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By Stephanie Saville
Pioneering work to preserve and advance the Zulu language has resulted in the compilation of the first isiZulu monolingual dictionary.
The Isichazamazwi SesiZulu (Zulu Dictionary), compiled by the Lexicography Unit at the University of Zululand, was launched by premier S'bu Ndebele in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.
Ndebele warned that unless the Zulu language was proactively advanced and developed, it could be in danger of disappearing in homes, as many children were speaking English at home.
He said it had "been a major battle to get Zulu and Xhosa recognised, but now that we have, they must be developed".
"Council meetings are conducted in English, where 58 out of 60 councillors are Zulu-speaking. That is a problem because they are making decisions in a second language."
A conference under way at the University of Stellenbosch had scientifically established that language and language behaviour as a human activity had started in Africa, said Ndebele. "This poses a challenge for Africa and the Africans to actively promote and develop their languages."
Ndebele said that, in line with the constitution, the KwaZulu-Natal government supported the development of all indigenous languages.
He said the use of the dictionary would assist in developing a standard Zulu language. "There are many different dialects, but this dictionary presents a point of reference - not an English point of reference, but Zulu defined in Zulu.
"Some beautiful isiZulu words and expressions have fallen into disuse as a result of the shortage of explanatory monolingual dictionaries."
The dictionary was published by New Dawn Publishers, in collaboration with Nutrend Publishers, and retails at R249. It will be available in bookstores next week and is also being rolled out at schools.