African Academy of Languages
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Consultative Meeting on Terminology Development for African Languages and for ACALAN Publications
Aug 22, 2019

ACALAN’s Vehicular Cross-border Language Commissions, one of its working structures, have all identified terminology development for African languages as part of their priority areas.

ACALAN consequently organized a workshop to develop a methodological framework on terminology development for use in African languages in July, 2010, in collaboration with the University of Dar Es Salaam, United Republic of Tanzania.

The Nairobi Meeting of June 2014, was subsequently organised as a follow-up to the Dar-es-Salaam workshop, which made improvement on the earlier meeting because it was as a result of the presentations at the Nairobi meeting that the Manual entitled Principles and Methods of Terminology Creation and Use in African Languages (ACALAN 2015) was written.

 Specifically, the objective of the consultative meetings was to determine the needs and rules to follow in the development of terminologies and compilation of dictionaries in African languages.

 The workshops were premised on the idea that having a well-defined framework amongst other factors, will effectively aid terminology development in African languages.

In an attempt to commence the implementation of the practical aspect of the recommendations of the Dar Es Salaam and Nairobi terminology workshops, and revisit the framework in view of adjusting it to a more comprehensive one taking into account the various aspects involved, ACALAN organized a Consultative Meeting on Terminology Development for African Languages, on 23 and 24 July 2019, in Bamako, Mali.

 The objectives of the Bamako terminology meeting were to: 

  1. Bring the language dimension into the discourse in the education system;
  2. Revisit and consolidate the methodological framework to develop terminologies in African languages;
  3. Consolidate and advocate for use of the harmonized orthographies in African languages;
  4. Pave the way forward for the development of terminography.

The meeting brought together:

  1. Members of the ACALAN Assembly of Academicians that are specialists in terminology development;
  2. Experts in terminology and lexicography from ACALAN’s working structures from the five regions;
  3.  ACALAN’s institutional partners: UNESCO, SIL International, OIF, the KARANTA Foundation and resource persons;
  4.  Staff of the ACALAN Secretariat; and
  5.  Members of the government of the host country (Mali).

Prof Bamgbose noted in the presentation he made on ACALAN’s terminological framework 2015, that the Bamako meeting was a follow-up on the previous meetings organized by ACALAN on terminology development such as the 2010 Dar es Salam meeting and 2014 Nairobi meeting which led to the development of the ACALAN terminological framework developed in 2015. He underscored the need to use already existing blueprints and especially the ACALAN 2015, Principles and Methods of Terminology Creation and Use in African Languages, as a basis for the review and consolidation of new frameworks, and the need to adopt an all-stakeholder approach to terminology development, in which subject area specialists, linguists and speakers as well as other strategic partners collaborate and work together in terminology development endeavors. Other presentations were made by participants mainly on the principles, methods, procedures, approaches, dynamics and challenges of terminology development.


The following points were put forward as inputs that should go into the new manual:

  1.  Title: The manual should carry the title: Principles and Methods of Terminology Development in African Languages.
  1. 2.    Content

a)    Background – It should consist of two parts, namely the political / policy background and technical aspects of terminology development.

      i.        The Political/policy background should:

Þ     Include a synopsis which draws from the provisions of the Agenda 2063 of the African Union, the Charter for the African Cultural Renaissance, the Sustainable Development Goals, the Language Plan of Action for Africa and the International Year of Indigenous Languages. Emphasis should be put on the need for an enabling and licensing language policy environment for terminology development;

Þ     Include the call on all African Union Member States to formulate and adopt inclusive, supportive and positive language policies which can stimulate terminology development in African languages.

