Yanatame Nisa Luhchi Yoroni: Lexicography, Language Revitalization, and the new Tunica Dictionary
Dictionaries play a unique role in the popular imagination of modern American English speakers; monolingual English dictionaries have the final say in language and are the gatekeepers between “good” language and “bad.” The supreme authority of dictionaries can lend authenticity and legitimacy to Native American languages undergoing revitalization. But revitalization dictionaries are more than just an authority on the language. Revitalization dictionaries can expand language use, legitimize neologisms and chronicle cultural practices associated with certain terminology. However, dictionaries do not appear from thin air, and many decisions made during compilation in regards to everything from content to format have lasting impact on the effectiveness and usability of a revitalization dictionary and on the way in which the language in general is used or valued. This dissertation describes the process of compiling the New Tunica Dictionary. It looks at the social legacy of dictionaries in English-speaking society and discusses the ways in which the authority ascribed to dictionaries is leveraged in Tunica language revitalization. The challenges inherent in revitalizing and codifying a once-sleeping language are explored, such as how ambiguities of meaning were resolved when choosing dictionary headwords. It outlines basic Tunica grammar and the ways in which the Tunica Language Project leverages grammar rules in the creation of neologisms for inclusion in the dictionary. It describes the lexicographic underpinnings of the New Tunica Dictionary and details the technical and practical decisions the author undertook as the primary lexicographer. Sample pages of the print and app versions of the dictionary are given. Finally, as a work grounded in community-engaged scholarship, this dissertation discusses the ways in which the process of dictionary compilation encouraged learner excitement and involvement in the overall revitalization project. The dictionary produced in conjunction with this dissertation is intended to be a resource for scholars, language activists, and Tunica language learners for generations to come.