Developing Orthographies for Unwritten Languages

Cahill, Michael and Keren Rice, editors

While investigating endangered languages, many researchers become interested in developing literacy for these languages. However, often their linguistic training has not provided practical guidance in this area. This book, with contributions by experienced practitioners, helps fill this gap.

Both foundational theory and specific case studies are addressed in this work. Non-linguistic factors are described, particularly sociolinguistic issues that determine acceptability of orthographies. A principled approach to the level of phonological representation for orthographies is proposed, applying recent phonological theory. The thorny issues of how to determine word breaks and how to mark tone in an orthography are explored. “Overly hasty orthographies” and the benefits of allowing time for an orthography to settle are discussed.

Principles of the foundational chapters are further exemplified by detailed case studies from Mexico, Peru, California, Nepal, and Southeast Asia, which vividly illustrate the variety of local conditions that must be taken into account.

The combination of theoretical and practical makes this book unique. It will benefit those involved in helping establish orthographies for hitherto-unwritten languages, and provide concrete guidance through crucial issues.

About the Editors

Michael Cahill (Ph.D. 1999, Ohio State University) developed the Konni orthography in Ghana. He was SIL’s International Linguistics Coordinator for eleven years, and is on the LSA’s Committee on Endangered Languages and their Preservation.

Keren Rice (Ph.D. 1976, University of Toronto) helped standardize the orthography of Slavey, and has taught on orthography development at InField/CoLang. She was LSA President in 2012 and is currently University Professor at the University of Toronto.

Table of Contents:

1. Introduction Keren Rice and Michael Cahill

1.1 Why this orthography book?
1.2 The papers

2. Non-Linguistic Factors in Orthographies Michael Cahill

2.1 Introduction
2.2 Governmental policies and restrictions
2.3 Sociolinguistic factors: “All orthographies are political”
2.4 Educational and psycholinguistic factors
2.5 Practical production factors (fonts)
2.6 Further discussion

3. Orthography and Phonological Depth Keith Snider

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Why native speakers are aware of the output of lexical processes
3.3 Orthographic representation of morphophonemic alternations
3.4 Conclusion

4. Orthography and Tone: A Tone-System Typology with Implications for Orthography Development Constance Kutsch Lojenga

4.1 Introduction
4.2 Tone languages
4.3 Tone orthography
4.4 A typology of African tone systems
4.5 Consequences for tone orthography and teaching methodology
4.6 Conclusion

5. Basic Principles for Establishing Word Boundaries Constance Kutsch Lojenga

5.1 Introduction
5.2 Word boundaries
5.3 Criteria for writing grammatical morphemes
5.4 Morphosyntactic topics
5.5 Steps in establishing word boundaries: a summary

6. Standardization: What’s the Hurry? Elke Karan

6.1 Introduction
6.2 The “normative” expectation
6.3 Conditions which justify slowing down or delaying standardization
6.4 Standardization and the implementation of a reform take time
6.5 Additional case studies
6.6 Conclusion

7. Orthography Wars Leanne Hinton

7.1 Orthography and politics
7.2 Five criteria for an adequate new writing system
7.3 The bias of familiarity
7.4 Case studies
7.5 Some compromises to consider
7.6 Conclusion

8. Breaking Rules for Orthography Development Pamela Munro

8.1 Introduction
8.2 Orthographies and orthographic rules
8.3 Case study 1: Tlacolula Valley Zapotec
8.4 Case study 2: Gabrielino/Tongva/Fernandeño
8.5 Conclusions

9. A Yanesha’ Alphabet for the Electronic Age Mary Ruth Wise

9.1 Introduction
9.2 Summary of Yanesha’ phonology
9.3 History of Yanesha’ alphabets and literacy
9.4 The change process and the official alphabet

10. Kurtöp Orthography Development in Bhutan Gwendolyn Hyslop

10.1 Introduction
10.2 Linguistic factors
10.3 Non-linguistic factors
10.4 Application to Kurtöp
10.5 Summary and conclusions

11. Case Studies of Orthography Decision Making in Mainland Southeast Asia Larin Adams

11.1 Linguists as activists
11.2 Case Study I: E and H
11.3 Case Study II: Lisu and Lahu
11.4 Case Study III: LR
11.5 Concluding notes

Retail Price:
x, 265 pages
Yanesha' orthography
Word boundaries
Tone orthography
Orthography development
Language standardization
Kurtöp orthography
ISBN 13:
ISBN 10:
6 × 9 × 0.58 in
1.2 lb
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