A Chemehuevi Lexicon
Hans Nelson, Mike Manookin, and Dirk Elzinga
Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah

Word Version
Abstract
Chemehuevi is a Uto-Aztecan language closely related to Southern Paiute. It is spoken in Western Arizona and Eastern California on two reservations: the Colorado River Indian Reservation at Parker, Arizona, and the Chemehuevi Valley Indian Reservation in adjacent California. At present, there are fewer than 20 speakers of the language; all are over the age of 40. No children are currently learning the language as a first language. Recently, attempts have been made by the Chemehuevis to initiate language programs in their community; they have enlisted the aid of educators, anthropologists, and linguists in these efforts.

We have been charged with initiating one such program: the continued construction and preservation of a lexicon for the Chemehuevi language. Our task was to first port the existing lexicon from an outdated proprietary database into a comma delimited text file which could then be added to, viewed, and edited in Microsoft Excel or other similar database programs. The next step was to create a tool by which these lexical entries contained in Excel could then be easily exported to an XML1 (Extensible Markup Language) format automatically. This XML database was then transformed, using various XSL stylesheets, into HTML WebPages accessible on-line, thus separating data presentation from the data itself.

This project provides crucial documentation for an endangered language, and gives the Chemehuevi community direct access to written forms of the language using current and widely available technology. This project also implements a new approach to the problem of online documentation (e.g. maintenance, updating) of digital language resources.

1. Introduction
Chemehuevi is a Uto-Aztecan language closely related to Southern Paiute, which is well-known from the descriptive work of Edward Sapir (Sapir 1930a, b; 1931), and more distantly related to languages such as Shoshoni (Crum and Dayley 1993, 1997; Crum, Crum, and Dayley 2001; Miller 1972, 1996). It is spoken in Western Arizona and Eastern California on two reservations: the Colorado River Indian Reservation at Parker, Arizona, and the Chemehuevi Valley Indian Reservation in adjacent California. At present, there are fewer than 20 speakers of the language; all are over the age of 40. No children are currently learning the language as a first language.

Previous documentation of Chemehuevi is rather sparse. A few words are collected in Kroeber's Notes on Shoshonean Dialects of Southern California (1909). J. P. Harrington collected large amounts of Chemehuevi vocabulary and texts. His wife Carobeth also collected material on Chemehuevi. She later divorced Harrington and married her Chemehuevi consultant, George Laird and later published two books on Chemehuevi ethnology which include short texts in Chemehuevi and fair sized word lists (Laird 1976, 1984). Margaret Press's UCLA Ph.D. Dissertation (1975) and the revision published in the University of California Publications in Linguistics (1979) represent the most detailed linguistic studies of the language.

Of course all of these sources are print sources. With the advent of global communication networks such as the World-Wide Web, it is becoming increasingly desirable that linguistic data resources be made available electronically in a form which is accessible to as many people as possible. Recently, attempts have been made by the Chemehuevis to initiate language programs in their community; they have enlisted the aid of educators, anthropologists, and linguists in these efforts.

We have been charged with initiating one such program: the continued construction and preservation of a lexicon for the Chemehuevi language. Our task was to first port the existing lexicon from an outdated proprietary database into a comma delimited text file which could then be added to, viewed, and edited in Microsoft Excel or other similar database programs. The next step was to create a tool which can automatically export the Excel database to XML2 (eXtensible Markup Language) format. This XML database was then transformed, using various XSL stylesheets, into HTML WebPages accessible on-line, thus separating data presentation from the data itself.

2. Approach
While generally concerning ourselves with and meeting the more specific qualifications of linguistic theory and practice, a relatively functional approach was taken in developing the process of transforming the initial lexicon into its final format. The project was designed to satisfy two goals: (1) provide the Chemehuevi community on-line access to a dictionary of their language and (2) store such a dictionary in an open exchange format (XML) capable of export to various other formats (such as other XML formats, HTML, etc.).

