The provision of clear, intuitive, consistent pronunciation guides in a dictionary has always been a challenge to lexicographers. Add a multilingual user base and a general lack of IPA knowledge, and the lexicographer has even more challenges to negotiate.
This paper broadly discusses the issue of pronunciation in the context of a South African English school dictionary. It introduces different aspects of pronunciation guides and suggests topics for further study.
In Part 1 I discuss the problems associated with pronunciation guides in a South African English school dictionary, as well as the current methods of representing pronunciation in school dictionaries. I present the pros and cons of each method, as they apply to South African school dictionaries. Part 2 of this paper looks into the varieties of South African English and how they are represented in school dictionaries, and how this influences the presentation of pronunciation guides in the dictionaries.
Problems associated with pronunciation guides in South African English school dictionaries include:
·No standard English pronunciation, which means several variants are acceptable
·Different home languages mean that users bring different prior knowledge to their learning
·Afrikaans sounds, Sotho sounds and Nguni clicks exist in South African English words
·Knowledge of IPA is very limited in South Africa
·Respelling systems are not universal, so each dictionary needs a decoding table
I discuss these problems in greater depth, providing evidence, and solutions where possible.
The two types of pronunciations guides that I look at are:
·IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet)
·Respelling (including as subsets: respelling based on English spelling rules; and respelling based on individual phonemes)
I examine each of these systems and present advantages and disadvantages of each.
The next section of Part 1 of the paper consists of a comparison between different respelling systems in different South African school dictionaries. The guide to the respelling system (decoding table) used in each dictionary is presented, as well as a sample of words, providing a comparison between the dictionaries. As no South African school dictionary currently provides IPA as a pronunciation guide system, I provide an IPA pronunciation guide for each of the sample of words.
To conclude Part 1 of this paper, I present preliminary findings and offer suggestions of further study.
In Part 2 of this paper I discuss the varieties of South African English and the problems that they present to the selection of pronunciation guides in a school dictionary.
I look at the concept of standard pronunciation, and whether this is applicable to South African English. School dictionaries do not contain the space to represent all variants of pronunciation, and I discuss when one variant is sufficient, and when the words require more than one.
I will also look at the difference between written pronunciation guides and spoken ones, as used in online dictionaries and dictionary CD-ROMs.
Questions asked in Part 2 include:
·How many users of an English school dictionary are mother-tongue English speakers?
·Does a spoken pronunciation guide require a South African accent?
·Is there a preferred South African accent?
Part 2 of this paper will conclude with a summary of results and suggestions for further study.