Lecturer contributes to the world’s knowledge treasures

Marelize Santana -- Tue, 08/29/2017 - 15:58

Lecturer contributes to the world’s knowledge treasures

Language fascinates Prof Bertus van Rooy, who thrives on the intricacies of human expression through language and, for his efforts, has moved up from B3 to B2 in the National Research Foundation (NRF) rating system. Bertus is a lecturer in languages and director of the research focus area Understanding and Processing Language in Complex Settings (UPSET) at the North-West University's (NWU’s) campus in Vanderbijlpark.

As a B2-rated researcher, he is recognised internationally for the high quality and impact of his research outputs.

This is indeed a significant achievement, but Bertus remains humble. He sees his B2 rating as confirmation that his work is of good quality and plays a role in the international discourse within his field. This provides access to funding that enables him to take his research to the next level.  

The limelight is certainly not what drives him. “I find language itself fascinating,” he says, “especially the way that people use language to express themselves.  It is however quite impossible to find answers on the coherence of language in its totality, therefore research projects have to be broken down into smaller pieces. I constantly try to understand how these pieces of language work and which factors – be they linguistic, social or mental – influence the formation and development of each piece.”  

Tackling a long-overlooked task

Bertus smiles as he talks about his work: “One of the great projects that I am working on as part of a team of people is to write a comprehensive grammar of Afrikaans. This is a task that no-one has paid any attention to for almost 40 years.”  

The project is called “Taalportaal”(http://www.taalportaal.org/taalportaal/topic/)  and it is supported by the Virtuele Instituut vir Afrikaans, also known as VivA (http://viva-afrikaans.org).  

Bertus is now part of a team of experts in the field of syntax who will, over five years, take on this huge task and publish their findings online. He is adamant that the end product of their work should not be hidden in exclusive books and expensive journals.  

In May 2017, he was elected to the management of the International Computer Archive of Medieval and Modern English (ICAME) and recently published chapters in the Oxford Handbook of World Englishes and the Cambridge Handbook of Learner Corpus Research.   

“Recently, I realised that I am exactly halfway with my academic career, from the date of my appointment on our campus in 1995, until the time when I will reach retirement age,” says Bertus.

This is good news for the academic world as it means there is still plenty of time left for this dynamic researcher to continue his rich contribution to the knowledge treasures of the world. 

Prof Bertus van Rooy.