From: Philippe Verdy (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Mar 16 2004 - 17:43:11 EST
----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Constable" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: "Unicode Mailing List" <email@example.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 16, 2004 10:32 PM
Subject: RE: About the Kikaku script for Mende, and an existing font for it
> There's some limited info about this script at
> and at
Small handwritten samples that are still useful to demonstrate that the script
has travelled the seas and that there will remain various dispersed resources
hidden in various libraries.
For now, the font I discovered is the only complete one I could get and
Of course my docs are not a proposal for its standardization, but some sources
are giving 200 characters and not 195. I suspect this may come from distinct
interpretations of characters currently considered as variants, or from
additional glyphs used for numerals (no sample found, the Tuchscherer'95 may be
the only easily accessible extensive resource, ISSN 0954-416X). But samples of
texts and literature will be hard to find unless there's some institution
working in Africa to help them scan and preserve their books.
I found that this script was used up to the 70's for collecting taxes or for
judiciary texts. Today the Latin script is prevalent, and may be more accessible
for education as it is probably simpler to teach to people without good
educational system, and that need today to work also with English, French, or
I think there may exist resources in some mosquees and christian churches where
the script was used to transcript the Bible and Quran. These books must exist,
they are certainly just missing an electronic version.
Liberia and Sierra Leone have no money and no stable educational structure to
collect these documents. They need help to get back their culture and unify the
rare resources that exist somewhere in the world.
Also, it's probably time to rename the script "Kikakui", and not "Mende" (the
language now written with Latin script), or "Ki-ka-ku" (these are effectively
three syllables of the script, probably chosen by the initial syllables of its
creator name, but not the first 3 letters of the syllabary).
I found also other sources saying that the script has its 42 first characters
making a abjad (like semitic scripts), with all the other characters completing
it as a syllabary. This may mean that vowels were added to an initial script
that only contained one character with an implicit vowel, and that vowels were
made explicit by adding more characters to make a syllabary, instead of adding
vowel signs like in Hebrew or Arabic.
This seems to be visible in the way some syllables are drawn with additional
dots and strokes, which may be traces of an initial attempt to add vowel signs
on top of a basic abjad. Choosing other glyphs was probably easier to visualize
distinctively (without the difficulties of deciphering them in Hebrew and Arabic
which use tiny variations of dots), even if it made the script more difficult to
Due to the relative complexity of the script, its division as a simplified abjad
and a complete syllabary may also have helped (but then there may exist two
orthographs for the same words of the same language and in the same script...)
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