In 1970, the Pacific and Asian Linguistics Institute of the University of Hawai'i launched a fourteen-year effort designed to document and support the languages of Micronesia. The first goal of this undertaking was to prepare grammars and dictionaries of these languages, the second was to train Micronesian educators in the principles and practices of bilingual education, and the third was to develop vernacular materials for use in Micronesian schools. This paper assesses the consequences of those endeavors, both intended and unintended. In particular, it focuses upon the concept of "standard orthography" and how that notion, in Micronesia and elsewhere, has sometimes impeded the development of vernacular language literacy. More contentiously, it considers the possibility that the conventional goals of vernacular literacy programs might, in some circumstances, be counter-productive; that is, rather than enhancing linguistic vitality, they might, in fact, diminish it.


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pp. 498-518
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