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Academic Paper


Title: Where does a New English dictionary stop? On the making of the Dictionary of South African Indian English
Author: Rajend Mesthrie
Institution: University of Cape Town
Linguistic Field: History of Linguistics
Abstract: This paper reflects on the recently published Dictionary of South African Indian English (Mesthrie, 2010, henceforth DSAIE) in terms of the decisions that have to be made over content in a New English variety. ‘New English’ is used in the commonly accepted sense of a variety that has arisen as a second language in a multilingual context, mainly under British colonialism, but which has gained an identity of its own on account of its characteristic linguistic features which differ from those of the erstwhile target language, viz. educated British English. Dictionaries of English outside of England and the United States of America are no longer novel: well-known efforts include the Macquarie Dictionary of Australian English (Butler et al., 2009) and The Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles (Silva et al., 1996). In the same vein Hobson-Jobson (Yule & Burnell, 1886) recorded the lexis of colonial India, concentrating more on the vocabulary of the British there, though usage characteristic of Indians is also cited. Post-colonial India is still served by lexicographers of British origins: Hanklyn-Janklin (Hankin, 1994) and Sahibs, Nabobs and Boxwallahs (Lewis, 1991) are both true to the Hobson-Jobson tradition in feel and style, whilst being fairly up-to-date. I am unaware of any systematic dictionary work treating of the more colloquial words of Indian English, this 30 years on from Braj Kachru's (1983) article ‘Toward a Dictionary’. The popular guidebook series Lonely Planet has stolen a march on the lexicographers in producing a vibrant, popular book Indian English: Language and Culture (2008), with an emphasis on vocabulary amidst other culture lessons. The new internet era has also provided online dictionaries, the most sophisticated in my experience being the Dictionary of Singlish and Singapore English launched in 2004 ().

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This article appears IN English Today Vol. 29, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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