The Tshivenda-English Thalusamaipfi/dictionary as a product of South African lexicographic processes

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Stellenbosch University


University of Cape Town

The publication of a dictionary is regarded as the result of a lexicographic process. Three subtypes of a lexicographic process have been noted, namely the primary comprehensive, the secondary comprehensive and the dictionary specific lexicographic processes. In South Africa, the three lexicography processes correspond to the respective mandates of the Pan South African Language Board (PanSALB), the National Lexicography Units (NLUs) and the editorial teams involved in the compilation of the specific dictionaries. This hierarchical arrangement of the lexicographic practice is supported by the government within the country's national multilingual policy which was lauded in linguistic and lexicographic circles as a triumph for cultural democracy. It is almost a decade since these planned lexicographic processes have been in place. It seems the right time to consider the products of these South African lexicographic processes which are envied by many foreign lexicographers, especially in Africa. Accordingly, the article evaluates these lexicographic processes with special reference to the Tshivend√a–English T√halusamaipfi/Dictionary. Specifically, it addresses the question: To what extent does this dictionary represent lexicographic development in the indigenous South African languages which were marginalised before the establishment of the NLUs? A few insights are drawn from modern lexicographic theories for the general improvement of future lexicographic practice in languages with limited lexicographic tools such as Venda.