n South African Medical Journal - Developing anatomical terms in an African language : issues in medicine : forum

Volume 102, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5135



Clinical and technical information imparted in most African languages involves inexact terminology and code switching, so it lacks the explanatory power characterised by the English language. African languages are absent in the tertiary science education environment and forums where African scientists could present scientific material in the medium of African languages. This limits the development of African languages in the scientific domain. There has recently been a trend in several African languages to develop and intellectualise them, especially in the field of medical sciences. The ChiShona language is used to explore the ability of an African language to develop new terminology, to name the vertebral skeleton and describe it scientifically. It uses word compounding to demonstrate terminology development. ChiShona has similarities with several hundred other Bantu languages in East, Central and Southern Africa. Advancing this language can promote similar developments in others, making them more explanatory for the lay public and health professionals.

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