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Osage Nation launches new online language dictionary

The Osage Nation is launching a new site that allows the public to translate thousands of words and phrases from English to Osage.

The dictionary basically works like Google Translate. Type your English word into one bar, and the Osage equivalent appears after a few seconds. The effort to develop the dictionary took thousands of hours to build and eventually put online.

The database includes 2,717 Osage-English and English-Osage words, along with a phonetic key on the sidebar.

Osage language director Braxton Redeagle says different linguists over a period of time worked on this part of the revitalization effort.

"What we wanted to do was to get this language out there as much as we could," said Redeagle.

"That's digestible by the most amount of people at different levels in the language."

The dictionary was created with CARES Act dollars and will continue to expand and will be maintained by American Rescue Act money for the next three years.

“The online dictionary will be a tool for our Osage members to use and research to broaden their knowledge of the Osage language. This is true sovereignty," said Vann Bighorse, Osage Nation Secretary of Language, Culture and Education

Redeagle explained that one of the things that you've got to do whenever you start looking different sources to compile a dictionary is you've got to learn all the different ways that people write and try to capture those sounds. Something that he says is not easy.

"It's kind of difficult whenever you're a language department trying to produce materials for a language that wasn't written specifically by our people," said Redeagle.

Herman "Mogri" Lookout is the Osage Nation's master language teacher. He worked with developers in 2006 to create Osage for Unicode. Because of that, Osages all over the world can write and text in the language.

Last year, Osage Nation launched a new podcast called Wahzhazhe: The Official Language and Culture Podcast of Osage Nation for listeners to learn more about Osage language and culture.

Allison Herrera covered Indigenous Affairs for KOSU from April 2020 to November 2023.
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