On Monolingual Dictionaries and Child Language Development
Amfani (2008) ignites a very interesting child language development debate. He argues that "… colonial interference in the natural affairs of Africans has been the major factor responsible for the type of communication disorder he refers to as 'lexical starvation' experienced by the modern African child with respect to the acquisition of the mother tongue lexicon". He argues that the dearth of monolingual dictionaries for African languages play a prominent role in promoting and sustaining this type of communication disorder. He advocates for the development of monolingual dictionaries to stem "… the chaotic nature of language acquisition by the modern African child." In this paper we set out to discuss a few of Amfani's exciting claims about the lexicon, the dictionary, second language acquisition, child language acquisition and child language development. We argue that the lexicon of any language is open and expands as the physical and emotional experience of its speakers develop; that no (normal) human being can possibly internalize the 'complete' lexicon of his language; that the lexicon is as dynamic as is the language, capable of employing lexical and syntactic computations to express the knowledge of the competent language speaker; that lexical dearth is the onset of language dearth generally triggered by relevance depreciation; that dictionaries (bilingual or monolingual) are more a means of language documentation and preservation than an enhancement tool of language acquisition.
Keywords: lexicon, monolingual dictionaries, language acquisition, child language development, language preservation