Revitalising and preserving endangered indigenous languages in South Africa through writing and publishing

Patrick Ngulube


Libraries and librarians play a central role in organising and communicating knowledge. They are an important part of the
knowledge production and use chain. The development and sustenance of a knowledge-based economy hinges on their
ability to facilitate the accessibility, retrievability and usability of the knowledge and information that permeates the
information society. Writers and publishers as part and parcel of the knowledge chain are central to the production and
distribution of ideas. Language is fundamental to their ability to communicate and get their literal messages, expressions
and ideas through. Their preferred language of writing and publishing may mean a difference between the growth and
demise of a language of a society and its culture and civilisation. Many indigenous languages around the globe are
struggling to survive because of various reasons including neglect by writers and publishers. Publishers and writers as major
role players in the knowledge production and reproduction chain may assist in promoting and preserving indigenous
languages in general and in South Africa in particular. This may ensure that South Africas knowledge economy develops
without sidelining or discriminating against any culture or language. There are challenges and opportunities that writers
and publishers are likely to face in attempting to revitalise and empower indigenous languages in South Africa, but they
are not insurmountable. Using a theoretical approach, the purpose of this article is to highlight the role that writers and
publishers may play in revitalising and preserving endangered indigenous languages in South Africa. Recommendations are
made on how the role players may deal with the challenges that have culminated in the neglect of the endangered
indigenous languages.


Culture; indigenous languages; Khoe-san languages; publishing; South Africa

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