The Standardisation of the Ndebele Language Through Dictionary-making
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The thesis assesses the contribution of dictionary-making in Ndebele on the standardisation of the language. The production of the monolingual Ndebele dictionary,Isichazamazwi SesiNdebele (ISN), raised a number of issues that have implications on the standardisation of Ndebele. There was the question of whether to keep Ndebele close to Zulu as the former has always depended on the latter for grammar books, dictionaries, and even creative literature. Actually, Ndebele in Zimbabwe is taught alongside Zulu conﬁ rming the belief held by many that Ndebele is a dialect of Zulu. Previously only Zulu was offered at secondary school in the place of Ndebele. Basing the ISN entirely on the Ndebele language corpus meant the exclusion of Zulu. The possibility of abandoning Zulu poses two problems: ﬁrst, Zulu is prestigious among the Ndebele and abandoning it might lead to the rejection of the ISN; and second, if Zulu is no longer setting the standard, then a new norm should be found. The corpus showed that Ndebele has regional varieties, contrary to often-held views, making the choice of a norm for a standard a difficult one. Language standardisation as part of language planning is usually sanctioned by government departments or similarly authorised language boards, but other agents of standardisation like lexicographers are equally important. That is why the thesis focuses on the role of the ISN on the standardisation of Ndebele. Although editors of the ISN claimed to be descriptive in their dictionary, no dictionary can be entirely descriptive. Editors had to make decisions on vocabulary selection, on senses, pronunciation,spelling and terminology, as well as which loanwords to include and how to spell them. In that way, the standardising role of the ISN on Ndebele is a by-product of the dictionary-making process rather than the purpose of making the dictionary. Areas of standardisation investigated include vocabulary, terminology and orthography in chapters 6, 7 and 8 respectively. On Ndebele vocabulary, loanwords pose some challenges. Partial language purism has been observed on loanwords in Ndebele. Words from Zulu and other Nguni languages are accepted in Ndebele while those from other African languages tend to be resisted. There is also resistance to loanwords from European languages like English and from Afrikaans although many words from these languages have become part of the Ndebele lexicon. The language situation in Zimbabwe where African languages are conﬁned to the unoficial domain has led to an underdevelopment of terminology in almost all the ﬁelds. The focus has been on term development in linguistics, literature, law, and in the natural sciences. The various possible ways of term-development in Ndebele were discussed. The lack of updated rules on Ndebele orthography poses problems to writers and the same problems were faced in the compilation of the ISN. Word division of compounds poses serious problems and the editors of the ISN did not resolve the inconsistency. The spelling of loanwords is problematic too. The ISN lemmatised words with <r>, a symbol representing a sound that some Ndebele speakers believe should not be part of the Ndebele phonology. I have shown in this research some loanwords that have come into the language and the challenges they posed in spelling and word division. The thesis covers and combines aspects of language planning, lexicography and corpus linguistics. Approaches from these seemingly distinct disciplines were harmonised and exploited in answering language standardisation problems in Ndebele. Sociolinguistics has no unifying theory, neither have language planning and lexicography. In this research, I did not attempt to conﬁ ne myself to any particular theory or approach, but I used relevant aspects from a number of theoretical approaches. The Ndebele language corpus is the main source of linguistic evidence in the form of concordances. Those aspects of the Ndebele language that have undergone or need to undergo standardisation as a result of the inﬂ uence of the ISN are shown in the thesis. Problem areas in Ndebele lexicography are highlighted, problems that lexicographers have to address in future works. Finally, I have shown that Zulu has not been dropped entirely as the norm for Ndebele, even if the ISN claims to be corpus-based. This illustrates the editors’ concern for sociolinguistic factors over purely linguistic factors in their decisions. Therefore, decisions made in the ISN as well as on Ndebele language standardisation were inﬂuenced more by sociolinguistic reality as perceived by editors than purely academic and linguistic factors.
Additional Citation InformationHadebe, Samukele.The Standardisation of the Ndebele Language Through Dictionary-making. Harare: Allex Project
SponsorThe funding for the thesis was made available through the Norwegian Education Loan Fund, the Quota Programme loan and grant. Additional funding was received from NUFU through the ALLEX Project, a joint UZ/UiO project.
Allex Project, University of Zimbabwe
This thesis is a product of a University of Zimbabwe-University of Oslo sandwich programme. The ﬁeldwork for the thesis was done at the University of Zimbabwe. The coursework and write-up were done at the University of Oslo.