March 28, 2006

Dakota Scrabble, anyone?

Via Patrick Hall's Blogamundo comes news of Scrabble being used to promote the learning of Dakota Sioux. Patrick wonders if the makers of the game "rebuilt distribution and points on the tiles to correspond to Dakota frequencies." I don't know about that, but the original article about the debut of Dakota Scrabble (shortened for the AP wire) notes that the tiles have all the appropriate orthographic markings, as each set is hand-crafted by tribal members. Organizers got backing from Hasbro to make the Dakota version of Scrabble (along with the 207-page Official Dakota Scrabble Dictionary), and they also received support from the Association on American Indian Affairs and Sisseton-Wahpeton College. The AAIA and the college have supported previous efforts to revitalize the language, such as the recording of Dakota rap songs last year.

[Update 3/29/06: Tammy DeCoteau of the AAIA posted a comment on Blogamundo saying that the distributions and point values of letters were based on the words in the Official Dakota Scrabble Dictionary. So that answers Heidi Harley's question about whether letter distributions were determined by corpus frequency or lexicon frequency.]

Posted by Benjamin Zimmer at March 28, 2006 01:04 AM