By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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Timothy Montler, a linguist from the University of North Texas, will sign copies of the 1,008-page dictionary from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center, 401 E. First St.
The free book-signing is sponsored by the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe to celebrate the December release of the dictionary.
More than 100 elders of the Lower Elwha Klallam, Jamestown S'Klallam, Port Gamble Klallam and the Scia'new First Nation of Vancouver Island, also known as the Becher Bay Klallam, helped Montler, who has been involved in documenting the spoken Klallam language since 1978.
They developed a Klallam alphabet that includes several sounds or sound combinations that don't exist in the English language.
Montler began his study of Klallam language as a student of linguistics experts Terry and Larry Thompson. In 1991, he began his own effort to document the language.
He recorded how each elder pronounced each word and how it is used grammatically.
Adeline Smith of the Lower Elwha is the single largest contributor to the dictionary, with 12,000 individual words or sentences, according to the dictionary's list of contributors.
She also helped Montler over months of transcribing recordings made in 1942 by linguist/ethnologist John Peabody Harrington, who died in 1961.
Smith and fellow Lower Elwha elder Bea Charles spoke the language only until they were 5 years old, when they were sent to school and learned English, said Brenda Francis-Thomas, tribal spokeswoman.
Other elders, including Ed Sampson Sr. and Tom Charles of the Becher Bay Klallam, spoke the language longer and assisted with more mature aspects of the language, Francis-Thomas said.
Dictionaries are free to Lower Elwha tribal members, and many were distributed at a tribal holiday party in December, Francis-Thomas said.
The tribe purchased 1,000 dictionaries with the intent of handing out one dictionary for every Lower Elwha Klallam tribal member, Francis-Thomas said.
“Everyone was surprised at how big it was,” she said.
The 4-inch-thick dictionary's cover features a photo of a lone Klallam canoe being paddled on calm waters of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and inside, there are more than 9,000 Klallam words, translations from English to Klallam and from Klallam to English, the use of the words in sentences, brief biographies of contributors and pronunciation and grammar guides.
Members of the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe also received a free dictionary last year from a shipment purchased by the tribe, said Betty Oppenheimer, spokeswoman for the Jamestown S'Klallam.
The Port Gamble S'Klallam held a November gathering at the longhouse in Little Boston on the Kitsap Peninsula to celebrate the release.
In 1999, Montler developed a series of booklet guides and lessons to help students learn the basics of the language through storytelling.
The lessons are used in Klallam tribal preschool language programs and at Dry Creek Elementary, Stevens Middle and Port Angeles High schools, where Klallam language classes are offered to both Klallam children and others who are interested in the language and history of the North Olympic Peninsula.
The research to create the dictionary was funded partially by a National Science Foundation's Documenting Endangered Languages grant and the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The dictionary, published by the University of Washington Press in December 2012, will be available for $85 at the signing or can be purchased through the University of Washington Press at http://tinyurl.com/dictionary-pdn or at Amazon.com.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.