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West African Ajami in the New World (Hausa, Fulfulde, Mande languages)

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Chapter Summary

Before the writing and orthography reforms of the 20th century, traditional Arabic script was the only form of writing known to the majority of West African Muslims. New letters and vowel-signs for Ajami were being created, at first without any attempts at standardization. As concerns the vowel signs, the imāla sign to represent the vowel /e/ was widely used by those who wrote in Fula, Hausa, and some Mande languages, such as Susu. In Brazil, some specimens of Arabic script were collected by local scholars since the early 19th century. All the known Arabic/Ajami manuscripts from the New World demonstrate that the place of Arabic/Ajami written tradition was different from that occupied by Roman-script writing in various European languages. Even today, neither 'phonemic' Arabic-script alphabets nor 'Ajamization' campaigns can easily change the perception of Arabic script in West Africa.

Keywords: Arabic/Ajami manuscripts; Hausa; Mande languages; West African Ajami



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