The monolingual dictionary is the end product of a 15-member committee, passionate about the Creole language. (Tessa Henderson/Facebook)
(Seychelles News Agency) – A total of 22,000 words from the Seychellois Creole language now feature in the newly launched monolingual dictionary, the first dictionary of its kind published by the Seychelles Creole Academy (SCA).
The dictionary is the culmination of 14 years of work and is described as both a historic and symbolic effort.
Seychellois Creole is the French-based Creole language spoken by the people of Seychelles. Creole, English and French are the three official national languages of the island nation in the western Indian Ocean.
Before the launch of the monolingual Creole dictionary, in 2017, the “Diksyonner Trileng – Kreol Seselwa, Français, English” [The Trilingual Dictionary – Seychellois Creole, French, English] was published by Collette Gillieaux, after 19 years of research. Prior to that a Creole-French dictionary, written by the late Danielle de St Jorre and the late Guy Lionnet, was used.
The monolingual dictionary is the end product of a 15-member committee, passionate about the Creole language. The committee did extensive research work on all three main islands of Mahe, Praslin and La Digue and consulted different groups of the community such as senior citizens, farmers, and fishers.
The senior researcher for language development at the SCA, Erica Fanchette, recounted in a recent programme on national broadcaster – Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation TV – how working on the dictionary was a labour of love, with many challenges but the end product is a national pride.
Fanchette explained that before the actual work of word definition started the technical committee did a lot of background and preparatory work involving consultations of other dictionaries.
“The Creole language has its own specifications that other languages do not have so it took us some time. Also, you tend to think that Creole is an inferior language but it is not. It is very rich in vocabulary, and this can be seen in the 22,000 words defined in the dictionary,” said Fanchette.
The secretary general of the Seychelles National Institute for Culture, Heritage and the Arts (SNICHA), David Andre highlighted the crucial importance of the dictionary, not only as a linguistic tool to improve vocabulary, to conduct research, or verify spellings and word meanings.
“It is more than that. It helps to reinforce the transmission and preservation of the cultural know-how and knowledge, spreading culture and linguistics on the same level as English and French within our trilingual context,” he said.
Andre also commended the work of the committee, which he described as a “team with multiple skills and knowledge.”
The work of the committee does not end with the launch of this first monologue dictionary.
According to Fanchette due to the dynamism and constant evolution of the Creole language, the committee will soon start to work on the dictionary’s next edition.
“Every day new words are added, so next year we will begin to rearrange our data bank to add new words that different ministries have added, meaning we will review the dictionary again in three years,” explained Fanchette.
She added that in the medical field, there are introductions of many new words, introduced especially during the COVID pandemic.
The realisation and publication of the dictionary were done through a project funded by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) at a cost of $31,000.
The secretary-general of the UNESCO National Commission for Seychelles, Vicky Michel, said that UNESCO supported the project, as it aligns with their cultural programme, mandated to promote mother tongues.
Michel added that Seychelles now has a reference document that can be used by teachers, students, researchers and even tourists to learn and speak the Seychellois Creole.