language and linguistics n.
Skip this Video
Loading SlideShow in 5 Seconds..
Language and Linguistics PowerPoint Presentation
Download Presentation
Language and Linguistics

Loading in 2 Seconds...

play fullscreen
1 / 98

Language and Linguistics - PowerPoint PPT Presentation

  • Uploaded on

Language and Linguistics. This section of the course is about language ... the vehicle for holding and transmitting culture We will cover the origins of human language; the structure of language; historical linguistics; sociolinguistics; and the history of writing. Language origins .

I am the owner, or an agent authorized to act on behalf of the owner, of the copyrighted work described.
Download Presentation

PowerPoint Slideshow about 'Language and Linguistics' - rasul

An Image/Link below is provided (as is) to download presentation

Download Policy: Content on the Website is provided to you AS IS for your information and personal use and may not be sold / licensed / shared on other websites without getting consent from its author.While downloading, if for some reason you are not able to download a presentation, the publisher may have deleted the file from their server.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - E N D - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Presentation Transcript
language and linguistics
Language and Linguistics
  • This section of the course is about language ... the vehicle for holding and transmitting culture
  • We will cover the origins of human language; the structure of language; historical linguistics; sociolinguistics; and the history of writing.
language origins
Language origins
  • Evidence for the evolution of language comes from anatomy – comparative anatomy of modern humans and chimps and comparative anatomy of hominids through time – and from primate sign language, experiments in tool making, and comparative linguistics.
  • The capacity for language, like the capacity for culture, was part of biological evolution.
Evidence for the evolution of language comes from anatomy – comparative anatomy of modern humans and chimps and comparative anatomy of hominids through time – and from primate sign language, experiments in tool making, and comparative linguistics.
We do not know much about the details of language evolution but we do know that the capacity for language, like the capacity for culture, was part of biological evolution.
  • There have not been any hominids on Earth except for H. sapiens for 40,000 years. That is probably how long it has been since the currently observable human capacity for language has been part of our repertoire.
There are technologically primitive people on Earth – hunters and gatherers who never took part in the Neolithic revolution, much less the preindustrial state revolution or the industrial revolution or the post-industrial revolution now underway.
  • But there are no primitive people on Earth. All humans have the same capacity for acquiring a language and all human languages ever known are capable of transmitting any culture, even the most technologically complex.
The evolution of language and the development of the human hand and the ability to make tools are probably all related.
  • The voice box and neurological complexity have all evolved.
  • We know from endocranial casts that the area of the brain devoted to speech began developing as early as H. habilis.
speech and handedness
Speech and handedness
  • The speech area of the brain is adjacent to the area devoted to the control of the human hand.
  • The makers of Oldowan tools were mostly right handed.
  • Chimps can make stone tools – they don’t do that in the wild – but when they do in experiments in captivity, they do not show any preference for right- or left handedness(Stanley Ambrose, Science 2001).
  • William Haviland points out that handedness is associated with lateralization of the brain, as is language.
hypoglossal canal
Hypoglossal canal
  • By half a million years ago, in H. erectus, we see a major increase in the size of the hypoglossal canal – which could accommodate larger nerves for controlling the tongue.
  • By the time we get to Neandertals, the hypoglossal canal is the same size as it is in fully modern humans (though this is controversial)
hyoid bone
Hyoid bone
  • The hyoid bone: U-shaped bone at the base of the tongue that supports the tongue muscles
  • In Neanderthals, the hyoid shows that the larynx was as developed as that in modern humans
  • And the thorax had expanded to the same size as that of modern humans: breath control required for continual speech.
washoe and other chimps
Washoe and other chimps
  • Experiments with chimps and other apes show they are capable of much more than we thought, in terms of language.
  • Chimps do not have the physical apparatus for human speech, but Beatrice and Allan Gardner taught Washoe, a female chimp, 160 signs in Ameslan.
generalizing signs
Generalizing signs
  • Washoe moved beyond the signs and generalized them – and combined them.
  • She learned “open” for one door, and then used it to ask for other doors to be opened
  • She asked for refrigerators to be opened and pointed to open drawers and briefcases.
Washoe and Lucy (who was trained by Roger Fouts) learned the sign for feces and generalized it to mean dirty.
  • Lucy used the term as an expletive when she got mad at Fouts for not giving her something.
  • Lucy invented “cry hurt food” – three signs in Ameslan – to talk about radishes and “candy fruit” to talk about watermelons. Chimps and other great apes achieve the linguistic capacity of a 2–3 year old human.
