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Derivation and adaptation of acronyms in Ndebele.


Ndebele borrows lexical and phonological elements from contact languages. However, due to its prestige, colonialism and technological advancement, most loans come from English. English and Ndebele both use the Roman alphabet, but they differ markedly in their phonological systems. This paper investigates the changes that abbreviations and acronyms undergo when they are adapted to Ndebele from English. When adapted into Ndebele, abbreviations and acronyms are subjected to the same conditions as other nouns in the language, they under go morphological and semantic processes.

Abbreviation And Acronymy

Abbreviations and acronyms are methods of shortening phrases, using the first letters of each word or the first two letters. There are two types of abbreviations: those that cannot be pronounced as words and those that can be pronounced as words. The difference between the two is that in abbreviations the letters are spelt out one after the other while in acronyms they are in a series of sounds that can to be pronounced as a word. Landau (1984:41) defines an abbreviation as:
   A shortened form for a word or phrase consisting of the first
   letter of each of the words in the phrase or sometimes first two
   letters. Distinction between abbreviations and acronyms is often
   arbitrary, because the same distinction may be pronounced by some
   as a word and others by reciting the names of the letters.

An acronym is defined by Landau (1984:41) as a form of abbreviation composed of the first or the first two letters, or a syllable from each of the words in a compound term or phrase, so ordered that the resulting series of letters is usually pronounced as a word. Lexicalisation of abbreviations contributes to language development; it is one way languages create new words. However, Ndebele does not employ abbreviations and acronyms, they only come into the language as loan words from English in most cases. Letters of the alphabet are used as they are used in English phonology in Ndebele acronymic derivation and adaptation. Machakanja and Machakanja (2003:31) describe the process of acronymy as follows:
   Acronymy is yet another lexical process. In this process initial
   letters of processes, organisations and so on, are read as full
   words, and to all intents and purposes serve the full meaning of
   the entire expression.

There is no acronym in Ndebele that is derived from Ndebele words. Even those that originate from Ndebele or Zulu words are pronounced using English phonology. An acronym is an abbreviation that has sounds coincidentally arranged in a manner that makes their pronunciation a word. The names that are derived from abbreviations in English are called acronyms. However, in Ndebele all become derived nouns in that the morphology of the Ndebele noun adds a noun prefix to all abbreviations for nouns.

When cultures come into contact with one another, borrowing takes place primarily in the realm of lexical items. In most cases, the borrowing at any given time appears to be primarily in one direction where the culture with the greatest prestige is the primary loaner. Borrowing then becomes language change due to language contact. When there are new concepts in nature, technology, religion and locations, there is need to change the language to accommodate them. A language can borrow to fill a need, or for prestige.

Clipping is a form of abbreviation whereby part of a word is clipped off and a shorter form is used instead of the whole. There are some shortened expressions in English that are not abbreviations, although they inhibit traits of abbreviation. Ndebele also uses clipping as the only form of shortening in the language, and the language also borrows clipped forms from English. An example of a clipped word borrowed from English is the word ibid; the word is from the Latin word ibidem which means the same place. In this word, -em was clipped off, leaving ibid. The word is a Latin word; however, Ndebele never had contact with Latin but they borrowed the term from English, which borrowed it from the Latin. This is the only form of shortening found in Ndebele, as some long nouns can be shortened. Nouns in Ndebele are shortened not by initial letters, but by clipping off some sounds. This is usually done to show some affection to the referent. Yule (1985:66) says:
   Clipping is when a word of more than one syllable is reduced.
   English speakers like to clip each other's names for convenience
   and affection purposes.

Ndebele also uses clipping to show affection and this makes most of the clipped forms names of people, as in the following examples:

uSibongile> uS'bo, uSithabile> uS'tha, uNdodana> uNdo, uSabelo> uSa, uZolani> uZo, uPatience> uPhe, uGibson> uGi, uFortune> uFotshu.

