Endangered Alphabets

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My attention has been recently drawn to Tim Brookes' Endangered Alphabets project and to its second Kickstarter project, Endangered Alphabets II: Saving Languages in Bangladesh. You can follow the links to find out more; copied below is the text from the Kickstarter page, with images provided by Tim Brookes and Hailey Neal. If you feel moved to pledge to their cause, please do so — they have 127 backers as of this writing, pledging a total of $4,535, with only 19 days to go to reach their goal of $10,000.


Endangered languages in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

A year ago, the Kickstarter community gave a huge boost to the Endangered Alphabets, donating enough funds to allow me to meet my goal of doubling the number of scripts I’d tracked down and carved, and start them on their world tour. They’re even going to the Smithsonian.

Now a new and urgent Endangered Alphabets situation has arisen, in a region of southern Bangladesh called the Chittagong Hill Tracts. This upland and forested area is home to 13 different indigenous peoples, each of which has its own genetic identity, its history and cultural traditions, and many of which have their own language and even their own script.


Padamu school children

All these languages and scripts are endangered. Schools use Bengali, the official national language, and an entire generation is growing up without a sense of their own cultural history and identity—very much the kind of situation that has led to the loss or endangerment of hundreds of Aboriginal languages in Australia and Native American languages in the US.

The Endangered Alphabets Bangladesh project is an attempt to provide a creative solution to this issue before these languages and scripts are among the estimated 3,000 languages that by 2050 will be lost forever.


Maung Nyeu

We’re going to be working with an extraordinary young man named Maung Nyeu. Largely self-educated, he left Bangladesh and got into Harvard, where he studied engineering so he could go back to the Chittagong Hill Tracts and build a school where indigenous peoples could be educated in their own languages. Now he has come back to Harvard to get a graduate degree in education so he can create something unique: children’s schoolbooks in these endangered indigenous languages.

He says, “I'm trying to create children books in our alphabets – Mro, Marma, Tripura, Chakma and others. This will help not only save our alphabets, but also preserve the knowledge and wisdom passed down through generations. For us, language is not only a tool for communications, it is a voice through which our ancestors speak with us.”

We’re trying to help him by combining three artistic disciplines: carving, calligraphy and typography.


Mro wood carving

The first step is for me to create a series of beautiful and durable carved signs in the languages and scripts of these endangered cultures, and add them to the traveling exhibitions of the Endangered Alphabets Project. Each carving will feature a short poem I wrote for the purpose. It goes:

These are our words, shaped
By our hands, our tools,
Our history. Lose them
And we lose ourselves.


Chakma wood carving, in progress

I’m also putting together a coalition of educators from Harvard and Yale, a typographer from Cambridge, England and a calligrapher from the Rhode Island School of Design to create some beautiful script forms of these endangered languages, then convert them into typefaces that can be used to print the books for Maung’s school.

At the moment, everyone is putting in their time on a volunteer basis, but my goal is to raise $10,000 to cover material costs, and to go a small way toward paying for the time, work, travel, shipping and printing involved.

If we can raise these funds, the outcome will be the first sets of children’s books ever printed in Mro, Marma, Chakma, and other endangered languages of Bangladesh.

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27 Comments »

  1. dw said,

    September 26, 2012 @ 3:31 pm

    I understand the motivation behind saving endangered languages: I'm having a hard time seeing the point of saving endangered scripts — if by "saving" you mean "keeping in widespread everyday use" (obviously knowledge of the script should be retained for scholarly work).

    I think of India, where almost every major language has its own distinct script. Nearly all the scripts are in theory interchangeable, being derived from the same ancestor, and the differences are often minor: nevertheless they make it harder for people from different parts of India to understand each other.

  2. M (was L) said,

    September 26, 2012 @ 5:48 pm

    The point is, that the various communities may have an historic literature and culture to preserve. However making them into museum pieces is the worst possible preservation, it's the frozen preservation of cultural death.

    Ideally, the communities would be supported in sustaining their own culture and history and language, while also participating in national or international cultures.

    The notion that individuals should all speak the same language has some value. The notion that they should each speak ONLY that one does not.

  3. dw said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 12:39 am

    @M (was L):

    Yes, but I still don't see why that requires preserving SCRIPTS, rather than languages. Is culture seriously damaged when it is transliterated into a new script?