comparative linguistics and language origins
Comparative linguistics and language origins
  • Brent Berlin and Paul Kay studied 110 languages and found seven stages in the development of color terms.
  • All languages have at least two terms, white and black, or color and lack of color.
  • When languages acquire a third term, it is always red.
  • When languages acquire a fourth term, it is either green or yellow.
berlin and kay s study
Berlin and Kay’s study
  • At five terms, green or yellow enters, depending on which one entered at stage IV.
  • At 6 terms, blue enters, and at 7 terms, brown enters.
  • At the final stage of 8 or more terms, purple, pink, orange, grey or combinations of these terms enter the lexicon. Moreover, color lexicons become more complex as societies become more complex.
brown and witkowski s study
Brown and Witkowski’s study
  • Cecil Brown and Stanley Witkowski replicated Berlin and Kay’s work using plants and animals.
  • At the first stage of lexical complexity for organisms, languages have a word for plant.
  • Next they distinguish trees from all other plants.
  • Then grerb enters the lexicon –grass and/or herb.
Then bush enters, and then grass, and the vine.
  • In the animal kingdom, the simplest lexicons distinguish animals from plants.
  • Then fish enter the lexicon; then bird; then snake; then wug (worm and bug); and finally, mammal.
complexity of the lexicon
Complexity of the lexicon
  • But complexity of the lexicon for organisms is very plastic, as comparisons between urban and primitive peoples shows.
  • People in small-scale societies can name from 400-800 plants.
  • In urban areas, this is 40-80 and they recognize even fewer, as John Gatewood showed in his research on loose talk.
pidgins and creoles
Pidgins and creoles
  • Recent studies of Pidgins and Creoles also shed light on the evolution of language.
  • Pidgin languages are always second languages.
  • They develop when speakers of different languages try to communicate, often for purposes of trade.
  • The lexicon usually comes from one language, and the grammar from the other.
Creole languages develop from pidgins, but as people develop native capacity in a pidgin, the structure changes.
  • Hawaii is a good case. In the late 19th century, Filipinos, Puerto-Ricans, Anglo-Americans, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and American Blacks all came to work on the plantations there.
bickerton s study
Bickerton’s study
  • Derek Bickerton studied Hawaiian Creole in 1975 when it was a fully developed language.
  • Compared the structural properties of Hawaiian Creole to other creoles.
  • Found similarity in the use of particles for modifying verb roots to produce tense, and similarities in the use of singular, plural and neutral number markers.
Bickerton suggests that the similarities across creoles are because of a genetic substrate in humans.
  • This substrate produces basic structural properties in languages at the early stage of development.
  • Noam Chomsky referred to as the biological basis of the capacity for language acquisition.
language complexity and evolution
Language complexity and evolution
  • Some people are studying the properties of child languages across the world to test whether this is true.
  • If it is, then the theory would be that the more child-like a language, the easier it is to learn – and the more like early language it must be.
  • But languages are getting simpler –English and modern German from early German, Spanish, Italian and French from Latin.
  • So the whole picture is not yet clear.
children s language acquisition
Children’s language acquisition
  • 12 - 13 months name objects
  • 18 – 20 months one-word sentences
  • 18 – 24 months two-word sentences
structure of language
Structure of language
  • Immediate constituents approach – Leonard Bloomfield
  • Transformational grammar approach – Noam Chomsky
chomsky s observation
Chomsky’s observation
  • The IC approach doesn’t account for the fact that humans can learn languages or for the fact that languages are generative
  • From a finite number of rules operating on a finite number of words, we can encode and decode an infinite number of well-formed sentences.
transformational generative grammar
Transformational-generative grammar
  • TG grammar makes it possible to understand language play
  • It makes understandable the fact that sentences can have many meanings – because they are similar surface representations of different roots.
  • Flying planes can be dangerous
  • I don’t like John’s cooking
four parts of grammar
Four parts of grammar
  • Phonology
  • Morphology
  • Syntax
  • Semantics
  • The earliest part that we acquire is the phonology – and it appears to be the most difficult part of a language to acquire after childhood
writing is not the same as language
Writing is not the same as language
  • As we look at grammar, the first thing to remember is that writing is not the same as language.
  • Language is an ideal concept, like race, and only exists in the surface representations.
  • Speech and writing are different surface representations of language, and writing is not a better representation than speech.
english phonology
English phonology
  • English has 46 phonemes and many allophones
  • We discover the phonemes of a language by looking for short, minimal pairs, like pig/big in English to isolate distinctive features
  • Here we see that voicing is the distinctive feature because p and b are both bilabial stops, but only one is voiced
  • In English, we have stops, fricatives, affricates, nasals, and liquids.