The second goal actually facilitates the first, as we can use the XML document to generate WebPages, other XML documents, and/or typeset text documents ready for publication. This type of flexibility makes XML a valuable storage tool and instantly provides a means of meeting both project goals.

3. Converting to XML
The initial lexical database was produced using FileMaker (a proprietary database). The entire transformation process began with porting the initial lexical database to a CSV (comma separated values) file from a database which was currently in an outdated version of a proprietary Macintosh database format within FileMaker3 version 2.1. This database needed to then be exported into a comma delimited file or CSV file for use in Excel as shown below:



This brings up a few points which should be addressed. Dr. Elzinga, the professor who requested our assistance for this project, uses an Apple operating system. On the other hand, the majority of our programming work and experience has been in a windows environment. In order to meet the needs of both groups in this project and to maintain a cross-platform experience, Excel was chosen as a simple and cross platform lexicon editor.



Excel natively will read CSV files and maintain them as an Excel or .xls extensions. Once the lexicon was exported as a CSV file, this file was then imported into Microsoft Excel. Once the lexicon data is in Excel, all lexicon entries were sorted alphabetically including prefixes and suffixes by their first letter.

The Excel spreadsheet data was then transformed to an XML document via a Visual Basic .NET application currently called the 'ExcelApp', which directly interacts directly with the Excel Object Model. The program first extracts the data within each cell in Excel by row and column into a matrix. Once done, the data is checked for special XML characters using a 'cleanXML' function. This function replaces special XML characters with their corresponding general entity. The data is then written out as an XML document.

This program is currently to the Excel lexicon structure of the Chemehuevi database, but is intended to eventually be a more general application for Excel to XML conversions, where the user may specify field headings and element names. Also work is currently being done to bypass the Excel and convert to XML straight from the CSV form, if the user so desires.

4. XML and DTD
Once the lexicon is in XML format, it must be checked for well-formedness and validated using a DTD. This section will provide a short introduction to XML and DTDs. XML is a text format derived from SGML4 (ISO 8879). One of the main purposes of XML is for the exchanging of data or as the W3C states, "...XML is playing an increasingly important role in the exchange of a wide variety of data on the Web and elsewhere." XML is coming into increasing use as the standard data exchange and storage format for almost all computer-related databases; it is also taking root as a useful standard of information exchange in the field of natural language processing (Grover et al., 2001).

XML is called extensible because it is not a fixed format language like HTML (a single, predefined markup language). XML is actually a metalanguage or a language for describing other languages. Because XML is a metalanguage, this allows an individual to design their own customized markup languages for a limitless number of varying types of documents.

A DTD or document type declaration "contains or points to markup declarations that provide a grammar for a class of documents. This grammar is known as a document type definition, or DTD."5 Basically a DTD is a formal description in XML Declaration Syntax of a particular type of document. It sets out what names are to be used for the different types of element, where they may occur, and how they all fit together. A DTD allows the user to constrain their XML document for the particular markup language being used, in this case CLXML. The following is a segment of the CLXML v1.dtd file which validates the Chemehuevi Lexicon XML output:



This DTD will constrain the Chemehuevi XML document which outputs to the following form shown below:


5. XML to HTML
Finally, the XML is transformed into HTML using MSXML 4 XSLT. A GUI is also built into ExcelApp for doing this.

After generating an XML file from the spreadsheet, we use this XML file to produce a webpage version of the dictionary (an HTML file). This step is done using XSLT6 (eXtensible Stylesheet Language Transformations)-a language built specifically for XML file manipulation. Other programming languages may also be used for this step (Perl, etc.), but we used XSLT because it integrates simply and powerfully with Microsoft's .NET programming platform.



This diagram illustrates that the utility in generating the dictionary in XML format: it can be easily exchanged between various formats; it can even be used to produce a typeset document ready for publication.

Performing this process in Visual Basic.NET and XSLT is advantageous, as we can make changes to the format/presentation of the webpage by manipulating the XSLT-the VB code can remain untouched. Such a configuration also allows interchanging other XSLT programs to generate various formats, as reflected in the above figure. Again, these formats can be generated, if desired, without manipulating the Visual Basic code.

