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. 

From 1982 I began to use the burgeoning collection of little boxes with 2x3" dictionary slips of the different languages to produce 'Lexinotes'  –  comparative studies of semantic areas where the vocabulary presented problems: updated versions of most of those which actually go completed are available on this website. 

In the 1990s I was fairly busy with 

In 2004, after a hectic few years preparing the Mampruli New Testament for publication, helping with the revitalisation of the Kusaal Old Testament translation, and my annus horribilis when the deaths of both my parents and the birth of my brain-damaged granddaughter necessitated three unscheduled trips to U.K., I was preparing for a move from Gbeduuri to somewhere more central in Ghana as I was increasingly being called upon to consult on translations in the Volta Region in the southeast as well as in the Northern and Upper East Regions.

While living temporarily in Tamale during the transfer to Tano Buase near Techiman, I received a visit from 'Father Kofi' Ron Lange bearing a copy of the new 'TOOLBOX' version of the database software I had been using and also urging me to take an interest in the Dagbani whole Bible translation which was nearing completion.  

 
 

 

Sunrise ... sunset ...

Sunrise ... sunset ...

THE END

Mango and Monkey

Mango and Monkey

Our village house in Gbeduuri, N/R, Ghana 1974-2004

Gbeduuri --  early days.

Gbeduuri -- early days.

Our traditional house fairly soon after we built it. In those days we lived in black and white.

Flame-tree in bloom

Flame-tree in bloom

View approaching the house from the driveway.

Storm coming

Storm coming

The mango tree had gone, but the guava was very productive.

Third courtyard entrance.

Third courtyard entrance.

Built in 1977 for Tony Pope, but at the time of this photograph it was Gillian's yard.

Lunch on the veranda

Lunch on the veranda

Tony and Di near the end of our time at Gbeduuri (2002): (photo - Andy Ring)

Gbeduuri ruins 2017.

Gbeduuri ruins 2017.

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And the story goes on ...