Ferguson's schema for written & standardization categories

Don Osborn dzo at bisharat.net
Sat May 12 15:24:53 UTC 2007


Thanks Paul, Interesting to know of your work and I’d like to know more about it. Part of my interest is developing ways of looking at the language planning challenges as relate to localization in Africa (one might speak of localization policy and planning as a subspecialty of language policy and planning,  which overlaps with localization studies, computational linguistics, standards among others). Basically ways of organizing information and classes of situations of African languages for localization strategies. 

 

The area of corpus development is obviously part of this and I would mention the interest of some colleagues (in cc) and a project concept page at http://www.panafril10n.org/wikidoc/pmwiki.php/Marrakech/CorporaAsLanguageResource . 

 

There could be some useful collaboration on both (interrelated) levels: corpus development and ways of categorizing the current situations of languages for various kinds of planning (such as localization).

 

Look forward to learning more.

 

Don

 

 

From: owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu [mailto:owner-lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu] On Behalf Of Paul_Lewis at sil.org
Sent: Thursday, May 10, 2007 1:10 PM
To: lgpolicy-list at ccat.sas.upenn.edu
Subject: Re: Ferguson's schema for written & standardization categories

 


Don: 

Thanks for reminding us of the Ferguson article. 

Some of my colleagues and I have been  looking at using Fishman's GIDS (Graded Intergenerational Disruption Scale) as a means of categorizing the status of "development" of various language communities. Fishman, of course, intended it to be used as a measure of disruption, but taking his GIDS Stage 6 as the general norm (most of the world's languages that are being transmitted intergenerationally are there) we're looking at what kinds of language-based development activities would be required or indicated to help them move "up one stage" to Stage 5 (widespread use of literacy that language in the community). Similarly, following Fishman's RLS (Reversing Language Shift) agenda, what would it take for a language community that is at Stage 7 (incipient loss and shift) to be restored to full intergenerational oral transmission at Stage 6? 

The W and S scales suggested by Ferguson might give a finer-grained way of describing what Stage 5 (and upward) would or could look like in each situation and so provide a blueprint or agenda for corpus planning activities. 

Warmly, 

Paul 
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"Don Osborn" <dzo at bisharat.net> 
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05/09/2007 09:41 PM 


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Subject

Ferguson's schema for written & standardization categories

 

		




I came across a 1962 article by Charles A. Ferguson entitled “The Language Factor in International Development” (Anthropological Linguistics 4(1): 23-27) in which a simple schema for measuring relative language “development” (quotes are his) according to degree of use in writing and degree of standardization. Ferguson puts this forth as a “first approximation.” 
  
I summarize his system below. I’m interested in knowing if anyone has tried to apply and/or develop this further. I realize that such a concept of hierarchies is problematic and even if one accepts the principle, its application is not easy (IOW the boundaries defining the categories are not so clear). However I am looking at it for two reasons: 
1)      as a possible way of sketching the language situation for language planning purposes (straying here into ground that is not my specialization) – can it be useful to have sense of language use from application of such categories despite whatever shortcomings? 
2)      in localization of ICT there is another kind of categorization happening, and that is the level of technical resource endowment for languages. Terms like “under-resourced” languages have emerged to describe the situation of minority languages without much in to facilitate their use in computing or the internet. In 2004 Vincent Berment completed a thesis on this subject in which he also proposed using Greek letter as neutral terms for the level of endowment: tau (well resourced), mu (moderately well resourced), and pi (poorly resourced). Such discussions focusing on technology however, and whatever terms are used, are difficult without reference to other basic measures. Berment seems to recognize this, but is it useful to separately analyze such basic (non technical) measures as writing and standardization. The object in this case is to provide richer information for localization strategies. 
  
Anyway, it’s a current small area of interest that I’m trying to gather more information on. 
  
The scales proposed by Ferguson for discussion are: 
(level of writing of a language) 
W.0 – not used for written purposes 
W.1 – used for normal written purposes 
W.2 – original research in physical sciences regularly published 
W.3 – languages in which translations and resumés of scientific work in other languages are regularly published. 
(level of standardization) 
St.0 – a language in which there is no important amount of standardization 
St.1 – (this category he recognizes to pose some challenges, but involves situations where there is more than one standard) 
St.2 – a language which has a single, widely accepted norm which is felt to be appropriate with only minor modifications or variations for all purposes and for which the language is used. 
  
Thanks in advance for any information or thoughts. 
  
Don Osborn 
  

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