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Any use of the symbols created in this project should first be checked through contact with this email: odensibiri@gmail.com.

Showing posts with label New characters. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New characters. Show all posts

10 May 2011

Akagu - The hand of the Leopard | Milestone 2

As you may have noticed from the cheesy pictures that were posted showing a translation of famous products of Nigeria and famous products in Nigeria into a 'funny' nsibidi-looking script, I have created the mora (or syllabary) derived from nsibidi which. This is a suggested new script for the Igbo language, and if adjustments are made it could also be suitable for other cross river languages like Ibibio, although a new mora would probably be more suitable.

The name I chose for the script is 'akagu', it has a very simple meaning and if you read Igbo (in the horrible, evil, terrible, Latin script of course) you would know that this means 'Leopards hand'. The name was coined as a homage to the leopard societies that developed and maybe even invented nsibidi, so it's supposed to be be understood as 'the hand of the leopard', 'the writing of the leopard', or even 'the writing from the leopard people'.

The grapheme's or 'letters' aren't just direct copies of the current Igbo-Latin alphabet (Önwu), new phonemes (fancy talk for sounds) have also been added, including one that could be represented in Latin by an X! More on that later.

First, let's see what the characters look like and what their Latin equivalents are, and then we will look at how we got these characters.

You may have noticed that letter C has been knocked out. Who ever uses c in Igbo except for 'chi'? Why was left put in? The other characters are acceptably explained with the Latin script except the XI, this is typically found in the dialects around Umuahia and some other parts of the Igbo speaking area of Nigeria. An example for 'Xi' is found in the word for 'zi' (show) in a particular type of Igbo (such as Ohühü) the sond is also found in 'ezì' (pig), the sound is comparable to French 'je' but more specifically 'ji'.

Nwa, nwe, et is a commonly repeating phoneme so it has been made into characters. Ch you may remember is from the made up character for the concept of chi, this chi is differentiated because the chi is not in their 'house' (the box that surrounds it). When spelling 'chi', the 'i' in akagu is not needed as 'ch' is 'chi'. The Hā, hē, et is typically found in Abia state and in the Ika speaking region of Delta state. The hnwā, hnwē, et is typically found in Ngwa. The ñ is found in the 'ñu' ('drink').

The tones explain themselves, the high and low tone come before and after the vowels or the 'n' or 'm' respectively, the symbols for 'ạ' and 'ȧ' are representations of the nasal tones and the 'ä' is the mid nasal tone, e.g in hä (them).

There are two types of the script which can be compared to capitals and lower case. The first kind is the 'normal' script (top) and it is this that is used for formal writing and for a computer unicode (typing). The second is 'Akagụ ȯsȯ' ('Fast akagu') is the less formal way of writing, maybe in a situation like at school or a letter to a friend. The main akagu is also used to write foreign words and the quick hand is used to write Igbo, which is similar to Japanese kana.

Complex characters and vowels

One of the biggest differences to the Latin script is the creation of complex characters using vowels on consonants. To make a long explanation....not long, in Igbo we know that some vowels are dropped when a sentence is made with a word ending in a vowel and a next character starting with a vowel (I can't be bothered to do fancy words), a sentence like 'Ọ gà na írú' ('progression'), has become a word in Igbo but the current writing system is so inconsistent, and the lack of management for Igbo is so little that it can be written anyhow, anyway, short story, short story. Another way of writing it would be 'Ọganíru', notice how the a from 'na' has been dropped? In akagu the 'a' is written in the quick hand form and then placed at the top right of the consonant before it, the superior vowel (in this case 'i') is written normally and the spaces are removed from the two words. Why do this? Sometimes when Igbo words are joined together in Latin, the original meaning is hard to decipher especially when most people who write Igbo leave accents off certain words, e.g n'ime is 'na ime' (inside) and could be read also as 'na ímé' ('to do...'). In akagu the vowel that would have been left out is added to a consonant almost as an accent, more appropriately a complex character that's similar to a ligature. This preserves the whole original word from the complex character to the beginning of the word, and also signals to the reader to add an extra stretch or to add that little sound that indicates a vowel skipped. The only way I can explain is in an English name like Michael, you almost say My-kel, but you say My-kol because of that 'a', well depending on you English accent, but you should have a rough understanding of what I mean.

