University of California, Santa Barbara - Department of Linguistics
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University of California, Santa Barbara -- June 23 - August 1, 2008  

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ORTHOGRAPHY: THE 'MIDWIFE' APPROACH
Session A: June 24 - 27, 10:30 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Session B: June 30 - July 3, 8:30 a.m. - 10:15 a.m.
McCune Conference Center

Instructors
Kristine Stenzel
Museu Nacional/Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

Keren Rice
University of Toronto

 

Course Overview
This workshop will explore orthography development from two angles. First, we discuss the different ideals and expectations that linguists and language communities bring to the process  and the important parameters that may come into play. Some of the questions to be addressed include: What makes a ‘good’ orthography? Who is the orthography for? How can we balance goals related to ‘accuracy’ and ‘ease of use’ – where can we compromise? What kinds of social and symbolic representations can be at play in a writing system? What are the practical and political issues related to orthographic variation and standardization?

Second, the workshop will explore a methodological approach to orthography development that involves the language community as an active participant in the process. It proposes a number of topics and questions that can be explored with the language community developing a writing system, among others: What kinds of experiences with writing have community members previously had? What are their views as to purpose of writing in their daily lives and its value in relation to other language-related goals? As means of communication in the same language, how are speaking and writing similar and how are they different?

In this approach, the actual practice of writing and the doubts and questions that arise from this practice are used from the onset as the basic material for discussion and analysis with the language community. The linguist’s role in the process is to employ his or her experience and technical knowledge to guide and facilitate speakers’ analysis of their own language, empowering them as vital participants in the decision-making process and working together with them in the ‘birth’ of this new linguistic resource (it is in this sense that the linguist acts more as a ‘midwife’ than a ‘doctor’ in the process). To demonstrate the approach, the course includes practical ‘exercises’ based on real-life situations and offers suggestions of ways of dealing with them.

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This page was last modified on 8 June 2008.
Institute on Field Linguistics and Language Documentation - Dept. of Linguistics, UCSB