Orature and morpholexical deconstruction as lexicographic archaeological sites: some implications for dictionaries of African languages

  • F Matambirofa


This article takes a multidisciplinary approach to African lexicographic practice. It has as its primary premise the assumption that without words there can be no dictionaries to compile and discuss. Owing to this fact, the article focuses on a specific strategy for collecting words which belong in a special category of their own, namely archaic or obsolete words. Such words are important because of the need to mark them as such in any general purpose dictionary. Most, if not all dictionaries of African languages seem not to have this category, giving the misleading impression that there are no such words in African languages. Apart from digging up archaic or what we have also referred to as artefact words, the article also argues that the words have a substantial and intrinsic etymological value. Thus they can be used in specialised etymological dictionaries of African languages or even in standard general dictionaries. The multidisciplinary aspect resides in the methodology proposed for the recovery of archaic words. It is considered necessary that disciplines such as oral literature, oral history, historical linguistics and to a limited extent theoretical linguistics and computational linguistics, and, symbolically, archaeology and lexicography itself, be brought to bear on the subject of inquiry. The article is also an attempt at working out a method which African lexicographers can employ as an instrument to dig up artefact words for etymological and other such purposes. Hopefully the method can be refined further. Keywords: orature, morpholexical, deconstruction, reconstruction, archaeological sites, lexicography, African languages, dictionaries, diachronic, synchronic, historical linguistics, proverbs, riddles, idioms, oral traditions, mnemonic, etymology, archaic, shona, deverbative nouns, verb root, semantic, artefact words

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-0039
print ISSN: 1684-4904