It is only names of people that are shortened through clipping in Ndebele, not names of institutions and objects. The use of acronyms in Ndebele is an English influence; hence they remain in English phonology, even when used in Ndebele.

Sources Of Acronyms In Ndebele

Since abbreviations and acronyms are prevalent in certain areas of English vocabulary, Ndebele is also affected in the same way. The Ndebele systems of governance, education and even history have been replaced by the English systems due to colonialism; this has prompted the use of English acronyms in Ndebele. Ndebele has specific and peculiar acronyms that are used in the Zimbabwean environment. Acronyms that are used by the Ndebele are categorised into specific fields where they originate and their explanations are given, as they are used in English, in Tables 1-8 below:
Table 1: Education

Abbreviation/   Explanation

BA              Bachelor of Arts
BEd             Bachelor of Education
PhD             Philosophy Doctor
DEd             Doctor of Education
BSc             Bachelor of Science
LLB             Bachelor of Laws
BL              Bachelor of Law
MSc             Master of Science
MBA             Master of Business Administration
MBCHMB          Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery
BBA             Bachelor of Business Administration
CSC             Communication Skills Centre
ND              National Diploma
ZJC             Zimbabwe Junior Certificate
GZU             Great Zimbabwe University
MSU             Midlands State University
BUSE            Bindura University of Science Education
CUT             Chinhoyi University of Technology

Table 2: Human societies and organisations

UN        United Nations
AU        African Union
EU        European Union
SADC      Southern Africa Development Community
ZAPU      Zimbabwe African People's Union
ZANU      Zimbabwe African National Union
MDC       Movement for Democratic Change
NCA       National Constitutional Assembly
ZCTU      Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions
ZFU       Zimbabwe Farmers Union
ZIFA      Zimbabwe Football Association
PSL       Premier Soccer League
BURA      Bulawayo Residents Association
ZINASU    Zimbabwe National Students Union
UBA       University Bachelors Association
USA       University Spinsters Association
WENELA    Witwatersrand Native Labour Association
NATO      North Atlantic Treaty Organization
SOWETO    South Western Townships
BACCOSI   Basic Commodities Support Initiative

Table 3: Companies and public institutions

ZUPCO   Zimbabwe United Passenger Company
CSC     Cold Storage Commission
NRZ     National Railways of Zimbabwe
VID     Vehicle Inspection Department
RG      Registrar General
POSB    Post Office Savings Bank
CBZ     Commercial Bank of Zimbabwe
CABS    Central Africa Building Society
ZISCO   Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company
ZBC     Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation
ZIMRA   Zimbabwe Revenue Authority
RBZ     Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe
BCC     Bulawayo City Council
ZRP     Zimbabwe Republic Police
CIO     Central Intelligence Organization
ZESA    Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority

Table 4: Technology

ATM   Automated teller machine
LCD   Liquid crystal display
TV    Television
FM    Frequency modulation
CD    Compact disk
PA    Public address system

Table 5: Titles of people

DJ    Disk jockey
PRO   Public Relations Officer
Dr.   Doctor
Sr.   Sister
MD    Managing Director
VP    Vice President
PMD   Provincial Medical Director
VC    Vice Chancellor
MC    Master of Ceremonies
DC    Director of Ceremonies

Table 6: Medical

HIV    Human immuno virus
AIDS   Acquired immuno deficiency syndrome
VCT    Voluntary Counselling and Testing
VD     Venereal Disease
STI    Sexually Transmitted Infection
SSS    Salt and Sugar Solution
DOTS   Directly Observed Treatment System
TB     Tuberculosis

Table 7: Law

AIPPA   Access to Information and Protection
of Privacy Act
LOMA    Law and Order Maintenance Act
POSA    Public Order and Security Act
LAMA    Legal Age of Majority Act
CCJP    Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace
LRF     Legal Resources Foundation

