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LINGUIST List 23.621

Mon Feb 06 2012

Diss: Applied Ling/Langi: Stegen: 'In Quest of a Vernacular Writing...'

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        1.     Oliver Stegen , In Quest of a Vernacular Writing Style for the Rangi of Tanzania: Assumptions, processes, challenges

Message 1: In Quest of a Vernacular Writing Style for the Rangi of Tanzania: Assumptions, processes, challenges
Date: 04-Feb-2012
From: Oliver Stegen <oliver_stegensil.org>
Subject: In Quest of a Vernacular Writing Style for the Rangi of Tanzania: Assumptions, processes, challenges
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Institution: University of Edinburgh
Program: School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language Sciences
Dissertation Status: Completed
Degree Date: 2011

Author: Oliver Stegen

Dissertation Title: In Quest of a Vernacular Writing Style for the Rangi of Tanzania: Assumptions, processes, challenges

Dissertation URL: http://www.ethnologue.com/show_work.asp?id=928474542655

Linguistic Field(s): Applied Linguistics

Subject Language(s): Langi (lag)

Dissertation Director:
Bob Ladd
Miriam Meyerhoff

Dissertation Abstract:

Despite increased efforts by linguists and educationalists to facilitate
literacy and literature development in minority languages, there are still
many languages worldwide which do not have a written form. One area that
needs attention in literature production for a newly written language is
the question of writing style. As the features of good style are
language-specific, writing style guidelines have to be developed for each
language anew. It has been assumed that such vernacular writing style
develops predominantly by mother tongue speaker intuition. However, very
few studies have been carried out to verify this.

This research is set within the confines of the literacy project in the
Rangi language of Northern Tanzania. As a contribution to the development
of a natural writing style in Rangi, this research investigates what
evidence for stylistic preferences can be found in texts that were produced
by Rangi authors writing in their mother tongue for the first time. The
main data of this study are 112 texts which were collected during a one-day
writers workshop conducted between May 2005 and January 2006 in four
different locations.

One way of observing stylistic preferences is through analysing the changes
which authors make in successive versions of their text. Of the 112 texts
in the database, 71 display stylistic changes between draft and revised
versions. These texts are then investigated in more detail, e.g. with
regard to text length, lexical density and story components. The subsequent
comparative analysis of draft version versus revised version of each text
operates at three levels: narrative elements at the text level, lexical
choice at the word level, and word order, tense-aspect verb forms and
participant reference at the clause level. At all three levels, stylistic
conventions could be identified, e.g. formulaic introductions and codas,
elimination of Swahili loanwords, or certain tense-aspect usages.

Despite such commonalities, this research suggests that, far from
developing intuitively, vernacular writing style is influenced by a variety
of factors, not least by previously available literature in languages of
wider communication or in the target language itself. Among the concluding
recommendations of this study for future vernacular writers workshops is
the advice to employ guided editing which encourages multiple drafting and
treats the different levels of editing separately, i.e. story structure,
lexical choice and grammatical features.

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