The N'Ko alphabet was invented by Soulemayne Kante of Kankan, Guinea,
in 1949. It is mainly used by speakers of Maninka, Bambara, Dyula and
their dialects in Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali.
Soulemayne Kante was born in 1922. As a young man, he was angered when
he read that some foreigners considered Africans cultureless since they
didn't have an indigenous writing system. In response, he developed
Nko to give African people their own alphabet to record their cultures
and histories in their native languages. He wrote hundreds of educational
materials in Maninka using the N'ko alphabet. His aim was to explain
complex or foreign ideas to speakers of Maninka using their own language.
He wrote introductory books on subjects as diverse as astrology, economics,
history and religion. Many of his works are still available from l'Association
Publications in the N'Ko alphabet include the Qur'an, textbooks on
various subjects, poetry, philisphical works, a dictionary and a
number of local newspapers.
Type of writing system: alphabet
Direction of writing right to left in horizontal lines
Diacritics placed below a vowel indicate nazalisation
Diacritics placed over a vowel of syllabic indicate length or tone
Used to write:
Maninka (Maninkakan), or Eastern Maninka, is a
group of closely related languages and dialects belonging to the
southeastern Manding subgroup of the Mande branch of the Niger-Congo
languages. There are about 3.3 million Maninka speakers mainly in Guinea and
Mali, and also in Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone and Côte d'Ivoire.
Maninka is closely related to Bambara.
Dioula (Julakan), a Mande language spoken by about
2.7 million people in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire and Mali. It is about
known as Jula and Dyula and is closely related to Bambara. It is written
with the Latin, Arabic and N'Ko alphabets.
Bambara (Bamanankan), a
Mande language with about 3 million speakers in Mali, Burkina Faso and
Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ghana.
Sample text in Mininka
Adamadennu bɛɛ sɔdɔnɲa kakan,
hɔrɔya dɔ, fabadenɲa dɔ ani sariya
ta fan dɔ. Hankili ni sɔnɔmɛ ye alu bɛɛ
ma, a kakan wo dɔ alu ye bakelenɲa sila lataaman alu