Problems of Equivalence in Shona- English Bilingual Dictionaries

  • N Mpofu


In compiling bilingual dictionaries, lexicographers are mostly concerned with semantic equivalence. As a result, the practice of bilingual dictionary compilers is usually that of giving one-word equivalents. However, this equivalence is at times difficult to arrive at because of the disparities and incommensurability between languages and cultures. According to Sapir (1921) and Whorf (1956), one cannot expect an exact match between two languages that express different cultural realities. Given this scenario, compilers of bilingual dictionaries end up bridging the gap between languages by giving translational equivalents rather than relying solely on one-word equivalents. The Shona-English bilingual dictionaries, namely Hannan (1974) and Dale (1981), like other bilingual dictionaries, also display this characteristic. This article will discuss the problems of translation equivalents in Shona-English dictionaries where lexicographers will be dealing with divergent languages and cultures, traditional practices of lexicography and the absence of reliable corpora. Keywords: bilingual lexicography, corpus, culture, culture-bound, cultural gap, dictionary, equivalence, incommensurability, lexeme, lexicography, shona, source language, target language, translation, untranslatability

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eISSN: 2224-0039
print ISSN: 1684-4904