Orthography: announcing new resource section on SIL website

This new website resource refers to and links to several pertinent topics and issues on developing orthographies.

(February 2017) Orthography is how a language is expressed in written form, with the symbols, punctuation, spelling, decisions on where to break words and where to join them together, and much more. It draws from linguistics, literacy and education, and sociopolitics.

  • What are the stages in orthography development?

  • How do you choose the symbols/letters to represent the sounds and linguistics of a language?

  • What are the steps to ensure that a new orthography (writing system) will be accepted and useful for the speakers of that language?

These and many other questions are addressed in the newly-launched section of SIL International’s website. Since its founding in 1934, SIL has been involved in developing orthographies, and to date has helped develop writing systems in over 1300 languages.


These resource pages also include case studies from many areas of the world. (Click images to enlarge) 

The focus of this new compilation of orthography information is to provide resources to help on-the-ground language workers and researchers to devise an orthography for a previously-unwritten language, or to help revise an existing orthography which is inadequate in some way. Governmental officials and scholars of academic orthography studies may find useful information here as well.

Developing an orthography is a complex process, one involving much more than simply assigning a symbol to represent each sound in a language. In addition to linguistic factors, social and political issues must also must be taken into consideration.

(Click images to enlarge) 

The compilers of these pages point to the increased attention given to orthography development in recent years. They link this trend to the growing awareness of language endangerment and to literacy as a factor in language vitality, as well as the increasing acknowledgement that access to education is an issue closely tied to basic human rights.


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