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Orthography Development

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Presentation on theme: "Orthography Development"— Presentation transcript:

1 Orthography Development
Laura Mayfield Tomokiyo

2 Largely from: Developing Orthographies for Unwritten Languages
Michael Cahill and Keren Rice, eds.

3 What is orthography? A system for representing language in written form Graphemes (individual characters) Word breaks Punctuation Diacritics Rules for splitting and hyphenation Spelling In language technologies, it can be perfectly acceptable to use an arbitrary intermediate symbol set (like Arpabet) because “only the computer knows.” With orthography development, we are entering the complex domain of human learning and identity.

4 Increased attention to orthographies
Financial Funding connected to literacy Humanitarian UNESCO mother tongue education Technological Unicode / font support Cell phones, smart phones, messaging, etc.

5 An effective orthography is…
Linguistically sound Acceptable to all stakeholders Usable

6 Acceptability: Governmental
Are there national policies? Tone markings disallowed in Ghana Roman-based orthographies must draw from an official unified alphabet in Cameroon Is approval required? CAR must have all new orthographies approved by the national government Ethiopia has several possible agencies to seek approval from

7 Acceptability: Sociolinguistic
Which dialect to use Unilectal – which one to use? Prestige? Size? Age? Multilectal – combine elements, but whose speech does it represent? Differentiation – allow for levels of standardization Relationship with other languages Sometimes desirable to look like another language Similarity with a familiar or prestigious language Sometimes desirable not to look like another Motivated by rivalry, identity Choice of scripts Cyrillic vs. roman for Serbian/Croatian Arabic vs. roman for Tuareg Fun fact: Language of Koni on northern Ghana has h/ng contrast: /HH AO G UH/ - /NG AO G UH/ ‘woman’

8 Usability: Learning Underrepresentation/Overrepresentation
Fewer/more graphemes than phonemes Transfer to major languages Tension between literacy and identity Readability Not too many similar characters Consider fonts (sans serif easier to read) Testing, testing, testing Underrepresentation example: using a 5-grapheme set for rich vowel system; ignoring tone Overrepresentation example: qu/c/k for /k/ How to decide on /CH/ in ghana… <ch,c,ts,tSH,tsch,ky> <p,d,b,q> same shape – how to explain that the letter is different if it is rotated? Not intuitive.

9 Usability: Production
Unicode compliance Font rendering Non-digital printing (custom typewriter keys!) Entry method (taps, strokes, multi-step) Multi-step: use Japanese as an example of first selecting onset, then swiping to get vowel, finally selecting from kanji list

10 Usability: Teaching How to get speakers to use the orthography?
Phonemic awareness Teaching materials and instruction Motivation/opportunity to write Formative feedback loop The orthography is only useful if people use it!

11 Word boundaries Many languages are not written with much white space
Orthographers often intuitively follow a system they are familiar with Purpose is to help beginning and fluent readers read with ease Some factors to consider: Syllable structure Movability Separability Conceptual unity Pronounceability in isolation….

12 Is Standardization Necessary?
Pros Streamlines language planning Easier to generate teaching/learning materials Basis for a body of literature Efficient in case of critical endangerment Cons How to choose? Basis for judgments of intellect/ignorance Obscures diversity in the language Less relevant in digital age At the very least, language developers should not feel rushed to publish standardized orthography – take time to test, build consensus Competing orthographies are source of tension in communities that have better things to do Do language communities see lack of standardization as problematic? Who benefits from standardization? Language documentation context vs. language reform context European languages standardized organically, over centuries Community ownership is essential, can’t be seen as top-down

13 Orthography Diplomacy
Linguist’s tendency is toward systematic, logical, efficient design Not always compatible with community needs Non-fluent speakers in teaching roles Increasingly strong transfer wishes/influences Specialized symbols, unfamiliar distinctions are just hard to learn Pomo: “Indian phonics” Pomo: researcher observed an instructor (elder) “translating” the designed orthography into something more familiar. “Neither she nor anyone else in the class understood the specialezed symbols or knew the pronunciation even of familiar symbols. Example: xó.mča -> home ca Also: Inupiaq post-it notes in the office

14 Criteria for a new writing system
Maximum motivation for the learner Maximum representation of speech Maximum ease of learning Maximum transfer Maximum ease of reproduction Smalley 1963

15 Bias of familiarity Both linguists and non-linguists have it
Makes each group potentially blind to the preferences/intuitions of the other group Especially: we can fail to recognize that non-linguists / 2L learners of minority language have different transfer issues than we do Don’t overestimate the ease of learning of phonetically-based alphabets!

16 Bias of familiarity For example…
Students may not be at all proficient in use of the IPA even after a semester-long course Even proficient users will transcribe differently depending on whether they are native or non-native speakers – we are coming from different phonological systems

17 Assignments A Yanesha’ Alphabet for the Electronic Age
Mary Ruth Wise Kurtöp Orthography Development in Bhutan Gwendolyn Hyslop Case Studies of Orthography Decision Making in Mainland Southeast Asia Larin Adams Yanesha – language of Peru

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