First ever indigenous anatomy dictionary bridging gaps.


Hello all, April here 🙂

I found this looking online for a radio program a friend told me about (I believe has Susan W posted it on here), and it made me think of topic 4 on dictionaries and vocabularies, I actually remembered the missionaries like Threlkeld in the textbook making word lists with a pronunciation key so as to preach more effectively (after all, how effective can any communication be if you don’t share language or the concepts that are the focus of the discourse?) to their non-English speaking indigenous counterparts, though there is no agenda in this recent creation other than improving communication in indigenous health care. As opposed to a word list, McLellan has compiled an anatomy dictionary in Djambarrpuyŋu, very commonly used in the Yolŋu area in the NT. What’s particularly interesting is that, as a dictionary of anatomy, the register in English would be lousy with jargon and technical terms, so words must have been found and/or adapted to describe phenomena that mightn’t have previously been included by the language. And better still, when making the dictionary, there was actually communication between native speakers in the area and the people working on it, so that the definitions given can be understood on a local, cultural level, as it reflects the thinking of the people it’s written for – for example, when asked what DNA was, the response was “like laws in the body” – and this was used in the definition. It also relates some previously unheard of (or simply unseen) things to existing ones by using related word classes and real life situations, which I think English dictionaries could learn from. In the transcript problems interpreters face in health care is brought up, and it reminded a lot of the problems faced by aboriginal language speakers in legal situations because of a similar communication barrier.

So, here’s a link to the transcript –

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One Response to First ever indigenous anatomy dictionary bridging gaps.

  1. Pingback: Yolngu Language Learning Resources | Australian Aboriginal Languages Student Blog

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