Lemmatisation of Fixed Expressions: The Case of Proverbs in Northern Sotho

I.M. Kosch


The purpose of this article is to make a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the lexicographic treatment and listing of proverbs in the Wörterbuch der Sotho-Sprache (Endemann 1911) in comparison to selected Northern Sotho dictionaries. In order to accommodate proverbs, which are fixed multiword expressions, they are customarily entered as sub-lemmas under a particular simple headword, usually one of the key components of a proverb. The selection of a key component relies on the subjective judgement of the lexicographer. This selective approach may result in proverbs falling between the cracks if none of the components strike the compiler as prominent enough to justify the inclusion of a proverb under a particular headword. This seems to have been the case in the dictionary under investigation, given the dearth of proverbs taken up in this work. On the other hand their omission could simply be ascribed to a practical consideration such as limited space in a printed dictionary. A dictionary user might find it challenging to look up a desired proverb, especially if the individual words have a very low general frequency or are even obsolete in modern life. In that case, an electronic format of a dictionary would be most enabling, allowing for an electronic search. Special purpose dictionaries dedicated to culturally-birthed sayings such as proverbs, will go a far way in safeguarding their knowledge for posterity.


multiword expressions; proverbs; lexicographic treatment; key component; headword; general dictionary; special purpose dictionary

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5788/26-1-1354


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ISSN 2224-0039 (online); ISSN 1684-4904 (print)

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