Table 8: Place names

BF       Barbour Fields
BC       Bulawayo Centre
KGVI     King George the Sixth
SOWETO   South Western Townships
HQ       Headquarters
USA      United States of America


Ndebele phonology is not used to pronounce acronyms; otherwise it would be difficult to use them in communication. This would mean that all representative consonants in acronyms are pronounced with an /-a-/ sound. The following acronyms will have the following sounds that create a totally different phoneme from the English one:
Table 9: Phonemic pronunciation

Abbreviation   English based   Ndebele pronunciation

UN             lyuen           [iUna]
BCC            Ibisisi         [iba[??]/a/a]
DJ             Udid[??]eyi     [udad[??]a]
HQ             ie[??]tikiu     [iHa[??]a]

The greatest difference comes in the pronounciation of acronyms that use the letters q, c, and x, in English phonology the sounds are [kh], [s] and [ks] respectively. In Ndebele phonology the three letters are pronounced as click sounds (q, c, x; [!], [/], [//] and this would create problems in the use of acronyms in Ndebele. Ndebele does not adapt borrowed acronyms to its phonology, rather the English phonology is used, creating a case of phonemic system borrowing. This creates a situation in Ndebele whereby all representative letters in acronyms are used as they are used in English phonology.

Like other loan words, acronymic derivations bring in sounds that are foreign to the Ndebele phonological system and help establish the sounds in the phonology. Hadebe (2006:178) asserts that:
   Originally the Ndebele phonological system did not have the voiced
   alveolar trill /r/ ... it is now part of Ndebele at least spoken
   due to influence from languages like English, Shona, Sotho and
   Venda. Another sound that is still controversial in Ndebele is the
   voiced alveolar affricate /dz/, in some Ndebele words it is
   replaced by /j/.

The Ndebele came to Zimbabwe from Zululand, conquered the Shona and ruled until they were defeated and colonised by the British. After independence in Zimbabwe Shona people took over the reigns of power. It is this political dominance by the Shona that the Ndebele resist even in language. The voiced alveolar trill [r] and the affricate [dz] are believed to be sounds borrowed from Shona and the Ndebele resist the use of these sounds in their language. However, the use of English phonology in the borrowing and adaptation of acronyms has further emphasised the need for these sounds in Ndebele phonology.

Some of the words where /dz/ is replaced by /j/ are udzidziyane (small bird) to ujijiyane, and ubudzugwe (type of mushroom) to ubujugwe. However, the acronym AIDS does not allow the replacement eyidzi to eyiji* and in this way the acronym helped adapt the sound /dz/ into the Ndebele phonological system. The acronym could have just helped return a sound that had been lost as the voiceless counterpart /ts/ was long accepted and used in words like itsiyane (chick), itsotsi (crook), itsaku (gap between teeth); as a result, there are many Ndebele words that use the affricate /dz/ today. Katamba (1989:28) says:
   If a language uses a particular phonetic property it will exploit
   it fully by using it to form several phonemes. Consequently
   phonological systems tend to be symmetrical.

The Ndebele phonological system is symmetrical; the existence of the voiceless affricate /ts/ posited the symmetrical existence of its voiced counterpart /dz/.

Morphological Adaptation.

Ndebele has morphological rules that govern the noun, and for acronyms to be used as nouns in Ndebele, they have to conform to these rules. Ndebele nouns, like other Bantu noun systems, have noun classes. Acronyms have to fall into these noun classes. The Ndebele noun is divided into the prefix and the root, and the prefix is the one that determines the noun class. It is impossible to use acronyms as nouns in Ndebele without prefixes, because Ndebele uses concordial agreements that obtain from prefixes.

