Zulu bird names: A progression over the decades (II) [Part two: The second hundred years, with Roberts, and Doke and Vilakazi]

Published in: South African Journal of African Languages
Volume 39, issue 1, 2019 , pages: 9–15
DOI: 10.1080/02572117.2019.1572308
Author(s): Adrian KoopmanFaculty of Arts and Design, South Africa


Part One of this two-part series on the history of the recording of Zulu bird names covered the period of the first explorers in KwaZulu-Natal in the 1830s and went up to Samuelson’s 1923 dictionary. This second part begins with the rise of interest in bird-watching as a hobby and the subsequent publication of the first successful bird guide: Austin Roberts’ 1940 Birds of South Africa. Subsequent revised editions, under different authors, were published in 1957, 1970, 1978, 1985, 1993, and 2005: all with the title Roberts Birds of Southern Africa (or minor variations thereof). The changing face of the Zulu names in these editions is examined in detail. As with Part One, the role of dictionaries in developing Zulu bird names is discussed, with Doke and Vilakazi’s 1948 Zulu-English Dictionary playing a major role. The article ends with thoughts on the unequal dynamics between the Zulu people whose oral tradition has provided the Zulu bird names, and the almost entirely white missionaries, ornithologists and lexicographers who have recorded these names. In the last ten years or so, an interest in both bird-watching and in oral traditions relating to birds has seen these dynamics change, with Zulu-speaking people becoming directly involved not only in the recording of Zulu bird names, but also in creating them for educational and tourism purposes.

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