Edith Raidt 2000



Edith Hildegrd Raidt was born in Ellwangen, Germany, on 29 December 1932. In 1952, she became a member of the Secular Institute of the Schonstatt Sisters of Mary. In 1954, the Institute sent her to South Africa to become a teacher. She wrote the examinations for the Joint Matriculation Board in 1955 and then registered at the University of Cape Town for a Bachelor of Arts degree with the two then official languages, Afrikaans and English, as majors.

Edith Raidt never became  a  teacher.  From her first year of study at UCT, she showed a talent for academic study and independent research, which would lead her into an academic career during which she became the foremost authority on the history of the Afrikaans  language.  After  obtaining a BA degree (with a number of distinctions) in  1958, she proceeded to BA Honours  (cum laude) in 1959, a BEd in 1960 and an MA (cum /aude) in Afrikaans & Dutch in 1962. In 1961, she was appointed as lecturer in the Department of Afrikaans and Dutch at UCT and in 1965  obtained a PhD in that department.

While Edith Raidt initially specialised in Afrikaans literature, she rapidly developed into a leading exponent of historical linguistics  under  the guidance of Professor J du P (Kanis) Scholtz, who established this discipline as a scholarly enter­ prise. Her first book, Geskiedenis van die Afrikaanse byvoeglike  verbuiging,  was  published in 1968. It was to be  the  first  of  7  academic books which were all the outcome of thorough scientific research. Afrikaans en sy Europese Ver/ede, first published in 1971 and twice revised since then, remains to this day the most thorough and authoritative account of the history  of Afrikaans. It is still used  as  a  textbook  in Afrikaans departments  in  virtually  all  South African universities and formed the basis for Einfuhrung in Geschichte und Struktur des Afrikaans, which was published in 1983 by the internationally renowned Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft in Darmstadt and did more than any other single publication to encourage linguists across the world to pursue  further  research  into the unique genealogy of the Afrikaans language. Edith Raidt is one of those rare scholars who singlehandedly inspired a whole tradition of research.

In 1971, the year in which her book on  the European history of Afrikaans first appeared, Edith Raidt was appointed Senior Lecturer at the University  of  the  Witwatersrand.  Within   five years she became Associate Professor and  Reader, and from 1980 to her retirement  at  the end of 1996 she served as ad hominem Professor of Historical and Afrikaans Linguistics, a position she  occupied  with  growing  distinction.   Apart from editing two volumes of Fran9ois Valentyn's Beschrijvinge van de Kaap der Goede Hoope, a detailed description of the Cape of Good Hope at the beginning of the 18th century, and published both in Dutch and English, she  authored  more than eighty articles in scholarly journals. These were a continuation of her previous work, but also an expansion into new areas, taking into account new theories about the genesis of languages and showing a greater awareness of the roots of Afrikaans in Africa and the social context within which the language evolved at the Cape.  She broke new ground in her analysis of "women's language" by demonstrating how women writers, because of their particular social positions,  were the first to reflect in their documents or their reported speech the extent to which Dutch had already changed into Afrikaans. Many of these new directions in Edith Raidt's work are evident in her Historiese Taalkunde: Studies oar die Geskiedenis van Afrikaans (1994), a work  for which she was awarded the CJ  Langenhoven  Prize for Linguistics by the Suid-Afrikaanse Akademie vir Wetenskap en Kuns.

Edith Raidt's sound philological investigations and her undogmatic evaluation of the available evi­ dence have assured her an unassailable  position as   leader   in  her  field. Her membership of numerous editorial boards, national and interna­ tional academies and scholarly associations, and the fact that for close on twenty-five years she edited the Akademie's Tydskrif vir Geestesweten­ skappe, attest to the high respect she commands from colleagues  here and abroad.   When in  1 94  a Festschrift was compiled for her, a large number of experts contributed fresh perspectives on the history of Afrikaans, paying tribute to the new possibilities that were   created   by her basic research. A singular honour was her election in 1993 as an international honorary member ("Buitenlands Erelid") of the Koninklijke Academie voor Nederlandse Taal- en Letterkunde in Ghent. She holds honorary doctorates from both the Potchefstroom University for Christian Higher Education and the University of the Witwaters­rand.

Apart from being a dedicated and productive scholar, Edith Raidt played a remarkable role in shaping her academic environment. She headed several departments, initiated the establishment of language laboratories and the Postgraduate School of Translators and Interpreters at Wits, and for many years tirelessly served on a large number of Faculty and University Committees. What is less commonly known, is that she has lectured and written extensively on Christian Business Management, published an enormous work on Christ/iche Untemehmensfuhrung nach der Konzeption P Josef Kenntenichs in 1994. Her expertise in this field has led to invitations  to lecture extensively in South America, Europe and Africa, and in 1989 she was nominated as "Business Personality of the Week"  by  The Sunday Star. In addition, she  was  translation editor for the Afrikaans version of the Catholic Liturgy and a member of the Committee for the Prescribing of Books of the Transvaal Education Department, and currently serves on the Religious Broadcasting Panel of the SABC.

When Edith Raidt retired from Wits at the end of 1996 at the close of  a  very  distinguished academic career, only a few of her  colleagues knew that she was about to embark on a unique, and possibly the most ambitious endeavour of all, namely the establishment of the first Catholic University of South  Africa  (CUSA),  officially known as St Augustine College of South Africa. During 19S9, she became the first vice-chancellor of this institution,  which  forms  part  of  a worldwide network of some  25  Catholic universities and Higher institutes  in  Europe,  the UK and the United States.

It is a great privilege for the University of Port Elizabeth to award Professor Edith Raidt  its highest honour, the degree of Doctor Litterarum honoris causa, in recognition of her exceptional contribution to knowledge, her untiring service to academic life in her adopted country, and her internationally acknowledged contribution to the material and spiritual wellbeing of society.