More Labrador in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English!

It has been quite a year here at the English Language Research Centre. Work has been progressing steadily on the Dictionary of Newfoundland English (DNE) Word-file Digitization Project; of the 72 drawers of word-files, we have 4 drawers in progress and then only two remaining to be digitized. There is still a lot of work to do in terms of editing all of the records with making sure they adhere to our digitization protocol but the end is in sight for the first phase of this major digitization effort. We are about to start a series on Twig dedicated to deciphering the handwriting on some of the DNE word-files. All of the files we have left are from the withdrawn portion of the collection and there is quite a lot of handwriting from the editors. We are hoping that Twig readers will be able to help us figure out some of the remaining queries, so stay tuned!

In addition to the DNE Word-file Digitization Project, we have also been working with the Newfoundland and Labrador English School District (NLESD) and Department of Education to design four lesson plans for the Grade 8 Social Studies curriculum based on the Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador (www.dialectatlas.mun.ca). These lesson plans will be available soon through the Dialect Atlas and the NLESD. If you are interested in learning more about them, please email elrc@mun.ca. or dialectatlas@mun.ca.  Work continues on two of the ELRC’s other major projects, Voices of Newfoundland and Labrador (intended to be a sibling site to the Dialect Atlas) and the Digitized Corpus of St. John’s English. Twig has taken a back seat while we’ve been hard at work on these projects and more.

In April 2014, we published the 25th issue of Regional Language Studies…Newfoundland (RLS) dedicated to Labrador. You can check out the special issue on the RLS website: http://journals.library.mun.ca/ojs/index.php/RLS/index

It seems fitting, then, to also write a blog dedicated to Labrador in the DNE as well to showcase some of the words that didn’t make the journal article and to share some of the word-files on the subject. If you know of Labrador words that should be represented in the DNE or the Dialect Atlas, send us a comment or go over to the Dialect Atlas site and comment on any item or fill out a contribution form and help preserve local language!

One of the main subject areas not covered in RLS that appears throughout the DNE is animal and plant species of Labrador. Stone chat, the northern slate-coloured junco, is a species of bird common in Labrador. Stearins are common in Labrador in the summer.

‘Stone chat’ word file. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Word-file for ‘stearin’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

There are many fish and fishery terms in the DNE and some have specific importance in Labrador. Cushy is a Labrador term for a small fish. From the withdrawn files, here is a slip for namaycush, withdrawn because the term is used outside the province.

Word-file for ‘namaycush’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Slink does appear in the DNE but the particular word-file below comes from the not cited part of the collection. Have you heard this term for a low-grade salmon with white flesh?

Word-file for ‘slink’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Did you know that all caplin are not created equal? Although it does not appear as its own headword in the DNE, outside caplin are mentioned under bay caplin. According to the sole citation, outside caplin are bigger than bay caplin (the ones commonly found around the shores of Newfoundland) and have blue-backed and appear with the salmon in the spring. These outside caplin are found as far north as Lake Melville area in Labrador. The only DNE citation comes from Inuit Land Use (1977). This publication also mentions outside salmon, seen in the image below.

Word-file for ‘outside salmon’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

In the fishery, it was possible at one point to discern the Labradormen from the Bankers. Labradormen had trap-boats, white-painted boats with motors on the sides of their vessels, whereas the Bankers tended to have a dory.

Word-file for ‘trap-boat’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Many are fascinated by the sewing methods of the North that involve chewing hides or other materials to soften and stretch them. Sewing thread can be made of deer tendons, called ‘ivulu’ by the Eskimo of southern Labrador but wisen of seal, ‘i’giak’ can be used in its place, though it is not as strong.

‘Wisen’ word-file. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Moving onto berries and plant species, one term, wine berry, has only one citation in the DNE supplement. It is also known as the sand berry. The more common name is ‘crowberry’. On the file below, it is cited as coming from Labrador. Although reference to Labrador does not appear in the DNE, at one point, wine berries were found in Labrador.

‘Sand berry’ word-file. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

As one might imagine, medicine, particularly traditional remedies are represented in the word-file collection. Here is a word-file that describes a few of those found in Labrador.

Word-file for ‘Mission Eskimo’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Sweat hole is another term that has only citations associated with Labrador supporting it.

Word-file for ‘sweat hole’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Finally, there are words that are used in Labrador English that have a different sense than Newfoundland English. The word story has special significance in Labrador as evidenced by the notes on the word-file below.

Word-file for ‘story’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Of course Labrador has very different dialects of English from Newfoundland so one would expect to find differences in different parts of the language. The Dialect Atlas of Newfoundland and Labrador shows just that with some terms, like mosquito hawk for dragon fly, only being found in Labrador. Terms of address or titles can be different as well. The word-file below illustrates a preference for Uncle and Aunt over Mr. and Mrs. in at least this area of Labrador. These terms of address are also found in areas of Newfoundland settled by the southwest English.

Word-file for ‘uncle’. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

Local language is known for its pronoun use. Here’s a note from the files on the use of the masculine pronoun he as applied in Labrador to inanimate objects. Pronouns are used similarly in Newfoundland English.

Word-file for ‘Labradorian’ with examples of local pronoun use. Reproduced by permission of the English Language Research Centre, Memorial University, St. John’s, NL.

If you have contributions, please leave them in the comments section or send in your submissions via the Dialect Atlas. Labrador English is an important dialect that we’re only starting to really study. Your input can help the documentation and preservation of a unique and underrepresented English dialect.

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4 Responses to More Labrador in the Dictionary of Newfoundland English!

  1. Janet Kelly says:

    Hi Suzanne, do you have volunteer opportunities for working on these files? I notice you mention “deciphering he handwriting”. I am usually very good at that! Please let me know.

    Janet Kelly

    • suzannepower says:

      Hi Janet, we do have volunteer opportunities at the English Language Research Centre. I’m not sure if the email address showing is actually a real address so please send me an email at elrc@mun.ca and we can go from there. We will definitely need some help with this task as Dr. Kirwin is no longer able to help us with the handwriting queries. Quite fascinating stuff all the same. A lot of the handwriting comes from notes directly from the editors of the DNE, usually communicating why a particular item has been withdrawn. Please do contact me and we can set something up.
      Thanks,

      Suzanne

  2. jenn says:

    Great post, Suzanne! Yay for some extra focus on Labrador. 🙂

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