Chairperson’s Annual Report: 1997-1998

by R.H. Gouws


When the African Association for Lexicography was established in 1995 we envisaged not only a future for this then the youngest member of the 'LEX family but an extremely bright future for a functional and prolific new association. Today, only three years later, we can look back on a period during which the baby coped with a number of teething and colic problems, had a few tantrums, went through an early puberty but finally reached maturity to become a major role player in the South African and African lexicographic endeavour. We are grateful, and I am privileged to present the annual chairperson's report reflecting on the AFRILEX activities of the past year.


Once again, 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: your contributions have secured another prosperous AFRILEX year. This third year of AFRILEX has been characterised by its acceptance of the responsibilities of a mature participant on the language engineering front. Due to the firm basis established in the previous years, AFRILEX is currently regarded as an association representing an important section of the varied lexicographic community. Your Board has tried to act according to this mandate.


In my previous annual report I referred to the responsibility of AFRILEX to promote both the theoretical and the practical lexicography in South Africa as well as in other countries of our continent. I then said that to achieve this goal the emphasis has to be on creating opportunities for the training of lexicographers and on constructive discussions with a variety of colleagues. Today I am pleased to reflect on some of these opportunities created or supported by AFRILEX.


The 1997 AFRILEX conference in Durban hosted a one-day training session. The first component of this session had general lexicography as its point of departure. It dealt with a number of theoretical non-language-specific issues and established a sound basis for further discussions. The second component focused on aspects related to the African languages in general and in the third component the emphasis was on a more detailed analysis of specific problems encountered in the Sotho and Nguni languages respectively. We regard the structure of this training session as a model for other similar courses, i.e. starting with general principles and working towards language-specific details and problems. AFRILEX realises that lexicography in Africa needs a sound theoretical basis but it has to focus on the unique aspects of the African languages – aspects for which too many theoretical attempts make too little provision. In September AFRILEX and the Dictionary Unit for South African English co-hosted SALEX '97. Monolingual descriptive dictionaries were at the centre of attention but a definite need was also identified for a training course focusing on bilingual dictionaries. Responding to this need AFRILEX, with the financial support of the Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, is hosting AFRILEX-SALEX'98 in September this year. At this training session the model which had been introduced at the Durban conference will be employed.


One of the major assignments of the Pan South African Language Board is to help with the establishment of National Lexicographic Units for each one of the eleven official languages of South Africa. In October 1997, March and May 1998 three consultative meetings were held to discuss a variety of relevant issues with the various stakeholders. AFRILEX also received invitations and was well represented at each one of these meetings. We had the opportunity to participate in the discussions and to pledge our association's support for this massive effort. AFRILEX-SALEX'98 should also be seen as an effort by AFRILEX to assist in this regard. However, AFRILEX is an association for the continent of Africa and not only for South Africa. Therefore AFRILEX-SALEX'98 is not only directed at the South African linguistic situation but it is an opportunity to enhance expertise and skills in general bilingual lexicography.


The Board eagerly awaits requests from other African countries for training and other assistance.


No new dictionary project should be undertaken without the necessary computer facilities. Dictionary projects for the various African languages will eventually benefit from standardised and compatible computer programs. To activate the discussion of this relevant topic AFRILEX organised a consultative meeting on the standardisation of computer programs. As a result of this meeting, hosted by the University of Pretoria in March 1998, follow-up meetings will be held to ascertain the computer needs and the possibility of standardisation. Once again, AFRILEX will remain in contact with the various stakeholders.


AFRILEX took pride in presenting all members with a copy of our annual journal Lexikos. Once again the contents as well as the presentation was of an exceptional high standard. On behalf of the Board and all other members of AFRILEX I would like to thank the Bureau of the WAT and especially Dr. Johan du Plessis who acted as editor in chief of Lexikos 7 for this fine product. At this stage the Board cannot guarantee a complimentary copy of Lexikos 8 to all its members – the costs have not yet been fixed. However, we would like to repeat last year's performance, but if it is not possible members will be able to purchase Lexikos at a special subsidised rate.


One of the exciting developments in AFRILEX was the establishment of our own website. Our organiser, Prof. Danie Prinsloo did all the necessary work to promote AFRILEX as a prominent milestone on the information highway. The website is there to be used. Please access it to obtain all the AFRILEX information you need.


Last year the conference dinner was sponsored by Pharos. Mr. Hans Büttner and his colleagues at Pharos have agreed to sponsor it again this year and to consider the possibility of going for the hat trick in 1999. We appreciate this gesture which has all the makings of becoming a tradition to be carried into the new millennium.


I want to express my sincere gratitude towards the members of the executive and the Board for there loyal assistance. I have to mention the names of Prof. Danie Prinsloo our energetic, innovative and enthusiastic organiser, Dr. Mariëtta Alberts our secretary and Dr. Margaret Marggraff our treasurer. Without their help your association would have been in a far less healthy condition.


One of the characteristic features of the Renaissance was the emergence of dictionaries and their spreading of the light of learning so desperately needed in the aftermath of the Dark Middle Ages. One of the characteristic features of the African Renaissance could be the emergence of dictionaries for all the African languages and productive and fruitful metalexicographic co-operation between all the stakeholders. May this be one of the attainable objectives of AFRILEX for the coming years.


29 June 1998

R.H. Gouws.


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