RE: use of hooked characters

From: Don Osborn (
Date: Fri Sep 03 2010 - 23:36:06 CDT

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    I respond from more experience with Fulfulde than Hausa (which I cannot in
    fact claim to speak, but whose written form I have encountered in various

    In general, the reason for such characters is that they convey meaningful
    differences in pronunciation. On the other hand, it is apparently possible
    (at least in many cases?) to disambiguate meaning when the special
    characters are not used in print. I think it would be more problematic to
    pronounce the implosive b and d and ejective k as the ordinary b, d, and k
    in Hausa (similarly for similar characters in Fulfulde and other languages).

    My impression is that the reason the hooked characters are sometimes omitted
    in favor of their simple character analogs goes back to the problems with
    pre-Unicode computer fonts (and to a degree back to typewriters that with
    rare exceptions did not take these into consideration). A similar situation
    existed briefly for languages like French when the ASCII encoding did not
    permit typing accents. That does not mean that hooked characters are
    "optional" in Hausa, any more than accents were unimportant in French - and
    in fact I believe the hooked characters are standard, at least in Nigeria
    and Niger.

    Another issue mitigating for omission of hooked characters and other
    modified characters is lack of standard input methods (i.e., keyboard
    layouts). The input methods exist, but while fonts are available in new
    computers for display of the characters, no one is yet making it easy by
    providing a standard input method for them on those same machines.

    Even if the hooked characters were optional, I would use them in whatever
    you are considering producing, so as not to omit that data from the text -
    it's useful for learners, searching, eventual text-to-speech, and perhaps
    other applications. Given the almost universal adoption of Unicode, and the
    increasing availability and dissemination of (Unicode encoded) fonts with
    the hooked characters, there is no excuse now to "ASCIIfy" Hausa or other
    African language text by omitting them.

    Hope this helps.

    Don Osborn

    > -----Original Message-----
    > From: Hausa language, literature and culture [mailto:H-HAUSA@H-
    > NET.MSU.EDU] On Behalf Of John Philips
    > Sent: Friday, September 03, 2010 2:37 PM
    > Subject: use of hooked characters
    > Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2010 12:27:03 -0400
    > From: Ilya Zavorin <>
    > Subject: use of hooked characters
    > I have several questions regarding the use of "hooked" 'b', 'd', and
    > 'k' characters in printed Hausa:
    > 1. How often are they used in printed Hausa texts? We have a
    > collection of texts some of which contain these characters while others
    > have none. Does this mean that these characters are optional and that
    > the reader can deduce from context whether a given printed word with,
    > say, a regular 'k', is in fact a word with a hooked 'k'? How much
    > context around a word that needs to be disambiguated does a reader need
    > to do the disambiguation correctly?
    > 2. Related to #1: given a word with one of more special characters,
    > how likely is it that if all the special characters get replaced by
    > their regular versions (hooked 'k' replaced by 'k' etc), the result
    > will be a DIFFERENT word?
    > 3. If the use of these characters is optional, are there certain
    > genre of documents where they are used (or not used), such as official
    > documents, newsprint, fiction literature etc?
    > Thank you!
    > Ilya Zavorin
    > Wannan wasik'ar i-mel ce daga H-Hausa,
    > inda za'a cigaba da hira game da harshe da al'adu
    > da tarihi da sauran lamura na Hausawa da mak'wabtansu.

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