One Community's Post-Conflict Response to a Dictionary Project

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ISSN: 1934-5275

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Hill, Deborah
Solomon Islands, dictionaries, lexicography, Melanesian languages, language maintenance, culture maintenance
article description
It may seem that dictionaries would be a low priority for communities struggling with recent ethnic conflict, rapid social change, and economic hardship. However, the potential for dictionaries to have a positive effect on a community’s self-esteem has been noted for Melanesian societies. Furthermore, the potential for managing social change may also underpin a dictionary project. This paper describes the initial response to a dictionary project in a Solomon Islands community and how the community decided to combine lexicography with the revitalization of traditional crafts. The community’s decision to link the revitalization of cultural skills to the dictionary project moved the project firmly into the community’s hands and allowed them to conceive of a future that promotes the maintenance of language and culture. While there is no certainty about the success of the community’s plans, the energy and optimism evident in these initial stages of the project support the general assertion that dictionaries can play a role in increasing the self-esteem of a language community. Within the context of a new, national-level languages policy, the dictionary project is also expected to play a concrete role in language and culture maintenance. The factors impacting self-esteem and language maintenance also have implications for other small language communities.

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