Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics

From: William J Poser (wjposer@ldc.upenn.edu)
Date: Sat Oct 29 2005 - 23:26:19 CST

  • Next message: suzanne mccarthy: "re: Unified Canadian Aboriginal Syllabics"

    I wouldn't be so sure that "syllabaire" is a thoughtless
    translation of English "syllabics". Father Adrien-Gabriel Morice,
    who created the Carrier syllabics in 1885, consistently
    used the term "Dene syllabics" when writing in English but
    "syllabaire dene" when writing in French (with acute accents
    on both e's of dene in both languages). He was born and
    raised in France, designed the Carrier syllabics with
    considerable care (it is a much better writing system than
    the adaptations of the Cree syllabics used for Slave, Dogrib,
    and Chippewyan - Father Morice appears to have been the first
    person to write an Athabaskan language correctly, that is,
    with representation of all of the phonemic contrasts), and
    was sufficiently interested in writing systems that he published
    a lengthy paper on the history of writing. I've read
    virtualy everything he wrote except for his history of the
    Catholic Church in Western Canada and can't recall him
    ever using "syllabiques" as a noun. (Since Carrier people
    did not generally speak French there is no evidence as to
    their usage in French. The Carrier term is the native
    compound dulkw'ahke "frog feet".)

    With regard to the point that "syllabaires" has the wrong
    semantics because one can say "Syllabics is not a syllabary"
    but not "A syllabary is not a syllabary", I see two problems.
    First, "syllabics" and "a syllabary" are not parallel in these
    two sentences. "syllabics" is used as a name and is therefore
    definite. A more accurate parallel would therefore be
    "This syllabary is not a syllabary", which I find much more
    felicitous. With scare-quote-intonation on the first "syllabary",
    equivalent to saying "so-called syllabary", it becomes perfect.

    Second, picking up on the point that "syllabics" is really
    a name, I don't see a problem with "syllabaires" because
    to me at least "syllabaires autochtones canadiens unifies"
    is short for the awkward but perfectly sensible:
    "systemes d'ecriture autochtones canadiens dits `syllabiques' unifies".

    On a side issue, I haven't used accents here in French because
    my impression is that people avoid non-ASCII postings.
    Would people be comfortable using Unicode? I've actually
    corresponded recently with a friend in Korean, sending
    UTF-8 through the mail without encoding (that is, no uuencoding
    or base64), but I'm not clear as to whether this is really
    reliable, and many people find encoding inconvenient.


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