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Natives, educators hail release of dictionary

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.nugget.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1383933 Natives, educators hail release of dictionary Posted By JOHN LEWANDOWSKI, THE CANADIAN PRESS Posted 18 hours
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14 3:19 PM
      http://www.nugget.ca/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=1383933

      Natives, educators hail release of dictionary

      Posted By JOHN LEWANDOWSKI, THE CANADIAN PRESS
      Posted 18 hours ago

      The irony has never been lost on Imelda Perley.

      The only time she would usually hear fluent Maliseet, the language with
      which she grew up on New Brunswick's Tobique reserve, was during funerals.

      It's almost as if it was a sign from the ancestors that if this is the only
      place that we're going to be using our language and people are dying, then
      our language is also dying," says Perley, who along with her husband David,
      teaches at the Mi'kmaq- Maliseet Institute at the University of New
      Brunswick.

      Perley estimates that less than two per cent of the 5,000 Passamaquoddy-
      Maliseet people living in a handful of communities in New Brunswick, Maine
      and Quebec are fluent in their native tongue.

      But her ongoing struggle to preserve and restore the language to common use
      has been given a major boost with the release of a Passamaquoddy- Maliseet
      dictionary.

      Authored by David A. Francis, a former tribal governor from Maine, and
      Robert A. Leavitt, a former member of UNB's faculty of education, the book
      represents 30 years of collaboration between native speakers, educators and
      linguists.

      Its more than 18,000 entries contain remarkable detail about the physical,
      spiritual, social and emotional environments of the Passamaquoddy and
      Maliseet peoples, who called most of the region home before the arrival of
      European settlers.

      The entries in the hardcover book, which weighs more than three kilograms,
      are enhanced with example sentences from everyday conversations and from
      oral tradition.

      Leavitt's academic interest -- he is not native -- goes back to the 1970s
      when he was helping with bilingual curriculum development in Maine's Indian
      Township, a Passamaquoddy community.

      The director of the program, Wayne Newell, who was Passamaquoddy, conceived
      of the idea of a dictionary. He set up the format and made up the first
      compilation, about 3,000 words, between 1976 and 1979," he says.

      Leavitt says both he and Francis, who is now 92, had been contributing to
      the project but eventually took it over in the early 1980s. They were able
      to utilize government grants and hire Margaret Apt, a community research
      co-ordinator, to help compile stories and words.
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