Þ     Show the link between language development and inclusive sustainable human development.

     ii.        The Technical aspect should:

Þ     Clarify and emphasize that terminology development is a cross-cutting inter/multidisciplinary endeavor whose success rests on strategic collaborations and partnerships with other disciplines such as language planning, policy and management, lexicography, translation, computational linguistics, interpreting among others.


b)    Objectives: A section on objectives of the manual should be included.


c)    Formatting of the Manual: The manual should be clearly numbered according to sections for ease of reference across all the languages instead of relying only on page numbers.


d)    Principles of Terminology Development: Reference should be made to the list given by Prof Kimani Njogu and Prof John Kiango. For example, precision, consistency, transparency, concept-based, consciousness, adherence to the grammar, orthography and morphological structure of the language among others.


e)    Methods of Terminology Development should:

Þ     Include the need to prioritize internal sources over external sources as in the previous manual;

Þ     Include all the methods as presented by Prof Langa Khumalo, Prof Thapelo Otlogetswa, Dr Selemani Sewangi and Prof John Kiango;

Þ     Include a point on the need for the integration of the unprecedented developments ushered in by ICT as key methods for terminology development;

Þ     Include, under methods, a line on the composition of the terminology development team as in the original manual in pp 5 – 6, under the heading Operational Procedures for Terminology Development. All the three bullets under this heading should be copied and pasted;

Þ     Include all term creation techniques/strategies that can be used. The techniques/strategies should be copied and pasted from the original manual which spell some of them.

f)     Terminology Development Process: (In the order given here) A step-by-step guide of what the process involves and entails right from Collection, i.e. spelling out the methods of collecting and harvesting, namely the manual method and the corpus-driven approach, crowd/mass sourcing etc., Standardization, Verification/Authentication, Trialing, Piloting, Pre-testing/Validation, Dissemination should be provided, (under it include all the procedures/ways/strategies for disseminating terminology, ranging from the use of the print form, media, social media, use of ICT innovations, digital form, including all the available digital platforms that can be used to disseminate terminology. Include copyright and intellectual property issues and the associated rights to be considered at the stage of disseminating terms, and finally the last stage of User-feedback. Reference should be made to Prof Langa Khumalo’s model to clearly illustrate the cyclical process of terminology development: Terminology harvesting Þ Consultation Þ Verification Þ Authenticating and ÞDissemination as illustrated here below:

Model for Terminology Development


Other recommendations


      i.        There should be a positive supportive, inclusive and enabling language policy environment to support terminology development in African languages;

     ii.        A special summit should be organized to monitor progress on the implementation of the demands and provisions of the Language Plan of Action for Africa as far as the formulation and adoption of language policies are concerned in the African Union Member States;

    iii.        Sustained lobbying and advocacy activities should be carried out around the need to implement the letter and spirit of the demands and provisions of the Language Plan of Action for Africa;

   iv.        Terminology development should be considered as an inclusive all-stakeholder initiative and a cross-cutting inter/multidisciplinary activity;

     v.        Terminology development should be institutionalized in higher education where these activities are already being carried out in a coordinated manner;

   vi.        Unprecedented ICT innovations in terminology development should be embraced and informal terminology development initiatives be acknowledged;

  vii.        The whole exercise of terminology development should be re-casted, re-branded and re-packaged as language intellectualization as a measure of creating a buy-in;

 viii.        The scope of rewarding and incentivizing terminology development initiatives through awarding prizes even for non-literary works and contributions should be broadened.

   ix.        Success stories should be used as launch pads to inspire future projects and create a buy-in.

     x.        There should be financial support from ACALAN for terminology development initiatives.

   xi.        Advantage should be taken of the fact that most African languages are cross-border vehicular, and in order to cut costs and avoid reduplication of efforts there is need for collaboration in terminology development endeavors.

  xii.        New existing strategic collaborative partnerships should be developed and old ones be maintained for leveraging knowledge sharing and mobilization of resources;

 xiii.        Terminology models presented by the experts during the expert presentations’ sessions should be adopted and adapted.


A technical committee for terminology development to make the recommended adjustments was setup with the following members: Prof Langa Khumalo, Prof Thaphelo Otlegetswa, Prof Marcel Diki-Kidiri, Prof Kimani Njogu, Prof Alou Keita, Prof John G Kiango, Dr Selemani Sewangi, Mr Issiaka Ballo, Dr Asseta Diallo and Dr Eventhough Ndlovu. It was agreed that the team will circulate a call for book chapters, develop author guidelines, set timelines and be responsible for receiving all the submissions, managing the peer review process and editing of the manuscript.



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