This dictionary represents more than 16 years of work on the Naxi language. When my family and I began studying spoken Naxi in August, 1995 at the Lijiang Education College, there were no dictionaries of spoken Naxi. There were several very good Dongba dictionaries, but no dictionaries to help a person learn to speak Naxi. So in 1998 I published a small glossary, Naqxi-Habaq-Yiyu Geezheeq Ceeqhuil (Naxi-Chinese-English Glossary with English and Chinese Indexes, SIL International: Dallas, out of print).
Starting in September 1999, we began a nine-year cooperative project with the Yunnan Minority Languages. This project allowed us to live in a Naxi village, learning the language and the culture. Part of the project included continued lexicographical work. Picking up where I left off in 1998, I began revising and expanding my glossary.
In compiling this dictionary I used a variety of methods to gather the data. Initially, while we were still learning to speak Naxi, I used direct elicitation of words, phrases and sentences. Later I began gathering informal texts of many genres. These texts, from both written and recorded sources, provided me with the nuanced meanings of many words and phrases. They also gave me a starting point for many of the illustrative sentences used in this dictionary. A small amount of the data, particularly from other sub-dialects, was shared with us by other researchers, but the greater part of the data from various sub-dialects came from friends and almost anyone with whom I crossed paths. Sometimes I included only a small set of data from these other sub-dialects, thus only giving a taste of that variety of Naxi. The data from other varieties are more extensive.
In gathering data from a wide range of sub-dialects, I discovered many words that were pronounced the same and expressed the same meaning across these sub-dialects. Perhaps the quintessential example of this is the copulative waq 'to be', which is largely invariant across sub-dialects. When a majority of sub-dialects coincided on pronunciation and meanings, I considered it to be common and so indicated it as such. There are other words which likely should be considered common, but without the data to verify them I did not indicate them as such.
There is still much work that can be done in researching the Naxi language and culture. This dictionary represents only a small part of the rich and extensive lexicon of the Naxi language. My hope is that this dictionary will make a small contribution to others who engage in Naxi language and culture research, and that the Naxi themselves find it useful.
Thomas M. Pinson