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2011 LSA Orthography Symposium

Making Orthography Decisions in Southeast Asia

Author  Adams, Larin
  SIL International and Payap University

Because the languages of many minority groups are seriously endangered, many linguists are reaching out to help minority groups develop orthographies, literacy, and dictionaries as a way to strengthen those languages and cultures in the face of pressure from the majority cultures in which they live. By almost any metric this is a worthy and laudable end. However, sometimes even the first of these steps, orthography creation, unwittingly threatens the identity of a group. As more linguists become involved in helping endangered language communities they need to be aware of some potential complications that may accompany the simple task of creating an orthography.

This talk looks at some examples in Southeast Asia where orthography decisions can have quite significant effects on the identity of the groups who use them. Some of these difficulties are linguistic, but more often they result from the context in which different minority groups currently live.

Downloads  Case Studies of Orthography Decisions in Mainland Southeast Asia - Presentation (PDF) 260 KB, 29 pages
Case Studies of Orthography Decisions in Mainland Southeast Asia - handout (PDF) 140 KB, 3 pages