Osage, a language of the Dhegiha branch of the Siouan family,
was spoken until recently by tribal members in northeastern
Oklahoma. No longer in daily use, it was in danger of extinction.
Carolyn Quintero, a linguist raised in Osage County, worked with
the last few fluent speakers of the language to preserve the sounds
and textures of their complex speech. Compiled after painstaking
work with these tribal elders, her Osage Dictionary is the
definitive lexicon for that tongue, enhanced with thousands of
phrases and sentences that illustrate fine points of usage.
Drawing on a collaboration with the late Robert Bristow, an
amateur linguist who had compiled copious notes toward an Osage
dictionary, Quintero interviewed more than a dozen Osage speakers
to explore crucial aspects of their language. She has also
integrated into the dictionary explications of relevant material
from Francis La Flesche's 1932 dictionary of Osage and from James
Owen Dorsey's nineteenth-century research.
The dictionary includes over three thousand main entries, each
of which gives full grammatical information and notes variant
pronunciations. The entries also provide English translations of
copious examples of usage. The book's introductory sections provide
a description of syntax, morphology, and phonology. Employing a
simple Siouan adaptation of the International Phonetic Alphabet,
Quintero's transcription of Osage sounds is more precise and
accurate than that in any previous work on the language. An index
provides Osage equivalents for more than five thousand English
words and expressions, facilitating quick reference.
As the most comprehensive lexical record of the Osage
language--the only one that will ever be possible, given the loss
of fluent speakers--Quintero's dictionary is indispensable not only
for linguists but also for Osage students seeking to relearn their
language. It is a living monument to the elegance and complexity of
a language nearly lost to time and stands as a major contribution
to the study of North American Indians.
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