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UBC Theses and Dissertations

We begin to write : creating and using the first Nabit orthography Giffen, Robyn


This thesis examines the role of language ideologies and agency in the development of an orthography for the Nabit language. Based on fieldwork in the Nabdam District of Ghana, it specifically explores the role of community involvement in orthography development. Approximately 40,000 people speak the Nabit language in the Nabdam District in the Upper East Region of Ghana. Through the work of Project GROW, a non-profit organization led by Vida Yakong, a community-based research project began in order to develop an orthography for Nabit in 2011. After a multi-year collaborative research project, including the development of a Nabit Language Committee, community members finalized the Nabit alphabet in 2014 at an Alphabet Design Workshop. Developing an orthography is a complex process as there are multiple linguistic and non-linguistic factors which must be considered in the process including which languages and orthographies speakers are already familiar with, how similar or different speakers want the orthography to be from existing orthographies, and how the orthography is seen as representing the identity of the language community. This thesis considers the factors that influenced the development of the Nabit orthography by analyzing the language ideologies of Nabit speakers, which emerged in interviews and at an Alphabet Design Workshop. In particular, this research focuses on the ideologies of language and cultural endangerment, language “purity”, and how Nabit “should” be written. By examining these language ideologies and the role they had in the creation of the Nabit orthography, this thesis demonstrates that both researchers and community members need to consider non-linguistic factors as equally important and sometimes even more important, than linguistic factors in orthography development.

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