Linguistic variation in Shona with special reference to monolingual dictionaries*

  • E Chabata


This article focuses on the problems lexicographers of monolingual dictionaries face when dealing with a language characterised by differences associated with geographical variation. The article specifically seeks to explore problems with which Shona lexicographers are confronted when working on monolingual Shona dictionaries. It does so by looking at some lexicographic aspects such as tone marking, sense ordering and treatment of synonyms and variants. Linguistic variation has always been a problem for writers of reference works, especially those normative in nature and function. The challenge is that of representativeness, that is, the production of a work which incorporates all the information it is supposed to provide. If the work fails to represent the language of the total population it is assumed to cover, then it is prone to criticism, usually by those whose dialect is not well represented. The article contains the writer's experience in the Afri-can Languages Lexical (ALLEX) Project, at present the African Languages Research Institute (ALRI). The ALRI, accommodated at the University of Zimbabwe, has the compilation of monolin-gual dictionaries for the indigenous languages of Zimbabwe as one of its major objectives. Al-though illustrative examples are drawn from Shona alone, it is, however, believed that the prob-lems highlighted in this article may not be peculiar to Shona, but can also apply to other Bantu and world languages. Keywords: allex project, alri, corpus, dialect, monolingual lexicogra-phy, shona, subdialect, synonym, tone, variant, variation

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eISSN: 2224-0039
print ISSN: 1684-4904