History and Development of the DSAE

The Dictionary Unit for South African English was founded by Professor William Branford in 1969, as a project of the Institute for the Study of English in Africa at Rhodes University. It received ad hoc grants from the Human Sciences Research Council and the Department of National Education until 1985 when an annual grant was allocated. In June 1991 the DSAE became a non-profit company with a Board of Directors, funded largely by the Department of National Education. Subsequently, funding was taken over by the then Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, which later passed on the responsibility to the Pan South African Language Board.

The DSAE is housed in the St Peter’s Building (formerly a convent, built in 1893) at Rhodes University, together with the Institute for the Study of English in Africa and the Rhodes University Mathematics Education Project.

Main object

Initially the main object of the company was:

"The continuous and comprehensive collecting, arranging and storing in a lexicographically workable form of the vocabulary of the English language as used in southern Africa and the editing and publication of the collected materials in the form of A Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles, as well as periodical revision and updating of the text thereof and other research and publications associated therewith."

This was amended in 1995 to include the compilation of other dictionaries, both by the DSAE itself and in collaboration with others, as well as a commitment to become involved with lexicographical training in South Africa.

Activities and achievements

The DSAE has been collecting examples of South African English since its foundation. During the compilation of the print edition of A Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles staff were fortunate to have access to the Cory Library at Rhodes University, which has extensive holdings of southern African books, diaries, and periodicals. Much of this information was recorded in a card index system. Since 2004 material has been collected electronically.

In 2014 the Unit began developing pilot online Desktop and Mobile editions of A Dictionary of South African English on Historical Principles. Subsequently it published its redesigned DSAE Desktop Edition v. 1.0 (2019) and DSAE Mobile Edition v. 1.0 (2020). Access to the entire text remains free at (http://dsae.co.za).

Several other print dictionaries have been produced for South Africa by the DSAE, including Jean Branford’s Dictionary of South African English (four editions) and the Oxford South African Concise Dictionary (two editions). Details of these and other works can be found in the list of the Unit’s publications.

The DSAE regularly answers enquiries on South African English from other lexicographers and members of the public. Staff also attend conferences and seminars and write papers for journals such as Lexikos, the official publication of the African Association for Lexicography.


The Board of Directors

Mrs S.E.H. Driver (Chairperson), Mr T.L. Amos (Deputy Chairperson), Prof. R.D. Adendorff, Mr M.M. Hacksley, Mr D.R. Harris, Prof. M.G. Hendricks, Mr J.D. Linnegar, Dr Y. Motara, Prof. D. Nkomo, Prof. J.C. Roux, Mr T. van Niekerk (Executive Director).

Last Modified: Tue, 23 Jun 2020 16:13:05 SAST