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”): http://www.worldcat.org/title/jibiriba-fasa/oclc/1006455285; http://hdl.handle.net/10079/bibid/4801676; http://id.lib.harvard.edu/aleph/015189072/catalog. 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.
“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).
Two developments have come to light independently of each other on the listserv for the Committee on Cataloging: Asian and African Materials (CC:AAM) of the American Library Association (ALA). One is a statement in support of the internationalization of the BIBFRAME effort. The other is a discussion paper on the introduction of ISO 15924 script tags into the 880 fields of MARC. Together, they have generated a fair amount of discussion in committees at ALA and online. I won’t dive to deeply into those discussions here, except to reiterate a point from Karen Coyle that more use cases would be helpful, and to offer that both efforts point to a similar perceived gap in the architecture of bibliographic data. There have been efforts in the past to integrate parts of BCP 47 into MARC, whether in the 041 field (for ISO 639-3 language tags) or in the 066 field (for ISO 15924 script tags), but the solutions have not been evenly implemented, and leave considerable gaps in the availability of accurate language tagging. As the use of BIBFRAME becomes more widespread and requirements for accessibility increase, resolution of these efforts in the architecture of our metadata frameworks will become more important.
With no small amount of assistance from Steve Delamarter of George Fox University and the Ethiopian Manuscript Imaging Project (EMIP), a set of about thirty Ethiopian manuscripts have begun to receive enhanced cataloging in the Yale Library online catalog. Any errors or omissions are strictly my own. To find them, simply point your browser to Yale’s Quicksearch (http://search.library.yale.edu), and perform a call number search for the terms ‘ethiopic’ and ‘beinecke’. You should have a result set of the thirty-three manuscripts covered by this project, a little out of order, and with a couple of minor gaps in the numbering sequence. Some of these date to as early as the 17th century; included are a computus and a synaxarium. Full digitization has not yet been undertaken for this set, although you can find in the Beinecke’s digital collections images of the cases of Ethiopic MSS 5, 29 and 30, and imagery of Ethiopic MSS 28, a scroll, the text of which has been digitized.
እኔ ደግሞ ከዚህ ጠዋት ከኢትዮጵያ ቡና ጽዋ ነበረው. እኔ ቀስ የአማርኛ ቋንቋ የበለጠ በመማር ነኝ. እኔ መዝግቦ ለማሻሻል እፈልጋለሁ. ይህን ለመረዳት አስቸጋሪ ነው. እኔ ጥረት ይበልጥ ውጤታማ እንዲሆን አደርጋለሁ.
We now have a copy of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights typed in the newly invented Adlam script of the Fula people; this was generously produced and provided by Boubacar Diallo of Grand Dakar, Senegal: UDHR Adlam Pulaar. Enjoy!
It was a pleasure to attend the Africana Librarians Council meeting in Evanston last week, hosted by the Herskovits Library at Northwestern University. Pippa Skotnes was a featured speaker; some of her unique work can be seen here: http://www.cca.uct.ac.za/people/pippa-skotnes/. Souleymane Bachir Diagne also gave a lecture after the conference that some of us were able to attend. We were treated to a tour of the Center for Research Libraries and discussed microfilming newspapers from Malawi and Ethiopia. Dinner on Thursday night was hosted by Shoshanah Seidman. It was nice to see the John Hunwick collection getting processed at the Herskovits. All around, a thought-provoking experience, culminating with a dinner at the Ethiopian Diamond II in Rogers Park. Thanks to our colleagues Esmeralda Kale, David Easterbrook, Marcia Tiede, Gene Kannenberg, Jr., Shoshanah, Paul Burley, Shelley Morrison, Florence Mugambi, Judy Eckoff Alspach, Bethany Bates, and James Simon for hosting.
Yale Library was host to a talk by Dr. Fallou Ngom of Boston University last Thursday. The talk was well-attended, and co-sponsored by the Standing Committee on Professional Awareness, the Yale African Students Association, and the Yale Muslim Students Association. Dr. Ngom touched on many aspects of the use of Ajami, or modified Arabic script, as it relates to African languages as diverse as Afrikaans, Malagasy, Hausa, and Wolof. He covered material found in his book, published by Oxford University Press, “Muslims Beyond the Arab World”.
There were three manuscripts of particular interest that he brought up; one in Wolof and two written in Mandinka. The Wolof poem is from a period between 1912 and 1927, by Mbaye Diakhaté, entitled “In the Name of Your Quills and Ink”, found in the British Library’s Endangered Archives collection 334. Dr. Ngom played an audio recording of the poem and provided a full transcription. One of the Mandinka manuscripts dates to the 1940’s and is a curse against Hitler, rendered as “Ikleer”–something like “إکلںڔ”, although my rendering of this here is only a rough attempt. The actual image from the text is:
Another Mandinka manuscript turned up on a search of the Harvard catalog; it’s not covered in Dr. Ngom’s book but it is apparently an incantation that dates to 1789.
Many interesting questions were posed afterward, including one about the need for a romanization table to process these texts, and one about the prevalence of Koranic schools relative to public schools teaching in French in regions of Senegal and Mali.
Balla Koevogui, an intrepid taxicab driver and former elementary school teacher who lives in West Haven, returned to his home country of Guinea earlier this year for a visit and picked up some documents relating to the Loma language and script. I am posting them here for the convenience of fellow researchers.
Loma Script Narrative
Loma Text with video of its reading here.
Update #1: While one of the 1940’s-era Loma texts has been transcribed and partially translated (“Loma Text”, above), two more have surfaced from the same source that are as yet untranscribed and untranslated. I am posting them here in case anyone wants to start deciphering them.