Re: About the Kikaku script for Mende, and an existing font for it

From: Philippe Verdy (
Date: Tue Mar 16 2004 - 17:43:11 EST

  • Next message: Philippe Verdy: "Re: About the Kikaku script for Mende, and an existing font for it"

    ----- Original Message -----
    From: "Peter Constable" <>
    To: "Unicode Mailing List" <>
    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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