“It will transform lives”: the very first trilingual Kaaps dictionary under development


“The success of this project will help Kaaps speakers to participate fully in the South African economy.” Photo: Supplied / CMDR

Compiling a dictionary usually takes several years. It took 71 years to assemble the famous Oxford Dictionary, and it now celebrates over 90 years since its development.

The Kaaps language has been widely spoken since the 1500s in the Western Cape and beyond, and now, finally, the Center for Research on Multilingualism and Diversity (CMDR) is developing its very first trilingual dictionary for the language.

Read: The very first Academy for multilingualism to promote three indigenous languages ​​at UFS

Kaaps has been marginalized for centuries, and it is hoped that by developing this dictionary its dignity will be restored and the language will be preserved for generations to come.

Parent24 interviewed Professor Quentin Williams, Director of the Center for Research on Multilingualism and Diversity (CMDR) and Associate Professor of Linguistics at the University of the Western Cape, to share some details on the launch of the Kaaps Trilingual Dictionary.

“We hope this will have a profound impact on Kaaps as a language of teaching and learning in schools and universities, as a language for literacy development, and a language that could be learned by non-Kaap speakers in South Africa and around the world, “he tells us.

The CMDR is ultimately seeking to institutionalize a Kaaps dictionary unit at the University of the Western Cape (UWC), equivalent to the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (WAT) in Stellenbosch, adds Williams.

He mentioned that this project aims above all to break down and erode negative attitudes towards the language.

Specifically, the idea that Kaaps is not a language, that Kaaps is not good enough to be used as a language of teaching and learning in schools and universities, he clarifies.

“Or worse yet, remarks like ‘Kaaps speakers sound like gangsters’ because their bilingualism and multilingualism just happens to have gang number number words,” Williams says.

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The success of this project will help Kaaps speakers to participate fully in the South African economy, he says.

He shares that this project “will help Kaaps speakers to reap the benefits of becoming a language taught in schools and universities, a language used in economic fields, which is seen through the linguistic landscape of communities”.

“It is the responsibility of linguists, academics, government, parents and communities to ensure that we develop programs, language policies and laws to expand the use of Kaaps in the economy. It will transform the lives of Kaaps speakers, ”said Williams.

There is an editorial team dedicated to this project which includes a local and international advisory board.

Williams says the core editorial team will do the heavy lifting, including researching and identifying new Kaaps words in common use for dictionary inclusion.

“This will involve a process of creating, defining old and new Kaaps words, determining and evaluating the correctness of the meanings of those words, and translating the words and meanings of Kaaps into Afrikaans and Standard English. “Williams said.

“The advisory board provides us with Kaaps words from texts and documents to be included in the corpus, assesses the quality of the lexicography work produced by the main editorial team, assesses the quality of our Kaaps word entries in the corpus, evaluates the meanings of Kaaps words, especially the most used meanings that are secondary or less used, and comments on our editorial process, ”says Williams.

However, one of the biggest challenges of this project was to attract sponsors to expand the main editorial board. Williams says they were successful in securing seed funding, but additional financial support is needed for the project to be implemented.

This project is a long-term project that must be completed within the next five years, Williams says. His concern, for now, is the corpus-lexicography training of the main editorial board.

He says the plan is, to begin with, the development of the corpus to publish the online version of the dictionary by the fifth year.

William says that once they have reached a large body of work to design and produce the dictionary, they will publish the dictionary. He hopes that an online and offline version of around 240 pages will be available for publication in five years.


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