Stops, or plosives, are made by forming the mouth and tongue in a particular way and forcing the air to stop temporarily on the way out of the mouth during speech.
  • The letters p, t, and k represent the three common voiceless stops in English.
  • The p sound is a bilabial stop
  • The t sound is an apico-dental stop
  • The k sound is a velar stop

voiced stops
Voiced stops
  • Each voiceless stop has its voiced counterpart in English, so be have
  • p, t, k and b, d, and g
  • Note the meaningful differences between the words ten and den, pig and big, cut and gut (curl/girl)
  • The difference is the single, distinctive feature of voicing
  • Many sound differences are not phonemic, but are allophones
  • Recall the concept of an allele – an alternative form of a gene
  • The t sound has several allophones in English
  • Word initial, before a vowel, the t sound is heavily aspirated
  • Put your hand up to your mouth and say “torrid tango”
Say “itty bitty” – the t in the middle of each word has no aspiration. Word medially and intervocalically, the t sound is unaspirated.
  • Native speakers of English find it hard to make a word-initial, prevocalic, unaspirated t – like the t in “patter.”
  • Native speakers of Spanish use this sound incorrectly, word initially and prevocalically, in English – Spanish simply has no aspirated t.
  • The word “saturate” has an affricate in it for many dialects of American English
  • An affricate is a combination of a stop and a fricative, a t and a sh, in this case
  • One of the allophones of t is ch – when followed by the glide sound y and the vowel sound u – as in satch-yur-ate
  • Some people say matoor, leaving out the the glide before the u, and thus converting the phoneme t to its prevocalic aspirated allophone
dialect allophones
Dialect allophones
  • British dialects of English don’t have the ch allophone for t at all
  • They say matyoor, separating the glide and the u vowel and adopting the prevocalic aspirated allophone for t
english phonology1
English phonology
  • The phonology of the grammar comprises the rules for the sounds of the language – which sounds can be made, and how the sounds can occur in various positions in words.
  • We have 46 phonemes in American English, including 11 vowels in most dialects of American English.
  • Sleek hawk – high-front to low-back vowels

















the ten vowels of english
The ten vowels of English

i see o sew

v sit U put

e set u ooze

æ cat b sofa

a hot

] saw

Many Americans have nine, rather than ten vowels.
  • cot and caught
  • marry, merry, Mary
  • There are only six squiggles to represent the ten vowels, plus four diphthongs:

