Defining Formats and Corpus-based examples in the General Ndebele Dictionary, Isichazamazwi Sesindebele: A Critical Analysis
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In this paper the writer critically evaluates the defining formats that were used in defining headwords in the first-ever-monolingual General Ndebele Dictionary, Isichazamazwi SeSiNdebele(ISN). The emphasis in the ISN was on the concept of user-friendliness. The paper will establish that defining formats in the ISN are a judicious mixture of mainly the Collins Birmingham University International Language Database (COBUILD) defining formats and what has been referred to as the traditional formats. The first part of this paper will be an analysis of the decisions taken by the ISN editors in formulating their defining formats. It will assess the COBUILD defining principle vis-à-vis its application in defining headwords in the ISN and the impact of this principle on the user-friendliness of the dictionary. It will further discuss other formats, including the decision to retain what could be referred to as traditional defining formats, which were used in defining headwords. One of the traditional defining styles they agreed upon was that the definers were to give the hypernym in the case of semantic sets, and then identify the concept being defined by specifying aspects that distinguish it from others of its type. The second part of the paper evaluates the importance and use of the corpus in providing both definitions and examples in the ISN. However, we further argue that since a corpus has to be “representative” in terms of size, in order to be appropriately used as the basis of generalizations concerning such corpus-based dictionaries, the ISN editors whose corpus is relatively small, could not avoid relying on the intuitive knowledge in formulating some examples.
This paper was originally presented at the 6th International Conference of the African Association for Lexicography, at the University of the North in South Africa. The paper was later published in LEXIKOS 12.