Kurtöp (Tibeto-Burman) orthography development in Bhutan. lsa symposium: developing orthographies for unwritten language Gwendolyn Hyslop University of Oregon firstname.lastname@example.org. Outline. Introduction to Kurtöp and literacy in Bhutan Factors involved in orthography development in Bhutan
lsa symposium: developing orthographies for unwritten language
University of Oregon
in the 7th century
In the Classical Tibetan Orthography, syllables are represented according to this diagram.
The “R” represents a simple onset, or in the case of an onset-less syllable, the vowel. C1, C2, and C4 may be used to add consonants to the onset, making it complex. The V slots are for vowels. C3 represents a single coda (if present) and C5 makes a complex coda (rarely occurs).
For example, to write <bsgrubs> The
complex onset is <b> in C1; <s> in
C2 position, <g> in root position;
<r> in C4. /u/ is represented
below C4. <b> in C3 and <s> in C5
indicate the complex coda.
Classical Tibetan phonology had around 28 consonants (labial, dental, palatal, velar).
And complex onsets
And five vowels
After almost 1,400 years of change, Lhasa Tibetan (the prescribed standard) has:
A new series of retroflex consonants
Two new vowels (front high and mid rounded)
High and low tonal registers; level and falling tonal contours
Changes in voicing/aspiration contrasts
The modern use of ’Ucenassumes the 1400 years of change from Classical Tibetan to modern Lhasa Tibetan.
’Ucenis used this way in Bhutan; for example, words with complex onsets in Classical Tibetan are still written as such in modern Tibetan/Dzongkha, but not pronounced as such.
Representing any pronunciation using ’Ucenentails the reader to infer the sound change.
There is no way to represent various aspects of the phonology of other synchronic Bhutanese languages – such as complex onsets – in the history of Bhutanese education.
1400 years of change,
Kurtöp complex onsets
But in Kurtöp pra = ‘monkey’
Idea 1: Use ’Ucen in a way similar to Roman.
How to represent vowels other than /ɑ/?
This would be confused
with /lé/ in Dzongkha/Tibetan
This leads people to tend to pronounce the
word correctly, but does not follow the
traditional conventions and is unattractive.
Existing computer fonts do not allow the needed combinations
Chris Fynn, DDC font developer, agreed to adapt the Bhutan ’Ucen fonts (joyi and tshui) to accommodate the new combinations
In addition to the complex onsets, the adapted fonts will be able to mark tone
Tshui font is finished and joyi is scheduled to be finished by March.
/ká/ /khí/ /gú/ /ŋé/ /có/
/c/ /kja/ /ʈa/ /kra/ /kla/ /klwa/
Kurtöp speakers preferred a shallow and faithful representation -- for both Roman and ’Ucen based orthographies.
With regard to ’Ucen, the cursive, or Joyi, version was preferred, due to its somewhat neutral religious affiliation and its status as an indigenous script.
Reading rules from Tibetan/Dzongkha posed serious problems for Kurtöp, which is not a direct descendent from Classical Tibetan and has a different phonology.
Research on Kurtöp has been funded by the National Science Foundation and the Endangered Languages Documentation Project. All research and orthography development has been done in collaboration with the Dzongkha Development Commission in Bhutan. I am also grateful for discussion with and comments from Karma Tshering, KuengaLhendup, Scott DeLancey, Keren Rice, and Kris Stenzel.