The Role of Dictionaries in the Documentation and Codification of African Languages: The Case of Khoisan

  • A Chebanne


Khoisan speech communities are found in Southern Africa, with Botswana having the greatest ethnic and linguistic diversity. Living in small communities, the Khoisan have always found themselves in a situation of being ethnic and linguistic minorities that are socially marginalized. The Khoisan marginalization is historical, resulting in the Khoisan languages not featuring in education and language development. These languages are underresearched and existing publications are divergent, and not accessible to the speech communities themselves. While some anthropologists, linguists, and a few community organizations have undertaken some development of language resources, as yet these efforts have not had the desired effect. The reasons are that the publications used implement impractical linguistic writing conventions or that no supportive programmes exist to encourage more focused and purposeful research and language promotion through literacy classes. This article will review research and publication materials on the Khoisan languages by arguing that there is a need to document and codify these languages to make them accessible to the speech communities. Because dictionary documentation is suggested as the most viable way to accomplish this, existing lexicographical works will be reviewed to demonstrate their strengths and shortcomings. The article will also indicate why and how dictionaries will be critical in this documentation and codification enterprise. Lemmatization procedures will be suggested to facilitate the capture of the linguistic and the indigenous knowledge system of the Khoisan. In this way the Khoisan languages will be vitalized and research contribute to Khoisan language development. Keywords: Khoisan Languages, Underresearched Languages, Language Documentation And Codification, Dictionary, Lexicographical Works, Lemmatization Procedures, Linguistic And Indigenous Knowledge, Language Preservation And Promotion, Botswana

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2224-0039
print ISSN: 1684-4904