Friday, May 12, 2017

Sasi Spelling Primer

Here is the Sasi Spelling Primer:
If you have any questions, or comments, just let me know. We are still working on it.

Here some of the issues in creating a primer: 

1. Accurate Transcriptions

Before a primer is written, the sound system must be figured out. This includes accurate transcriptions of the sounds, and figuring out which sounds are just variants of the others. It also includes figuring out variation between speakers, and deciding which variant to use as part of the orthography. In order to answer these questions, one needs to create a word list/lexicon/dictionary with recordings from various speakers (men and women). As a rule of thumb, such a word list should have at least 1,000 words in it. If it has fewer words that that, you risk missing some contrasting sounds.

2. Sound Selection

There were a few sounds in Sasi that just had one token. The question is whether to include those as part of the orthography or not. And if they are not part of the orthography, then they should not be part of the primer.

3. Orthography

Orthography brings up many issues. For example, it is a good idea to reduce diacritics as much as possible in order to make it easier to write. Similarly, I decided not to including tone marking in the standard orthography. Lastly, there is the huge issue of Khoisan vs. Bantu transcription of the clicks (I came down on the Khoisan side).

4. Word Selection

Words must be selected for the primer. These should be words for which the consultants agree on the pronunciation and translation. They should also be words that represent concepts that younger speakers are familiar with, and for which it is easy to represent in an image.

5. Choosing Sound Files

For each word selected, two sound files of the word (one male, one female) were created for the primer. As much as possible, I tried to get sound files with three repetitions of the word, and I tried to get the same speaker (male and female) for each word.

6. Translations

The words selected must be translated into both Setswana and English in a natural way. So writing a primer really presupposes that one has already written a fairly extensive word list or dictionary where issues of translation have been figured out.

7. Design

Design includes lots of issues, like choosing an internet host, creating a web site, and choosing appropriate images. In the last category, one has to first find the images. We used Shutterstock a lot, and ended up paying for images. We also took a lot of the images in the village.

8. Printing

We have already printed off the primer and distributed it to the consultants. However, we want to do a printing where we laminate the pages. The paper copies of the primer will not last very long in the village.

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