The webpage is designed to only display only those fields from the XML file that are filled. This is actually done in the XSLT code (see Appendix 1), so updates to the Excel database will be reflected in the webpage accordingly. The dictionary webpage7 is also ordered alphabetically, with special sections for prefixes and suffixes; these sections can be automatically linked to as demonstrated in the screen shot below:



This site also contains information about Chemehuevi spelling and dictionary organization.

6. Best Practices and Conclusions
This project adheres to the school of best practices as defined by Bird and Simons 20038. These best practices are summarized by seven areas "in which consistent approaches can make digital language resources more useful": Content, Format, Discovery, Access, Citation, Preservation, and Rights. Please refer to the school of best practices for further detail concerning each area. These points are quickly mentioned here. The content, since it is in xml can be mapped easily to common ontology and linguistic terminology. Its format is non proprietary and uses XML constrained by a DTD. The lexicon is also accessible on-line and preserved in XML.

In summary, this project provides crucial documentation for Chemehuevi and makes this data available in a variety of formats via storage in XML. This project also implements a new approach to the problem of online documentation (e.g. maintenance, updating) of digital language resources by allowing XSLT to rapidly and automatically transform this XML based lexicon into HTML WebPages.

1. XML specifications are maintained by W3C found on-line at: http://www.w3.org/XML/
2. XML specifications are maintained by W3C found on-line at: http://www.w3.org/XML/
3. http://www.filemaker.com
4. International Organization for Standardization: http://www.iso.org/iso/en/CatalogueDetailPage.CatalogueDetail?CSNUMBER=16387
5. Definition: XML DTD on-line at http://www.w3.org/TR/2004/REC-xml-20040204/#dt-doctype
6. XSLT is an open source, W3C standard. For more information see http://www.w3.org/TR/xslt.
7. http://linguistics.byu.edu/faculty/elzingad/chemehuevi_dictionary/
8. http://emeld.org/school/what.html
http://www.ldc.upenn.edu/sb/home/papers/0204020/0204020-revised.pdf

7. References
Crum, Beverly and Jon Dayley. 1993. Western Shoshoni Grammar. Boise State University Occasional Papers and Monographs in Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics No 1. Boise, ID.

Crum, Beverly and Jon Dayley. 1997. Western Shoshoni Texts. Boise State University Occasional Papers and Monographs in Cultural Anthropology and Linguistics No 2. Boise, ID.

Crum, Beverly, Earl Crum, and Jon Dayley. 2001. Newe Hupia: Shoshoni Poetry Songs. Logan, UT: Utah State University Press.

Kroeber, A. L. 1909. Notes on Shoshonean Dialects of Southern California. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnography 8:235-69.

Laird, Carobeth. 1976. The Chemehuevis. Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press.

Laird, Carobeth. 1984. Mirror and Pattern: George Laird's World of Chemehuevi Mythology. Banning, CA: Malki Museum Press.

Miller, Wick. 1972. Newe Natekwinappeh: Shoshoni Stories and Dictionary. University of Utah Anthropological Papers No 94. Salt Lake City, UT.

Press, Margaret. 1975. A Grammar of Chemehuevi. Ph.D. Dissertation. University of California, Berkeley.

Press, Margaret. 1979. Chemehuevi: A Grammar and Lexicon. University of California Publications in Linguistics, No 92.

Sapir, Edward. 1930a. Southern Paiute, a Shoshonean Language. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 65, pp 1-296.

Sapir, Edward. 1930b. Texts of the Kaibab Paiutes and Uintah Utes. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 65, pp 297-535.

Sapir, Edward. 1931. Southern Paiute Dictionary. Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences 65, pp 537-730.

Appendix 1

The XSL Transformation that Converts our XML Document to an HTML Webpage.


Program
Papers and Handouts
Participants
Instructions for Participants
Working Groups
Registration
Local Arrangements
E-MELD 2001 E-MELD 2002 E-MELD 2003 E-MELD Homepage