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Academic Paper


Title: Challenges in Language Modernization in China: The case of Prinmi
Author: Picus Sizhi Ding
Email: click here TO access email
Homepage: http://web.hku.hk/~picus
Institution: University of Hong Kong
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics; Writing Systems
Subject Language: Pumi, Northern
Pumi, Southern
Abstract: This paper addresses challenges encountered in language modernization of Prinmi (a Tibeto-Burman language of southwestern China) - devising a suitable orthography for expanding its use in a broader domain beyond oral communication. Issues of general interests to researchers fighting against language loss include benefits of developing a pan-dialectal orthography and how a language with a relatively large number of speakers may fall into endangerment. Literacy skills achievable through language modernization will be taken as the key to solution of core problems. Although invention of a writing system does not guarantee the survival of a language, the lack of a traditional script has severely marginalized minority languages in China. With even two sets of compatible orthography for Prinmi, one based on pinyin (Mandarin romanization) and the other on the Tibetan script, major lingering problems are: (a) little interest from well-educated Prinmi speakers (literate in written Chinese) in learning the pinyin-based orthography, (b) resistance of speakers familiar with the Tibetan script to the new rules for writing Prinmi rhymes in the Tibetan-based orthography, (c) scarcity of materials written in Prinmi for learning and reading, and (d) no systematic support for language modernization.
Type: Individual Paper
Status: Completed
Publication Info: David, Maya, Nicholas Ostler and Caesar Dealwis (eds.) Working Together for Endangered Languages: Research Challenges and Social Impacts, pp. 120-126. Bath, England: Foundation for Endangered Languages.


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