OK. So, first things first; the W32 installation of Aspell is back a release version but very stable. It doesn't actually have the include and library files bundled, but they're readily available - the problem being that W32 Aspell is developed with MSVC, and Strawberry Perl (my Perl of choice) compiles with MINGW32. Joy. So the library files are useless; we have to build our own. But let's make include and lib directories under Aspell.
Now, we set environment variables: CPATH should point (at least) to the Aspell include directory and LIBRARY_PATH to the Aspell lib directory. Don't forget that your PATH should also include Aspell's bin directory - which will make it easier to use Aspell's command line tools for your dictionary maintenance anyway. So do it!
Figuring out those environment variables, by the way, cost me about three hours. The remainder of the day was occupied with the next step: building a .DEF file that dlltool likes (some help was had from this page in remembering how a .DEF file is supposed to work), and then finding the appropriate combination of dlltool parameters. Turns out this:
dlltool -d libaspell.defined --dllname aspell-15.dllis the only incantation that will work. Leaving out the --dllname, even though it is specified in the .DEF file, will cause linkage failures at runtime. Not helpful ones, either. This took me four hours, ultimately culminating in this page, which at least mentions the --dllname parameter.
--output-lib libaspell.a --kill-at
When dynamically linked, Aspell assumes the location of the DLL linked is either the root for dictionary searches or is in a 'bin' directory which is itself in the root for dictionary searches - in either case, the 'dict' directory of that root is where dictionaries should be. I had placed a local DLL in the Text::Aspell directory while flailing around; it took me half an hour to remember that.
Anyway, I finally managed to get it running. Next step: extract words from a TTX to throw against it.