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Participatory orthography development in Abawiri

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Title: Participatory orthography development in Abawiri
Authors: Yoder, Brendon
Issue Date: 04 Mar 2017
Description: This paper presents a participatory approach to orthography development, with specific reference to the development of the Abawiri orthography in Papua, Indonesia. It is argued that a community orthography developed with a participatory approach is more likely to be widely adopted, promote learning, and create goodwill than an orthography developed primarily by a linguist. As noted by Seifart (2006), a traditional assumption among linguists is that orthography development is largely restricted to accurate representation of phonological contrasts. In this view the responsibility for developing an orthography belongs to the linguist, while the community is a passive recipient of the linguist's work. Much work has discussed the complex non-linguistic factors in orthography development (e.g. Cahill 2014; Karan 2013), but the assumption persists that the task is still primarily one for the linguist, albeit a more complex one. A participatory approach, which emerged from the field of community development (Kumar 2002), values community knowledge and local expertise. It invites outsiders to do things with community members rather than for them. This approach has been effectively applied to linguistics and language development-related activities. Specific to orthography design, Participatory Research in Linguistics was developed in Africa and focuses on generating and comparing lists of words (Kutsch Lojenga 1996), while the Alphabet Design Workshop from Papua New Guinea focuses on writing and editing texts (Easton 2003). In June 2016 a modified orthography development workshop was conducted in Abawiri, incorporating elements of both methods. Interested community leaders began by writing short lists of words, using whatever ad hoc spelling each individual was able to devise based on previous knowledge of the Indonesian orthography. These ad hoc spellings were then compared, and the group decided on a single representation for each sound in the language. For example, they quickly arrived at tentative spellings for the three high front vowels /i/, /y/ and /i̝/, immediately implementing these decisions in real writing and reading tasks and revising as needed. Workshop participants took pride in the work they had done, having effectively developed an orthography for their language for the first time while also gaining literacy skills. They became more aware of their own language and the opportunities afforded to them now that their language could be written. Several participants began writing out short stories on their own. These benefits would not have been possible if the outside linguist had been a primary developer of the orthography. References Cahill, Michael. 2014. Non-linguistic factors in orthography development. In Michael Cahill & Keren Rice (eds.), Developing orthographies for unwritten languages, 9–25. (Publications in Language Use and Education). Dallas, TX: SIL International. Easton, Catherine. 2003. Alphabet Design Workshops in Papua New Guinea: A community-based approach to orthography development. Conference on Language Development, Language Revitilization and Multilingual Education in Minority Communities in Asia, 1–14. Bangkok, Thailand: SIL International. Karan, Elke. 2013. The ABD of orthography testing: Integrating formal or informal testing into the orthography development process. Work Papers of the Summer Institute of Linguistics, University of North Dakota Session 53. Kumar, Somesh. 2002. Methods for community participation: A complete guide for practitioners. New Dehli: Vistaar. Kutsch Lojenga, Constance. 1996. Participatory research in linguistics. Notes on Linguistics. 13–27. Seifart, Frank. 2006. Orthography development. In Jost Gippert, Nikolaus P. Himmelmann & Ulrike Mosel (eds.), Essentials of language documentation, 275–299. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Appears in Collections:5th International Conference on Language Documentation and Conservation (ICLDC)

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