Most acronyms fall under classes (1) and (6) whose prefixes are umu/u- and i-respectively. There is no acronym that is used without the prefix in Ndebele. The prefixes can also be locative prefixes when the acronymic adoptive is used as a locative and the prefixes are e- and ko-. All acronyms become the roots of the derived nouns that combine with the prefixes to form complete nouns. Ideally all acronyms start as nouns in class (6); through social factors and linguistic change they become personified and are used in class (1). Table 10 below shows the combination of the class (6) prefix and English acronyms to derive nouns in Ndebele:
Table 10: Acronym derivations

Prefix   Abbreviation/   Derived Ndebele
Acronym         noun

.i-      BC              ibhisi
.i-      SADC            iSadakhi
.i-      TV              ithivi
.i-      TB              ithibhi
.i-      ZISCO           izisko

The above derived nouns refer to organisations, place names and objects. These can also be used with locative prefixes e-, ko- and ku-, for example ebhisi (at BC/Bulawayo center), kuSadakhi (within SADC) and kozisko (at ZISCO).

Acronyms can refer to humans as shortened titles. They can also refer to a member of an organisation. Acronymic can be personified, shifting the prefix from (6). i- to the human prefix (1) umu-, u- and o- in the plural. Acronyms in Table 5 refer to titles of people. They use the prefix u- and the root acronym to derive the following Ndebele nouns, uDijeyi (DJ), uPhiarao (PRO), uViphi (VP), uPhiemudi (PMD), uVisi (VC), uEmusi (MC). These derived nouns all employ their prefix as the concordial agreement as in:

u- (prefix) Viphi (noun/subject) u- (concordial agreement) -dla (verb) i-nyama (noun/object)

'The VP is eating meat'

The second vowel u- of the prefix becomes the subject concord for the derived noun uViphi. The prefix u- can also be used with an acronym to personify an object in the acronym, for example a bus belonging to ZUPCO can be personified as u-Zupco> uZuphukho.

Acronyms can be personified to identify a member of an organisation or one who has achieved a certain title. The same is obtained when Ndebele refers to a leader of an organisation or a devout member. Table 11 below shows how acronyms are personified in class (1) to refer to members of organisations that are referred to using acronyms:
Table 11: Personal derivations

Prefix   Abbreviation/Acronym   Ndebele noun
         for an organisation    for member

Umu-     ZANU                   umzanu
Umu-     UBA                    umuba
Umu-     SADC                   umsadakhi
Umu-     NCA                    umensieyi

It is worth noting that the full prefix in Ndebele class (1) umu- is used with monosyllabic stems, while the shorter one um- is used with multisyllabic stems.

When one acquires a title that has an acronym, the prefix umu- can also be used on the acronym to refer to the person who has acquired that title. This is prevalent in academic acronyms, where the acronym is used to refer to one who has acquired it. Table 12 below shows this type of nouns in Ndebele:
Table 12: Achievement derivations

Prefix   Abbreviation/   Ndebele noun
         Acronym         for achiever

Umu-     ND              umuenidi
Umu-     BA              umubhieyi
Umu-     BL              umubhieli
Umu-     PhD             umuphietshidi
Umu-     BEd             umubhiidi
Umu-     ZJC             umu(zethi)jeyisi
Umu-     CIS             umusiayiesi

The concordial agreement for all the derived nouns above is u-, which enables them to be used in Ndebele morphology and syntax. The use of prefixes on acronyms derives Ndebele nouns from English acronyms that the Ndebele people use almost daily in Zimbabwe.

When acronymic derivations are found in the Ndebele corpus or other linguistics domains like dictionaries, they are not indicated to be abbreviations or acronyms, since the Nguni linguistic structure has no abbreviations. The Isichazamazwi sesiNdebele (Hadebe, 2001:58) enters the acronymic derivation from the acronym AIDS as:

Eyidzi bz. 1a bona ingculaza (class 1a noun see ngculaza)

The word ingculaza defines eyidzi as the deadly disease caused by the HIV. In the above definition the etymology of the noun and its derivation are overlooked as the referent has long been deconstructed.

