On the other hand, the very opportunity and power of assimila- tion is and has proved to be a most valuable one. It enables the African to draw on the rich resources of the Arabic vocabu- lary for the expression or better expression of new ideas, while providing an easy, and as it were, natural channel for the ger- minant seeds of culture, taste, and enlightenment of all kinds, wherever Swahili penetrates throughout the continent.
It remains indispensable to every student of Swahili, and has the 1 a 2 IV PREFACE permanent value and charm of genuine philological pioneer work by an honest and able researcher.
It deals almost entirely with the dialect of Swahili used at Mombasa, and revision might make it more practically useful by the removal of inaccuracies and repetitions, and by modifying the spelling and arrange- ment, but such treatment would be analogous to re-writing Schliemann's Troy or Livingstone's Journals.
The many first- hand explanations and examples are too precious, however, to be left unused, and it is especially on these that the present Editor has ventured freely to draw.
As to the use made of these and other materials, this Dictionary makes no claim to be encyclopaedic, or to include more than the commoner technical terms of arts, crafts and commerce, or to represent fully the flora or fauna of Zanzibar.
There seems no ground for deliberately contributing to their perpetua- tion.
The principle just referred to is, that it is a practical necessity in the transcription of languages to indicate sounds, not depict them, and that for this purpose the ordinary English alphabet should be used with as few modifications as possible. , It was beyond the scope of Bishop Steere's plan to supply more than full lists of useful words. As to Krapf s monumental work, it may be enough to express a hope that it will never be re-edited. And Swahili is still by far the most im- portant member of the Bantu family of language, i. of the solid block of dialects, closely related among themselves and clearly differentiated from all others, which are spoken through- out about a third of the African continent, i. over nearly the whole of it from Nigeria and the Soudan on the north to the Hottentot region on the extreme south. Hence Swahili has been ranked not unreasonably among the twelve most important PREFACE v languages of the modern world, and the position of Zanzibar as till lately the undisputed commercial capital and chief political power of Eastern and Central Africa has determined the form of Swahili still most useful as the key to that entire region. There is a third consideration of practical importance.