SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – A California missionary and linguist has compiled a comprehensive dictionary for the Mien language, a fast-fading idiom spoken by thousands of refugees from Laos who have resettled in cities throughout the U.S.
Herbert Purnell spent 26 years compiling the Mien-English dictionary, and once lost all his notes to a fire only to realize that two of his Mien consultants had preserved drafts.
The Mien community turned out to a south Sacramento event over the weekend to buy the dictionary and have the 78-year-old Purnell sign it, The Sacramento Bee reported (
http://bit.ly/151FY9N) on Monday.
Several Mien scholars praised the dictionary as an important step toward preserving a language and culture they say are rapidly disappearing in this country as their children adopt English and Western ways.
“Thank you for devoting your life to the Mien people,” said translator Koy Saephan. “Identity is not stable in the face of assimilation. I don’t think our culture will last beyond this generation.”
Thousands of Mien settled in California after fleeing Laos following their participation in a CIA-backed battle against communists during the Vietnam War. About 12,000 Mien settled in the Sacramento area, which functions as the Mien capital of the United States, said Chiem-Seng Yaangh, one of the first Mien to earn a doctorate.
The Mien, who often refer to themselves as lu-Mienh in their own language, passed on their traditions orally as they migrated to Southeast Asia from their original home in central-eastern China.
“To survive, the Mien people crossed the sea in seven boats, and during our exodus, we were so hungry we tore up the Mien books to eat, and that’s how we lost our written language,” said Yaangh. “It’s a story we’ve told for centuries.”
Purnell included words in the dictionary that refer to the community’s animist beliefs, including the reliance on shamans to cure ailments or guide spirits to the afterlife.
It also contains a pronunciation key, because while the Mien alphabet is based on English letters, it is pronounced differently.
The 855-page tome sells for $32 and contains more than 5,600 words, 28,000 phrases and 2,100 cultural notes. Published by the Center for Lao Studies in San Francisco, the dictionary sold 150 copies at Purnell’s appearance.
“It’s not only a dictionary, it’s a history of who we are. I hope to keep this book forever and pass it on to my kids someday,” said Fay Saechao, a University of California, Davis, graduate who co-chairs the Iu Mien Student Conference.
Information from: The Sacramento Bee,
(Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
- Stretches and exercises for carpal tunnel syndrome
- The best Major League ballparks have their own personality
- Comparing the best regular seasons: The '96 Bulls and '16 Warriors
- 3 Arizona road trips and the vehicles to get you there
- Colon cancer is preventable. Check these signs and symptoms to stay healthy.
- 6 of the biggest skin cancer myths
- Affordable small home makeover ideas
- Locals helping locals: 6 success stories you need to know about
- Sunscreen facts that could save your life
- 6 energy saving hacks for your home
- 5 tips for choosing a company to end your timeshare
- Overlooked water tips to save you money
- 5 of the most adored gentlemen in professional sports today
- The real danger of sitting at your desk
- Most surprising NBA playoff performances of the last 40 years
- 11 classic baseball movies you must see again
- Finally getting rid of fat: 3 methods that actually work
- 4 reasons cancer survivors should focus on food
- 5 spring cleaning spots everyone forgets
- 5 reasons to look forward to watching the D-backs this season
- Common virus attributed to spike in head and neck cancers
- 5 signs it’s time to end your timeshare ownership
- 3 most overlooked ways to keep your home healthy
- 6 ways the air in your home could be making you sick
- CrossFit dangers: 5 common injuries and how to deal with them
- Today's radiation treatments offer better success, fewer side effects
- Tips to make watching TV on the patio even better
- What really happens when you donate to a community college?
- Sun and skin cancer: Separating fact from fiction
- 5 critical lifestyle changes for a healthy colon