Deconstruction Of Referent And Meaning

An acronym represents words that have a compound meaning. However, Ndebele derives nouns from acronyms by at times deconstructing the meaning and referent of the letters. The linguistic principle of the abstract relationship between the signifier and signified is employed by deconstructing the referent and meaning of acronyms to derive independent nouns in Ndebele.

When acronyms are adapted morphologically to Ndebele as nouns, they usually cease to be acronyms and become noun stems. The change from English morphology to Ndebele morphology forms independent looking nouns. Acronymic adoptives in Ndebele that have a deconstructed referent refer to the signified without any explanation of what the letters stand for in English, and the user is not conscious of this. In some instances the users do not even know that it is an acronym; when reminded that it is an acronym they cannot tell its meaning. The acronymic adoptive becomes an independent noun with the acronym assuming natural root status. Even in English some acronyms are now used as nouns, not acronyms. Jackson notes that:
   The acronym is usually spelt with capital letters but a few
   acronyms betray their origin in this way, e.g. (Laser-light
   amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, or Radar-radio
   detecting and ranging) (2002:13).

The Heinemann English Dictionary (Harber & Payton, 1995) marks a distinction between abbreviations and acronyms. However, these are not entered as entries in the dictionary, as they are in the Ndebele dictionary. The above are entered at the back of the dictionary as abbreviations and acronyms. This enforces the fact that in Ndebele these are acronymic derivations, not acronyms or abbreviations. The dictionary identifies some of the following as examples of acronyms and not abbreviations, AWOL, UNESCO, UEFA, PIN, OXFAM, NASA, and FIFA. All the acronyms above are very important in the Ndebele culture as it obtains today. Ndebeles are fanatics of European and world soccer hence acronyms like UEFA and FIFA are very common among the Ndebele and they are used as nouns, as in the example below:

Iyuyefa ikhona ngolwesibili 'UEFA is there on Tuesday'

The prevalence of drought in Zimbabwe since the nineties has seen many aid organisations operate in the country; most of them have acronyms for their names. While in English names of the organisations are acronyms, in Ndebele they are names, and their names usually refer to food aid. It is not important for hungry Ndebeles to know what the name of the organisation stands for. These non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have made an impact on the Ndebele language and they are also called amango (NGOs). Some of the nongovernmental organisations that make up acronymic adoptives in Ndebele are OXFAM> ioksifamu, CRS> isiyaraesi (Catholic Relief Services). The acronyms are not differentiated from other names of NGOs that are not acronyms, like Concern and World Vision.

There is a special type of husky brown rice that is donated by OXFAM. It is inscribed with the words 'bulgur', and the Ndebele community in Donsa in the Midlands Province called it barley at first. The bulgur is close to barley in colour but it is like rice in taste. The acronym OXFAM has now changed to refer to this type of rice and one would hear people complaining that:

Ioksifamu yindaba isipha umumbu? Thina sithanda ioksifamu.

'Why is OXFAM giving us maize instead of OXFAM? We love OXFAM.'

The acronym OXFAM here does not refer to the organisation that donates bulgur, but to bulgur the rice, which the people of Donsa prefer over maize.

Some Ndebele speakers are not aware that these nouns are derived from an English acronym. Some nouns derived from acronyms in Ndebele today cannot be readily identified with the acronym. Some Ndebele speakers were born and have used these nouns as natural root nouns, and it is difficult to convince them that the nouns are derived from acronyms. There are some nouns in Ndebele that have totally lost their links with their acronymic referents, such as iSowetho and idotsi. Below is a table that identifies some nouns in Ndebele that have a deconstructed referent to the acronym:
Table 13: Semantic changes

Prefix   Abbreviation/   Deconstructed
Acronym         referent Ndebele

i-       SOWETO          isowetho
i-       WENELA          Iwenela
i-       AIDS            Ieyidzi
i-       DOTS            Idotsi
u-       DJ              Udijeyi
i-       UBA             Iyubha
i-       ATM             ieyithiemu
i-       KGV1            ikheyijisikisi
i-       ZAPU            Izaphu

When the referent and meaning are deconstructed, a totally different noun is created that has no link to the acronym from which it is derived. The roots for these acronymic derivations are now naturalised in Ndebele as natural stems of nouns.

