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South African Journal of African Languages

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Innovation and compromise in K. Endemann’s dictionary of the Sotho language (1911)

I Kosch

Abstract


This article seeks to highlight some lexicographic features of the dictionary of the Sotho language by K.Endemann against the backdrop of best practices of dictionary compilation today. Over the last centurythe dictionary, entitled Wörterbuch der Sotho-Sprache (1911), has elicited mixed reactions from Bantuscholars, some acknowledging the invaluable contribution it has made to the development of the Sotholanguages, others criticizing it for reasons that typically constitute violations of good lexicographicconduct. Whether the reactions were complimentary or otherwise, the dictionary never gained popularityas a reference book. It did not influence later lexicographic development or orthographic conventionsto any great extent, mainly because it was compiled for use by a specific target user group and becausean orthography was employed that has become obsolete. It will be shown how Endemann dealt in aninnovative manner with the lemmatization of items in the Sotho languages, but also how he violated someprinciples of good lexicographic practice. In defence of this work – considering that it was compiledwithout the electronic resources available to lexicographers today – one needs to acknowledge that itdoes constitute a remarkable achievement for its time, containing a huge repository of information thatawaits linguistic and cultural scrutiny and insight.



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