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Writing System Development for Cultural Preservation: The Case of Akha Language in Southeast Asia. Panadda Boonyasaranai Center for Ethnic Studies and Development Faculty of Social Sciences, Chiang Mai University.

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slide1

Writing System Development for

Cultural Preservation:

The Case of Akha Language in Southeast Asia

Panadda Boonyasaranai

Center for Ethnic Studies and Development

Faculty of Social Sciences,

Chiang Mai University

slide2

Hani-Akha is a transnational ethnic minorities who settle along the borderland of five nation-states; Thailand, Myanmar, Lao PDR, south of Yunnan, China, and north of Vietnam. Their language is a language of Lolo-Burmese branch of Tibeto-Burman language family. The Akha, like other ethnic groups, practice their own spoken language without written language until Christian missionaries constructed Roman-based writing system for religious purpose. At the moment, there are at least 9 of writing systems for Akha in Thailand. Recently the Hani-Akha leaders from various countries especially from Thailand, Myanmar, Yunnan of China collaborated each other as a network to develop and standardized these various writing systems as the “Common Akha Orthography”. They expect to promote this “Common Akha Orthography” to Akha communities in the region for the purposes of unifying Akha from different countries and traditional culture preservation.

slide3

Akha language and its speaker

The Akha language is a number of a southern-lolo of Burmese-Lolo branch, Tibeto-Burman language family spoken approximately 2,500,000 people in southwestern Yunnan, China; eastern Shan state, Myanmar; northern Thailand and Laos; and northwestern Vietnam .

slide5

The Akha have a distinctive culture, with strong emphasis on ancestral religion. Bradley (1977) stated that they divided into named patri-clans; dialect divisions are said to follow these clan divisions. The standard of Akha dialect in Myanmar and Thailand is the dialect of the Jeu G’oe clan, and Aˇ jawˇ clan. In Laos, the largest clan is the Nu-Quay. In China the ‘standard’ Lǜchūn dialect of Hani recorded in 1964 was an Akha dialect.

slide6

SINO-TIBETAN

TIBETO-BURMAN

CHINESE

Kamarupan

NE India, West Myanmar

Baic

Yunnan

Karenic

Myanmar, Thailand Myanmar

Himalayish

Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim

Lolo-Burmese-Naxi

SW. China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam

Quiangic

Sichuan, Yunnan

Jingpho-Nungish-Luish

N. Myanmar, Yunnan

Sino-Tibetan and Tibeto-Burman language family

Source : Matisoff, James A. A Handbook of Proto-Tibeto-Burman.2003:5

slide7

Sino-Tibetan

language speakers

in Thailand

slide13

The Roman-based Hani developed by

Chinese Communist Party (CCP)

and Hani/Akha collaborators

slide15

The Roman-based system

developed by Baptist Akha priest

(Chaiyot Kukaewkasem)

slide17

The Roman-based Akha writing system developed by Dr. Leo Alting Von Geusau and Akha collaborators

slide18

Unifying to create Common Akha Orthography

From the various systems of Akha orthographies, the Akha representatives came from five countries; China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, to discussed and decided which would be the suitable character for each phoneme. The Hani-Pinyin was selected to be a representative of Hani/Akha orthography of China, the Baptist system was selected to be a representative orthography of Myanmar, and SEAMP system was selected to be a representative orthography of Thailand. From these 3 systems, the negotiation of Common Akha Orthography have been decided and selected.

slide19

The following examples are transcriptions of different Akha Orthographies for the sentence ‘I study Akha language’.

English sentence ‘I study Akha language’

Roman-based catholic systemNga ̌ A ̬ kha ̬ sang ̬ bo ̭ dzaw

Roman-based baptist systemNga ̌ A ̬ ka ̬ san ̬ bo ̭ dzaw

Burmese-based igtgcgpefbdkaZmf

Thai-Basedหง่า อ่าข่า ส่องโบะ ฌอ

Roman-based Hani Pinyin Ngal Aq kaq saq bovq zaw

Roman-based by AFFECT Ngal Aq kaq sahq bovq dzaw

Roman-based by ChaiyotNga ̌ A ̬ ka ̬ san ̬ bo ̭ dzaw

Roman-based by SEAMPCDNgal Aq kaq sangq bovq dzaw

CAO 2008 Ngar Aqkaq sanqbof dzaw

CAO 2009 Ngar Aqkaq sanqbovq dzaw

slide20

In August of 2008 Akha representatives from Myanmar, China, Laos, and Thailand met in Maesai, Thailand for a three day formal meeting for negotiation. The result of the meeting was the successful development of a New Common Akha Orthography.

An additional meeting was organized between December 31, 2008 and January 2, 2009 in Jinghong, China. Morton (2009), who observed the meeting, stated that a total of six changes were made to the Common Akha Orthography developed in Maesai in August, 2008.

one consonant was changed from <sh> to <x>. three vowels were changed from

<e> to <ei>, <eu> to <e>, and <ui> to <ee>.

two tonal markers were changed from <f> to <vq> and <x> to <vr>.

slide21

The results of these negotiations of Common Akha Orthography (2009) are

Consonants:

<b, ts, d, g, h, kh, j, k, l, m, n, p, c, s, t, x, y, dz, by, my, ny, ng, gh, z>

Vowels:

<a, i, o, u, ae, an, aw, ei, e, oi, oe, ee, m, ao, am, ai>

Tones:

<-r, -, -q, -v, -vr, -vq>

slide22

Consonants negotiation

Common Akha Orthography by agreement in Auguast 8, 2008.

 Revised from CAO 2008, especially on tone markers.

Common Akha Orthography by agreement in Auguast 8, 2008.

