A Life in Dictionaries
It seems I've been working with or on dictionaries for most of my life. First using them in my studies, then as I began working on African languages which have been little-studied I felt it was important to make an careful study of the vocabulary as well as working on the sounds and the grammar. When I first went to Ghana to study the Bisa language [the speakers now prefer the spelling Bissa] for a college project I brought back a card-file dictionary which was further developed by using a computer-generated concordance of my corpus of Bisa texts, a fairly new departure at the time (1969).
The story will unfold here. There is already a map to show where we lived for 30 years working on the Mampruli language, in the village of Gbeduuri, and a gallery of pictures below. The priority was in developing the Mampruli language and helping the Mamprusi Christians to translate the Bible into their own language. As a member of the Ghana Institute of Linguistics, Literacy and Bible Translation I was also called upon to help colleagues with their own linguistic and anthropological publications.
Since the mid-1970s I have been engaged, in addition to my other responsibilities, in trying to put together a comparative dictionary of the Gur languages of the Western Oti/Volta (W.O/V) subgroup. Some account of this project can be seen in my article of 1993 "From Wordlist to Comparative Lexicography" which can be downloaded from the Lexinotes page here.
In 1974 we moved to the village of Gbeduuri
indicated with an arrow on the map above.
In addition with keeping up my dictionary of Mampruli I tried whenever some time could be found to collect all the data that was published or archived on these languages, and - partly in connection with surveys for GILLBT to determine the needs of the languages of the area for language-development, literacy and Bible translation - visit the areas or meet speakers of some of the lesser-known languages and record some basic vocabulary.