Cyrus Byington (1793–1868) was a long-serving missionary to the Choctaw both in Mississippi and in Indian Territory. During his time with the Choctaw, he worked as the superintendent of Iyanubbi Seminary, he preached the Gospel in Choctaw and English to several congregations, he offered medical care, he assisted in translating the Bible and other books into Choctaw, and he conducted research on the Choctaw language for those who might follow (Coleman 2018).
Byington's grammar was edited by Daniel G. Brinton and published in 1870. The dictionary was edited by the anthropologist John R. Swanton and the historian Henry S. Halbert and published in 1915.
Unfortunately, when Swanton and Halbert edited Byington's manuscript, they introduced several changes in spelling:
They also removed many spaces between markers and roots:
These changes may seem minor, but they affect alphabetical order and can lead to unending confusion, particularly for those learning the language.
This new, second edition of Byington's Choctaw dictionary was created with specific goals in mind:
To import the dictionary into a database, the first edition was first scanned. Optical character recognition was used to create the first draft. In 2016, fifteen undergraduate students at William & Mary then embraced the project and divided the labor of checking for scanning errors (see Credits & Acknowledgments). During the pandemic of 2020-2021, Jack Martin then reviewed the entire file against the 1915 edition for errors and imported the file into Fieldworks Language Explorer.
Byington's original manuscript is 975 pages. It is archived at the National Anthropological Archives in Suitland, Maryland (NAA Ms. 2549). It would have been ideal to begin a second edition by working directly from the original manuscript, but we opted not to do that.
When Swanton and Halbert created the first edition, they made corrections in pen directly on Byington's original manuscript. Below is an image of the entry for abeka 'sickness' from the original showing edits.
On many pages it is hard to know who made a certain change. It also would have taken more time and money than we had to photograph the original manuscript and then to study the resulting images. Until that can be done, this second edition is offered as an improvement on the first: one that is searchable online and that uses the spelling Byington intended.
In creating this second edition, a number of errors in the first edition were identified and corrected. Following is a list of substantive corrections (going beyond simple punctuation).
|3||a||achumpa, to bury at > achumpa, to buy at||typo|
|5||abeka||abeka, v. t., to be sick > abeka, v. n., to be sick||typo or misreading of ms.|
|7||abonunta||ullo̱si > ạllo̱si||typo|
|8||achakali||applied to putting edge to an ax > applied to putting steel to an ax||misreading of ms.|
|10||achukma||itinachukma > itimachukma||typo|
|21||aiaka||Chihowa hokạt atobạt aiahpitok: v. t., ikimiksho hoke > Chihowa hokạt atobạt aiahpitok ikimiksho hoke||accidental insertion|
|83||bafạlli||bafallit kania > bafạllit kania||typo|
|85||banạtboa||waves; willows > waves; billows||typo|
|105||chimmi||pro. a. and pass. pro. >a. pron. and poss. pron.||typo, inconsistent abbreviations|
|129||hahka||akaⁿka yạt hahka listed twice as an example||repetition|
|138||hatak iⁿhaklo||"; n., a fornication" moved from verb entry to noun entry||misplaced subentry|
|154||ho, ho̱||hạchibaptismochiłishke, Matt. 3:11 > hạchi baptismochi li ho mạhlishke, Matt. 3:11||truncation|
|165||homaiyi||fallow, as a deer > sallow, as a deer||misreading|
|171||iⁿ||with a prep., s, of him > with a prep., as of him||typo|
|173||ibafoka||ibafoyuka, prop. > ibafoyuka, pro.||typo|
|169||hotupali||chukạsh > chuⁿkạsh||typo|
|184||ilbạsha||ilbạⁿsha > ilbaⁿsha (there is no letter ạⁿ)||typo|
|187||iłauạllichi||itiⁿhowa, to call each other, Mat. 11:16||example in wrong entry|
|212||iti chant ạbi||n. to girdle trees > v. t. to girdle trees||typo|
|213||iti łoli||iti łoli > iti łołi, to gall (a tree); to peel a tree||typo|
|223||kanchi||isht tahpạtạt kanchi > isht tahpạlạt kanchi||typo|
|223-224||kanimachi||(nasal form listed twice)||typo|
|234||kinałichi||a seller > a feller||misreading|
|244||lipa||chukạsh ạt lipachi > chuⁿkạsh ạt lipachi >||typo|
|263||moma||momạt hussạmaiạla > hạssạmaiạla||misreading|
|275||nana kashofa||n., a., pardon > n., a pardon||typo|
|277||nashuka hita||> nashuka hạta||typo|
|300||okpạni||pisaokpạni > pisa okpạni (to match spelling of separate entry)||typo|
|302||oktạbli||imoktạbli, to check (listed twice)||typo|
|320||pulla||akostinchi > akostininchi (based on Matt. 7)||typo|
|333||shuⁿfa||iⁿshuⁿfi, to disengage (moved to shuⁿfi)||misplaced subentry|
|335||shushi iskitini||> shuⁿshi iskitini (to match spelling elsewhere)||typo|
|335||shushi isht abeka||>shuⁿshi isht abeka (to match spelling elsewhere)||typo|
|350||tikeli||tikoli, pl. > tikohli, pl.||typo|
|351||tiloffi||to break short off > to break off short||typo|
|355||tomạffi||pl. tomołi or tạmoli > pl. tomołi or tạmołi||typo|
|358||tushałichi||itatushalichi > itatushałichi||typo|
|360||ushi||chiso, thy son, and sạsa, my son > chiso, thy son, and sạso, my son||typo|
|360||wahhạla, a.||subentry wahhạla, v. n. moved to separate entry.||misplaced subentry|
|378||yushtololichi||yustolushlichi, pl. > yushtolushlichi, pl.||typo|
Entries like this one in the first edition involving plural verbs seemed potentially confusing:
Entries like this have been edited as follows:
The first edition used the abbreviation "pro." for both pronoun and prolonged form of the verb. This edition uses "pron." for pronoun and "pro." for prolonged form.
The first edition sometimes uses "n. form" or "n. f." as an abbreviation for nasal form, while also using "n." for noun. The abbreviation "nas. form" was used here consistently.
This project is a work in progress. We will continue to work on spacing of markers and roots and to create a proper English-Choctaw index.
—Jack Martin, May 2020
Coleman, Louis. 2018. Cyrus Byington: Missionary and Choctaw Linguist. Durant: Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.