SIL International Home

2011 LSA Orthography Symposium

Non-linguistic factors in orthographies

Author  Cahill, Michael
  SIL International

The acceptability (and therefore actual use) of orthographies in newly-written languages depends on non-linguistic factors as much as on linguistic ones. Governmental policy may be one such factor, but inevitably a host of sociolinguistic issues are present. These include choice of which dialect to use as standard (based on geography, clan, religion, etc.). An orthography that facilitates transfer to a major language is often a goal, but can conflict with choices of symbols or even entire scripts that emphasize group identity. Educational issues such as teachability (level of readers aimed at) and readability (over-resemblance of characters, diacritic density) must also be considered. Technical issues include local printability and Unicode-compliance of every symbol, with preference for sans-serif fonts for beginning readers. These factors often conflict with each other as well as with linguistic factors, and thus decisions on orthographies must necessarily balance these, with the local speakers’ input being decisive.

Downloads  LSA Orthog Symp - Non-Linguistic Factors (PDF) 756 KB, 6 pages