On the non-Africanness of A Dictionary of South African English

Anna Dziemianko (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań)

A Dictionary of South African English (henceforth DSAE ) deals with an unconventional part of the English vocabulary - the one which originated in or is peculiar to South Africa. There is little doubt that the African-language borrowings or otherwise Africanized English lexical items that the dictionary provides bear evidence of an important general property of English, its assimilative capacity. While, as could be expected, entries make the origin of headwords or idiosyncrasies of South African English usage clear in every case, the dictionary, a little surprisingly, and, as it might seem - contrary to the implication of the title itself, goes beyond the South African context.

The paper focuses on what the author of DSAE herself finds a greatly interesting, though unconventional part of the dictionary, i.e., "references [...] to items and usages from other variants of English comparable in form or idea with the South African terms" ( DSAE : xx). It is the resulting network of recurrent themes in the English vocabulary matched across the world that constitutes the aspect of the non-Africanness of DSAE which is discussed in the paper.

While the author admits that the number of the cross-references to the languages used by speech communities "far apart in space and time" is not sufficient, she stresses at the same time that many "striking parallels" are successfully supplied ( DSAE : xx). The paper attempts to provide close analysis of those parallels, focusing on both quantitative and qualitative aspects. Thus, once formal and structural facets of the cross-references in question are briefly presented and exemplified, their total number in the dictionary is given. Besides, all the "variants of English", to use Branford's words ( DSAE : xx), to which the cross-references pertain are specified, and it is indicated which of them predominate. Hong Kong English, Jamaican English, Australian English, Anglo-Indian English or New Zealand English are just a few examples of those which serve as a point of reference. Interestingly, it turns out that the dictionary is in fact more specific than the introduction might suggest, since some of the variants of English which appear in the cross-references are not even mentioned in the front matter, or they are further limited to particular geographical areas. Attention is also paid to what and how often is cross-referenced. In other words, the study answers the question which lexical items, divided also on the basis of part of speech, are cross-referenced most frequently, and in what cases cross-reference is the least frequent. In the end, the information from the cross-references themselves as well as the overall picture of the non-Africanness of DSAE are evaluated.


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