Re: Swahili & Banthu

From: Don Osborn (
Date: Sun Nov 09 2003 - 01:44:37 EST

  • Next message: Philippe Verdy: "Re: Hexadecimal digits?"

    Catching up with this belatedly...

    Swahili, like a number of languages just south of the Sahara, was - and I
    would guess still is by some - written using Arabic characters (Ajami). The
    Latin alphabet is indeed now dominant (and certainly "official") for
    Swahili, and it uses ASCII characters (though not sure if it has an
    apostrophe which might perhaps ideally be standardized as the letter
    apostrophe). In West Africa, where I am more familiar with the local
    practices, it is not that uncommon to find people who read and write their
    language in Ajami (Hausa, Fula, Manding languages...), even though the
    official orthographies are based on the Latin alphabet with extended

    As for other African scripts, they are most notable in the western and
    northern parts of the continent. Tifinagh and N'ko are in the process of
    being encoded. I just had a conversation with someone the other day who
    recounted seeing a letter written in Tifinagh script in a rural part of
    northern Niger written by someone to a local chief - quietly this script
    continues to be used. N'ko of course is much more recent but is promoted by
    an active grassroots movement. Of Vai and Bamum I know less; and there are
    other minor ones, for instance, for Wolof and Bambara. I am also checking
    into another alphabet I heard of but recently saw for the first time (more
    on that if the info merits).

    It doesn't take much imagination to think about the potentials of Unicode
    for facilitating computing and web content in such languages whose speakers
    as a whole use two (or even three) scripts.

    Hope this helps.


    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Marco Cimarosti" <>
    To: "'Philippe Verdy'" <>; <>
    Sent: Monday, October 20, 2003 1:23 PM
    Subject: RE: Swahili & Banthu

    > Philippe Verdy wrote:
    > > As Africa has been influenced by many foreign invasions,
    > > there may in fact exist other scripts to represent this
    > > language [...]
    > Yes: until a recent past, Swahili was also commonly written in the Arabic
    > alphabet.
    > _ Marco

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