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New Afrikaans thesaurus result of more than 20 years’ work
Author: Corporate Communication & Marketing / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie & Bemarking [Alec Basson]
Published: 20/05/2021

“Afrikaans is as alive as never before, it grows, it surges and it growls, it struggles, but it grows all the time, literally every day."

This is according to the former Director of the Stellenbosch University (SU) Language Centre, Prof Leon de Stadler. He was speaking at a lunch discussion last week (14 May 2021) with Prof Rufus Gouws of SU's Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. The topic of the discussion was the revised edition of the Tesourus van Afrikaans (Thesaurus of Afrikaans) that was published earlier this year. This was the first revised edition since 1994 and published by Pharos which is a publishing name of NB Publishers.

De Stadler, also previously associated with the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, worked with his wife, Amanda, to update the Afrikaans thesaurus. When the idea for the revised edition took hold in the 1980s, they consulted many thesauruses and finally decided to use Dr L Brouwers and Dr F Claes' Het Juiste Woord, the largest inventory of synonyms, style and meaning variants, expressions and contradictions in Dutch, as a guideline. They had to adapt the underlying conceptual structure of the thesaurus to reflect the Afrikaans living world. As part of the revision of the thesaurus, the structure was kept but the internal organisation of thesaurus articles was renewed and improved.Leon_Amanda-de-Stadler-Pharos.jpg

The new edition of the Tesourus van Afrikaans contains more than 140 000 entries in 855 fields of meaning, of which 20 000 are new entries. It has cross-references, idioms, fixed expressions and also more varieties of Afrikaans.

“Since the appearance of the Thesaurus in 1994, the Afrikaans vocabulary has grown in leaps and bounds –  think for example about the vocabulary that relates to modern technology, but especially also in the current era of the pandemic vocabulary that has enriched the language," said De Stadler.

​“And the irony is that the language continues to grow every day: When the manuscript was already on its way to the printers, new words emerged that were not included in the current edition. These include words such as bioborrel, druppeloordraagbaar, superverspreider, afstandskepping, voetgroet, elmboogkug, superverspreidergeleentheid."

De Stadler added that they especially enjoyed being able to focus on the varieties of the language such as annerlik, jits, newwer, newwermaaind, nema, voorlik, omtes, oralster, klossie (kleinhuisie), moewies, habba, piemp, liksens, mouter, skorro-skorro, loslappie, komvandaan, barakat, ottermaklottertjie, boom en koelpatats (marijuana), madjat, sjoekran, properse, sterkgevreet (sterkgevriet) (sterk van gees). These words highlight the richness of the Afrikaans vocabulary.

“It was important to give recognition to the varieties and make it clear that we have to pay attention to them. We still have to do more, of course – the more than 300 entries are just a start."

De Stadler said that while working on the project, he became aware of Afrikaans as a living language. According to him, the revised thesaurus proves that it is not busy dying out. According to him, the revised thesaurus shows in dramatic fashion how alive the language is.

“It was fascinating to see what had happened to Afrikaans in a period of more than 20 years. The language lives, you can feel its pulse all the time. The revised thesaurus is about the beating of the heart of Afrikaans and the revised thesaurus lets you hear this heartbeat in the more than 20 000 new entries."

“I have bad news for anyone who wants to make you believe that Afrikaans is dying. It simply isn't true."

De Stadler believes that everyone who writes will benefit from the revised thesaurus. He added that there are also other “spaces" where it could be used.

“It was a joy to see that the book attracted the attention of teachers and that they wanted to know more about how it could be used in the classroom."

De Stadler said they have been invited for interviews with teachers to share with them how to utilise the thesaurus to the benefit of the children.

  • The Tesourus van Afrikaans costs R450 and is available at leading bookstores as well as online at Takelot and Amazon Books.

Photo: Prof Leon de Stadler (left) and his wife Amanda hand over a copy of the Tesourus van Afrikaans to Philip de Vos who has been supporting the dictionary for many years.