    Take a trivial example from English. In Early Modern English printing, "u" and "v" were not considered different letters (usually "v" was initial and "u" was non-initial). And non-final "s" was written with a glyph resembling a "f". Do we lose significant amounts of our culture when we reprint works such as Shakespeare and the King James Bible but modernize these spelling practices?

  4. Pete said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 2:41 am

    The Irish language went through an orthographic reform in the mid-20th century that introduced the standard Roman alphabet (along with a minor spelling reform). Previously it was written in an uncial script. And I don't think Irish literature is considered to have suffered as a result.

    German's another example; it switched to the standard Roman alphabet around the same time and German culture seems to have survived the changeover.

  5. M (was L) said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 2:58 am

    > Do we lose significant amounts of our culture when we reprint
    > works such as Shakespeare and the King James Bible but
    > modernize these spelling practices?

    Yes. Although it can be done such that both the original, preserving what was actually written, and a more accessible version, are placed sided; provided that we make clear how much is lost that way.

    I will give the most egregious use of alphabet change I know of; the problem is, no matter what the intent – the results are apt to be much the same anyhow: Lenin, in the early days of the USSR, simplified the Russian alphabet, thus simplifying education and helping to spread literacy to what had been, under the Czars, a feudal society with very limited literacy. BUT — what he was REALLY after was to make all pre-revolutionary literature inaccessible to the younger generation. In this way, they would be unable to read any book printed before the Soviet alphabet reform. On one level – brilliant tactical maneuver. But it's obviously nothing we want to encourage.

    I think you'll find some of that thinking in every oppressive regime that changes alphabets. It's a little like the practice of taking aboriginal children away from their culture sending them to a school where they are only permitted to use the colonial language. You don't kill the individuals, just their options and freedoms.

    When a culture organically and voluntarily shifts, I look at this as their own decision and, while things are still lost, at least they are lost voluntarily.

    When you impose it, even with positive intentions, you still destroy something. Worst of all, perhaps, is that often neither the perps nor the victims even know what was destroyed.

  6. M (was L) said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 2:59 am

    * side by side

  7. M (was L) said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 3:03 am

    More to the examples you provide:

    (and yes, I should think first and hit submit second)

    We lose less with Shakespeare, than we lose doing the same to Chaucer or Beowulf. The loss does not occur as sharply with recent writing, but the further back you go and the more "foreign" it becomes, the more you destroy when translating.

    I didn't think it would prove necessary to explain to linguists why translation is never fully accurate or satisfactory. But there it is.

  8. Peter Erwin said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 5:54 am

    M (was L):

    The issue that dw raised isn't "What is lost when the language itself dies and you have to translate everything into a different languages?", it's "What is specifically lost if you keep the language but change the script?".

    You're making the same mistake that the Kickstarter proposal makes (which was dw is pointing to): confusing languages with writing systems. When the Kickstarter text says something like:

    … very much the kind of situation that has led to the loss or endangerment of hundreds of Aboriginal languages in Australia and Native American languages in the US.

    it's not scripts that are at issue — all of those languages had no writing systems to begin with.

    When you say, "but the further back you go and the more 'foreign' it becomes, the more you destroy when translating", you're falling into the same error. Beowulf isn't foreign to us because it was written in a different script (aside from a couple of extra letters, it wasn't), it's foreign because it was composed in a different language.

    Republishing existing literature written with an older script isn't translation, it's transliteration. Not the same thing at all.

    In terms of what would actually be lost by a change of script, the only thing that comes readily to mind is calligraphic traditions, to whatever extent they might exist in some of those languages.

  9. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 7:37 am

    Maybe it's an atypical example, but per wikipedia Chakma is spoken by roughly equal numbers of people on both sides of the India/Bangladesh border and one of the relevant state gov'ts on the Indian side (in Tripura) is this year launching Chakma-language primary school instruction using the Chakma script.

    The same article claims that "literacy in the Chakma script is low," so how much tradition / cultural capital is tied up in the script rather than the language is difficult to assess. The wide degree of variation in Brahmic scripts seems from an outside perspective somewhat unfortunate — they seem structurally similar enough that they're almost like different fonts in the Latin alphabet but also like a dialect chain where if you get too many steps away there's no mutual comprehensibility for non-specialists.

  10. M (was L) said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 8:52 am

    @Peter Erwin

    There are a number of blurrings going on here, and a number of reductios ad various absurdemses. Your points are well taken. Let me be very precise about my point, and perhaps clarify my take on one of yours.

    > Republishing existing literature written with an older script isn't
    > translation, it's transliteration. Not the same thing at all.

