More Alphabets


I posted a graphic about the evolution of our western alphabet recently and received some interest, so here is some more along the same lines.

Specialists have been studying an alphabet created in 1834 in Liberia, Africa. It was devised to write down the Vai language which previously had been purely oral.

“According to Vai teacher Bai Leesor Sherman, the script was always taught informally from a literate teacher to a single apprentice student. It remains so successful that today it is even used to communicate pandemic health messages.”

Rare African script offers clues to the evolution of writing

The studies are looking at how the alphabet has evolved over time to see if general characteristics of alphabet evolution can be adduced.

“There’s a famous hypothesis that letters evolve from pictures to abstract signs. But there are also plenty of abstract letter-shapes in early writing. We predicted, instead, that signs will start off as relatively complex and then become simpler across new generations of writers and readers … applying computational tools for measuring visual complexity, they found that the letters really did become visually simpler with each passing year.”

Elsewhere in West Africa, illiterate inventors have reverse-engineered writing for languages spoken in Mali and Cameroon, while new writing systems are still being invented in Nigeria and Senegal.

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