BOOK REVIEW: Lusoga gets dictionary

Saturday February 6 2010

Book: Eiwanika Ly’Olusoga
Author: Minah Nabirye
Publisher: Menha Publishers
Reviewer: Steven Tendo

A language that doesn’t grow is a dead language. If the new words of popular lore are not being absorbed into the normal speech of the people, chances are that in a few years, such a language will be on the scrap heap of history. The new Eiwanika ly’Olusoga dictionary is a celebration of a growing language.

The Lusoga dictionary, published in 2009, delves into many of the complexities, or the imagined complexities that make up Lusoga grammar.
In addition to spelling out and explaining what the words mean, a no-brainer for dictionaries anyway, the author goes ahead to show how the language is developing into a different form from what older folk used to speak.

There are different dialects of the language and Lusoga speakers can tell the difference. Many times though, explanations for these differences are slow in coming. The Eiwanika Ly’Olusoga tries to clear this, explaining that as time goes, people move from area to area and the language will change with this movement. It is interesting to learn the rules of grammar, which do not seem to be the same with, say, Luganda, yet the author says these rules apply to Bantu languages generally. For instance, the R that is usually seen as an anomaly in bantu languages but used nonetheless, is struck completely out of the written Lusoga. It is left for only abbreviations.

One cannot fail to see the dependence on foreign imports, though, with words like senteesi for sentence and gulaama for grammar. It feels strongly like a bad graft. Then the Eiwanika’s indecision on whether to use ennhuguta or ennukuta for ‘letter’ is another matter. The Eiwanika ly’Olusoga is described as the first such work in Uganda. This is great work for a first time effort given the pitfalls of working in a language that is mostly spoken, not written.

In Busoga, owing to the history of Buganda’s involvement in government, propped by the colonial British, the indigenous language was greatly suppressed and a mutation of it started to develop. Coming out with a dictionary is a lifeline for Lusoga as this is expected to keep the dividing lines visible. It should show speakers of the language and those who want to learn it that this is an independent language, contrary to the belief of some people.