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Klallam Dictionary

By Timothy Montler

October 3, 2014

Review By Suzanne Urbanczyk

Timothy Montler’s Klallam Dictionary is much more than a listing of words in Klallam and English. It is a beautiful, solid volume of information that has potential to be useful to a wide range of people. Looking through it is fun. It provides detailed information about the meaning and structure of words, how sentences are formed, and the culture from which this Salish language has risen — it is the language of the Klallam people of Becher Bay on Vancouver Island and Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula. The structure of the dictionary includes eighteen pages of front matter, in addition to the 983 pages that make up the bulk of the dictionary.

The front matter contains a breadth of information about how the dictionary came about and the speakers who shared their knowledge, and ranges from the earliest documented records of the language to the present day speakers. Lineages of the speakers are provided where known, making it useful for historians. After presenting information about “Contributing Native-Speaking Elders” (viii-x) comes “A Brief Introduction to the Klallam Language” (x-xiii). In this section, Montler describes the sounds of the language, word structure, and the basics of how sentences are constructed. While this is useful in terms of getting a sense of how the language is structured, it seems directed to those who have some familiarity with Salish language structures. It includes a few example words to illustrate the sounds, as well as a few technical terms such as reduplication, infixation, and metathesis.

An essential section to read prior to delving into the dictionary itself is the section on the “Organization of Entries” (xiv-xvi). Entries in the Klallam Dictionary contain a vast amount of information about each word, such as its root, the source elders’ initials, a grammatical analysis, illustrative example sentences, acceptable variant forms, and in some cases special cultural notes and reference to other entries. A detailed List of Abbreviations and References (xvi-xvii) concludes the front matter.

The Klallam-English dictionary is 543 pages long with Klallam words arranged in alphabetical order and with a wealth of information about word structure in addition to English translations of Klallam concepts. An English-Klallam index (545-751) follows the dictionary, with an alphabetical listing of English concepts and a range of Klallam forms that express those meanings. An interesting feature of Klallam is that some concepts expressed in English with a word can be expressed by what are referred to as lexical suffixes. For example, the concept “abdomen” is expressed by a word on its own (ƛ̓ac) and by two different lexical suffixes (=iqən and =ankʷs).

If the reader wants to learn more about the Klallam forms, they can look up entries for the words in the Klallam-English section or the Klallam Affix Index (753-814). There are three categories of affixes in Klallam — prefixes, suffixes, and lexical suffixes — which are each given a separate sub-section in the affix index. This type of organization is potentially quite informative for a number of users. It allows linguists interested in word structure to find all instances of a word with a particular type of affix. In some cases, the entries are quite extensive. For example the entry for –t1 (“basic transitivizer”) has over 2,000 words listed that are formed with that suffix.

The final section of the dictionary contains the Klallam Root Index (815-983), listing all the words for each root in the language. This can be useful for linguists and language learners interested in knowing how concepts are related in Klallam. For example the entry for √qway (“talk”) contains thirty-nine entries, with meanings ranging from “talking,” “language,” “telephone,” “manage to talk,” and “mind.”

In sum, the Klallam Dictionary goes beyond listing words and includes a wide range of information related to word structure. This book will be an excellent resource for a range of readers, from historians and language learners and teachers to linguists.

Klallam Dictionary
Timothy Montler
Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2012. 1008 pp. $85.00 cloth