21 November 2022 | Story Rulanzen Martin
Prof Rufus Gouws
Prof Rufus Gouws has more than 40 years of experience in Afrikaans and Dutch and was also a good friend of the late Prof Christo van Rensburg.

During the Christo van Rensburg memorial lecture presented by the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch, German and French, Prof Rufus Gouws – associated with Stellenbosch University – spoke about Dictionaries, the world and the real language.

The memorial lecture, which pays tribute to the work and legacy of Prof Christo van Rensburg, was delivered at the University of the Free State (UFS) on 8 November 2022. “Prof Van Rensburg was best known for the work he did to identify, record, analyse, and introduce Afrikaans varieties to the world,” said Prof Heidi Hudson, Dean of the Faculty of the Humanities.

“Prof Van Rensburg was head of department at the UFS in the 1980s, and the purpose of the lecture is to honour his legacy in academia,” said Prof Hudson. She also said Prof Van Rensburg will especially be remembered for his comprehensive work on Griqua Afrikaans.

Dictionaries represent a community

Regarding dictionaries, Prof Gouws said that they solve many problems, but also cause many problems. “As holders of linguistic information, dictionaries are practical tools intended to oblige a specific user group,” Prof Gouws explained. Dictionaries are the reporters of actual language use, the world culture, and worldview of the users concerned.

It is for this reason that dictionaries, as Prof Gouws puts it, “are constantly being adapted in terms of content and presentation”.

Dictionaries have a rich origin

The origins of dictionaries can be traced back to the first clay tablet compiled in Syria 3 000 years ago, to the present-day online dictionaries. “Dictionaries are motivated by the practical communication needs of members of the language community in question,” says Prof Gouws.

“During the Middle Ages, dictionaries were used in universities, monasteries, and seminaries where the intellectual elite had access to these dictionaries, not the common man.”  Dictionaries were increasingly used in education, and in the church environment dictionaries were used to make the relevant religion available to researchers in Latin and Hebrew, Greek and Arabic.

The lecture was made possible by financial support from the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.


Watch the full lecture here:


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