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Mende syllabary

Subject Linguistics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


Invented in 1921 by Kisimi Kamara, a native of Bari in Sierra Leone who was acquainted with the vai writing of neighbouring Liberia. The script was used by individuals chiefly in personal correspondence, but it could not compete with Arabic literacy, of which the Mende had made limited use since the eighteenth century, and never gained wider currency beyond Kamara's chiefdom. Since about 1940 the roman africa alphabet has been used for writing the Mende language which in effect led to the discontinuation of writing in Kamara's syllabary. The script consists of some 195 characters of the CV type including eight independent Vs ( table 14 ). The first 42 characters make use of diacritics to modify basic C signs for different Vs. Of the remaining characters many are also graphically related to each other through consonantal or vocalic diacritics in a less systematic fashion. The script is written horizontally from right to left. Table 14 The Mende syllabary Source: Dalby 1967 Reading Dalby 1967. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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