Volume 4, Issue 1
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
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This paper surveys the history of dictionary construction and orthographic choice in the Comoros — a former French colony in the Indian Ocean — with special reference to issues of literacy, identity, and politics. Evidence ranging from 16th century wordlists to contemporary bilingual/bidirectional dictionaries, as well as colonial, missionary, and scholarly approaches to lexicography and orthography in the Comoros, are examined and compared. While Arabic-influenced writing systems have a long history in the Comoros, the experiences of colonialism and independence in the 20th century introduced French- and phonemically-influenced systems. As the Comoros move into the 21st century, linguists and ethnographers are attempting to assist with questions of standardization, literacy, and dictionary construction. The situation remains fluid, with considerations of tradition, modernity, nationalism, and representation to be taken into account. This paper seeks to address the complex interrelationships between orthographic choice and ethnic identity in the Comoros, with special reference to the development of the first bilingual/bidirectional Shinzwani-English dictionary.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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