ELL: To M. McDaniel

Peter Constable Peter_Constable at SIL.ORG
Sat Aug 25 13:21:41 UTC 2001


>Do you mean a new script (i.e. not Roman script), or an orthography?
>such a script. (orthography, though no one here
>uses that word.)

No one where? On this list, or in your offices in Chiang Rai? It is common
usage among most people I interact with to use "script" to mean
collections of characters of common origin and characteristics, whereas
the application of a script to a particular system for writing a
particular language is commonly referred to as an "orthography" or
"writing systsem". ("Orthograph" differs slightly from "writing system" in
that it also includes spelling conventions, whereas "writing system"
generally is not understood that way.)

So, using the way that I think most participants on this list use
terminology, you are talking about orthographies, not scripts. All of the
things you referred to apparently used Roman script.

>Catholic: zang
>Lewis: zah  (pronounced as commonly said in english this would say the
>"pig" not the word "law"
>New: zauh  (as the same pronunciation as used closely to "taught" in

These are orthographic differences, not script differences.

>The group that I worked with felt that the Bible was a highly political
>here and that missions were using it to undermine and destroy the culture
in a
>similar way as it might be applied in a partisan fashion in Ireland for

I understand. It sounded from your earlier message that you had made a
commitment to assist some group in publishing the Bible, which they
apparently wanted. I gather from the additional info you've provided that
you're now working with a different group. Is that right? If so, what
connection is there between these groups as far as desire to work with the
new orthography is concerned?

>>>Numerous Akha have complained that the religious proprietary scripts
have been
>>>used to divide their people and have not been used for the promotion or

>>>preservation of their culture.
>>Which makes me surprised that the group you are working with wanted to
>>yet another orthography.
>Why is this surprising?  The two groups were partisan, and the people I
>with wanted a non partisan writing method with NO religious overtones.
>The third method gave them this option, it is used by various groups, and

>presents information on the culture that was heretofore not available.

It was surprising to me because creating a third orthography is
potentially just as partisan as the others. This is not at all uncommon:
faction B doesn't like the orthography that faction A developed, so they
create a new one. Then faction C doesn't like either, so they create
another. And so on. In the end, each new orthography only serves to divide
rather than to draw people together.

That's not to say that new orthography work can't be uesd to unite. It
can, if careful effort is made to draw the different parties together. I
get the impression that in the Akha situation, though, that the group you
are working with did something new and hoped to see consensus from the
other groups follow, rather than building the consensus at the same time.
Is that correct? If so, then they probably will face an uphill battle in
trying to gain acceptance for this orthography from the other groups.

>However, the ethnolinguistic subvarieties for instance among the Chin
>created by the missions, not the other way around.

Sorry, but that's not the case. There are several distinct Chin languages.
As in many places around the world, these language distinctions arose over
the course of time as peoples migrated and became socially or
geographically segregated. Missionaries had little to do with that.

>The missions have carefully used the religious issues to divide the Akha
>their families.  This is carefully documented here and will not wash off
>hand readily...

This is all debatable, but I'm not in a position to enter that debate, nor
is it what I've been interested in focusing on in this thread -- let's
stick to orthography and standardisation and the impact that has on
cultural survival.

>...It isn't necessarily the case that a common literature
>would be *the* key factor in cultural survival in their situation, but it
>certainly contribute to cultural survival.
>I would agree with this....

So what prospects do you see of the various Akha factions coming together
to agree on orthography and development of a common literature? Is the
group you're working with interested in dialoging with the other factions
and perhaps even willing to make some consessions on orthography if that
can lead to consensus? Are other groups showing any interest in dialoguing
with them?


- Peter

Peter Constable

Non-Roman Script Initiative, SIL International
7500 W. Camp Wisdom Rd., Dallas, TX 75236, USA
Tel: +1 972 708 7485
E-mail: <peter_constable at sil.org>
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