 Revised from CAO 2008, especially on tone markers.

slide23

A standard Roman orthography became necessary to reach their goals of building cross-border networks for Hani/Akha traditional knowledge preservation. They agreed to choose the Roman characters which have historically had widespread use in the region for the common Akha writing; rather than Thai, Burmese, Chinese, Laotian characters.

slide27

Primer of CAO was printed and taught by

Mekong Akha for Peace and Sustainability (MAPS)

In Thailand and Sibsongpanna of Yunnan, China

slide29

The international conference on Hani-Akha culture and need of traditional knowledge and culture preservation

After the second conference, some of Thai Akha started to collect and study all Akha writing systems which were being used among the Akha in Thailand, as well as Myanmar, compared to the systems used in China. The need for a ‘Common Akha Orthography’ was not formally expressed until 1999 when the third conference was held in Jinghong, Sibsongpanna, China. A standard Roman orthography became necessary to reach their goals of building cross-border networks for Hani/Akha traditional knowledge preservation. They agreed to choose the Roman characters which have historically had widespread use in the region for the common Akha writing; rather than Thai, Burmese, Chinese, Laotian characters.

slide31

Participants of the 4th International Conference on Hani/Akha culture

Yuanyang, Yunnan, China 2002

slide32

CAO was used in Akha cultural fair

Tachilek, Myanmar. 2008

slide33

The 2nd Akha Cultural Festival and meeting

Ban Doi Chang, Chiang Rai, Thailand

slide34

Strong collaboration of Akha leaders

Mr. Sarlanq: a middle-aged male Neo-traditionalist from Myanmar who is the Vice-President of the Traditional Akha Association based in Tachilek, Myanmar.

Mr. Lawqgaw Mawqpov: a middle-aged male from Chiangrai, Thailand who is an Akha traditional scholar.

Mr. Pirhuiq Yawrbyan: the president of the Akha Foundation from Chiangrai, Thailand who cooperated and financially supported the conference.

Mr. Arjei Yawrbyan: a middle-aged male from Chiangrai, Thailand who is a Protestant NGO director of the Akha Outreach Foundation with a doctorate in theology.

Mr. Aju Dzoeqbaw: a middle-aged male Traditionalist from Chiangrai, Thailand who is a musician and NGO leader.

Mr. Artuq Bawchaeq: head of Akha Foundation For Education and Culture in Thailand (AFFECT).

Mr. Wang Jianhua: a thirty-six year old male Neo-traditionalist from Sipsongbanna, China who is pursuing a doctorate in anthropology.

Ms. Chutima Morlaeku: a forty year old female NGO leader and citizenship rights activist from Chiangmai, Thailand.

Mr.Sompad Sorchampa: a roughly twenty-five year old male from Northern Laos who is studying medicine at a University in Vientiane.

slide36

Mr.Baqtseir,

Akha representative from Laos,

A 2nd year student of Medical Science, National U. of Vientiane, Laos PDR

slide38

Support from American Linguist/Anthropologist

“...I believe it is the Akha people who should decide how their language is written. As much as I very deeply love the Akha, I am not an Akha…I am thrilled that there are Akha people from China, Burma and Thailand who are anxious to develop a practical orthography for the 21th century, and are willing to give time to working together to develop such a Universal Orthography. The orthography I helped to produce 60 years ago was probably fairly good for that time, but I realize it is not practical for the present and future, since the tone marks we used back then cannot be used on computers and typewriters now. Also, in China they are already using consonants to indicate tones—which show it can be done. If the majority of Akha agree that consonants can be used for the tones, I would certainly agree. The one suggestion I would make here is: try to use consonants for tones which are not used as the initial consonants. For example, in using the –l for the high tone, that letter is also used as an initial consonant, so that “lal” has the one letter “-l” carrying two loads; first as a consonant, and then as a tone indicator. The same is true with “qiq” where the “-q” carries two loads—both the initial consonant and the tone. From what I have seen of some of your experiments with this I think you are on the right track. For example: “r”, “f”, “v”, are never used as initial consonants in Akha, so they could function as tone markers—and only as tone markers. But this is just a suggestion of a non-Akha. I wish you all the very best as you work together in a spirit of love and mutual concern for the very best way of writing Akha. Whatever you decide I will happily follow when I write Akha, or check what others have written.”

slide39

VCD for studying Common Akha Orthography

Aqkaq Sanqbovq Dzawdmq 1

‘Akha’ ‘language’ ‘study 1’

slide43

The representatives of Mekong Akha for Peace and Sustainability

accepted fund for Akha cultural preservation

from U.S. Ambassador.

Ban Doi Chang, Chiang Rai, Sept. 1, 2010

slide46

conclusion

In our present world of information technology, without written language, the oral history may not be adequate for transferring traditional knowledge and culture from generation to generation.

However, this phenomenon of Common Akha Orthography development of transnational Akha people in the upper Southeast Asia show that the Hani-Akha are ready to follow several documents of International Declarations Related to Language Rights.

slide47

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples 2007, article 13 was summarized by Person (2009) that;

    • Indigenous peoples have the right to revitalize, use, develop and transmit to figure generations their histories, languages, oral tradition, philosophies, writing systems and literatures, and to designate and retain their own names for communities, places and persons.
    • Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions, providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning.
    • States shall take effective measures to ensure that indigenous peoples can understand and be understood in political, legal and administrative proceedings, where necessary through the provision of interpretation or by other appropriate means.
slide48

The acceptance of CAO among native Akha speakers are increased especially among new generation, there are still some Akha speakers who agree with the CAO but they prefer to use the Roman-based Baptist system as they have been familiar with it for many years.

However, CAO status, as a transnational written language, construct the imagining communities of transnational Hani/Akha ethnicity in the upper Southeast Asia.

slide52

Uqduq tanq ma

Geeqlanq heeq ma

Thank youvery much