It makes no sense that in the name of reconciliation, politicians are renaming landmarks using gobbledygook spellings invented by well-meaning linguists for languages that were spoken, but never written.

But that’s what is happening here.

One of the first was the Strathcona branch of the Vancouver Public Library when it was renamed nə́c̓aʔmat ct last year. It means “we are one” and it’s apparently pronounced “naht-sah-mahtst.” So, why not just spell it that way, since it’s only the rare few among us who has any idea how to pronounce a question mark in the middle of a word.

In June, the Vancouver Art Gallery’s north plaza was named šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre Plaza was named šxʷƛ̓exən Xwtl’a7shn. The Salish names refer to gathering places and celebration sites, which is appropriate. Many of us might use those names if — and it’s a big if given how they’re spelled — we could pronounce the words or even spell them.

A few weeks ago, park board chair Stuart Mackinnon proposed reverting to the traditional Salish names for Spanish Banks and Lumbermen’s Arch. His motion was to replace Lumbermen’s Arch with X̱wáy̓x̱way (the Squamish name) or χʷay̓χʷəy̓ (Musqueam) and to rename Spanish Banks šxʷsyiΦəm (Musqueam) or Ḵweḵw7úpay̓ (Squamish).

With an election looming, the board wisely chose not to deal with it.

I have no quarrel with the transcription of oral languages. It’s an important teaching tool and essential if these languages are to be saved from extinction.

As a signal to learners that there may be an aspirated vowel or a consonant or some other unique sound not captured by the Latin alphabet, there is nothing inherently wrong with using numbers, symbols, umlauts or lines under letters to signal sounds that aren’t found in English.

The problem comes when those transcriptions with their unusual combinations are put on …read more

Source:: Vancouver Sun – Politics


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