say, toy, cow, my

the kissinger effect
The Kissinger effect
  • Why take you through these details of phonology? To show you how much you have to learn in order to become a native speaker of a language.
  • No one has a better vocabulary or a better command of the syntax and the semantics of English than Henry Kissinger does.
  • But Kissinger came to the U.S. when he was 15 years old, by which time, his phonology was locked into German.
  • Morphology comprises the rules of the grammar for constructing meaningful chunks of sounds.
  • A morpheme is the smallest unit of meaning in a language.
  • Bound and unbound morphemes.
  • -un is a bound morpheme with many allomorphs – illegal, immaterial, inactive, ignoble
past tense and plural nouns in english
Past tense and plural nouns in English
  • Plural s z ez
  • Past t d ed
  • Note that the e in ez and in ed is a shwa Ə
  • part parts, bag bags, rose roses
  • slip slipped, bag bagged, want wanted
  • Language and gender
  • The use of honorifics and hedging in speech
  • Some language, like Japanese, have quite strong rules about how men and women should speak.
gendered speech in japanese
Gendered speech in Japanese

yamada ga musuko to syokuzi o tanosinda

yamada      son      dinner      enjoyed

yamada-san ga musuko-san to o-syokuzi o tanosim-are-ta

yamada-hon      son-hon      hon-dinner    enjoyed-hon

Both sentences mean "Yamada enjoyed dinner with his son."

Bonvillain, Nancy. 2000. Language, culture, and communication: the meaning of messages. 3rd ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ : Prentice Hall, 2000.

Women in the U.S. use question mode for declarative statements as part of a softening, or hedging speech register.
  • Men also use softening modes, but in different situations.
  • It remains to be seen whether the amount of softening differs between men and women.
sociolinguistics dialects
Sociolinguistics – dialects
  • Social status marked by language
  • Labov’s study of the “fourth floor” r at Klein’s (20%), Macy’s (51%) and Sak’s Fifth Avenue (62%)
  • Code switching and dialects
  • Ebonics is a dialect of English
sapir whorf hypothesis language and thought
Sapir-Whorf hypothesis: language and thought
  • We know that we can say things in one language that we can’t in another.
  • But we also know that translation is possible.
  • Edward Sapir and his student, Benjamin Lee Whorf, articulated the idea that we think the way we think because of our language.
For example, there are two verbs for “to be” in Spanish, depending on whether a phenomenon is transitory or permanent.
  • There are two verb forms in Turkish, depending on whether one knows the action or knows about the action.
  • Verbs in Navajo are marked for the shape of the object spoken about.
  • SVO (English), SOV (Japanese), VSO (Welsh)
Spanish and German require that the speaker categorize everyone as familiar or not. What does all this do to our everyday thinking?
  • Sapir said that “Human beings...are very much at the mercy of the particular language which has become the medium of expression for their society” (1929)
  • This is the strong form of linguistic determinism, which is not accepted.
Note the weak form of linguistic relativity: Variations in language structure do structure thought, but we do not know how much.
  • Note the difference in the meaning of the following verb forms: worked, has worked, once worked, used to work, had worked
  • In Israel, the U.S., and Finland, children incorporate gender roles at different ages. The languages of these countries have correspondingly different levels of gender labeling.
historical linguistics
Historical linguistics
  • Glottochronology is based on the idea that the core vocabulary of languages is changes at a constant rate – about 14% per 1000 years.
  • Morris Swadesh showed that this was more-or-less the case for many written languages.
  • The claim is that, with caution, we can use this to examine the evolution of nonwritten languages.
  • Based on the systematic comparison of cognates across languages to determine the times since two languages separated from a common ancestor.
We use these principles to reconstruct languages that do not have writing

