From Corpus to Dictionary: A Hybrid Prescriptive, Descriptive and Proscriptive Undertaking

Minah Nabirye, Gilles-Maurice de Schryver


Despite some heroic efforts over the past few years, Lusoga remains mostly underdeveloped. It is under continuous pressure from more prestigious languages, such as the neighbouring Luganda and especially the only official language in Uganda, English. Lusoga is undergoing rapid language shifts, with new concepts entering the language daily. Ironically, this process is taking place before Lusoga has even been properly reduced to writing. There is no single official orthography that is truly being enforced; people who do write, write as they think fit. Language data is needed for the production of reliable reference works. In the absence of a substantial body of published material in Lusoga, the researcher can resort to recording and transcribing the living language. This opens Pandora's box, in that spoken language (which is meant to be heard, and is typically less formal) is far more complex than written language (which is meant to be read, and is typically more formalised). Spoken and written variants are, by definition, different. And yet one wants to move the language forward, in a way, before the time is ripe. But then, with over two million speakers, how much longer can one wait? This article reports on the building of a new Lusoga corpus, nearly half of which consists of transcribed oral data. The writing problems encountered during the transcription effort are given detailed attention. Dealing with those writing problems in lexicography requires a multipronged approach. While most could be solved by laying down a norm, and thus through prescriptive lexicography, others need a more cautionary approach, and thus descriptive lexicography. Others still can only sensibly be solved when the lexicographer proposes certain options in defiance of existing norms and assumptions, at which point proscriptive lexicography needs to be called in.


Lusoga; Uganda; orthography; spelling; corpus; oral; spoken; transcription; full words; compounds; multiple forms; loanwords; borrowings; formality levels; concords; prescriptive lexicography; descriptive lexicography; proscriptive lexicography

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

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