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Melpa – German – English Dictionary

The Melpa – German – English dictionary is a significant set of the language project materials, built out of vocabulary provided by Rev. Juergen Trantow and incorporating earlier work by Hermann Strauss.  Translations are provided in both German and English, so as to be of use to speakers of either language who wish to get a sense of the Melpa terms, and the spellings adopted are largely those that were developed over time by Strauss.  We have provided a considerable amount of contextualizing discussion in introducing parts to the actual dictionary.  Dictionary work of this kind requires much attention to detail, and the product has been in the making for many years.  Representing a considerable time depth in its collection of materials, then, this dictionary can act as a rich thesaurus of cultural practices as well as, in places, of the creative ways in which Lutheran missionaries (primarily Rev. Strauss) themselves adapted Melpa expressions for their own theological purposes from the 1930s onward.

Many further detailed materials exist in our own note cards and textual records.  The larger language project may also include grammatical and morphological data, folk-narrative texts, and audio materials from different time periods, including songs, dances, and speeches made on ceremonial occasions, funerals, and disputes, as time and resources permit.   

Melpa is a thriving language spoken by over 100,000 people in the Western Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea.  Many of its younger generations of speakers have been extensively schooled in English and / or the lingua franca Tok Pisin, and expressions from these two languages have over time entered the Melpa vocabulary corpus.  As a result some of the earlier language forms, so eloquently informed with historical meanings and intricacies of signification, may lie beyond the experience of these speakers.  While the language as such is not at risk of disappearing, then, some of its vocabulary has become recondite, and our present project makes these expressions accessible to contemporary speakers.


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The Pamela J. Stewart and Andrew J. Strathern Archive, Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh, Digital Research Library,

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