The Penan Dictionary is a project that I embarked on in 1994. It is a continuing effort, and every year I gather more data in the field and enlarge, refine, and correct my text. As of 2015 I have accumulated more than eleven thousand entries, each of which describes a word taken in one of its senses, or a fully-fledged idiom. In addition, there are about six thousand collocations (i.e. idiomatic or semi-idiomatic combinations). The text of the dictionary proper, which includes numerous examples, consists of approximately eight hundred thousand words.
In addition to the dictionary, I have created an English - Penan index, as well as a basic grammar of the language.
This is a new kind of dictionary, making use as it does of some of the formalisms of a lexicographic model known as the Explanatory-Combinatorial dictionary (ECD).
It is above all a production dictionary, that is a tool that assists its user to produce well-formed texts of the Penan language, rather than just interpret existing texts.
The dictionary remains a work in progress. However, beginning in about 1996 I have been making available copies of the latest version of my manuscript to various interested persons. As of 2015, I am posting the entire dictionary on the WWW, for anyone to download free of charge. You may also print it. I retain copyright, and insist that you not reproduce it for commercial advantage.
This is not the latest version of the dictionary; rather, it dates from 2006 (although the introduction and grammar have been updated since then). It is the only version that is ready for publication; while the current dictionary is both larger and more accurate, it is still a rough draft.
The dictionary is posted in three parts, each one a pdf file. The first part comprises the table of contents, forward, explanation of structure and formalisms, description of phonology, and a grammatical sketch. The second part is the dictionary proper. The third part is an English to Penan index.
Download Introduction and Grammar
Download the dictionary proper
Download the English-Penan Index
As an added "bonus" you may download a little English-Penan dictionary I made at the urging of Penans who want to learn our language. It also contains English grammar information, written in Penan. Although it is designed for Penans, it may be helpful for foreigners learning their language. Although all the information in it appears in the English-Penan index and the dictionary proper, it is a nice little volume, easy to handle, with large type. (If you print it out, it makes a nice gift for Penans who want to learn English.)
Download the English-Penan dictionary for Penans
Here is a scholarly article I wrote in 2012 based on my lexicological research into the Penan language. The document you can view does not provide a full reference for this publication, so I give it here: Mackenzie, Ian. Lexicography among hunter gatherers: the ECD as an ethnographic tool. In: Smysly, teksty i drugie zahvatyvayuschie syuzhety / Meanings, texts, and other exciting things: a Festschrift to Commemorate the 80th Anniversary of Professor Igor Alexandrovič Mel'čuk. Edited by Apresjan et al, Languages of Slavic Culture, Moscow 2012.
Lexicography among hunter gatherers: the ECD as an ethnographic tool
Below you may go to a page where you can download two short articles that deal with interesting questions concerning the Penan lexicon. Both were originally published as online appendices to scholarly articles I have written, but they are interesting in their own right. The first shows just how radically different Penan vocabulary is from English, and the second is a detailed description of the meaning of a Penan word so strange to the European mind that there is no English word or expression that can even roughly paraphrase it.
Research on the lexicon of Eastern Penan
Return to Penan Home Page