[Spellyans] (no subject)

Jon Mills j.mills at email.com
Fri Feb 10 14:13:23 GMT 2012

I've just been reading an interesting article by Mark Sebba (http://lancaster.academia.edu/MarkSebba/Papers/1407388/_Sociolinguistic_approaches_to_writing_systems_research_._Writing_Systems_Research_1.1._35-49 ) in which he concludes,
 "One question which has never been satisfactorily answered is why a standardized, invariant orthography is necessary. But not only has this question not been answered, it has hardly been asked: the assumption is always that there ‘should be’ a standard, though who is responsible for providing it is clearer for some languages than for others. Furthermore, as was mentioned in Section 5, optionality is unpopular with users: the prevalent language ideology, at least in European languages, seems to favour prescription. Yet, historically, it seems, variability in spelling was not seen as a problem. 
One conclusion might be that there is simply no linguistic reason why orthography should be standardized. According to this line of reasoning, the emphasis on standardization and prescription is a purely social and cultural phenomenon. However, there is at least an alternative possibility: historically, literacy (at least in the sense of ‘ability to read and write’) has become more pervasive, and the need for individuals to read and write has increased, at least in industrialized countries and contexts. So could standardization offer a benefit in terms of efficiency, either for readers or writers? Are unstandardized language varieties, where the same word could appear in many different forms, actually less easy to read (or to write) than languages where each word has only one form? Is there some sense in which invariance really is linguistically desirable, rather than just preferred by the dominant linguistic culture? This is a question which could be answered experimentally from outside of sociolinguistics, and the answer would contribute to an understanding of the relationship between literacy and writing systems."
 Ol an gwella,

 Dr. Jon Mills, 
 University of Kent
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