The Intellectualization of African Languages through Terminology and Lexicography: Methodological Reflections with Special Reference to Lexicographic Products of the University of KwaZulu-Natal

  • Langa Khumalo South African Centre for Digital Language Resources, North West University, Potchefstroom, South Africa
  • Dion Nkomo School of Languages and Literatures: African Language Studies, Rhodes University, Makhanda, South Africa


Terminology development and practical lexicography are crucial in language intel­lectualization. In South Africa, the Department of Sport, Arts and Culture, National Lexicography Units, universities, commercial publishers and other organizations have been developing terminol­ogy and publishing terminographical/lexicographical resources to facilitate the use of African languages alongside English and Afrikaans in prestigious domains. Theoretical literature in the field of lexicography (e.g., Bergenholtz and Nielsen (2006); Bergenholtz and Tarp (1995; 2010); Gouws 2020) has attempted to resolve traditional distinctions between lexicography and termi­nology while also addressing terminological imprecisions in the relevant scholarship. Taking the cue from such scholarship, this article reflects on the methodological approaches for developing lexicographical products for specific subject fields, i.e., resources that document and describe ter­minology from specialized academic and professional fields. Its focus is on the use of traditional methods vis-à-vis the application of electronic corpora and its technologies in the key practical tasks such as term extraction and lemmatization. The article notes that the limited availability of specialized texts in African languages hampers the development and deployment of advanced electronic corpora and its applications to improve the execution of terminological and lexico­graphical tasks, while also enhancing the quality of the products. The Illustrated Glossary of Southern African Architectural Terms (English–isiZulu), A Glossary of Law Terms (English–isiZulu) and the forth­coming isiZulu dictionary of linguistic terms are used for special reference. Keywords: intellectualization of African languages, lexicography, termi­nology, terminography, dictionary, subject field dictionaries, sub­ject field lexicography, glossary, electronic corpora