Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Walter Roth museum gets Amerindian language dictionaries

Guyana (Stabroek News) - Dictionaries and other materials about several Amerindian languages were on Thursday presented to the Walter Roth Museum of Anthropology.

Director of Regional Health Services Dr Narine Singh presented the materials to museum Administrator Jenny Wishart in the presence of culture minister Dr Frank Anthony, the Government Information Agency (GINA) said in a press release. The project was funded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and was started three years ago by the Health Sector Development Unit (HSDU). It had been initiated during Dr Anthony’s tenure at the HSDU.

The books are titled Short Dictionary of the Warao Language, Twenty-eight lessons in Loko (Arawak), Arawak English Dictionary, Short Dictionary of the Warao Language of Guyana, and Scholars Dictionary and Grammar of the Wapishana language.

According to GINA Wishart explained that the books are not for sale but will be distributed to the Amerindian communities and will serve as motivation for them to continue speaking and developing their languages.

She said copies will be sent to St Cuthbert’s Mission, Region Four and Kumaka where efforts are already underway to educate the population about the Arawak language.

Explaining the origins of the project, Dr Anthony said it started with a US$600,000 grant from the IDB which supported his idea of developing culturally appropriate initiatives in Amerindian communities during an “access to health care” programme. He said although the materials will be helpful to Amerindian communities they will also be beneficial to other groups in society who also need to learn about the language of the indigenous peoples.

“We thought that this would help us to keep the languages alive and to get people to understand more about these languages. A number of children come to the Walter Roth Museum on Saturdays and we would use the occasion to teach them about Amerindian languages but if that can continue in various schools across the country we can help to keep the tradition alive,” he said.

Although the project was expected to be completed last year to coincide with the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) declaration of 2008 as the International Year of Languages, Anthony is nevertheless appreciative of the work done thus far.

Anthony said his ministry will be hosting a special lecture in June about the lost tribes of Guyana.

Source: Stabroek News

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