Lexicography and indigenous languages

By November 17, 2016,
AuthorOle Henrik Magga
TitleLexicography and indigenous languages
AbstractIndigenous languages are disappearing rapidly. The UN system and especially UNESCO supports the work with indigenous languages for several reasons. Language death is not a loss only for indigenous peoples themselves, but for all humanity because the loss of languages affects diversity, and this diversity is essential for our survival. Lexicographical work is essential for indigenous languages, particularly pursuant to their use in education and society at large. All Saami languages are endangered languages. The lexicon of almost all the ten Saami languages has been investigated quite thoroughly after the first dictionary was printed in 1738. Konrad Nielsen’s dictionary published in 1932-62 is the masterpiece within Saami lexicography. Dictionaries have also been compiled for educational purposes and within specialized fields, like anatomy and mathematics. Embedded in the vocabulary of the Saami languages is knowledge from the past over 6000 years back in time and the loanwords give much information about contacts with Balts, Germanic peoples, Scandinavians and Russians. Saami languages have a rich descriptive terminology and terminology on nature and animals, especially on reindeer. Saami is probably the richest language on snow terminology in the world. For the past 40 years substantial resources have been allocated, especially in Norway, to the education of teachers and printing of books, including dictionaries, in Saami. This would not have been possible without the lexicographical research that had been carried out at the universities throughout a number of years. Dictionaries and grammar books are the cornerstones of language teaching and of language use, as they provide documentation and organization of information about language structure and the units of language.
SessionPlenary lectures
Keywordsindigenous languages, Saami, lexicography, language planning, knowledge in language
author = {Ole Henrik Magga},
title = {Lexicography and indigenous languages},
pages = {3--18},
booktitle = {Proceedings of the 15th EURALEX International Congress},
year = {2012},
month = {aug},
date = {7-11},
address = {Oslo,Norway},
editor = {Ruth Vatvedt Fjeld and Julie Matilde Torjusen},
publisher = {Department of Linguistics and Scandinavian Studies, University of Oslo},
isbn = {978-82-303-2228-4},