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date: 21 May 2019

Abstract and Keywords

One factor in maintaining an endangered language is literacy, and for this, a sound orthography is desirable. This chapter outlines the features of a good orthography for any unwritten language, and then focuses on factors specific to endangered languages in the context of two broad categories: usability and acceptability. Usability of a given orthography involves how well people can read it. Much of this depends on how well the orthography matches the linguistic system of the language, including the phoneme inventory, word breaks, etc. Acceptability involves how much people actually want to use the orthography. This involves a multitude of sociopolitical factors, often relating to a group’s perceived identity. An orthography for an endangered language, in addition to the above considerations, also mandates a closer examination of the desired purpose of the orthography, whether for use in practical literacy or more as a symbolic representation of the group’s identity.

Keywords: orthography, literacy, identity, language development, revitalization

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