Calif. scholar compiles Mien-English dictionary, a key step for Laotian refugee community

A Northern California missionary and linguist has compiled a comprehensive dictionary for the Mien language, a fast-fading idiom spoken by thousands of refugees from Laos.

The Sacramento Bee reports ( ) Herbert Purnell spent 26 years compiling the Mien-English dictionary that sells for $32. The 855-page tome contains more than 5,600 words, 28,000 phrases and 2,100 cultural notes.

The Mien community turned out over the weekend in Sacramento to buy the dictionary and have Purnell sign it.

Several Mien scholars praised it as an important step toward preserving a language and culture they say are rapidly disappearing in the United States, as their children adopt English and Western ways.

Thousands of Mien settled in California after fleeing Laos following their participation in a CIA-backed battle against communists during the Vietnam War.


Information from: The Sacramento Bee,