A DEMOCRATIC IGBO ORTHOGRAPHY
From the earliest attempt at Igbo codification by the protestant missionaries and the Igbo exslaves resettled in Sierra Leone to the present day, Igbo orthography is associated with criticisms, suspicion and conflicts (Ogbo 1984; Achebe 1984; Capo 1990; Uwalaka 2001; Ugorji 2003, 2005, etc.). While the introduction of the official Onwu orthography of 1961 seemed to have resolved the seven-decade fiendish orthography controversy which bedevilled the development of the language, it actually only resolved those controversies that came along religious lines involving the Roman and Protestant Missions. This study identifies two other problems, namely the linguistic and the sociological, that are yet outstanding: hence the recent and sustained complaints about literary constraints, dialect exclusion (detailed in Ugorji 2003, among others) and the diversionary linguistic engineering involving the dialects of Izii, Ezaa, Ikwo, Ikwere, Ika, etc. Following the imperatives of the new world democratic order (Emenanjo 2002), this paper suggests a democratic and integrated orthography, built on the principles that preserve citizens' personal and collective linguistic rights as well as linguistic and cultural diversity. In Ugorji (2003), the principles for language and dialect vitality are outlined; the concern of the present work is to show how the tenets are implemented in Igbo graphisation as a case in point. More importantly, it is an effort to demonstrate how language or dialect vitality option proves to be a solution to conflicts associated with language or dialect, and a means to implement the democratic demands for sociolinguistic equity, enunciated in the 'Universal Declaration of Human Rights' (1948), the 'Universal Declaration of Linguistic Rights' (1996), the 'Declaration of Rights of Persons Belonging to National, Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities' (1992), among others, which seek to assert the rights of individuals and communities.
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