    This assumes that the literature will, in fact, be republished. We know, and linguists should know best of all, how false this assumption is. How much effort has gone into decoding lost scripts in, for example, Egypt (where we had the sweetest clue ever found, the Rosetta Stone) or Crete/Minoa (yet to be really solved) or various systems in Mesopotamia? How much writing is physically preserved but effectively illegible except to experts, and sometimes not even to them (yet)?

    Egyptian heiroglyphic is a very salient example – the Coptic language went on for a good while (to this day, in the Coptic church liturgy) without that writing system. This led to a situation where a class of native citizens could understand the language of the pyramids, but neither they nor anybody else knew this for centuries because neither they nor anybody else could read it. This is precisely "transliteration not translation" doing the damage I'm trying to warn against.

    One extreme of conscious and purposeful suppression of the past, is the Lenin example: The change in alphabets made it an easy matter to choose which pre-revolutionary material to republish, and which to suppress. Everybody kept on speaking Russian; only the alphabet changed.

    I suspect that this is part of the fear expressed so radically by some in China and Japan; that the old material will be rendered inaccessible. It's not that you can't capture most of the old material in another script, it's that probably you won't and more than this, you will suppress things selectively through control of the press; in a generation whatever has missed the window of transliteration is pretty close to sealed off.

    (There is however often information encoded in the writing itself. In the case of Chinese eg, a great deal of history and calligraphy and art is invested in the characters themselves. So also in Egypt, btw. This too is rendered unappreciable, and probably this is no accident either. Transliteration there does a great deal more than simply lose the letter thorn from Beowulf. The thorn is the same problem, in very small scale – but it is not an absent problem even there.)

    Japan, being a democracy, chooses this trend for itself; best of luck to them, whatever happens – and whatever happens, in a free land there will be some who keep the old material available.

    As academics, you should be salivating about this; fifty years after the death of kanji will be the birth of Kanji Studies.

    China seems to be making the opposite totalitarian decision to that made by Lenin – they seem to be rejecting the also-inevitable changes that come naturally with time. But this is perhaps an illusory difference; after all, they already control much of what's printed and as much as possible of what's posted online. Probably the cooler heads in the iron fist understand that this ship has already sailed, but the other parts of this stir-fried metaphor still mean to stop the clock and turn it backwards.

    I didn't foresee that loss of material from a language would fail to impress linguists as a meaningful loss. But there it is.

  11. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    What I'm trying to figure out is if any of the language groups that are the subject of the original post here: a) have a unique script; b) have some substantial corpus of texts in that script that some substantial percentage of the now-living population can read; and c) live exclusively or predominantly in Bangladesh, so they are at the mercy of that country's policy toward ethnolinguistic minorities (and these sorts of "tribal" groups seem to make up <1% of the population in an otherwise extremely ethnolinguitically homogenous nation-state by South Asian standards). E.g., what is the "Tripura" script we're trying to save? The predominant language of the Tripuri ethnic group right across the border in India is (per wikipedia) variously written in Bengali script and in the Latin alphabet, with the issue of which of those options to prefer currently a subject of political controversy. Neither of those scripts, to put it mildly, is endangered in any sort of global sense. Is there some different script used on the Bangladeshi side of the border which is in danger? Or are all of these languages/scripts endangered within the borders of Bangladesh, but not (since most of the ethnic groups in question cross the border into either India or Burma) more globally?

  12. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 11:12 am

    M: here's what I don't know about Chinese. Anyone now under the age of say 70 who grew up in the mainland under Communist rule became literate in the "simplified" characters imposed by the new government. What I don't know is how easy it is for someone like that to learn to read texts printed in "traditional" characters, i.e. more or less everything printed on the mainland before the Communists came to power and everything printed thereafter in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other places not under Communist rule. I expect it's if anything rather more of a challenge than presented to someone educated in the USSR faced with a pre-1917 Russian book. But I could be wrong about that.

    But, again, the sitution in China, or pre-Ataturk Turkey, where there is a massive corpus of extant texts in a given writing system and a significant (even if non-majority) percentage of the population literate in that writing system is not necesarily the situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Consider some of the indigenous languges of Alaska. The earliest written texts for many of them are in Cyrillic, as a result of Russian missionary activity pre-1867. Those languages switched over eventually to a Latin script under U.S. rule. There were both benefits and costs to that switchover, but it's not crazy to think that the benefits exceeded the costs — and in any event both Cyrillic and Latin scripts are quite healthy w/o Aleut and Tlingit needing to be aligned with either side.

