Lexicography in Gabon: A Survey

  • B Nyangone Assam
  • P.A Mavoungou


This paper traces the historical development of lexicography in Gabon. Gabon, like most African countries, is multilingual. The recent inventories of languages spoken in Gabon are those established by Jacquot (1978) and Kwenzi-Mikala (1998). According to Kwenzi-Mikala (1997), there are 62 speech forms divided into 10 language groups or language-units in Gabon. These speech forms co-exist with French, the official language. In fact, in article 2 of paragraph 8 of the revised Constitution of 1994 the following can be read: "The Gabonese Republic adopts French as the official language. Furthermore, she endeavours to protect and promote the national languages." This constitutional arrangement naturally makes French the language used in education, administration and the media. The survey of lexicography in Gabon that is presented here includes the linguistic situation in and the language policy of Gabon, the lexicographic survey itself, as well as the lexicographic needs of the different speech forms (including languages and dialects). Initially, the pioneers of Gabonese lexicography were missionaries or colonial administrators. Very little was done in this field by the Gabonese themselves. Although credit is to be given to these early works, there are a number of shortcomings regarding the linguistic as well as the metalexicographic contents of dictionaries and lexicons produced during this period. In fact, the main weak point of those studies was the lack of tones in the written transcription of oral productions and orthographic problems. Furthermore, in those contributions, the theory of lexicography is largely unknown and lexicographic works are hardly ever based on authentic data corpora of the languages being described. Keywords: speech forms, language group(s), official language, language policy, lexicographic needs, lexicographic works, dictionary base, metalexicography, lexicographic training.

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-0039
print ISSN: 1684-4904