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Äiwoo Dictionary

Today on the ELAR blog, we are featuring the Äiwoo dictionary created by ELDP grantee Åshild Næss. Äiwoo is also known as Reefs or Ayiwo. It belongs to the Reefs-Santa Cruz language group, which in turn is classified as belonging to the Temotu first-order subgroup of Oceanic. The language has a total of 7-8,000 speakers, of which 5-6,000 live in the Reef Islands, the rest on Santa Cruz or in other locations in Solomon Islands. While it is a relatively large language for the region, the incursion of Solomon Islands Pijin is leading to increasing domain loss and high rates of code-switching. On the dictionary, Åshild shared:

A number of copies were printed and have been sent down to the community, although I hear there are some problems with getting the post office to release them- I am currently looking into that.

Åshild working on the dictionary in 2005, with Patrick Bwakolo and Brown Gudena from Nenubo village in the Reefs. The other two member of the 2005 dictionary group, Patrick Gudena and Geoffrey Vili, continued to work with Åshild on the dictionary when she returned for the ELDP project in 2015.

I started working on the dictionary originally in 2005, but then when my postdoc ended I had to put it aside for a good while. When I did a brief scoping trip in 2012, to find out if people would be interested in me coming back to do more work, the output that most people seemed to want was a dictionary, so I put that into my funding application for an ELDP Small Grant. In the field, it turned out to be quite challenging working in parallel on recording and annotating documentation materials and working on the dictionary, as both are demanding and time-consuming, but I struck a balance that worked reasonably well and was very happy in the end to get enough material together for a publishable dictionary. A great advantage was being able to continue working with a couple of the same people who had helped me first time round in 2005, and so had previous experience with the type of work involved. It was also a lot of fun, as working with people you have known for a long time often is – a fair amount of good-natured joking going round! The consultants, Geoffrey Vili and Patrick Gudena, would also bring samples of leaves and shells to explain the meanings of various words, and to my surprise I was able to find English names for a fair number of the shells by image-googling once I got home!

I started out working on Toolbox and when I picked up the project again exported my Toolbox database into FLEx, which worked very well – although most of the work in the field had to be done with pen and paper, because trying to work on a laptop at a too-low table with plastic camping chairs made my shoulders flare up with RSI … which in turn meant extra work when I got home and had to input all the handwritten stuff into the computer! So a pretty long and winding road, and no doubt there are plenty of improvements that could be made, but I’m quite pleased with the outcome all the same. I really hope the community will be as well.

Walking from one village to the next to record documentary materials. The project covered a total of eight villages.

The Äiwoo dictionary was published with Asia-Pacific Linguistics as online open access and is free to download here.

Geoffrey and Patrick, the main consultants for the dictionary in 2015, paddle home after the very last work session.
Åshild during a preparatory trip in 2012, when she went round the villages to ask about the interest in a documentation project and what kinds of materials people most wanted to see produced. The picture is taken at a closing ceremony at the local high school, where Åshild was given the opportunity to speak and explain about her work to the audience.

To learn more about Äiwoo, visit Åshild’s deposit on the ELAR catalog, found here.

Post and photos by Åshild Næss 

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