New Dictionary on Saban English, Preserves English Dialect Spoken on Saba
On the island of Saba, Dutch Caribbean, a lee chip refers to a little morsel of something. The Language & Life Project’s brand new publication, A Lee Chip: A Dictionary and Study of Saban English, provides quite a large morsel of the Saban language, history, and culture.
The dictionary, written by Saban native Theodore (Ted a.k.a. Teddy) Johnson documents and describes more than 2,500 local words and phrases, A Lee Chip not only celebrates the local vocabulary that makes Saba unique, it helps ensure the preservation of many words which may have otherwise been lost to history.
“This book and the dictionary in particular are meant to preserve the language as a written source of reference for Saban English. Moreover I sincerely hope that this will instill more pride in its usage locally and beyond,” writes author Theodore Johnson, who began this project in 1998.
The contributors to this book project are countless, with close to 100 Sabans interviewed in the process, as well as multiple linguistic consultants providing input. The project was supervised by Prof. Dr. Walt Wolfram, head of the Language & Life project at NC State University.
"The first dialect dictionary of Saba is a monumental cultural achievement!” says Dr. Wolfram, “You can hear the unique voice of Sabans in the local expressions that celebrate the grand cultural traditions of the island. A linguistic, historical, and cultural landmark."
The book includes an in-depth study on Saban English pronunciation and grammar, written by Caroline Myrick, a PhD student at NC State whose master’s thesis analyzed Saban English.
“I began researching Saba with the intention of giving back to the community,” says Ms. Myrick, “After countless residents have volunteered their time and resources to help my research, I’m honored to be able to repay the community with such a special and important book.”
More than a dictionary, A Lee Chip is time capsule for the history and traditional culture of Saba. “It would be optimal” Johnson writes, “if this book became a discussion piece resulting in the recording of even more unique words and sayings, which are in danger of disappearing.”
Johnson added that he hopes the book will also be an inspiration for preserving the local English dialects in other islands, including the San Nicolas English dialect, which also contain many unique words and phrases that need to be preserved before it is too late.
The book will be available for purchase in local bookstores in Aruba from mid-April. It will retail for Afl. 55,--. For more information about the book, visit www.sabadictionary.weebly.com
About the authors:
Theodore R. Johnson was born in Saba in January 1975. He completed a double master’s degree in law in Leiden, the Netherlands. After working in the Netherlands in the civil law notary field, Theodore returned to the Caribbean and is currently working as a civil law notary in Aruba, where he lives with his wife and three children. This is his first book published.