Converting docx to FLEx format for dictionaries

Following the previous blog post I had requests for more detail on how to convert a word-processor dictionary into the format needed to put the text into the software Fieldworks Language Explorer (FLEx). I’ll set out the steps below, but it does require some knowledge of regular expressions that I’ll explain as I go (you … Read more

What flows from ngaka-rna : how naming books spread a Dieri word

Coining a new name from a word taken from an Australian language often has complex implications, even if the naming agency is oblivious to them. When the name is for a place, a suburb or a street or a park, the official approval involves the relevant local government body. Two writers went into some of the issues a few years ago:

  • Tony Birch (2010 [1992]) sees the application of indigenous names to ‘houses, streets, suburbs and whole cities’ as ‘an exercise in cultural appropriation’. He draws a distinction between the restoration of indigenous placenames (such as Gariwerd ~ Grampians in western Victoria), and the fresh application to the built environment of a word imported from some Australian language.
  • Sam Furphy (2002) earlier discussed the role of what he dubbed ‘naming books’: popular twentieth century booklets of lists of ‘Aboriginal words’ such as Endacott (1923), Thorpe (1927), Kenyon (1930), Cooper (1952), which, for all the expressed good intentions of their compilers, have contributed to a homogenised perception of Australian languages: ‘The earliest popular naming books … make virtually no reference to the variety of languages spoken by the indigenous people of Australia, such that an uninformed reader could be forgiven for believing that there was only one Aboriginal language.’ (Furphy 2002:62) ‘Naming books simplify and romanticise Aboriginal words and remove them from their cultural and linguistic context.’ (Furphy 2002:68)

I’ve recently come upon an example which illustrates a combination of both concerns: one where official placenaming has drawn on the notorious naming booklets.

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Making old dictionaries new again

Today’s post is something of a recipe for making old dictionaries new again. I’ll explain how a 35 year old old, single-copy typewritten dictionary is living a new life as a digital database. The language of this dictionary is Kagate – A Tibeto-Burman language of the Central Bodic branch, spoken in Nepal. I met some … Read more