Lost and Found: The Value of a Little Known Bilingual Dictionary Towards the Intellectualization of Ndau

Emmanuel Sithole, Dion Nkomo


This article critically evaluates the ChiNdau–English and English–ChiNdau Vocabulary: With Grammatical Notes, a bilingual dictionary published in 1915 by the American Board Mission (Rhodesian Branch), with a view of determining its suitability for use as a point of departure for modern Ndau lexicography. More than a century after its publication, it remains the only dictionary in the language. The language has been treated as a dialect of Shona for close to a century, until its emergence as one of the country's sixteen officially-recognized languages in the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe. This landmark development requires practical work that can transform Ndau into a fully-fledged and intellectualized language. Lexicography is one of the key intellectual enterprises that can contribute in this regard. It is therefore the contention of this article that the existing dictionary be considered as a vital point of reference for future lexicographic work in Ndau. An analysis of various aspects of the dictionary indicate that, notwithstanding some limitations, this dictionary indeed managed to set some standards that may be incorporated in current and future lexicographic works in this less documented language.


dictionaries; missionary lexicography; Chindau; Chindau vocabulary; Ndau; Ndau lexicography; Ndau orthography; language intellectualization; marginalized languages; officially-recognized languages; Zimbabwean lexicography

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5788/27-1-1411


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

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