The story of ö : Orthography and cultural politics in the Mixe highlands

Daniel F. Suslak

Abstract

This paper describes recent efforts to develop and promote a standardized Mixe orthography that can serve as the vehicle of a unified, modern Mixe polity. It then analyzes the guiding assumptions and ideological commitments that have informed these efforts. Ironically, this drive for a single unified spelling system has focused negative attention on precisely those features that distinguish one variety of Mixe from another. Moreover, failure to reach any consensus has frustrated the efforts of Mixe writers and teachers and made it possible for Spanish to gain a greater foothold in Mixe schools. One of the most rancorous debates has involved a certain scandalous diphthong that happens to be an innovation but one that diverges from Spanish phonology. The role of this sound in the sound system of Totontepecano Mixe and its function as an exponent of certain key grammatical distinctions that need to be graphically represented in some fashion has become less of an issue than the indexical linkages between ö and different discourses about the nature of Mixe identity - from whence it comes and how it might continue to remain distinctive.

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