Monthly Archives: March 2018

An informal joint project between Yale and Harvard, regarding N’ko

Do you remember our “Map Challenge” on this blog from a few years ago?  That was in the N’ko script, used for Mande languages in Guinea, Mali, and elsewhere in West Africa.  Since that time, a relevant romanization table has been approved by the American Library Association and the Library of Congress, and has become available as a support to cataloging materials in N’ko.  Nafadji Sory Condé has written a helpful book on the subject of N’ko, in French.  Meanwhile, OCLC took the step of supporting full Unicode, including the N’ko range.

These developments prompted discussions between catalogers and other librarians at Harvard and Yale, who together with faculty thought it would now be possible to create MARC catalog records that would include the N’ko script.  I brought the subject up with Bassey Irele and Boubacar Diakité, a lecturer in N’ko at Harvard; Bassey introduced us to Naun Chiat Chew and Isabel Quintana, who helped to keep the ball rolling as we went through a bibliography of Valentin Vydrin looking for matches to existing Romanized records.

As a result, there are now about sixty records that have been produced, held by either Harvard, Yale, or both institutions, and have made their way into OCLC’s Worldcat, where they can be searched and downloaded by other institutions.  One example is “ߖߌ߬ߓߙߌ߬ߓߊ ߝߊ߬ߛߊ” (“Jìbìrìba fàsa”):;;  More fine-tuning is needed to ensure that the linking is being handled correctly, but it gives you a sense of how the project results have been turning out so far.

Hopefully, the results are supportive of the establishment of proof of concept, not only for N’ko, but in working out arrangements for other additional scripts as well.  Feel free to pass along your questions and comments.


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“ꕇꔧ ꖝꖕꕯ ꗓꖺ ꕮ ꗏꖺ ꕇ ꕗ.”

“The price of a whole cow is never cheap.”–traditional Vai proverb.  For those who are interested in learning Vai, there are an increasing number of available resources to work from.  They don’t all fit under the category of traditional learning materials though.  There is a Vai Wikimedia Incubator Project, a FAQ about Ebola, a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a copy of the New Testament, and recent articles including one by Olena Tykhostup and Piers Kelly, and another by Andrij Rovenchak, Tombekai Sherman, and myself.  Tombekai and I also gave a presentation last year at the 10th International Conference of the Mande Studies Association in Grand-Bassam, Côte d’Ivoire, offering translations of manuscripts held at Tulane University and the British Library.  While work toward a new Vai dictionary is also underway, existing dictionary resources include Koelle (1854) and Welmers & Kandakai (1973).

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