55500-087-8; 2 vols., 8 12 x 11, lx + 2126 pp.


Source of News:

University of Alaska Fairbanks

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