Lameen Souag of Jabal al-Lughat doesn’t post freqently, but when he does, it’s always interesting. His latest entry discusses “the oldest dictionary of an African language.” He rejects the claim of Carradori’s Dictionary of 17th Century Kenzi Nubian, and says:
The oldest arguable dictionary of an African language that I am aware of so far is the Greek-Coptic Glossary of Dioscorus of Aphrodito, which apparently dates back to the 6th century. Ibn al-‘Assal’s Arabic-Coptic sullam muqaffa, written in the 1200s, can quite unhesitatingly be described as a dictionary; following a then-current Arabic tradition, it was arranged alphabetically from the last letter of the word backwards (so, for instance, “apple” would be close to “people” but far from “apricot”.) This arrangement was meant to aid in the composition of rhymed prose and verse…
After Coptic, the next oldest is an Arabic-Berber lexicon written in 1145, containing some two thousand words… What other African dictionaries predate Carradori’s? I don’t know, but I can hazard some guesses—Geez, Swahili, Kanuri, and Nubian itself would certainly be worth checking.
Anybody have any contributions?