Thanks, Richard. Some good points here too. I'll respond in the text...
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Richard Wordingham" <richard@...> wrote:
> --- In email@example.com, "Don Osborn" <dzo@> wrote:
> > Any thoughts on "degrees of written" or classifications
> > of how well established a writing system is? It's one thing to have an
> > orthography or a Bible sections (often the first thing printed) in a
> > particular language - but if it's not taught in schools and literacy
> > rates in it are low, one could argue that the writing system however
> > valid or appropriate, is not (well) established.
> There are some interesting qualitative differences besides literacy
> (1) Are most speakers illiterate in every language?
> (2) Are speakers that are literate in some language chiefly illiterate
> in the language in question?
These are the kinds of questions that the Multilingual_Literacy list http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Multilingual_Literacy/ is intended to
promote discussion of. This kind of brings us around full circle. You
need to know about writing for a language if you want to promote
literacy in it. In cases where there are many languages and polyglot
people, and some of the languages are disfavored historically and
demographically, you may end up with situations where "literacy" and
comptetence in a dominant or "official" language are conflated.
In fact measures of literacy do not seem to be very clear on such
points. A starting point is to figure out how to "count" or index
literacy in multilingual situations (what in Europe is sometimes
called "pluriliteracy" rather than "multiliteracy").
Ethnologue, in some of its language profiles, indicates literacy % in
L1 and L2, which may be the only source currently making such
distinctions (I may be wrong, hopefully).
> (3) Is there traditional acceptance of the writing system as the right
> way to write the language?
Here you get on to issues that relate to language policy and
sociolinguistics. All relevant to literacy, localization, and so on.
> Even then, I'm not sure it tackles issues such as how well-established
> a Romanisation is. I suppose technology-induced Romanisation should
> become a thing of the past, though the Romanisation of names may
> remain as a restricted writing system of a language. I'm thinking in
> particular of the application to Thai, where prominent individuals can
> choose how their names are Romanised. Thai English language
> newspapers do ask!
Or on the other hand, for instance, how well standardized the Ajami
(Arabic script) transcription of Hausa is, relative to the
historically more recent but clearly standardized Boko (Latin or
Alternate transcriptions raise other questions which may or may not be
relevant to literacy:
1. How many languages have more than one writing system? And how well
standardized are each? What are the policy and sociolinguistic
dynamics? (It would be interesting to have an international conference
for multiscript languages, if it hasn't been done already).
2. Of languages traditionally written only in non-Latin scripts, what
is the degree of standardization of Romanized transcription?