Monday, December 1, 2008

Ik Orthography Workshop




Our organization likes its catch-phrases just like any other. 'Orthography Workshop' might as well be called 'Alphabet Meeting'...whatever we call it, we held our first one this past Saturday. I spent about three hours discussing the Ik language and how to write it, while Amber cooked us up a delicious lunch. It was an enjoyable, memorable occasion. I'd spent the last several months researching all the sounds of the Ik language and thinking about what letters we could use for them in the Ik alphabet. Recently I felt it was time to get some influential Ik leaders together and ask them to choose the alphabetic symbols they like the best. If only it were that easy...




If it was just a matter of choosing symbols, we could choose anything to represent the sounds of a language, including & % $ # and @. Some of the factors we have to consider are: how easy will the alphabet be to type on a keyboard, how much should it resemble other languages in the area, how easy will it be to teach and learn...etc. As of Saturday, the Ik have decided on the letters they want to use, and now I need to run their choices by my consultants.




The Ik want their language to look different than other languages. It would be convenient if the Ik alphabet could resemble Karamojong, Swahili, Luganda, or English. But then again, English, German, French, and Spanish have different looking alphabets. I believe part of the reason for their desire to be different is the fact that they've been marginalized and oppressed for decades. They are determined to be their own people and to be recognized as such. I can't blame them for that. It's just amazing that deep-seated, long-standing ethnic identity issues can affect something like an alphabet so practially. The Ik men at this meeting rejected certain letters for the sole reason that they looked like Karamojong letters. Because of that, we had to choose letters that aren't easy to find on keyboards. This whole process involves balancing a host of diverse factors. It's difficult, but I feel very privileged to be a part of the process. And so might you.

3 comments:

Phil said...

How exciting to be able to participate in this phase of cultural development! I wish I could help them think about the long-term costs of using an alphabet distinct from others in their region, but hey, it is their language, not mine. Blessings to ya'll.

Jennie said...

well I'm honored to be part - thanks for including us! :)

Doug Wicks said...

This is a big step. Thanks for sharing it. I hope all the people you wanted there could be there.