Alphabets and Syllabaries for New World Languages: 50 Repertoires and 20 Problems

Philip Blair, jr. - The World Bank

Intended Audience: Software Engineer, Systems Analyst
Session Level: Intermediate

A world-wide registry of alphabets, syllabaries, and other writing systems has been proposed, and some progress has been made in collecting entries for the native languages of Europe. This paper presents an initial, preliminary, and happily non-official (and informative, not normative) collection of currently Uni-encodable repertoires for native languages of the Americas. The repertoires have been chosen to provide wide coverage (by script, by geography, by kind of language, and by usefulness). The set of repertoires also illustrates a wide range of the problems that will be faced in such work, and suggests resolutions for some of these. Problems (or challenges) include: problematical "official" status and national legal status, the special problems of orthographies that are almost-but-not-quite phonemic, misguided phoneticism, di- and multigraphs, conflicts between character repertoires and punctuation, coordinating orthographies for genetically related languages, the increasing bilingualism and multilingualism of speakers of indigeneous languages, and (in the cases of subaltern languages) the influence of prestigious "surrounding" languages (for better or for worse).

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