New Perspectives on Digraphia
by Elena Berlanda
This paper seeks to expand the notion of digraphia, a term which is
often used to describe a situation where a language is written with two
different scripts. This expansion of the concept shall be reached by taking
a systematic look at the way language and scripts relate to each other.
Writing systems change, digraphia and orthography reforms have not been
treated extensively in the literature published on scripts and writing systems.
Furthermore, an all-encompassing view on the script-language relationships
has not yet been undertaken.
In the field of linguistics, writing systems are generally not considered to
be topics that have the same importance as other language contact phenomena such
as bilinguialism & diglossia, language shift, language death, language attrition,
language convergence and others. Inquiries about these phenomena are generally
explored by taking into account the connection between the languages and the
communities using them. While the choices societies make about languages are well
documented, as well as being supported by sufficient theoretical foundations,
this cannot be said to be the case of the relationship between scripts and socities.
This paper explores the question of a script-community relationship from a
theoretical perspective with the goal in mind to lay the theoretical grounding for
a serious inquiry into the choices made about writing systems. The framework presented
here lists a number of possible choices which a community can take about writing
and literacy in general. As it will become immediately clear this decision-making
involves far more than simply choosing a script. It is argued that not only scripts
are meaningful, as they acquire meaning through being used. Instead, a view is
presented here which regards the kind of option a society chooses for its literacy
as equally meaningful, since choices made about literacy can express the tensions
within a community. This can give insights into the political and socio-cultural
shifts and changes of a speech community and it can also be a way of indexing
various aspects of identity.
Read the paper (Word, 1.1MB)
Appendix - part 1 (Word, 3.7MB)
Appendix - part 2 (Word, 3MB)
Appendix - part 3 (Word, 10MB)
Appendix - part 4 (Word, 690K)
Paper & appendix zipped together (17.6MB)
About the author
Elena Berlanda is originally from Austria but currently lives in
Canada. She completed her Master's degree in linguistics at York
University (Toronto, Canada) in 2006 and wrote this major research
paper for her MA. You can reach her at marcella[at]berlanda[dot]ca