  13. M (was L) said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

    Yes, it is always a matter of weighing the losses (which are inevitable) against the gains (which are not quite as inevitable, but still overwhelmingly likely).

    Eg Lenin took a mostly-illiterate nation and turned it into a highly technical society; the fact that he did it at gunpoint and with selected reading material only is not remotely excused by this, but in fairness there was some gain even in the face of the massive losses. Even under the iron fist, it's not a pure-loss or pure-gain situation. All is tradeoff.

    J.W. – you raise precisely this issue, you ask (and I can't answer it either) what the two sides of the scale weigh out at, in various cases on the table.

    But preserving the alphabet in the form of a travelling sculpture exhibition, is akin to preserving elephants only in the form of the circus. It's probably better than extinction, but only that. Members of the global public gawking at the quaint and lovely carvings, shedding a tear for the tragedy they just read about in a pamphlet, and thinking that somehow this helps the folks in Chittagong one way or the other – lovely for the guy charging admission to the exhibit, but point me To The Egress.

  14. B.Ma said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 12:41 pm

    @J.W.Brewer

    Many simplified characters were just standardizations of what people had been doing unofficially for ages. Some characters were completely different, and sometimes two homophones were condensed into the same character. I grew up with traditional and took one day to learn the main differences between simplified; I can't imagine it taking much longer in the other direction. The slightly more difficult thing is learning the vocabulary differences between the mainland and Taiwan/Hong Kong, which is on par with British/American English. In any case, I don't think there are many historical materials that you couldn't access nowadays in simplified characters if you wanted, but you might have to learn classical Chinese first.

  15. Jean-Michel said,

    September 27, 2012 @ 11:41 pm

    I doubt that even a slim majority of all the Chinese-language texts throughout history have been transposed into simplified characters—though a good amount of that is in Classical Chinese anyway, and if you're intending to pick through classical texts you have a much steeper wall to climb than just recognizing traditional characters.

    And back to the original post, I'm struck by how similar that Mro wood carving is to the Shavian alphabet.

  16. Richard said,

    September 28, 2012 @ 7:54 am

    I'm frankly surprised at how many people are skeptical about preserving writing systems. They're not as instructive as languages for researchers, but they carry real cultural weight. Just ask a Bosnian or a Serb.

  17. M (was L) said,

    September 28, 2012 @ 8:30 am

    They do carry real cultural weight – and as such, they do carry information for researchers. I'm shocked that both of these points seem to get past people.

    Nobody in this conversation, or in the article, seems to have asked the various small ethnic groups what they think about all this. There is a disturbingly colonial sense about all this, that because this is "tribal" culture it lacks importance – indeed I think I detect a whiff of disdain, as though it were somehow "primative" and thus only fit for preservation behind glass in a museum someplace, where schoolchildren can gawk at how strange things once were for some people, and how "wonderful" it is that "undeveloped" people "managed" to have a "form" of writing.

    So. The native culture had a traditional alphabet, which they never carved on standard-sized wooden plaques that matched all the other traditional plaques, but we're to admire these plaques anyhow. All the plaques bear translations of the same poem, a poem most of the cultures never knew, and poetry of a form that these cultures may never have employed – or maybe they did – but it doesn't matter to the exhibit, this is the preselected poem and that's the one you get.

    So what do we preserve? Not their form of expression, we told them what they'd say on the plaque, and we told them it would be a plaque. Their language? At best a small sample, and since it's forced into the form of a foreign poem quite possibly an unnatural sample – and certainly a non-native sample. Their alphabet? At best, one foreigner's copy of one way of writing it. Any alternate letterforms, any cultural significance to letter size or slant or anything else are all lost, and in any case the foreign carver's handwriting is non-native.

    This is colonial museum keeping, this is ship-in-the-bottle history at its worst.

    Sorry, it needs to be said. They are not preserving anything, except in aspic.

    If this is the best that can be done, so be it, but it's utterly pathetic and should be a source of shame.

  18. Svafa said,

    September 28, 2012 @ 11:07 am

    @M: I understand your concern, but the post addresses it. It's more than simply creating plaques bearing a poem in their alphabet and language. The intent is to support a native of the region and language/s in creating and printing books in the various languages for school children, thus preserving the language and script for future generations.

