African Languages Research Institute (ALRI)
To research, document and develop Zimbabwean indigenous languages in order to promote and expand their use in all spheres of life.
The African Languages Research Institute (ALRI) is an inter-disciplinary, semi-autonomous and non-faculty research unit located at the UZ dedicated to the research, documentation and development of African indigenous languages in Zimbabwe. Its research agenda focuses mainly on corpus development and maintenance, computational lexicography and language technology applications. The Institute was established in 2000 to mark the transformation of the African languages Lexical (ALLEX) Project into a permanent research unit at the UZ. The ALLEX Project started in 1992 as a project in the Department of African Languages and Literature and its major objective was the compilation of mother-tongue monolingual dictionaries, corpora and other reference works in Shona and Ndebele, the two main indigenous languages of Zimbabwe. ALRI institutionalised the work of the ALLEX Project in lexicography, strengthened the corpus linguistics component in it, and added terminology and translation as related specialisations.
The Institute’s expanded research program prioritises the setting up of lexicographic units in other Zimbabwean languages in addition to sustaining its research in Shona and Ndebele. So far, research on Zimbabwe’s once marginalised languages has started with priority given to Tonga, Nambya, Shangani and Kalanga where work has commenced on the compilation of corpora. Whilst the Institute engages in many language development and documentation activities, the production of monolingual dictionaries remains its priority. Dictionaries, amongst other reference works, are considered central to the development and empowerment of the country’s languages, which have suffered under-development for a long time.
ALRI plans to initiate and oversee projects in all the other local languages, and to train mother-tongue researchers from the respective language communities to do the linguistic field work and documentation that is required by the communities themselves.
A total of seven dictionaries and a more comprehensive Shona grammar book have been published. The Shona dictionaries include Duramazwi reChiShona (1996), Duramazwi Guru reChiShona (2001), Duramazwi reUrapi neUtano (2004), Duramazwi reMimhanzi (2005) and Duramazwi reDudziramutauro noUvaranomwe (2007). The Ndebele dictionaries include Isichazamazwi SesiNdebele (2001) and Isichazamazwi Sezomculo (2006). Soon to be printed is the Shona children’s dictionary. The Institute is also editing a Shona Agricultural terms dictionary.
The Institute has also photographed and published, as photographic reprints, important books that are rare or out of print. Three re-issues have already been published in this preservation program – Adoption and Adaptation in Shona by Herbert Chimhundu (2002), Essays on Report on the Unification of the Shona Dialects edited by George Fortune (2004), and the famous Report on the Unification of the Shona Dialects by Clement Doke (2005), which was originally published in 1931.
Dada nomutauro wako. Ziqhenye ngolimi lwako. Be proud of your language.