Gender sensitivity in Isichazamazwi sesiNdebele

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 37, issue 2, 2017 , pages: 245–250
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2017.1378287
Author(s): Sanelisiwe SayiDepartment of African Languages and Literature, Zimbabwe


The article examines the treatment of lexical items related to gender in Isichazamazwi sesiNdebele (ISN; a monolingual Ndebele dictionary). Lemmata that carry gender sensitive overtones and what they reveal about Ndebele society are examined. Information for this article was gathered through an analysis of ISN lemmata and paraphrases of meaning of gender lexical items, as well as through questionnaires administered to ISN users, namely Ndebele teachers, Ordinary level and Advanced level Ndebele students, Bachelor of Arts students in Ndebele from tertiary institutions and Ndebele language lecturers. In the paraphrase of meaning of gender lexical items such as iwule, isifebe, impumangingene (which all mean prostitute), these terms associate anti-social behaviour with females, while exonerating their male counterparts. It is argued that, apart from novels, proverbs and folktales, the dictionary can also provide insight into societal values and attitudes from a gender perspective. Although a dictionary is supposed to be neutral and objective, its terms may reflect the ideology of the definer. The study suggests ways of improving paraphrases of meaning for lexical items relating to gender. The researcher recommends that lexicographers should use both the corpus and intuition in selecting lemmata. All this should be done in order to produce acceptably functional and objective dictionaries.

Get new issue alerts for South African Journal of African Languages