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Prof Rufus Gouws wins Jan H Marais prize for outstanding contribution to Afrikaans
Author: Corporate Communication and Marketing | Korporatiewe Kommunikasie en Bemarking (Amber Viviers)
Published: 12/05/2022

​​​Stellenbosch University academic, Prof Rufus Gouws, has been awarded the Jan H Marais prize for outstanding contributions to Afrikaans as an academic language. Gouws is widely regarded as one of South Africa's leading lexicographers with a career that spans over 45 years.

Stellenbosch University (SU), Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds and Naspers introduced the annual Jan H Marais prize in 2015. The prize of R 750 000 will be awarded at an event in Stellenbosch on Friday, 3 June 2022.

Prof Wim de Villiers, SU Rector and Vice-Chancellor, says Prof Gouws is a deserving recipient of this year's award. “Since joining Stellenbosch University in 1980, Prof Gouws has been a valued academic at his alma mater, specifically in the field of lexicography. As an editor, supervisor and researcher he has contributed significantly to the University's vision of becoming more research intensive."

Gouws holds a doctorate in Afrikaans and Dutch from SU. After starting his academic career in 1977 at Unisa, he joined the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at SU in 1980, where he was promoted to professor in 1999. 

Gouws successfully established lexicography as a core research component in the Department. Over the years, he has supervised 36 students at master's level and 24 students at doctoral level to complete their qualifications. The National Research Foundation also rated him as a B2 researcher who enjoys considerable international recognition for his research outputs' high quality and impact.

Thanks to his work as lecturer and researcher in lexicography SU is the only university outside of Europe that is a full consortium member of the European Master in Lexicography, EMLex.

“I am honoured to receive this prize and am thankful to those who appreciate my contribution to Afrikaans," he said.

“But more importantly, it's not about who receives the prize but that such a prize exists. Afrikaans is a sophisticated communication tool that must be maintained, expanded and improved, and this award recognises the importance of this development," said Gouws.

He also thanked his colleagues in the Department and elsewhere in the country and the world. “A special thanks to my wife, Ilse, who was responsible for the actions while I was busy with the words," he said.

The award is named after Johannes Henoch (Jannie) Marais (1860–1915), a visionary who contributed to the establishment of SU, Het Jan Marais Nationale Fonds and Naspers . Marais hailed from Stellenbosch and was an avid supporter of Afrikaans as an academic and literary language.

The prize for an outstanding contribution to academic Afrikaans is administered by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns. This year the selection committee of leading academics consisted of Prof Albert Grundlingh (professor emeritus of history at SU), Prof Debra Meyer (dean of the Faculty of Science at the University of Johannesburg (UJ)), Prof Ena Jansen (former professor of South African literature at the University of Amsterdam), Prof Ian Dubery (professor of biochemistry at UJ) and Dr Johan van Zyl (former vice-chancellor and principal of the University of Pretoria).

Previous winners of the Jan H Marais prize include theorist Prof Ina Wolfaardt-Gräbe (2021), literary scholar and poet Prof Hennie van Coller (also 2021), jurist Prof Jean Christoph Sonnekus (2020), historian Prof Fransjohan Pretorius (2019), linguist Prof Christo van Rensburg (2018), jurist Prof Marinus Wiechers (2018), language historian and author Prof Jaap Steyn (2017), theologist Prof Jan van der Watt (2017) and historian Prof Hermann Giliomee (2016).