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Issue 3 — March 2004
Accessing Romani language online
The richest electronic resource of Romani language – ROMLEX – has entered the third phase of its development with 17 Romani varieties and translations into 10 different target languages freely accessible for all users via the web. The work on the lexicon started two years ago, supported by a grant from the Open Society Institute - Budapest and the Austrian Federal Chancellery. This grant is currently overseen by Next Page foundation. The project is based at the universities of Graz, Manchester and Aarhus, and coordinated by Yaron Matros, Dieter Halwachs and Peter Bakker.
At present ROMLEX offers the widest lexical coverage of Romani varieties ever, and the largest web-based lexical translation resource for any language. The structure of ROMLEX consists of an electronic database which offers Romani entries in various dialects, grammatical and etymological information, examples for usage, and translation into the target languages. To achieve this exceedingly demanding linguistic enterprise the project team has collected material covering numerous published sources as well as the results of a huge amount of descriptive fieldwork. With respect to the methodology applied, the development work done by young people from Roma communities is of great importance. During the last phase of the project 8 Roma trainees contributed by translating both into their native varieties of Romani and into target languages, as well as by correcting grammatical information and carrying out pilot fieldwork for lexical and grammatical elicitation. On the one hand, this assistance facilitated the main idea of ROMLEX - to compile a dictionary without standardizing it. On the other hand, it enhanced the symbolic significance of the project, namely to appraise the Romani language within Romani communities by involving native speakers as “agents” of the lexicon. Concerning one of the goals of ROMLEX, namely to design a method for the input of Romani neologisms, a sample of modern political texts has been scanned and will soon be included in the web translator. By becoming the most advanced lexical database of this language which has insufficient written sources, ROMLEX will positively serve as a foundation for future translations and the dissemination of Romani literary resources.
In spite of the serious academic nature of the project, the ROMLEX website is user-friendly and welcoming. What appears after the instructions for use of the lexicon is “Have fun!” And indeed it is both funny and challenging to find 85 love-related words in Romani varieties, after entering the word “love”. Perhaps none of the so-called target languages could offer such a richness and diversity for a single entry.
Announcement for publishing training
As part of Next Page efforts to support the development of publishing in the Romani language, a 3-day professional publishing training course for Romani publishers and NGOs will take place in June this year. The training is intended to help them effectively manage their publishing activities. In the long run, this project aims at improving the quality and the distribution of publications in Romani. Find more details, read the project announcement and a list of criteria for submitting an application, and the application form here.
The London fair
„It is time to talk business“ was the slogan of this year’s London Book Fair (13-15 March) but in fact LBF’s atmosphere and „human scale“ offer much more than a strictly business platform. Next Page did not have a stand at the fair but attended several seminars and met with partners and colleagues from around the world to discuss joint projects, recent developments and common interests. Immediately after the Fair, Next Page attended the „Literature across Frontiers“ meeting of over twenty representatives of organisations from Europe and other continents engaged in the international promotion of literature and support for translation. The meeting discussed the findings of the Books and Reading section of the Report on the State of Cultural Cooperation in Europe prepared by EFAH and Interarts. This Report, initiated by the European Commission, looks at international cooperation to the extent that it is enhanced by bi- or multilateral governmental agreements. The report seeks to draw a map of this type of cultural cooperation which - given the terms of the study – remains partial and sketchy, leaving publishers themselves and other important actors out of the picture. A more lively discussion was provoked by the Budapest Observatory’s exciting analysis of the Culture 2000 program support for translations. Both reports are available at europa.eu.int/comm/culture and at www.budobs.org (still draft) respectively. The London meeting also brainstormed the possibilities for future cooperation and assisted in drafting a UNESCO declaration on the importance of translations (available at www.unesco.org/culture/lit)
The promotion of the Hungarian translation of Miglena Nikolchina’s book Meaning and Matricide: Reading Woolf via Kristeva (Miglena Nikolcsina, Jelentes es anyagyilkosag, Balassi Kiado, Budapest, 2004), supported by Next Page, took place on the 4th of March in Sofia during the international conference “Women From East to West: Migration, Gender and Inter-nationality in Europe”. The book was presented by the Hungarian feminist historian Andrea Peto. The promotion was attended by Bulgarian academics and feminist scholars, and by some notable participants in the conference such as Luisa Passerini, Rosi Braidotti, and Alenka Zupancic. This event to some extent shifted the East-West focus of the conference, as it emphasized the intensity of the East-East intellectual dialogue. In the last few years Nikolchina’s book has also been published in Russian and Macedonian. Perhaps the very “density” of the ongoing regional debate on this book was one of the reasons to attract the attention of an American publisher. As a result, the English translation of the book has just been published by Other Press under the title Matricide in Language.
A summary of the Next Page Annual Report for 2003 is now available on the website of the Foundation under the rubric Annual reports.