Fox Cree Menomeni Ojibwa

pematesiwa pematesiw pematesew pimatisi

niyawi niyaw neyaw niyaw

posiwa posiw posew pisi

he lives, my body, he embarks

1066 and all that
1066 and all that
  • beef cattle
  • pork pig
  • mutton sheep
  • venison deer
  • chicken chicken
  • dine, cogitate, endeavor, acquire, read, thing, build, want, sad, big,
  • defecate, copulate, urinate, expectorate
  • garbage and target
when did we get these words
When did we get these words?
  • village
  • garage
  • collage
indo european languages
Indo-European languages
  • Indo-Iranian
  • Italic
  • Germanic
  • Celtic
  • Baltic
  • Slavic
  • Albanian
  • Greek language
  • Armenian language
  • Thracian
  • Dacian
  • Phrygian
  • Anatolian
  • Tocharian
  • German, Frisian, Dutch, Afrikaans, English, Norwegian, Danish, Swedish
  • German: Bavarian, Swabian, Alsatian, Cimbrian, Rimella, Reinfrankisch, Pennsylvania, Luxembourgeois, Swiss German, Yiddish
  • Portuguese, Galician, Spanish, Ladino, Asturian, Aragonese, Catalan, Valencian, French, Wallon, Jerais, Poitevain, Piccard, Occitan, Lengadocian, Gascon, Auvergnat, Limosin, Franco-Provencal, Rumantsch, Sursilvan, Fiulian, Ladin, Italian (and all its variants), Rumanian, Sardinian,


