Woordfees Manuscripts Section Lecture: “Words that grow” – JJ Smith collection

The thirteenth Manuscripts Section Lecture was presented during the SU Woordfees on 9 October this year as part of the discourse series, From the library archives.  The lecture, with the title “Words that grow”, focused on the JJ Smith collection.

The three speakers were outstanding and highlighted various angles of the Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal (Dictionary of the Afrikaans Language), commonly known as the WAT as it has grown and developed over the years.

The first speaker, Ms Mimi Seyffert-Wirth, gave an overview of the JJ Smith collection (Ms 333), highlighting some of the interesting documents that focus on the history, orthography, and spelling of the Afrikaans language.

JJ Smith (1883-1949) was not only the first editor of the WAT, but also became the first professor in Afrikaans and Dutch at Stellenbosch University in 1919 and was the first editor of the Afrikaans magazine, Die Huisgenoot.

The second speaker, Dr Willem Botha, joined the editorial staff of the WAT in 1988 and retired in 2022 as Editor-in-Chief and Executive Director. He gave an overview of the history, growth, marketing, and move to the digital platform of the WAT.

The last speaker was Dr Gerda Odendaal, Co-editor of the WAT since 2016. Her talk focused on the expansion and inclusion of the variants of Afrikaans.

This talk also linked to other talks in the discourse series such as:

  • Die rol en gelykstelling van variëteite in Afrikaans – ’n toekomsperspektief
  • Die WAT by ’n T-aansluiting: ’n Toekomsblik
  • Hoe het Afrikaans se dice geval?

Although the auditorium had to be evacuated due to a fire alarm, the audience returned for an interesting discussion.

An exhibition of related books, documents and photos was displayed digitally and in the display cabinets in Special Collections.


Marieta Buys

Editing: Naomi Visser

 Photographs: Bronwyn Bruton