Morphophonemic Reforms in Thuɔŋjäŋ Orthography: An Excerpt from “Thuɔŋjäŋ Cïdmënde”
Morphophonemic Reforms in Thuɔŋjäŋ Orthography: An Excerpt from “Thuɔŋjäŋ Cïdmënde” (Click the PDF)
“Ideas are constructed in specific languages, and if we believe that ideas are important in development, in the determination of relations of wealth, power and values in a society, then … we cannot divorce issues of language and writing from issues of wealth, power and values” and as such, the contemporary African intellectuals “…will grow their roots in African languages and cultures. They will also learn the best they can from all world languages and cultures. They will view themselves as scouts in foreign linguistic territories and guides in their own linguistic space. In other words, they will take whatever is most advanced in those languages and cultures and translate those ideas into their own languages. They will see their role as that of doing for African languages and cultures what all writers and intellectuals of other cultures and histories have done for theirs”, Ngugi wa Thiong’o
By Alëw Majɔg Alëw, Malaysia
Whereas Thuɔŋjäŋ is arguably one of the few written and well researched South Sudanese languages, a host of orthographic challenges remain unresolved. These challenges are rooted in the unmarked phonemes and inaccurate morphophonemic designations that emanated from earlier missionary work in the language. There is a general consensus among a handful of western linguists, who researched into the language, on the approach that any new orthographic reforms, necessary as most of them content, should follow.
Nevertheless, discussions and proposals for reforms have so far focused on mostly the vowel system (representation of tones and length, having had the breathiness aspect already settled by Dhuruai’s umlauted vowels). The morphophonemic anomalies which form part of the reforms proposed in “Thuɔŋjäŋ Cïdmëndë”, a radical proposal for a total revision and revam of Thuɔŋjäŋ orthography and grammar, have not been raised or addressed anywhere in the available literature on the language. This note, an excerpt from “Thuɔŋjäŋ Cïdmënde”, provides a brief explanation and illustration on only the morphophonemic reforms on [b, p], [d, t], [dh, th], [k, g], [u, w] and [i, y] as codas in lone morphemes (or single basic word unit) and for [u, w] and [i, y] as nuclei (or median letters in words).
Credibility of these reforms
For the benefit of readers, I would like to, first and foremost, underline that I am not a linguist nor did I have a conventional training in this field to speak with authority on these proposed reforms. But usually linguists work with native speakers of a language in issues like these. Hence, as a passionate and analytical native speaker, I will attempt to illustrate the logic that necessitates these reforms which I believe are necessary to adopt if we are to retain the authenticity and ease the grammar of the language, Thuɔŋjäŋ. Radical as they may be, I hope they will be understandable and sensible to other native speakers.
Furthermore, the proposal on these reforms is a conclusion of observational and intuitive research work done with many Muɔnyjiëëŋ/Jiëëŋ; those who are literate in other languages as well as Thuɔŋjäŋ and those who are completely illiterate (only monolingual in spoken Thuɔŋjäŋ). While the former group may sometimes have their pronunciations corrupted under the influence of second langauges they are literate in, observations from the latter group remarkably manifest and support the validity of these reforms. It is therefore helpful to refer to this group where further investigations and substantiation are needed.
Another point to underscore is that, unlike dialect-specific spelling and other grammatical issues, these observations cut across all dialects and are in no way dialect constrained (at least as far as I have noted from my discussion with speakers of different dialects).