from the PALI edition of the Marshallese-English Dictionary
1. How the Dictionary Was Compiled
The project that has resulted in the publication of this edition of a Marshallese dictionary extended over the better part of ten years. It began in 1966 when the first and second authors, Abo and Bender, compiled the 2,000-word glossary that appeared in Spoken Marshallese (Bender 1969), a set of language lessons designed primarily to assist Peace Corps volunteers in learning the language. In preparing that glossary, Abo began by consulting what was known as the original Navy dictionary (Carr and Elbert 1945) and the later version of it (Feeney 1952). A card file was established that included all the words of that dictionary that were known by Abo. The words were written in a phonemic transcription (see section 4 below) that could later be converted to a standard spelling when such had been determined. English translations were included on each card, and grammatical information and example sentences were also included on many of the cards. Various forms of a word and closely related words were all written on the same card. Abo read through the Marshallese translation of the Bible and other materials written in Marshallese in search of additional words to be added to the file. The total number of cards in the file was about 4,500 at this point.
DeBrum, the fourth author, who had helped write the early Peace Corps lessons in 1966, joined the dictionary project in 1967 and added hundreds of additional words that occurred to him. He also worked intensively on the scientific identification of the many fish names in the file. The entire file was placed in computer storage at the University of Hawai‘i in 1968 because of the many ways in which the computer could be of help to the project. The computer was able to alphabetize the entries automatically, and to print out new listings of the file without errors. It received new words as they were found and put them in their proper alphabetic places. Its greatest service was the automatic compilation of an English finder list (see section 8 below) from the English translations that were given for each word. By October 1968, the computer file contained almost 5,000 Marshallese entries and a total of over 6,000 English words in their finder list. The 2,000 most useful Marshallese words were selected for incorporation in the Spoken Marshallese glossary, and their accompanying finder list contained over 3,000 English words.
The third author, Capelle, joined the project later that year and added more words that had been overlooked by the previous authors. Many of these were discovered by comparing the English finder list with the Thorndike-Barnhart Junior Dictionary. When a word from this English dictionary was not found in the finder list, it was either added as another possible translation for a Marshallese entry already in the file, or it reminded the third author of a Marshallese word to be added to the file. By the middle of 1973, there were 6,200 Marshallese entries, and 11,000 English words in the finder list. (There are more English words than Marshallese entries because one Marshallese entry usually contains a number of different but related words.) Later in 1973, more than 3,000 names of places in the Marshall Islands collected by Bender (1963b) were included, and other words continued to be added up until the time of publication to increase the number of Marshallese entries to the present total of almost 12,000.
The name of yet a fifth coauthor could have appeared on this dictionary with considerable justification. The late Johnny Silk spent many of his free hours during 1958 and 1959 helping Bender analyze the place names. This analysis helped uncover hundreds of older words that are contained in the place names. (Many of these appear in the dictionary labeled as "archaic.") His knowledge of the geography and lore of the islands was boundless, and has helped to enrich this work in many ways.
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