Reference Books

A CONCISE DICTIONARY OF MINNESOTA OJIBWE by John D. Nichols and Earl Nyholm. University of Minnesota Press, 111 Third Avenue South, Suite 290, Minneapolis, MN 55401-2520, (800) 388-3863, FAX: (612) 626-7313. Orders for University of Minnesota Press books may be placed via Internet e-mail at . 1995, llustrat- ed. 316 pp., $9.95 paper. 0-8166-2428-3

Ojibwe is spoken by the Anishinabe (also known as Chippewa) of the upper Midwest and central and eastern Canada. In this volume (an expanded and revised version of "Ojibwewi-Ikidowinan: An Ojibwe Word Resource Book" published in 1979), more than 7,000 words of Minnesota Ojibwe, a local dialect spoken in central and northern Minnesota, are presented in both Ojibwe-English and English-Ojibwe formats, in a standardized orthography. This is an interim publication (a reference dictionary with more than 25,000 words is being prepared), of use to all who wish to become conversant in Anishinaabemowin, and the price listed above is not a typographical error. Grade: A. Reviewed by Steve Brock

A second Look: Actually, the Mille Lacs tribe, who financed the publication, and whose members -- especially elder Maude Kegg -- contributed so much of the info, maintain a computrized database of more than 25,000 words. Th project has been gathering words since publishing th smaller An Ojibwe Resourc Word Book in 1979. Thew bit database is being used to compile a much bigger refernce dictionary. There are only 5,000 words in the concise dictionary, but they have been chosen quite wisely. As the editors point out, because of the structure of Ojibwe, the number of words from any stem can ve very large. Just the inflcted forms of ganawaabam- ("looks at someone") numbers over a thousand inflected forms -- many of which don't seem to resemble or be spelled in any recognizably similar way. Since Anishinaabemowin is an agglutinative language, still more words are made by combining fragments of stems, and those may not be easy to recogniz either. Thus although this dictionary is an essential tool for students of the language, it is quite hopeless to try to use it until you have mastered some grammar, and gained a feeling for how it works. I wish that the authors had placd in the preface sample conjugations of all the different verb types, for instance, and had coded their ntries for verb stems with that info also. I don't think you'll get too far self-teaching yourself a language so different from European forms, but if you wish to try there are some teaching books and tapes in the Audio Visual section here. The concise word book is recommended for all students and all teachers of Anishinaabemowin. Here's hoping an equally good grammar will be forthcoming, and that the reference dictionary will also be subsidized. I think many schools, teachers, and individuals would also be interested in buying the database file in some common format for both Macs and PC's, such as Filemaker.

Something quite significant about this handy, lightweight little word-book: the price. This is one of the greatest bargains around if you have an intrest in th language, and despite the fact of its limitations, is likely to make it the reference for th language -- thus a kind of coup for the "Mille Lacs version". A noteworthy feature is that the Mille Lacs tribe and the tribal casino financed not only th preparation -- an exhausting task involving a database that corss-rferences the Anishinaabemowin and English sections word by word but also paid to subsidize its publication. Good work! A fine reference. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Monday, June 24, 1996 - 12:22:18 PM