    That they're working to create a typeface of the languages is what I find most attractive to the project. It won't be perfect, likely for the very reason you list (foreigners' copy of one way of writing it), but it has to start somewhere and hopefully they care enough for the languages and scripts that they involve natives in the creation of the typefaces or at least get significant input from Maung Nyeu, as it will be necessary for him to have a standardized form of the scripts for the creation of teaching materials.

  19. dw said,

    September 28, 2012 @ 11:17 am

    M (was L):

    Was it, in your opinion, a cultural tragedy when Koreans switched from Chinese characters to Hangul?

  20. M (was L) said,

    September 28, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

    @dw – Sometimes it makes sense to lump all of a nation under a single demonym, sometimes not. Only around half of all "Koreans" have any say in anything that goes on around them. North Koreans do as they're told, or are killed – and frequently do as they're told and are killed anyhow. The People's Republic is neither – it's a dynastic monarchy painted red, and one of the nastiest ever too boot.

    This change in writing is a very tough example, as it was done by a brutal dictatorship in the north, and a complicated series of dictators, quasi-dictators, and so forth in the south, during or under the threat of war. No reform made in that setting is free of being suspect of manipulation, except in the North where there is the certainty of manipulation.

    Done as a tool of cultural manipulation, of course it's cultural tragedy, and it is so by design and by definition. North Korea is a tragedy of almost every kind, and certainly that includes culture and cultural history. It is as good as certain that anything the North ever did, it did to exert control – and out of fear of losing power, which is the underlying cowardice of every dictorship.

    It may, in this special case – and in Japan – also have an element of nationalism, of "un-Chinese-ness" which might be a positive and patriotic gesture, or it might be a racist and hateful one, but probably is some of both. In the North, it might also be in support of the illusory principle of Self Reliance.

    So, in the North, to answer your question – Yes, and as in the Soviet Union, just one more out of very very many.

    However, in the South, they have managed to find their way to freedom and democracy – and by doing so they greatly counter the losses of pre-changeover literature. They keep it accessible, because in a land of freedom somebody will make a point to keep that alive. Moreover, in a land of freedom, whatever they choose is chosen in the light of debate and is at the end of the day an organic decision, for better or worse, and should it be a disaster, well it's their lookout as free citizens in a free country. Cultural changes in a free society, are what they are – and they are almost never total anyhow – and precisely because it is a free society, that can happen voluntarily.

    The answer in the South is then: Partly yes, partly no, and their own lookout either way.

    But even the South is not so simple as that unsimple answer; although free now, it made this choice at another time. It could have chosen to change back, at great expense, but did not do so – but the expense is surely part of that decision.

    You want a simple answer, and I offer you an answer that is about as simple as Korea ever gets, which is to say not at all.

    There is always a price, and when free people pay a price they usually do so for advantage in the exchange, but sometimes they make a mistake.

    From the point of view of the North Korean government, destroying and distorting the past is no disaster at all, it's what keeps them on top.

  21. M (was L) said,

    September 28, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    @Svava

    > @M: I understand your concern, but the post addresses it. It's
    > more than simply creating plaques bearing a poem in their
    > alphabet and language. The intent is to support a native of the
    > region and language/s in creating and printing books in the
    > various languages for school children, thus preserving the
    > language and script for future generations.

    I'm skeptical; to me it looks like they're raising money to finance their own art project with a promise to give a cut to a worthy cause, and it's a promise I'm very skeptical about.

    Had the educator himself gone out to Kickstart to kickstart the real education project, that would be very different.

    That, given some evidence of reality, would be worth throwing a few simoleans to – in a heartbeat. But this just sounds self-serving and peripheral to me.

    Call me suspicious; I've been called worse, and on this very board. But there it is – too indirect, and too self-aggrandizing, and too isolated from the actual schoolchildren.

  22. M (was L) said,

    September 28, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

    @dw, let me turn that around and ask you a similarly unfair and slanted question:

    Do you contend that the switch from Hanja to Hangeul was cost-free improvement in Korean culture that returns benefits with no penalty?

  23. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 28, 2012 @ 5:39 pm

    M: The other thread had a lengthy post by someone named Jongseong giving the background and history of shifts in writing system in South Korea that made it sound comparatively mellow and uncoerced, despite the imperfect nature of various of the governments in power along the way. I don't know how accurate that account was (it followed and responded to a comment or two by me in which I alluded to the Korean transition while admitting my own ignorance of the details), but I don't affirmatively know of anything that contradicts it. One point that wasn't made there is that the "mixed" style of hanja+hangul frequently but apparently not invariantly employed in the first half of the 20th century is strikingly similar to the Japanese system of kanji+kana, and Korean nationalism of the late 1940's (and subsequent decades . . .) may have had more anti-Japaneseness than anti-Chineseness to it.

