The 16th Annual International AFRILEX Conference
UNAM, Windhoek, Namibia, 5-7 July 2011

[Abstract:] Nabirye, Minah: What is right or wrong: In Quest of formal Lusoga

In September 2005, the Ugandan parliament passed the teaching of mother-tongue languages, both as a subject and as a medium of instruction, in primary schools. The Minister of Education and Sports passed on the implementation of the language policy to the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), to start in February 2007 (NCDC 2006: 1). The NCDC conducted a pilot study of a proposed thematic curriculum in the period 2005-2006, but results from this pilot showed a grim picture for the success of mother-tongue education in Uganda (Nabirye & De Schryver 2010: 333-334). In spite of the limitations sighted, mainly hinting at the dire need for mother-tongue educators and relevant literature, the implementation process is ongoing. If Lusoga is to be used in earnest as a language of instruction, however, it needs a formally accepted stand as a point of reference. This has significant implications for dictionary compilation as well as for corpus building, both of which are explored in this paper.

Though preliminary writing guides are availed in existing orthographies and dictionaries, there are additional and unclear instantiations of Lusoga concepts and usages that lack a defined lexicalization standard. Presently, there is very little concession on what should or should not be Lusoga for starters and what the standard should be. Some problems central to formal language specification have not yet arisen, and are therefore not yet a subject of inquiry. Questions as basic as what a standard is and why it is necessary are becoming increasingly vital. Hence the need to look at the criteria required to differentiate cases such as the below.

1a.  March  Ogwokusatu  (full construction, capitalized, no abbreviation or complement)

  b.  a third sth  ogw’okusatu  (not capitalized, needs a noun complement)

2a.  weeks  saabbiiti  (full construction, not capitalized)

  b.  Sunday  Ssaabbiiti  (full construction, capitalized)

3a.  Ugandan  Omunauganda written as  (o)muna Uganda / (o)munaUganda

  b.  Musoga  Omusoga  written as  omusoga / omuSoga

Studying the lexicalization of the Lusoga names for months as shown in (1a), we find that March Ogwokusatu is a compounded form which does not require any further information to fulfil its function. It is a full self-standing construction and a proper name which is capitalized. Third as in ogw’okusatu in (1b), however, requires qualification to specify the object of say a third month omwezi ogw’okusatu (which is not the same as March) or a third time omulundi ogw’okusatu. (2a) is a dependant construction requiring modification to arrive at the full meaning. The difference between (1a) and (1b) is based on the semantic interpretation derived from the use of capitalization and abbreviation.

In (2a) and (2b) the full meanings are realized as a single lexical form, but the meanings are differentiated by capitalization. Examples (3a) and (3b) each have two parts whose writing is not yet synchronized. Some write words of this nature as two separate concepts and since they are supposed to be proper nouns requiring capitalization, treatment of the right placement of the capitalization is haphazard.

Examples (4a), (4b) and (4c) show cases of homography. (4b) only makes a full construction if it is written conjunctively, while in (4c) the form can be repeated as many times as the emphasis allows, e.g. boona boona boona boona... but the meaning is not the same as in (4a).

4a.  also  boona  (single lexical construction)

  b.  all  boonaboona  (single lexical construction, written conjunctively)

  c.  all (+ emphasis)  boona boona  (compounded construction, written disjunctively)

Finally, abbreviated forms also need to be contextualized. For instance, abbreviations should indicate the status of a form as either formal or informal, as in (5a) and (5b). These should not be mistaken for cases such as (1a) and (1b), which result in semantic change, but should be considered as merely formal lexicalization.

5a.  as a person  ng’omuntu  (informal representation)

  b.  as a person  nga omuntu  (formal representation)

The compilation of the first monolingual Lusoga dictionary, the Eiwanika ly’Olusoga (Nabirye 2009), was subjected to repeated scrutiny from purists who sought only the ‘right terms’ to qualify as entries. Given few Lusoga reference works existed at the time, and given that the dictionary was compiled without access to a large corpus, there was very little to guide the right or wrong choice. A newly built corpus, however, is now showing different results and revealing new Lusoga concepts and lexicalization processes that need further clarification. The paper will therefore highlight the type of instances that have been observed in Lusoga, instances which now need to be specified based on the examples found in the corpus. The paper will also show how far the existing Lusoga orthographies and dictionaries have gone in guiding the Lusoga lexicalization processes and what still needs further clarification with the aim of guiding the founding of formal Lusoga.


Nabirye, M. 2009. Eiwanika ly'Olusoga. Kampala: Menha Publishers.

Nabirye, M. & G-M de Schryver. 2010. The Monolingual Lusoga Dictionary Faced with Demands from a New User Category. Lexikos 20: 326–350.

NCDC. 2006. THEMA. The Newsletter of the Thematic Primary Curriculum. Issue 1. August 2006. Kampala: National Curriculum Development Centre.