Oxford University Press (UK) has launched the first online bilingual and bidirectional Setswana-English dictionary. The dictionary went live online on Thursday May 12, 2016. It is found at https://tn.oxforddictionaries.com while its Facebook page is at https://www.facebook.com/OxfordSetswana/. The dictionary is totally free to use. Both the website and the Facebook page are managed by Prof. Thapelo J. Otlogetswe who is the Setswana Language Manager for Oxford University Press (UK). The dictionary project is supported by a team of experts known as Language Champions from Botswana and South Africa. From Botswana there is Mrs. Mmaserame David who is a member of the Academy of African Languages (Setswana Commission), the prolific linguist and Humanities Dean, Professor Andy Chebanne and the Psycholinguist Dr. Naledi Kgolo. The South African team comprises the UNISA academic and Raditladi expert, Prof. Sekepe Matjila and the Literary Award winner for best novel in Setswana as well as the M-Net Film Award winner, Sabata Mpho Mokae from Sol Plaatje University.
The launch of the website represents a breakthrough in the development of online Setswana lexical resources. It goes a long way in supporting the work of journalists, writers and all those who work in both Setswana and English. The growing online database is based on the Oxford English-Setswana Setswana-English School dictionary compiled by Otlogetswe (2013). It is another giant leap for Setswana lexicography and language development. The online Setswana dictionary is part of what is known as the Oxford Global Languages (OGL) which is a major new OUP initiative which will enable millions of people across the globe to find answers online to their everyday language questions. For now only 100 of the world’s languages have been selected for this initiative. When one considers that Africa alone comprises over 2000 languages one would appreciate the special position that Setswana occupies in this project. For the first time, large quantities of quality lexical information for Setswana languages will be systematically created, collected, and made available, in a single linked repository, to speakers and learners. The OGL initiative will enable the development of new digital tools and resources to revitalise and support under-represented world languages such as Setswana. It will also give Setswana a living, growing, vibrant presence in the digital landscape. It will document Setswana including its variants and dialects, truly recording how the language is used today. The project will provide an interactive community in which people can suggest new content, ask questions, and discuss language – these are living dictionaries of real languages that the community will help to build. OGL combines OUP’s tradition of digital innovation with the wide reach and scale of the OUP global dictionaries programme. Oxford University Press has a history of innovation in dictionaries from the earliest dictionaries in the 19th century to the online dictionaries of today. In partnership with language technologists, Oxford’s lexicographers and language researchers lead the way in creating language content built for the digital age. Using OUP’s global reach, the project will integrate and link together language content from across the world.
Setswana is the 6th language to become available in an Oxford living dictionary as part of Oxford Dictionaries’ global language initiative. The Oxford Online Setswana-English dictionary is probably the most ambitious lexicographic project in the history of Setswana bilingual lexicography since the compilation of Lokwalo loa Mahúkú a Secwana le Seeneles (Brown, 1875). This ambitious initiative includes major global languages and digitally under-represented ones – those which are actively spoken and used by large communities but which have little digital presence. These digitally under-represented languages and their speakers are increasingly disadvantaged in social, business, and cultural areas of life because resource in the digital world is focused on a small number of globally predominant languages. Oxford Global Languages launched its first two language sites, isiZulu and Northern Sotho, in 2015. Malay, Urdu, Setswana, and Indonesian have followed in 2016, with many more due to be added over the next few years. Batswana therefore have a chance to take part in the development of their language since through the online dictionary Batswana are not only consumers of material developed elsewhere. They can add words, idioms, proverbs, sayings, expressions together with their translations to the dictionary. Not only that, they can add dialectal and regional varieties of the language which are usually left out because the speakers of such varieties are in the minority. Lexicography has just become democratic! In fact this is how the original OED (Oxford English Dictionary) was conceived by Richard Chenevix Trench, an Anglican archbishop and Dean of Westminster who said “A Dictionary is an historical monument, the history of a nation contemplated from one point of view; and the wrong ways into which a language has wandered or been disposed to wander, may be nearly as instructive as the right ones in which it has traveled: as much as may be learned, or nearly as much from its failures as from its success, from its follies as from its wisdom” (Trench 1860: 7). Trench argued that “A dictionary….is an inventory of the language… It is no task of the maker of it to select the good words of a language. If he fancies that it is so, and begins to pick and choose, to leave this and to take that, he will at once go astray. The business which he has undertaken is to collect and arrange all the words, whether good or bad, whether they do or do not commend themselves to his judgment, which, with certain exceptions hereafter to be specified, those writing in the language have employed. He is an historian of it not a critic…” (Trench 1860: 7). It is a great day for Setswana.