Competing scripts: the introduction of the Roman alphabet in Africa

Abstract

The introduction of the Roman script since the turn of the twentieth century was the first attempt of mass alphabetization in Africa, and it has become the most important writing system. It was, however, not the first script on the continent. In Old Egypt and its successor states, writing systems were developed, transferred to other languages and modified, replaced by new systems, and occasionally became obsolete. In a number of northern and north-eastern African languages, the Latin alphabet replaced earlier scripts. Despite many efforts to alphabetize the population and graphize African languages, only a few languages have become media of written communication and learning. For some languages, however, independent scripts were designed, some of which are still used today. The introduction of the Internet has enhanced the chances for the Latin script as a written medium for African languages. It is also the platform for a revival of the old scripts like Tifinagh and Ajami, and some of the independent African scripts.

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IJSL is dedicated to the development of the sociology of language as a truly international and interdisciplinary field in which various approaches - theoretical and empirical - supplement and complement each other, contributing thereby to the growth of language-related knowledge, applications, values and sensitivities. The journal features topically-focused issues with individual contributions on small languages and small language communities.

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