Chairperson’s Annual Report: 1996-1997

by R.H. Gouws


At this second annual general meeting of the African Association for Lexicography it is my privilege to present a report of the AFRILEX activities of the past year. On behalf of the Board I want to thank each and every member of AFRILEX for his or her contribution to the well-being of our association during the past year: contributions that have secured another prosperous AFRILEX year.


The first year of AFRILEX was characterised by the will to establish a sound infrastructure, attempts to reach potential members and negotiations to acquire access to a journal. After the success of the first year the second AFRILEX year witnessed endeavours to promote both the theoretical and the practical lexicography in South Africa as well as in other countries of our continent. To achieve this goal the emphasis has firstly been on creating opportunities for the training of lexicographers and, secondly, on constructive discussions with a variety of colleagues.


Once again the hosting of regional seminars played a vital role in the training efforts. In this regard our Organiser, Prof. Danie Prinsloo, was instrumental in hosting a one-day tutorial at the University of Pretoria in November 1996 where a series of lectures covered a wide spectrum of lexicographic activities. Prof. Prinsloo also obtained a Verbatim Grant from the European Association for Lexicography which enabled him to arrange a conference focusing on the lexicographic needs of isiNdebele. Both these occasions were well attended and succeeded in spreading the kind of information so desperately needed in South Africa. As I have mentioned at last year's AGM the Board is keen to see more members taking the initiative in organising regional seminars. The Board will assist with the logistics. Please do not hesitate to contact our Organiser if you are willing to host a regional seminar. These seminars are of vital importance to our association.


AFRILEX represents the lexicographic ambitions, dreams, problems and realities of the continent of Africa. The activities of AFRILEX have to reach further than the borders of South Africa. In January this year four AFRILEX members, Dr. Mariëtta Alberts, our secretary-treasurer, Mr. Phakamani Mthembu, both from the NTS, Prof. Danie Prinsloo and myself paid a visit to Tanzania and Kenya. We visited the Institute for Kiswahili Research at the University of Dar-es-Salaam where we were the guests of the members of the Kiswahili Dictionary Unit. We had wonderful discussions with our colleagues there during which we identified mutual problems and pleasures in our respective lexicographic endeavours. We were also given the opportunity to introduce AFRILEX to a number of potential members. In Kenya our destination was the Summer Institute of Linguistics in Nairobi. This institute hosts translators working on various Bible translation projects for which they need new translation dictionaries. This need compels them to compile their own dictionaries. Africa desperately needs skilled lexicographers and AFRILEX has a responsibility and a commitment to help with the solving of this crucial problem.


This visit to Tanzania and Kenya helped to extend the domain of interest in AFRILEX but it also emphasised the potential which exists for our association. I have to mention the fact that this visit did not cost AFRILEX a cent. All the expenses were covered by the NTS, the University of Pretoria, the University of Stellenbosch and the four members of the party. I would like to express the gratitude of AFRILEX towards these three institutions.


Dr. Dirk van Schalkwyk, editor in chief of the WAT and board member of AFRILEX, accompanied by his WAT colleague Dr. Frikkie Lombard, visited Gabon where they presented a lexicography training course. They also used the opportunity to inform the delegates about AFRILEX.


The objectives of AFRILEX were also conveyed to colleagues in Europe. During a visit to Belgium as part of a joint Flemish-South African project initiated by one of our members, Prof. Jan Kabuta from the University of Ghent, I had the opportunity to address colleagues from the Dienst Linguďstiek at the Koninklijk Museum voor Midden-Afrika. As linguists working with African languages and involved in the compilation of translation dictionaries they took a keen interest in the activities of our association. Although we are the African Association for Lexicography we welcome participation from other continents.


During our first year AFRILEX already liaised with other lexicographic associations like the DSNA, EURALEX and AUSTRALEX. This year saw the birth of a new lexicographic association, i.e. ASIALEX, which was formed in Hong Kong in March. For this occasion AFRILEX was represented by Prof. Prinsloo. As chairperson I had a notice from the honorary secretary of ASIALEX informing us of their existence and expressing their willingness to co-operate with AFRILEX. On behalf of AFRILEX I congratulated them and assured them of our good will and our hopes to embark on projects of mutual interest.


Lexikos 6, the official AFRILEX journal, was published in November 1996 and included a variety of articles. The Board is glad that our membership fees made it possible for us to provide each member of AFRILEX with a copy. Good value for money!! I would like to thank the editor, Dr. Dirk van Schalkwyk, and his colleagues at the WAT for producing such a splendid journal. We are proud to be part of Lexikos. Lexikos is our journal. Please support it by submitting articles and by promoting its sales amongst academics and language practitioners.


Due to the fact that Lexikos has the first right of refusal for the papers of this conference we are not publishing the papers as a separate proceedings volume.


I am glad to inform you that Mrr. Arie Blackquerie and Gerhard van Huyssteen have been appointed as editors of our newsletter which you will be receiving shortly.


I want to thank the Board, and the Executive Committee, with special reference to our secretary-treasurer, Dr. Mariëtta Alberts, and our Organiser, Prof. Danie Prinsloo, for their efforts this past year. They have helped to ensure that AFRILEX can focus on lemmas and not on dilemmas. It was my pleasure and honour to function as the first chairperson of this fine association. I am grateful. I wish the new Board everything of the best for the next term.


J.R. Hulbert once remarked: “I know of no more enjoyable intellectual activity than working on a dictionary”. It is my hope that all members of AFRILEX will experience this joy in the coming year. This can be achieved by doing either practical or theoretical lexicography but, especially, by giving other people access to dictionaries and, by improving their dictionary using skills, also access to better communication. AFRILEX must be a major role-player in the communicative empowerment of all the people of our continent.


14 July 1997

R.H. Gouws.


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