ScriptSource “is a dynamic, collaborative reference to the writing systems of the world, with detailed information on scripts, characters, languages – and the remaining needs for supporting them in the computing realm. It currently contains only a skeleton of information, and so depends on your participation in order to grow and assist others.” Today’s featured script is Tai Viet, “used for writing the Tai Dam, Tai Dón, Tai Daeng, Thai Song and Tày Tac languages spoken in Vietnam, Laos, China and Thailand,” and there’s a little essay about the nature and history of the script (“Traditionally, tone was only partially marked in the orthography…. However, around the 1970s, two different tone marking systems developed simultaneously in Vietnam and the United States; the concurrent use of both these systems is seen to be disadvantageous but, for the time being, unavoidable…”).
Via Joe Clark‘s MetaFilter post, and a hat-tip to Songdog for alerting me to it!


  1. Bathrobe says

    Looking at the ScriptSource article on Tai Viet, and looking at the Omniglot articles on Tai Dam and Chữ Thái Việt, I emerged utterly and totally confused.

  2. Scriptsource is sponsored, developed and maintained by SIL International. Just thought it was relevant.

  3. Judging from what others have said – others whose other opinions I can myself judge to be cogent – I rather admire SIL International for their pragmatic professionalism. The organization was discussed at some length here in 2009, in the missionary linguistics stream. Etienne said:

    One criticism that has been made of SIL linguists involves their “reconstructions” of “proto-languages”: at least one non-SIL linguist has claimed in print that, because of SIL linguists’ practical aim [translating scripture], these so-called reconstructions are much more akin to the invention of written koines than to comparative linguistic reconstruction as the term is usually understood. In like fashion their measures of mutual intelligibility have as their aim to establish how widely a Bible translation in one variety would be understood.

    Still, much of their work is of excellent quality, and far superior to all too many academic linguists’ work. Sad to say, academic linguists have only themselves to blame for this: and indeed the article understates the seriousness of the issue: it’s not just that academic linguists ceased to be fieldworkers, it’s that they ceased to even know or care about the many languages that had been and were being described. A doctoral student in linguistics, at an Ivy league University, once asked me in all seriousness what a “language family” is: her historical linguistics classes had involved diachronic syntax only. I fear she may have been far more typical of young linguists today than I’d like to think.

  4. Yes, I am in full agreement with Stu and that quote.

  5. Bathrobe says

    I certainly have nothing against SIL and concur with both LH and Grumbly Stu in the sentiments expressed.
    However, it did seem relevant to mention the SIL for two reasons:
    1. It’s curious that an SIL-backed site should be “a dynamic, collaborative reference [that] depends on your participation in order to grow and assist others.” This is certainly not a Bad Thing, but it would be interesting to know the background (at this stage the About page gives little more than what I quote).
    2. The “Learn about a language” section relies on Ethnologue; in fact it appears to directly import data from that source. This is also not a Bad Thing since it provides a standard framework for describing the languages that scripts are used for (the lack of which was one of the problems at the Omniglot articles). But it does bring with it the problems of the Ethnologue classification. For instance, it struck me that the article on Uighur Mongolian script will have to note that it is used for “Classical Mongolian, Middle Mongolian, Halh Mongolian, and Peripheral Mongolian”. The last appears to be the Ethnologue name for the many varieties of Mongolian found in China, standardised under Chahar dialect, and is definitely not a standard term outside of Ethnologue.
    The site itself is very professional. The home page is full of detail but clean, well laid out, with good navigation.

  6. Oh, sure, those are excellent points. SIL is what it is, and it’s important to be aware of that (and the associated problems/idiosyncrasies).

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