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script reform

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


A deliberate and often officially sanctioned change in a speech community's script, to be distinguished from orthography reform which affects spelling conventions but not the script. Script reform usually consists of two steps: script choice and orthography formation. Only in some cases does a script reform not entail the selection of a script, but consist of the reduction or elimination of a system or part of a system. A case in point is North Korea's decision to use han’ gǔl exclusively and to abolish Chinese characters which formerly had been used in combination with it. This is a rather unique example, but script reforms involving the shift from one system to another have been carried out many times. It is quite common that in the course of history languages have been written in different scripts. For example, Indonesian (Malay) was successively written in three different scripts, Nāgarī, Arabic and finally Roman. Vietnamese shifted from Chinese characters to an alphabetic script based on Roman. Turkish, Somali, Kiswahili and Hausa all shifted from Arabic to Roman. In India a large number of languages have been written in different scripts, and for some of them the discussion about a linguistically suitable and culturally acceptable script continues. In the 1920s and 1930s many languages of the Soviet Union underwent changes in the scripts from Arabic to Latin and then Cyrillic. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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