Words should be fun: Scrabble as a tool for language preservation in Tuvan and other local languages

Voinov, Vitaly
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University of Hawai'i Press
One small but practical way of empowering speakers of an endangered language to maintain their language’s vitality amidst a climate of rapid globalization is to introduce a mother-tongue version of the popular word game Scrabble into their society. This paper examines how versions of Scrabble have been developed and used for this purpose in various endangered or non-prestige languages, with a focus on the Tuvan language of south Siberia, for which the author designed a Tuvan version of the game. Playing Scrabble in their mother tongue offers several benefits to speakers of an endangered language: it presents a communal approach to group literacy, promotes the use of a standardized orthography, creates new opportunities for intergenerational transmission of the language, expands its domains of usage, and may heighten the language’s external and internal prestige. Besides demonstrating the benefits of Scrabble, the paper also offers practical suggestions concerning both linguistic factors (e.g., choice of letters to be included, calculation of letter frequencies, dictionary availability) and non-linguistic factors (board design, manufacturing, legal issues, etc.) relevant to producing Scrabble in other languages for the purpose of revitalization.
Tuvan, Scrabble, language revitalization
Voinov, Vitaly. 2010. Words should be fun: Scrabble as a tool for language preservation in Tuvan and other local languages. Language Documentation & Conservation 4. 213-230.
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