Papers in Australian linguistics No. 15 : Australian Aboriginal lexicography




Austin, P.
McConvell, P.
Day, R.
Black, P.
Zorc, R.
Schebeck, B.
McKay, G.
Hale, K.
Laughren, M.
Nash, D.

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Dept. of Linguistics, Research School of Pacific Studies, The Australian National University


The past f if teen years have seen major developments in the description and analysis of Australian Aboriginal languages. A large number of descriptive grammars have been published (see Walsh (1979: 8-10) for a partial listing) and several theoretical topics have been discussed in detail, for example , casemarking and ergativity (see papers in Topic B and Topic D of Dixon 1 976, Dixon 1979, Blake 1977 and Silverstein 1981). In addition, some excellent surveys of the f ield have appeared: Blake 1 981, Dixon 1 980 , Yallop 1 982. During this time , lexicography and dictionary production has lagged behind the s tudy of phonological and grammatical issues. In a seminal article on lexicography in Aboriginal Australia , O'Grady 197 1 discussed and evaluated work completed and research in progress for the period 1 780 to 1 968. In an appendix, he gave a summary listing of forty-nine unpublished dictionaries representing thirty-nine different Austral ian languages . A mere four of those have been published in the intervening fif teen years. Admittedly , several vocabularies and d ictionaries not known to O' Grady have appeared recently (for example Coate and Elkin 1975, Hansen and Hansen 1977 and Heath 1982 ) , however , the number of published dictionaries is small compared to the number of available grammars . In addition, no dictionary of an Aus tralian language published to date could be describ�d as truly comprehensive (cf. La ughlin 1 975 or Young and Morgan 1980 for indigenous languages elsewhere in the world ). This situation is set to change in the near future. There are a number of projects currently underway which will see the preparation and publication over the next few years of large comprehensive bilingual dictionaries for a range of Australian languages. Several scholars working on dictionary projects were present at the annual conference of the Australian Linguistic Society held at the Australian National University in 1981. In informal discussions I raised the idea of our getting together to exchange ideas and share experiences . To this end I convened a workshop on Australian Aboriginal lexicography which was held in conjuction with the ALS annual conference at the Univers ity of Sydney in August 1982. Eight papers were presented at the workshop which was attended by thirty-five linguists , many of whom had begun or were about to begin dictionary preparation. All the presentations , with the exception of one by R.M.W. Dixon on the Dyirbal dictionary-thesaurus , were written up and appear in this volume.







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