In the picture below, the vowels that makes up the complex characters are circled in red. Try and see if you can read it, it may seem a bit awkward at first, but what doesn't?!

I understand that the writing system will have to be explained orally for better understanding.


This post is long enough so this is the origins of the script condensed:
The characters were taken from original nsibidi characters and then simplified by writing the nsibidi characters over and over again in a style that mimicks shorthand or everyday use.

The characters produced from this shorthand use is then assigned to a phoneme (sound) that is similar to the first used in the nsibidi it was derived from, e.g the 's' phoneme was from 'osisi' ('tree or wood', the 'o' phoneme was from 'ogbakọ' (meeting), et.

The quick hand nsibidi were the first created. They didn't look formal or nsibidi-like enough so some were simplified further and they were all given bars at their ends, similar to many nsibidi characters.

And that was it.

Below is a comparison of the akagu script to the nsibidi characters they were derived from. Some of the nsibidi characters were forged (or merged) here on this blog, some of them were simplified, some are completely original, some are not nsibidi characters but motifs.

This is Akagu, a proposed Igbo script. As you may have seen, akagu can be put into different weights, sizes, cases and more. It is dynamic and also unique. One of the disadvantages it has to Latin is that it cannot be recognised as easily as Latin in the lowest text size possible, apart from that I'll let the readers (and the people who may be manipulating it one day) decide. There are probably many errors and this post is very long, so I'll end it here. More updates will be coming for nsibidi and akagu later, in the meantime your feedback would be appreciated.

11 April 2011

Previews (April 2011)

Date formatting. This is year (afor) from 'moon' and 'land'.

A date format in nsibidi and the Latin alphabet. The time it took to write both are noted in seconds.


Snippet sneak previews (wow) of the syllabary to come. These are derived from nsibidi as well.

Behind the nsibidi

Some of these notes are where I take existing nsibidi (the original ones) and try and make a new character with them. There's a lot of testing which is done to check the aesthetics as well as usability (on a daily basis) of each compound. I also simplify nsibidi this way, those that are too elaborate to use in writing (such as 'hawk'). The nsibidi are taken from a variety of geographical locations as well as cultures.

In the papers, there are some hints of the development of an nsibidi derived syllabary as well.

The main reason for the 'sentences' are to simply see if they look nice, and to also see the balance, consistency and relationship of the characters.

Although the sentence is gibberish, I think the title looks very balanced and consistent. Some of the characters were rushed in order to create a sentence and may change. Tell me what you think.

Also notice the date formatting, more on that later.

The angle was a test to see if this would work better as a 'full stop', but the circle seems to serve the writing system better.

The top character is 'love'. I think this is one of the characters that are universal amongst nsibidi-literate cultures around the Cross River and was public (used by everyone).

A fake paragraph done with repeating a gibberish sentence. Maybe from the nsibidi already suggested on this website you can decipher what it says.

Some rejected simplifications and compounds, this happens a lot and slows down the process. The nsibidi with asterisks beside them are old 100% original nsibidi. The one with the */2 is half original, as in it represents a man originally carrying money (okpogho), but I added a 'house' around him, bank.

17 March 2011


Middle + Fire/energy + Top + Land/Life = Chí

Note - 18 March 2011:
I understand that 'Chí' is a very abstract concept in Igbo culture (among many things), and this character was created to capture the basic "idea" of Chi. Many concepts in Igbo culture may not be able to be explained with words. The characters that will be created do not intend to add any meaning to the concepts, but to create a character that is, in a basic form, relevant to the concept as has been done with old nsibidi. Nsibidi characters used to import words into nsibidi writing will not attempt to explain the complete purpose of the concept it represents, but, instead, to roughly rationalise its use as a representative of that word. A circle with strokes around it will not explain the role of the sun in photosynthesis. Thanks for bringing this to my attention so I could explain.