Semantic and referent shift

The derived nouns, like other words in Ndebele, undergo semantic changes that shift the meaning and referent of acronymic derivations. Acronyms as borrowed concepts can change in the target language to a narrowed or broadened function. There are some cultural modifications to acronymic nouns in Ndebele that have seen them refer to more referents and even deriving new nouns. Anderson (1973:178) asserts that:
   Semantic change has been viewed as change due to cultural
   modifications whereby the object referred to changes in the course
   of time but the name remains the same.

Anderson's realisation is true with acronyms in Ndebele. They also change to refer to elements not earlier covered in this way, deriving new nouns. The shift in meaning and referent usually stems from the deconstructed referent, and by association the acronym refers to a different entity. In this way nouns are further derived from acronyms, although now the derivation is aided by factors influencing language change. The shift is usually within the scope of the acronym shifting from an organisation to a member or an instrument of the organisation or company.

Acronyms are written with full stops between the letters to indicate that the latter are separate words. Strumpf and Douglas (1998:500) explain this when they say:
   A period indicates that each letter represents a word separate from
   the words represented by other letters in the abbreviation, and the
   period represents a strong pause or break.

When meaning is deconstructed in acronyms, they lose the periods between the letters and become subject to forces that work to change other words in Ndebele. In some instances, the acronyms develop a polysemantic dimension in their shift as they end up referring to more than one aspect. Acronyms have been given their proper meanings in the tables of acronyms earlier in this paper; the meanings, however, have shifted in some acronym derivations in Ndebele, as below:
Table 14: Semantic shift

Prefix   Abbreviation/   Acronym       New referent/meaning
         Acronym         derivation

i-       CSC             isiesi        First grade beef

i-/u-    ZUPCO           izuphukho/    A ZUPCO bus

i-       SOWETO          isowetho      A residential area
                                       in South Africa/
                                       wing at Barbour
                                       fields stadium

i-       USA             iyusa         A USA dollar

i-       DOTS            idotsi        T.B. pills

i-       CIO             isiayio       An intelligence
                                       officer in Zimbabwe's
                                       State Security

The acronym CSC has been associated with inspected meat from the parastatal, hence the Ndebele derive a noun for good quality meat from the acronym. The illegal foreign currency business in Zimbabwe prompted the Ndebele to be euphemistic about the green back and a noun has been derived from the acronym USA to refer to the United States dollar. Tuberculosis treatment in Zimbabwe uses a system called the directly observed treatment system (DOTS) for effective treatment. However, this acronym has shifted to refer to the pills used in the treatment system. Similarly ZUPCO is the national bus company in Zimbabwe; since the buses are labelled ZUPCO (Zimbabwe United Passenger Company) the acronym now refers to the bus more than it identifies the company.

Euphemism and political correctness have affected acronymic derivations in Ndebele deriving new objects for them or new nouns from them. The security arm of the Government of Zimbabwe, the Central Intelligence Organisation is dreaded for torture, arrests and alleged disappearances of political activists of parties other than ZANU (PF), hence people tend to fear even the acronym itself. The derived euphemistic expression takes the (i) and (o) of CIO as numerals that become the number ten, hence the CIO operatives are called ama-c10> amasitheni/isitheni. In this case a new noun is derived from an acronym through euphemism, as Hock points out that:
   A common avoidance strategy is to replace the tabooed item by a
   different, frequently euphemistic expression which is semantically
   appropriate, but the new expression, in turn, tends to become
   taboo, since it is likewise closely linked with the tabooed point
   of reference (1991:293).

At times when people talk, they avoid elements of the language that are considered obscene and those that they dread. In the case of isitheni there is a new derivational noun, while with iyusa for the United States dollar there is a new object of reference for the already existent acronymic derivation.

