Language development or language corruption? The Case of Loan-words in "Isichazamazwi SesiNdebele" *

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This article discusses the loan-words in Isichazamazwi SesiNdebele (henceforth ISN), particularly looking at their acceptance and/or non-acceptance by the target users of ISN. In Zim-babwe, Ndebele shares the same linguistic environment with English, Shona and the official mi-nority languages such as Kalanga, Tonga and Nambya. A historical heritage also links it with its Nguni sister languages such as Zulu and Xhosa spoken in South Africa. In selecting headwords for ISN, the Ndebele Lexicographic Unit used the frequency-list method, lemmatising words mostly found in the corpus. This method inevitably allowed the adoption of loan-words in the ISN with resultant public protest. The article is divided into two broad sections. The first section gives a gen-eral overview of comments from users of ISN about the inclusion of loan-words in the dictionary. The attitude towards loan-words in the ISN varies with different age groups, the younger gen-eration freely accepting them as part of the Ndebele lexicon as opposed to the older generation. The second section analyses the justification by the editors of ISN for lemmatising loan-words against the views of target users. Reservations against the loan-words in ISN go beyond lexicographic prin-ciples. In the forefront is the users' attitude towards the source language. Language attitudes in Zimbabwe are mainly a result of the socio-political and economic power characterising the differ-ent tribal or ethnic groups in the country. The article concludes by discussing possible solutions to the problem of loan-words to be adopted in the forthcoming Advanced Ndebele Dictionary. Keywords: loan-words, cultural borrowing, dialect borrowing, lexi-con, adoption, language purism, language emancipation

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eISSN: 2224-0039
print ISSN: 1684-4904