Adapting a Historical Dictionary for the Modern Online User: The Case of the Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles's Presentation and Navigation Features

André Du Plessis, Tim Van Niekerk


A collaboration between the Dictionary Unit for South African English (DSAE) and Stellenbosch University (SU) was initiated in 2016 to address the structure, layout and functionality of the online Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles (DSAEHist). This article focuses on work undertaken during the initial stages of the DSAE-SU collaboration and presents current work in adapting a print historical dictionary for the digital age. As with other print dictionaries that enter the electronic medium, the pilot version of the online DSAEHist still felt and looked like a print dictionary, albeit with a somewhat more user-friendly access structure. Another difficulty that the DSAEHist faces is the need for a dictionary based on historical principles to showcase large diachronic datasets. This requires that the article and microstructure, as well as the access structure, be adapted. Apart from this, the general layout of the dictionary is also being re-evaluated and redesigned to make it more usable on online platforms. To accommodate new users and to bring the DSAEHist into the digital era (with regard to standard web and mobile practices) stylistic, navigational and functional changes are being made. This article presents these changes to show how a valuable cultural and language resource is being brought into the digital era.


South African English; historical dictionary; online dictionary; print adaptation; microstructure; macrostructure; article structure; user research; data presentation; usability; navigation

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

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