There is another type of acronym that is not derived from the first letters of words, but the first two or the first syllable. Jackson (2002:14) says:
   A further type of acronym is formed by taking the first syllable of
   the words of a phrase e.g. InfoTech.

The acronym SOWETO is a case of this type of acronym in Ndebele. In the case of SOWETO, due to its association with the black township in South Africa, many referents have come up in Ndebele. SOWETO in Ndebele is now synonymous with Baghdad, the capital city of Iraq and the epicentre of Saddam Hussein's violent reign. These two places have been associated with violence, poverty, clandestine modes of living and overcrowding. As a result of this association, the acronym SOWETO has new referents in Ndebele, such as the noisy and violent wing of Barbourfields stadium in Bulawayo where Highlanders Football Club supporters sit. The SOWETO wing at Barbour fields is one of the cheapest and always crowded, as there is a saying that isowetho kayigcwali (SOWETO is never full). Overcrowded, poor and squalid residential areas in Zimbabwe are now called isowetho, where you have the SOWETO of Bulawayo being Makhokhoba; Harare, Mbare; Gweru, Mtapa; Masvingo, Mucheke; Victoria Falls, Chinotimba and Gwanda's is Jahunda.

Most acronymic derivations end up with multiple referents in Ndebele due to association and collocation in what Poole (1999:30) refers to as:
   In the case of one lexeme with a variety of referents we have an
   example of polysemy.

In the light of the above statement, ioksifamu (OXFAM) becomes a polysemous noun in Ndebele, and so are other acronym derivations like u-araji (RG) for Registrar General and Robert Gabriel Mugabe (President of Zimbabwe) and iSowetho. Some acronym derivations change meaning according to place, especially country creating polisemy and times meaning shifts. In America the acronym NASA means National Aeronautics and Space Administration; however for the Ndebele in Zimbabwe it means National Social Security Authority. In this case the derivative inasa is polysemantic. GB refers to Great Britain, but to a Ndebele University of Zimbabwe student, it is Green Bomber, an informal name for a university security guard ijibhi, derived from the colour of the uniform of the security guards. GP in South Africa refers to Gauteng Province, but in Zimbabwe a GP is a car with any South African registration number ijiphi. The change in place becomes a factor in creating polysemy from acronymic derivations in Ndebele.


Abbreviations derive acronyms when convenient sounds are matched in English and other European languages like French. African languages, Ndebele included, borrow abbreviations and acronyms in their downward borrowing from western cultures. When acronyms derive nouns in Ndebele, the English phonological system is used, not the Ndebele phonological system. The acronyms are adapted into the Ndebele morphological system to derive acronymic nouns. Socio-linguistic changes affect the acronymic loans in Ndebele, subjecting them to semantic changes that further alienate them from the base abbreviations. The fact that acronyms are used as nouns in Ndebele implies that they can be used as locatives by using the locative affixes /e-/, /ku-/, /ko-/ and /-eni/. Due to geo-political differences, some acronyms shift in meaning or expand semantically, creating polysemous environments and meaning shifts in Ndebele. Apart from lexical derivations the acronymic derivations have helped adopt some controversial phonemes in Ndebele. Acronymic derivations are one of the fastest growing lexemes in the Ndebele vocabulary.


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Mr Sambulo Ndlovu is a lecturer in orature and language in the Department of African Languages and Literature at Great Zimbabwe University, in Zimbabwe. He is a holder of a master's degree in African Languages and Literature from the University of Zimbabwe. His research interests are sociolinguistics and oral literature; he has published and presented papers in Zimbabwe and internationally on the two areas. He has published with international journals like SAJAL, NAWA, MULP, Nomina African, Africana Journal and presented academic papers in Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Germany.
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Author:Ndlovu, Sambulo
Publication:Nawa: journal of language and communication
Date:Dec 1, 2012
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