Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

USAGE: Language revival

From:David G. Durand <david@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 23, 1999, 17:58
>On Mon, 22 Nov 1999, David G. Durand wrote: >According to my Chinese language professor (now emeritus), the >script has little to do with level of literacy. Literacy in Japan >is quite high, despite them having four separate scripts, and there >is no appreciable difference in the length of time needed to learn >Simplified Chinese compared to Traditional Chinese. I don't think the >rise in Turkish literacy rates was brought about by the script reform, >but rather by the spread of education.
This is true as far as it goes, but it doesn't actually go that far. Both educational access and writing system affect literacy rates. For Turkey, the change was important because the old Arabic writing system was very poorly adapted to the phonology of the language, and preserved many archaic spellings that needed to be learned. The new writing system took less education to acquire fluency -- people literally taught themselves to read the new script in a matter of weeks in some cases. This is different from a system like English spelling or Han characters that require a longer period of intensive training to acquire fluency or even competency. There is an English method of teaching reading via the ITA (International Teaching Alphabet) -- a phonemic notation for english. Children can be taught to read ITA fluently in a very short time. They are then switched over to the regular orthography later on. The one person I know who was taught this way claims that she doesn't even remember the transition. She is very smart however (professor of Sanskrit, Master's degree in Math, computer programmer on the side), and may not have had as much trouble with the change over as others might. There are reasons to preserve writing systems that are hard to learn, but that doesn't make them easy. There are also hints that the iconicity of non-phonetic writing systems like Han characters actually affect reading speed positively. The only measure of this that I've seen is in film subtitles: I have read (and casual inspection confirms) that they are longer (in words) and displayed for a shorter time than English subtitles. Assuming that filmmakers tune the quantity and timing of subtitles for comfortable comprehension by their audience, this confirms the notion that people can read Chinese faster. -- David _________________________________________ David Durand \ \ Director of Development Graduate Student no more! \ Dynamic Diagrams --------------------------------------------\ MAPA: mapping for the WWW \__________________________