Bell Curve The Law Talking Guy Raised by Republicans U.S. West
Well, he's kind of had it in for me ever since I accidentally ran over his dog. Actually, replace "accidentally" with "repeatedly," and replace "dog" with "son."

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Political Orthography

Observe this AP article:

Headline: Qaddafi Makes First Visit to Europe in 15 Years
Published: April 27, 2004

BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, flanked by bodyguards on his first trip to Europe in 15 years, said Tuesday his country was open for business but cautioned the West against making him return to violence. . . .

Spelling is one of the ways that modern advocates of various causes identify themselves as having true or special knowledge about a cause. Some authors even create their own spellings to seem more authentic. The numerous spellings of Hannukah/Chanukah/Channukah/Hanukah are sometimes employed by different Rabbis to imply that one is more authentically Hebrew than the other, by implying that they know the "right way" to spell it. In Los Angeles, one encounters this with Spanish language names, with accent retention being the marker of sensitivity. Applying an accent to someone who does not want it is as insenstive as automatically addressing a Latino in Spanish, but failing to use accents offends others. It is a particularly annoying form of political correctness, which divides rather than unites across cultural and linguistic boundaries. Are we fighting in Fallujah/Falloujah/Fallouja/Falluja? Is the prophet named Mohammed/Muhammad/Mohammad/Muhamad? Hawai`i is another "fascinating" issue. This is not about "misspellings." It's about using orthography in a political manner, to distinguish an in-group from an out-group. The Chinese effort to move from the inaccurate but recognized Wade-Giles system to a weird modern system using lots of Xs and Qs has not done much for comprehension. The worst effect of this behavior is to make the idea of a "standard orthography" into a new realm of "linguistic hegemony." Anyone who would write Peking or Sinkiang rather than Beijing and Xinjiang is now an imperialist. Anyone who has studied the acquisition of reading ability knows that sounding out words is a primary strategy, but is soon replaced by the ability to recognize words. Messing with spelling makes reading harder, plain and simple. The best solution would be some sort of national transliteration bureau of the academy of sciences.

But for heaven's sake - if we can't have national transliteration standards, can we keep it straight in the same article?

1 comment:

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