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Defining people: race and ethnicity in South African English dictionaries

Oxford University Press
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  • Linguistics


This paper examines problems in defining racial terminology in an age of international lexicography through a survey of South African English (SAfE) racial and ethnic terminology and its representation in English dictionaries used in South Africa. Rather than reflecting past apartheid attitudes and racial definitions, dictionaries for the South African public tend to ignore the most common South African senses of racial labels [terms]. The deficits and biases in these dictionaries are surveyed with an eye to the changing roles of dictionaries, English, and racial classification in South Africa. [NB: In this paper, Label can mean (1) 'word, as for social group' (eg European); (2) 'diasystemic label' (eg SAfE; derog).]

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