Spoken as a first language by


Mandarin Chinese





























Source: The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language

Note, however, that 150m people speak Russian as a second language.
  • French and English are spoken as second languages by 50-75m people each.
  • Malay-Indonesian, French, Urdu, Punjabi, Korean, Telegu, Tamil, Marathi, Italian, Cantonese round out the top 20 and are spoken by at least 25m each.
the vanishing languages
The vanishing languages
  • 5% of the world’s languages are spoken by 95% of the world’s people
  • 95% of the world’s languages are spoken by 5% of the world’s people
a few facts about vanishing languages
A few facts about vanishing languages
  • Of 220 Indian languages still spoken in Mexico, 17 are nearing extinction.
  • Of the 168 American Indian languages listed for the United States, 71 are extinct or soon will be.
  • Breton probably had 1.4m speakers in 1900. It is now down to perhaps 400k speakers.
the case of navaho
The case of Navaho
  • Navajo was down to fewer than 5000 speakers in the 19th century. It made a dramatic comeback and had over 100,000 speakers in the 1970s.
  • Now, it too, may be headed for extinction, even though it is said to have over 150k speakers.
what s the problem
What’s the problem?
  • One could argue that language die-off is just part of natural evolution
  • The language of Cesar is not spoken today, and the language is Jesus is spoken by a few hundred speakers.
  • Nothing catastrophic seems to have happened . . . Why worry now?
language diversity and survival
Language diversity and survival
  • Language diversity did not cause the evolutionary success of Homo sapiens.
  • Some fraction of human knowledge however, is stored in the languages remaining today
  • Whatever that fraction is, can we afford to lose it?
the language disappearance experiment
The language disappearance experiment
  • I wouldn’t be so worried about the mass extinction of languages if I had 20 or 30 planets on which to conduct this experiment
  • We do not know if it’s enough to rescue knowledge rather than languages
what s being done
What’s being done?
  • Anthropologists and linguists who are concerned about language preservation are helping to preserve and to vitalize languages.
  • Writing was invented at least twice, perhaps three or four times
  • Spread through trade, proselytizing, and schooling
  • First: Middle East 3200 BCE (Uruk, S. Iraq)
  • Indus Valley 2500 BCE
  • Olmecs 600 BCE (up to 15 different writing systems in ancient Mexico)
  • Early scripts of the Middle East evolved into syllabaries and alphabets, or phonographic systems
  • The system invented in China during the Shang period (1750-1040 BCE) was logographic-syllabic
  • This system evolved into the characters used, in various forms, for writing Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Vietnamese.
First writing system, cuneiform, was logographic-syllabic: late fourth millennium BCE in what is today Iraq.
  • Developed to write Sumerian, and was later adapted by the Akkadians, a Semitic population, to write their own, entirely different language.
  • By 1100 BCE, speakers of Semitic languages (Phoenician, Hebrew, Aramaic) had developed a script that contained symbols representing consonants. Modern Arabic and Hebrew scripts are both derived from the early Semitic.
hebrew and arabic
Hebrew and Arabic
  • Jews have been an isolated ethnic-religious group within multiethnic states and have adapted Hebrew to write the national languages they spoke.
  • Yiddish (derived primarily from German), Judeo-Arabic (spoken by Jews across the Arabic-speaking world), Judeo-Spanish (based on Spanish before 1492 when the Jews were expelled from Spain) and Judeo-Tat (20,000 Jews today in Russia and Azerbaijan)
Arabic is among the most widely used alphabetic scripts: Arabic, the Berber languages, Pashto, Farsi, Kurdish, Urdu, Sindhi
  • 1300-1928 CE, Arabic used for writing Turkish
  • Arabic becoming alternative to Cyrillic for writing Turkic and Iranian languages of the former Soviet Union
  • One form of Arabic, Maltese, is written with a Roman script, the consequence of Christian influence.
Persian (Farsi) is written today in Arabic script.
  • Ancient Persian written with a Semitic (Aramaic) script beginning in the second millennium BCE, and Persians brought their script to Altaic peoples (Turks, Mongols) during the 6th-8th centuries CE.
the alphabet
The Alphabet
  • Around 750 BCE, the Greeks adapted one variety of the Semitic script (probably Phoenician), adding some symbols for vowels and consonants that were needed for writing Greek.
  • This innovation produced the alphabet, a writing system on which many modern scripts are based.
  • Some of the earliest Greek texts were written right to left and boustrophendon.
  • Writing left to right was established around 500 BCE
The ancient Greek script adapted by Phrygian, Lycian, Lydian, Coptic, and Etruscan
  • Etruscan alphabet adapted by the Romans, and may have stimulated the Germanic and Scandinavian runes in the first century CE.
  • Germanic runic script brought by the Anglo-Saxons to England, around the fifth century CE.
Bishop Wulfila translated the Greek Bible into Gothic during the fourth century CE, devising early Gothic script from Greek characters.
  • The Armenian alphabet was developed early in the fifth century CE by Bishop Mesrop Mashtots (St. Mesrop) to make it easier for people to read the liturgy.
  • Ninth century, St. Cyril (hence the term Cyrillic alphabet) and his brother St. Methodius translated the Bible into Slavonic, adapting the Greek alphabet and adding some characters as needed.
Cyrillic-based scripts now used for writing Russian, Ukrainian, Bulgarian, and Serbian
  • Cyrillic adapted to writing >50 non-Slavic languages: Moldovan, Tajik, Kazakh, Uzbek, Tatar, Azeri, Kirghiz, and Abkhaz, as well as Chuckchee and other tribal languages of the Russian Far East.
