Volume 1, Issue 2
  • ISSN 1387-6732
  • E-ISSN: 1570-6001
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On the surface, orthography selection and development are linguistic issues; but in practice they are loaded with imperatives arising from a number of sources. An orthography is constructed as a cultural semiotic, frequently holding sacred status at various levels, and representing the perceived political or technological advancement of one culture over another. This paper proposes a model for understanding the motivations which characterise the orthography selection process. At base, the authority which directs this process reflects a configuration of cultural discourses. Disagreement and imposed change can be explained in terms of conflict within or between discourses; choices which appear inexpedient according to the framework of one discourse become comprehensible from the perspective of the discourse that motivates them.A Hmong orthography project currently in progress in Coolaroo (Melbourne, Australia) can be seen as highlighting issues common to orthography establishment worldwide. Community representatives are working on the establishment of an orthography originating with the messianic figure Shong Lue Tang, on grounds including national identity, politico-religious allegiance, and linguistic suitability. The image of Shong Lue Tang arises from the hope, expressed throughout Hmong oral tradition, for a Messiah who brings political, spiritual, and literary autonomy to the Hmong. This project and its immediate and historical contexts serve as a case study for the model here proposed.


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  • Article Type: Research Article
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