  24. Jongseong said,

    September 29, 2012 @ 5:02 am

    You're discussing the loss of Chinese characters in Korean writing over here, too?

    M (was L) suggests that this ouster was imposed by dictatorships. This is a misleading view in my opinion. I will not repeat my lengthy post that J.W. Brewer alludes to here, but for reference:

    http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=4214#comment-258530

    Government language policy in the Koreas is a fascinating topic, particularly concerning the standardization of language and orthographic principles. There were fierce debates in each of these areas in the early 20th century, but by the time the two Korean governments were established, these debates had clear winners.

    It is notable that both Korean governments nevertheless flirted with changes to this status quo upon their establishment in 1948, with little success. North Korea tried to impose the New Korean Orthography, a radical morphophonological approach. It gave up in 1954 and reverted to the previous principles. Syngman Rhee in South Korea wanted to go the other direction and wanted an orthography based on surface phonology, but met too much opposition to be able to implement this. This shows limitations in what even dictatorial and authoritarian governments can do with regards to language policy.

    Now, I do think the loss of access to Korea's literary heritage is certainly a huge price. But as I mentioned in the other post, the majority of pre-modern Korean literature is actually in Classical Chinese, so if we wanted to be able to read them, we would have to learn Classical Chinese (as one would have to learn Latin to read, say, Newton's Principia Mathematica in the original). For the writing that is in Korean, Chinese characters are the least of our worries, actually. The rate of change of the Korean language is such that even the literature of the early 20th century is somewhat obscure to today's readers (comparable to the English of the King James Bible), and the distance between today's Korean and the Korean that was written down in the alphabet for the first time in the 15th century is comparable to that between today's English and the Old English of Beowulf. In South Korea, we learn some bare basics of Middle Korean and early Modern Korean in high school, and everyone complains about its difficulty.

    If we were to maintain easy access to Korea's literary heritage, we would have to devote years of education to learning Classical Chinese and the early forms of the Korean language. For English speakers, this is like having to learn Greek, Latin and Old English, except that the Greek alphabet is much easier to learn than Chinese characters. There is indeed value to this kind of education, but do we really want to make it part of our universal curriculum?

  25. Jongseong said,

    September 29, 2012 @ 5:15 am

    Now on to the topic at hand. I do think that it is worthy, even imperative, to preserve the various Indic writing systems, even if in practical terms some unification between related ones may end up being preferable in the future.

    German text was printed in blackletter well into the 20th century. One can find that in older books quoting text in German, the text was set in a blackletter typeface. Now German is no longer given a separate typographic treatment, but the blackletter is part of the German language's visual heritage and there are numerous typefaces available for it. The same for Irish and its uncial script.

    Even if these minority languages eventually end up being printed predominantly in more well-established scripts like Devanagari, I think it is important to have the traditional scripts documented and made available via typefaces.

  26. M (was L) said,

    September 29, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

    American education is notable for its utter ineptitude and disinterest (and in some quarters, vehement opposition) regarding other languages or earlier versions of English. I think I may over-react when I see others going down that same road.

    Exposure to these things early, if not necessarily rising to the level of "study" can only be good. Some students will hate them, some will love them, and all will benefit by having the experience as they grow and discover themselves. Whatever they pick up is similarly, only to the good.

    Not everything that is good for a child, is necessarily pleasant. It's always helpful to make it as pleasant as one can, but they should eat their vegetables all the same.

  27. Jongseong said,

    September 30, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

    I took a quick internet survey of the languages mentioned in the project page, namely Mro, Marma, Tripura, and Chakma.

    Mro is a definitely endangered language with its own script that is in the pipelines for encoding in Unicode (proposal PDF).

    The Marma people are Arakanese (Rakhine) descendants living in Bangladesh and thus speak a form of Arakanese (Rakhine), itself a form of Burmese. It looks like it's written in the Burmese script.

    Tripura likely refers to Kokborok, which was once written in its own script called Koloma but today is written in either Bengali or Latin script.

    Chakma is also spoken across the border in India, where the state of Tripura announced the introduction of the language and script in primary schools in 2012. The Chakma script was added to Unicode in 2012.

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