At around the same time that Cyrillic was developed, a separate adaptation of the Greek alphabet, called Glagolitic, was used for writing the Roman Catholic liturgy in Slavic-speaking areas.
  • This was eventually replaced by a version of the Roman alphabet. Today, Serbians and Croatians in the former Yugoslavia speak the same language but Serbians, being mostly Orthodox, use Cyrillic script, while Croatians, being mostly Catholic, use a Roman script.
The Roman alphabet was adapted to the writing of many modern European languages (French, German, English, Welsh, Lithuanian, Polish, Estonian, Hungarian, Basque, among others).
  • Also adapted for writing Chinese (Pinyin), Japanese (Romaji), Vietnamese (Quoc Ngu), and hundreds of so-called preliterate, indigenous languages in Africa, Indonesia, New Guinea, North and South America, Australia, and the Pacific.
preliterate was once us
Preliterate was once us
  • Popular literacy was made possible only in the 15th century with Gutenberg’s invention
  • When St. Augustine arrived in England in 597 CE, a few Anglo-Saxons might have been able to write in Germanic runic script.
  • It would be another hundred years before Old English would be written with a variant of Roman script.
  • In the 6th century, Old English was a "preliterate, indigenous" language.
brahmi script
Brahmi script
  • South Asian scripts derived from Brahmi, fifth century BCE.
  • The Brahmi-derived scripts include Devanagari, used for writing Hindi.
  • Varieties of the Brahmi script are used for writing Khmer, Tibetan, Thai, and Sinhalese
  • As Arabic script followed the spread of Islam, the Brahmi script followed the spread of Buddhism.
logographic scripts
Logographic scripts
  • By the third century BCE Chinese was being standardized and dictionaries were compiled in the first century CE.
  • Modern Mandarin Chinese dictionaries show more than 60,000 characters, but 2400 characters account for 99% of all characters in modern Chinese texts.
  • Koreans adopted Chinese characters in the fifth century CE.
the korean case
The Korean case
  • Hangul introduced by King Seycong in 1444 CE to make it easier for people to become literate.
  • In 1949, North Korea abolished the use of Chinese characters in public writing, again to extend literacy.
  • South Korean newspapers still use Chinese characters and schoolchildren learn nearly 2000 characters before graduating from high school
the japanese case
The Japanese case
  • The Japanese case: the rate of literacy does not depend on the nature of the writing system, but on long-term schooling.
  • Japanese adopted Kanji, in third or fourth century CE, probably via Korea.
  • By 608 CE, Prince ShÇtoku began sending students to China, and they brought back many Chinese texts. Much Chinese culture (music and food, in addition to writing) was adopted in Japan, particularly by the elite, during the 7th and 8th centuries.
syllabaries and logographs
Syllabaries and logographs
  • Two syllabaries, Hiragana and Katakana, were developed in the 9th century.
  • Katakana evolved from auxiliary marks used by Buddhist monks who were reading Chinese texts and is used in conjunction with Kanji.
  • Hiragana is used entirely on its own, developed primarily as a women's script, just as Hangul in Korea was initially rejected by the elite and became a vehicle for literary expression among some people who would otherwise have remained illiterate.
phonographic and idiographic scripts
Phonographic and idiographic scripts
  • The Japanese were introduced to Roman script in the late 16th century by European missionaries.
  • During the American occupation, 1945-1952, the U.S. Education Mission to Japan pushed Romaji in the belief that Kanji could only be understood by a privileged, class, but after the occupation it was rejected.
  • Japanese students today learn about 2000 characters, the two Kana syllabaries, and Romaji.
the vietnamese case
The Vietnamese case
  • The Vietnamese case clear that literacy is more easily accomplished with romanized scripts than with Chinese characters – under some conditions.
  • The Chinese colonial period in Vietnam was a millenium: 111 BCE - 939 CE.
  • The Chinese did not actively introduce their writing system to Vietnam, but Buddhist and Confucian clergy used Chinese characters to write Sino-Vietnamese
Character-based writing system for Vietnamese, called Chu Nom, was established among the elite by the 14th century.
  • In 1651, a French Jesuit, Alexandre de Rhodes, produced a Vietnamese-Portuguese-Latin dictionary and a catechism in Vietnamese, all in a special Roman-based, called Quoc Ngu, that he devised.
  • It was favored during French rule (1861-1945), because it was easier for administrators to learn than classical Chinese or Chu Nom. For precisely this reason, the Chu Nom system was used for anticolonial resistance literature during the French colonial period.
By the end of World War I, some nationalist leaders advocated adopting Quoc Ngu for mass literacy.
  • In 1939, less than 20% of the population was literate. In 1945, with the declaration of independence against the French, Ho Chi Minh launched a campaign of mass literacy explicitly to enlist people in the struggle against the colonials.
The Vietnamese first got writing from contact with their Chinese occupiers.
  • Chu Nom was an intermediate attempt to modify the writing system to Vietnamese realities.
  • The arrival of European missionaries brought a Latin-based script which, 200 years later, was used as an instrument of colonial control.
  • Then, a century after that, the same script became an instrument for overthrowing the colonial regime.
indigenous scripts
Indigenous scripts
  • Cherokee (Sequoya, 1820): a case of stimulus diffusion
  • Bamun (Cameroon)
  • Vai (Liberia)