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Zaghawa alphabet

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Zaghawa alphabet

The upper-case (left) and lower-case (right) letter pairs of the Zaghawa AKA Beria alphabet. Alphabetic order follows the Latin: /a b d ɛ f ɡ h~ħ ɪ ʒ k l m n ɲ ŋ ɔ p ɾ~r s ʃ t ʊ w j/.

The Zaghawa or Beria alphabet, Beria Giray Erfe ('Zaghawa Writing Marks'), is an indigenous alphabetic script proposed for the Zaghawa AKA Beria language of Darfur and Chad.

In the 1950s, a Sudanese Zaghawa schoolteacher named Adam Tajir created an alphabet for the Zaghawa language that was based on the clan brands used for livestock, especially camels. Sometimes known as the camel alphabet, he copied the inventory of the Arabic script, so the system was not ideal for Zaghawa.

In 2000, a Zaghawa veterinarian named Siddick Adam Issa adapted Tajir's script to Zaghawa, which has proven popular in the Zaghawa community. The typography is somewhat unusual in that capital letters have descenders which drop below the baseline of the lower-case letters and punctuation, rather than rising above lower-case letters as in the Latin alphabet. Beria Giray Erfe is a full alphabet, with independent letters for vowels; however, diacritics are used to mark tone (grave accent for falling tone and acute accent for rising tone; high, mid, and low tone are unmarked), as well as advanced tongue root vowels (a macron derives /i e ə o u/ from the letters for /ɪ ɛ a ɔ ʊ/).

The letter for /p/, which does not occur in Zaghawa or in Arabic, is written by adding a tail to the letter for /b/. Likewise, /ʃ/ is derived from the letter for /s/ with a cross stroke. There apparently is no letter for /ħ/, nor a distinction between /ɾ/ and /r/, both of which have been reported for Zaghawa.

European numerals and punctuation are used. A preliminary proposal to map the script into Unicode space for future universal computer support was made in 2007.

External links

  • SIL Zaghawa Beria Font page, with free non-Unicode font and 2007 Unicode proposal.
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