In quest of a vernacular writing style for the Rangi of Tanzania: Assumptions, processes, challenges

Ph.D., University of Edinburgh
xii, 568 p.
Despite increased efforts by linguists and educationalists to facilitate literacy and literature development in minority languages, there are still many languages worldwide which do not have a written form. One area that needs attention in literature production for a newly written language is the question of writing style. As the features of good style are language-specific, writing style guidelines have to be developed for each language anew. It has been assumed that such vernacular writing style develops predominantly by mother tongue speaker intuition. However, very few studies have been carried out to verify this. This research is set within the confines of the literacy project in the Rangi language of Northern Tanzania. As a contribution to the development of a natural writing style in Rangi, this research investigates what evidence for stylistic preferences can be found in texts that were produced by Rangi authors writing in their mother tongue for the first time. The main data of this study are 112 texts which were collected during a one-day writers workshop conducted between May 2005 and January 2006 in four different locations. One way of observing stylistic preferences is through analysing the changes which authors make in successive versions of their text. Of the 112 texts in the database, 71 display stylistic changes between draft and revised versions. These texts are then investigated in more detail, e.g. with regard to text length, lexical density and story components. The subsequent comparative analysis of draft version versus revised version of each text operates at three levels: narrative elements at the text level, lexical choice at the word level, and word order, tense-aspect verb forms and participant reference at the clause level. At all three levels, stylistic conventions could be identified, e.g. formulaic introductions and codas, elimination of Swahili loanwords, or certain tense-aspect usages. Despite such commonalities, this research suggests that, far from developing intuitively, vernacular writing style is influenced by a variety of factors, not least by previously available literature in languages of wider communication or in the target language itself. Among the concluding recommendations of this study for future vernacular writers workshops is the advice to employ guided editing which encourages multiple drafting and treats the different levels of editing separately, i.e. story structure, lexical choice and grammatical features.
Publication Status:
Table of Contents:
1. Introduction 1 1.1 The Search for a Research Question 4 1.2 A Brief History of the Rangi 7 1.3 Relevant aspects of the Rangi Language 11 1.3.1 Rangi orthography 12 1.3.2 Rangi morphosyntax 14 1.4 Some Remarks on Research Constraints 17 1.5 Structure of the Thesis 20 2. Contexts and Relations of Writing 22 2.1 Literacy and Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa 23 2.2 Literacy and Writing in Society 31 2.3 Rangi Writing in the SIL Context 36 2.4 Writing and its Relation to Oral Language 42 2.5 The Development of Writers Workshops 51 3. Methodology 54 3.1 Workshop context and content 55 3.2 Computerising handwritten texts 61 3.3 Toolbox databases 64 3.3.1 Parameter choice 66 3.3.2 Differential analysis in Toolbox 68 3.4 Teacher’s and editor’s interviews 70 4. Overview of the Text Corpus 73 4.1 Story types and themes 75 4.2 Overview of changes between text versions 87 4.3 Story length and lexical density 89 4.3.1 Lexical density 93 4.4 Order of levels: text, word, clause 97 5. Rangi Style at the Text Level 99 5.1 Overview of Rangi story components 100 5.1.1 Story titles 101 5.1.2 Story introductions 103 5.1.3 Overview of the main part of the narrative 109 5.1.4 Features of the complication section 112 5.1.5 Features of the post-complication section 121 5.1.6 Story conclusions and codas 128 5.2 Two approaches to text function 139 5.3 Text level changes 143 5.3.1 Clause additions and deletions at story beginning and end 143 5.3.2 Clause additions and deletions in the middle of a story 154 5.3.3 Notable instances of lengthening and/or shortening 158 5.3.4 Replaced clauses 161 5.3.5 Changes in the sequence of clauses 167 5.4 Summary of text level phenomena 173 6. Rangi Style at the Word Level 174 6.1 Lexical changes 175 6.1.1 Lexical choice in verbs 177 6.1.2 Lexical choice in nouns 183 6.1.3 Lexical choice in other parts of speech 188 6.1.4 Replacement of Swahili loanwords 193 6.2 Additions and deletions 202 6.2.1 Verbal additions 203 6.2.2 Nominal additions 207 6.2.3 Other additions 212 6.2.4 Verbal deletions 217 6.2.5 Nominal deletions 220 6.2.6 Other deletions 225 6.3 Word order changes at the lexical level 227 6.4 Summary of word level phenomena 231 7. Rangi Style at the Clause Level 233 7.1 Word order and related changes at the clause level 234 7.2 Participant reference 245 7.2.1 Introduction of participants 249 7.2.2 Continuation and reactivation of participants 255 7.2.3 Motivations for participant reference changes 263 7.3 Tense-aspect changes 266 7.3.1 Consecutive narrative tense 268 7.3.2 Other past tenses 273 7.3.3 Anterior aspect 278 7.3.4 Progressive, iterative, habitual and general present 280 7.3.5 Future and inceptive 284 7.3.6 Copulas and compounds 287 7.3.7 Movement grams 290 7.3.8 Subjunctive and other forms of subordination 292 7.4 Summary of clause level phenomena 296 8. Conclusion 298 8.1 Summary of observed stylistic features 300 8.2 More about style 303 8.2.1 Definitions of style 304 8.2.2 Differentiations of style 305 8.2.3 Narrative analytical frameworks and style 306 8.3 Gaps to be filled 308 8.4 Recommendations specific to writers workshops 313 8.5 Outlook 318 References 320 Appendices 337
Subject Languages:
Content Language:
Work Type:
writing style
vernacular literature development
developmental stylistics
Nature of Work:
Entry Number: