Updated 30 August, 2021
This page gathers together basic information about the N’Ko script and its use for the Kangbe koiné. It aims (generally) to provide an overview of the orthography and typographic features, and (specifically) to advise how to write N’Ko using Unicode.
Phonetic transcriptions on this page should be treated as an approximate guide, only. Many are more phonemic than phonetic, and there may be variations depending on the source of the transcription.
ߞߏ ߡߍ߲ ߞߵߊ߬ ߞߍ߫ ߊ߲ ߛߋ߫ ߘߊ߫ ߞߊ߬ ߕߟߋ߬ߓߊ߰ߓߟߐߟߐ ߘߊߦߟߍ߬ ߒߞߏ ߦߋ߫ ߸ ߊ߲ ߧߴߊ߲ ߞߊߘߊ߲߫ ߏ߬ ߘߐ߫ ߞߙߊߕߊߕߊ߫ ߞߊ߬ ߒ߬ ߓߊߘߋ߲ ߕߐ߬ߡߊ ߟߎ߬ ߟߊߞߍ߫ ߊ߬ ߞߊ߬ߟߊߡߊ߬߸ ߞߵߊ߬ߟߎ߬ ߡߊߛߊ߬ߡߊ߲߫ ߞߵߊ߬ߟߎ߬ ߡߊߘߏ߲߬ ߒ߬ ߠߊ߫ ߒߞߏ ߛߘߊߟߊ߫ ߞߏߓߊ ߣߌ߲߬ ߞߊߡߊ߲ ߞߣߐ߫߸ ߏ߬ ߘߏ߲߬ ߕߴߛߋ߫ ߘߊߓߊ߲߫ ߠߊ߫ ߝߋߎ߫ ߝߏ߫ ߊ߬ߟߎ߬ ߦߋ߫ ߛߋ߫ ߞߊ߬ ߓߟߐߟߐ ߞߐߜߍ ߟߎ߬ ߡߊߝߟߍ߫ ߟߴߊ߬ߟߎ߫ ߖߘߍ߬ ߦߋ߫ ߊ߬ߟߎ߬ ߟߊ߫ ߕߟߋ߬ߓߊ߮ ߟߎ߬ ߟߊ߫ ߣߐ߰ߦߊ߫ ߘߐ߫ ߸ ߣߌ߲߬ ߘߏ߲߬ ߕߊ߬ߣߍ߲߫ ߒߞߏ ߟߊ߫ ߖߘߍ߬ߛߐߘߐ߲ ߛߌߟߊ߫ ߓߐߣߍ߲ ߠߎ߫ ߓߎ߭ ߟߋ߫ ߡߊ߬.
ߡߊ߲߬ߘߋ߲߬ ߛߊ߲ߘߊ ߘߏ߫ ߟߋ߬ ߞߊ߲߫ ߞߏ߫: ߌ ߓߊ߯ ߌ ߢߊ ߟߐ߬ ߕߋ߬ߟߋ ߘߐ߫ ߞߵߌ ߕߊ߯ ߦߙߐ ߡߊߝߟߍ߫߸ ߛߎ߫ ߕߍ߫ ߞߏ߬ ߌ ߡߊ߬. ߒ߬ߓߊ߬ ߊ߲ ߧߋ߫ ߒ߬ ߠߞߊߟߌߦߊ߫ ߛߊ߫ ߒ߬ ߘߌ߫ ߞߍ߫ ߒ߬ ߘߎߢߊߘߐߕߍ߯ ߢߐ߲߮ ߠߎ߬ ߘߐ߫ ߞߊ߬ ߞߍ߫ ߞߎߟߎ߲߫ ߞߋߟߋ߲߫ ߞߣߐ߫ ߏ߬ ߘߐ߫.
The script is used mainly in Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire (respectively by Maninka and Dyula speakers), with an active user community in Mali (by Bambara-speakers). Publications include a translation of the Quran, a variety of textbooks on subjects such as physics and geography, poetic, and philosophical works, descriptions of traditional medicine, a dictionary, and several local newspapers.
In 1986 l’Association pour l’Impulsion et la Coordination des Recherches sur l’Alphabet N’ko (ICRA-N’KO) was established, and officially approved as an NGO for the promotion of N'ko five years later.
The script was devised by Solomana Kante in 1949, as a writing system for Bambara, one of the Manding languages spoken in Mali.
The name was also used for a literary (as opposed to spoken) language written in that script, which is intended as a koiné, blending elements of the principal Manding languages (which are mutually intelligible), but has a very strong Maninka flavour. The term N'Ko means I say in all Manding languages. The language is understandable by all literate Manding speakers and is used in situations where speakers of different Manding languages need a neutral means of communication
Sources: Scriptsource, Wikipedia.
The N'Ko script is an alphabet. Both consonants and vowels are indicated by letters. See the table to the right for a brief overview of features for modern Kangbe written in the N'Ko script.
N'Ko script is written right-to-left in horizontal lines. Unlike other RTL scripts, such as Arabic and Hebrew, numbers are also written right-to-left.
The script is normally cursive, but in certain circumstances a non-joining font style may be used.
N'Ko has 19 native consonant letters. Use of 3 different diacritics results in letters for 22 more sounds used in foreign and loan words (mostly French or Arabic). There is also a nasal syllabic, and 2 abstract characters.
An unusual feature is that If two adjacent consonants are followed by the same vowel, the vowel is omitted after the first consonant.
N'Ko has 7 vowel letters. A diacritic is used to create 3 more letters for foreign sounds. Another diacritic produces nasalisation of the vowel sound.
N'Ko also has a letter to indicate the absence of a vowel, which is used regularly.
N'Ko has 7 combining tone marks and 2 tone letters. Several of these have more than one use.
These are sounds for the N'Ko Kangbe language.
Click on the sounds to reveal locations in this document where they are mentioned.
Phones in a lighter colour are non-native or allophones.
|stop||p b||t d||k|
There are 7 vowel characters:
Each can carry a tone mark and a nasalisation mark.
߳ [U+07F3 NKO COMBINING DOUBLE DOT ABOVE] is used above N'Ko letters to represent foreign sounds (particularly French and Arabic).
The low diacritic ߲ [U+07F2 NKO COMBINING NASALIZATION MARK] is applied to a vowel to indicate nasalisation. This may produce multiple combining marks attached to a single character.
This mark should be typed and stored before any tone mark to preserve the canonical order.u
If there is no vowel between two consonants, this is indicated using ߑ [U+07D1 NKO LETTER DAGBASINNA].u
If two adjacent consonants are followed by the same vowel, the vowel is omitted after the first consonant. (There is no ambiguity here with consonant clusters, since in the latter case the dagbasinna would appear.)u
N'Ko has 7 combining tone marks and 2 tone letters. Several of these are also repurposed for other uses.
Although some of the N'Ko diacritics look like those in general use, you should use the ones provided in this block. This is because they are typically drawn higher and bolder than the generic marks, and have a wider range of glyph variation.u
Diacritics are used to indicate tones, and which is used depends on the length of the vowel, per the following table.ws
There are also two spacing characters used for tones: ߴ [U+07F4 NKO HIGH TONE APOSTROPHE] and ߵ [U+07F5 NKO LOW TONE APOSTROPHE], eg. ߞߵߌ.
Tone marks should be typed and stored after any nasalisation marker.
N'Ko has 19 regular consonants. There is also a nasal syllabic (ߒ), and two 'abstract' consonants (ߠ ߧ).
ߒ [U+07D2 NKO LETTER N] is considered to be neither a consonant nor a vowel. It represents an alveolar or velar syllabic nasal sound.u
This character may carry a tone diacritic, eg. ߒ߬.
Abstract consonants indicate a NA or NYA mutated by a preceding nasal, either word-internally or across word boundaries.u
The abstract consonants are ߠ [U+07E0 NKO LETTER NA WOLOSO] and ߧ [U+07E7 NKO LETTER NYA WOLOSO].
Three diacritics, two of them tone markers, are used to represent foreign sounds (particularly Arabic and French) in conjunction with existing N'Ko letters, eg. ߛ߳ sx̣ represents the arabic sound θ (ث).u
The diacritics used are ߫ [U+07EB NKO COMBINING SHORT HIGH TONE], ߭ [U+07ED NKO COMBINING SHORT RISING TONE], or ߳ [U+07F3 NKO COMBINING DOUBLE DOT ABOVE].
For example, ߓߐߗ߭ߎߙ. ߓߌߢߍ߲ ߝ߭ߋߣߎ߳.
Adjacent consonants with no intervening vowel sound are indicated using ߑ [U+07D1 NKO LETTER DAGBASINNA], eg. ߓߟߏ blo bolo is pronounced with the vowel after the first letter, even though none is present, because of the rule explained above. To show that this should be pronounced without the vowel you need uߓߑߟߏ bˣlo blo
The Unicode Standard lists 3 consonants that are archaic forms of other characters in the N'Ko block. The new shapes were only introduced in the latter writings of the inventor of the script, Solomana Kante. (Their inclusion in the block generated some controversy.yaec)
|Archaic form||Modern form|
|ߨ [U+07E8 NKO LETTER JONA JA]||ߖ [U+07D6 NKO LETTER JA]|
|ߩ [U+07E9 NKO LETTER JONA CHA]||ߗ [U+07D7 NKO LETTER CHA]|
|ߪ [U+07EA NKO LETTER JONA RA]||ߙ [U+07D9 NKO LETTER RA]|
There is one other character in the N'Ko block with the general category of letter.
ߺ [U+07FA NKO LAJANYALAN] is sometimes used like ـ [U+0640 ARABIC TATWEEL] to stretch the intra-word baseline, either for justification, or headings, etc. See justify and letterspace.
߶ [U+07F6 NKO SYMBOL OO DENNEN] is added to phrases to indicate remote future placement of the topic under discussion.u
N'Ko uses native digits.
However, unlike other right-to-left scripts such as Arabic, Hebrew, Thaana, the numbers are displayed right-to-left, with the most significant digit first.u This means that numbers don't produce bidirectional text in N'Ko.
Ordinal numbers are produced using diacritics.
The first ordinal is produced using ߭ [U+07ED NKO COMBINING SHORT RISING TONE], eg. ߁߭ first.u
Others use ߲ [U+07F2 NKO COMBINING NASALIZATION MARK], eg. ߂߲ second. When there are multiple digits in a number, the diacritic appears only under the last in sequence, eg. ߁߂߃߲ 123rd.u
Unicode 11 introduced 2 currency symbols to represent the dorome and taman.e4 The symbols precede the numeric amounts.
An amount of 5 dorome and 95 taman is written like this:
N'Ko script is written right-to-left in horizontal lines.
Unlike other RTL scripts, such as Arabic and Hebrew, numbers are also written right-to-left.
bidi_class properties for characters in the N'Ko Kangbe orthography described here.
This section brings together information about the following topics: writing styles; cursive text; context-based shaping; context-based positioning; baselines, line height, etc.; font styles; case & other character transforms.
You can experiment with examples using the N'Ko character app.
The orthography has no case distinction, and no special transforms are needed to convert between characters.
N'Ko is usually cursive, ie. letters in a word are joined up.
Non-cursive fonts are sometimes used, mainly as display fonts for book and article titles.u
When N’Ko is cursive (see writing_styles), letters in a word are joined up. Fonts need to produce the appropriate joining form for a letter, according to its visual context, but the code point remains the same. This results in four different glyphs for most letters (including an isolated glyph).
Unlike some other cursive scripts, the cursive treatment doesn't produce significant variations of the essential part of the glyph for a character.
All letters join on both sides.
Unlike Arabic or Syriac, joining forms only differ by the addition of a small baseline extension. Also, whereas Arabic and Syriac re-use a number of basic shapes to create additional letters by adding diacritics, in N’Ko each letter shape is different. fig_joining_forms shows the basic shapes in N’Ko and what their joining forms look like.
|ߔ [U+07D4 NKO LETTER PA]||ߔ||ߺߔ||ߺߔߺ||ߔߺ|
|ߓ [U+07D3 NKO LETTER BA]||ߓ||ߺߓ||ߺߓߺ||ߓߺ|
|ߕ [U+07D5 NKO LETTER TA]||ߕ||ߺߕ||ߺߕߺ||ߕߺ|
|ߘ [U+07D8 NKO LETTER DA]||ߘ||ߺߘ||ߺߘߺ||ߘߺ|
|ߗ [U+07D7 NKO LETTER CHA]||ߗ||ߺߗ||ߺߗߺ||ߗߺ|
|ߖ [U+07D6 NKO LETTER JA]||ߖ||ߺߖ||ߺߖߺ||ߖߺ|
|ߞ [U+07DE NKO LETTER KA]||ߞ||ߺߞ||ߺߞߺ||ߞߺ|
|ߜ [U+07DC NKO LETTER GBA]||ߜ||ߺߜ||ߺߜߺ||ߜߺ|
|ߝ [U+07DD NKO LETTER FA]||ߝ||ߺߝ||ߺߝߺ||ߝߺ|
|ߛ [U+07DB NKO LETTER SA]||ߛ||ߺߛ||ߺߛߺ||ߛߺ|
|ߤ [U+07E4 NKO LETTER HA]||ߤ||ߺߤ||ߺߤߺ||ߤߺ|
|ߡ [U+07E1 NKO LETTER MA]||ߡ||ߺߡ||ߺߡߺ||ߡߺ|
|ߣ [U+07E3 NKO LETTER NA]||ߣ||ߺߣ||ߺߣߺ||ߣߺ|
|ߢ [U+07E2 NKO LETTER NYA]||ߢ||ߺߢ||ߺߢߺ||ߢߺ|
|ߥ [U+07E5 NKO LETTER WA]||ߥ||ߺߥ||ߺߥߺ||ߥߺ|
|ߙ [U+07D9 NKO LETTER RA]||ߙ||ߺߙ||ߺߙߺ||ߙߺ|
|ߚ [U+07DA NKO LETTER RRA]||ߚ||ߺߚ||ߺߚߺ||ߚߺ|
|ߟ [U+07DF NKO LETTER LA]||ߟ||ߺߟ||ߺߟߺ||ߟߺ|
|ߦ [U+07E6 NKO LETTER YA]||ߦ||ߺߦ||ߺߦߺ||ߦߺ|
|ߒ [U+07D2 NKO LETTER N]||ߒ||ߺߒ||ߺߒߺ||ߒߺ|
|ߊ [U+07CA NKO LETTER A]||ߊ||ߺߊ||ߺߊߺ||ߊߺ|
|ߋ [U+07CB NKO LETTER EE]||ߋ||ߺߋ||ߺߋߺ||ߋߺ|
|ߌ [U+07CC NKO LETTER I]||ߌ||ߺߌ||ߺߌߺ||ߌߺ|
|ߍ [U+07CD NKO LETTER E]||ߍ||ߺߍ||ߺߍߺ||ߍߺ|
|ߎ [U+07CE NKO LETTER U]||ߎ||ߺߎ||ߺߎߺ||ߎߺ|
|ߏ [U+07CF NKO LETTER OO]||ߏ||ߺߏ||ߺߏߺ||ߏߺ|
|ߐ [U+07D0 NKO LETTER O]||ߐ||ߺߐ||ߺߐߺ||ߐߺ|
The Noto Sans Nko font changes the height of diacritics according to the height of the base character.
A base character may carry multiple combining characters.
N'Ko uses italicisation and bolding.
Italics may need to lean to the left, rather than to the right. Neil Patel writes:
Formalized typographic practices for both Adlam and N'ko are still being developed. When [JamraPatel] reached out to both communities to see if an Italic typeface would be beneficial, both communities expressed a desire to have one. Over the past few years, as the ability to use both of these scripts more readily in computing has increased, the need to be able to set more complex copy has increased as well. Both communities see the benefit of having italic typefaces to add some semantic value to their copy. On-line N'ko has historically used synthetic obliques for things like by-lines on articles. ...
Since neither script had any precedent for a drawn italic typeface, we asked each community on how they would like to see it drawn. This is how N'ko ended up with the leftward lean and Adlam with a rightward lean in our typeface. ... To my knowledge our typeface has the first drawn italicized N'ko and Adlam, so this is all still a bit new.g3,#issuecomment-512911833
Words are separated by spaces.
Observation: The te-kerende is a common way of linking compounds together. It sits on the baseline, and breaks cursive joining. It was proposed for inclusion into Unicode, but not adopted. However, I'm unable to find any rationale for the lack of adoption. In these examples, I am using ߺ [U+07FA NKO LAJANYALAN] surrounded by spaces to create an idea of how te-kerende should look:e4 ߡߐ߰ ߺ ߐ ߺ ߡߐ߰ ߛߌ ߺ ߌ ߺ ߛߌ
Line-breaks only occur after te-kerende, and not before.e4
߸ [U+07F8 NKO COMMA]
: [U+003A COLON]
. [U+002E FULL STOP]
N'Ko uses Western punctuation (the sample text at the top of the page shows the use of ASCII colon and full stop), native punctuation, and also punctuation borrowed from Arabic, including ، [U+060C ARABIC COMMA], ؛ [U+061B ARABIC SEMICOLON], and ؟ [U+061F ARABIC QUESTION MARK].u
The 2 punctuation characters in the N'Ko Unicode block are ߸ [U+07F8 NKO COMMA], and ߹ [U+07F9 NKO EXCLAMATION MARK]. The N'Ko comma is sometimes used distinctively with the arabic comma in the same text,u as in this example:
ߕߏ߲ߘߋ ߟߊ߫ ߊߙߊߓߎ ߞߐ߲ߛߐߣ ߊ ߛߌ߰ߙߊ߬ߕߊ ߊ ߘߏ߫ ߟߎ߫ ߞߊ߲߬ ߸ ߛߊ߫ ( ߜ ، ߔ ، ߗ ) ߟߎ߬ ߘߌ߫ ߛߋ߫ ߛߓߍ߫ ߟߊ߫ ߸ ߏ߬ ߟߎ߬ ߡߍ߲ ߠߎ߬ ߕߍ߫ ߊߙߊߓߎ߫ ߞߊ߲ ߘߐ߫ ߡߎ߰ߡߍ߫ .
߷ [U+07F7 NKO SYMBOL GBAKURUNEN] is used to end major sections of the text.u
( [U+0028 LEFT PARENTHESIS]
) [U+0029 RIGHT PARENTHESIS]
Other borrowings from Arabic include ﴾ [U+FD3E ORNATE LEFT PARENTHESIS], and ﴿ [U+FD3F ORNATE RIGHT PARENTHESIS], although the shape used for N'Ko is often different.u
⸜ [U+2E1C LEFT LOW PARAPHRASE BRACKET] and ⸝ [U+2E1D RIGHT LOW PARAPHRASE BRACKET] are used as a pair to indicate indirect quotations,ep eg. ⸜ߒߞߏ⸝
߽ [U+07FD NKO DANTAYALAN] is used to abbreviation units of measure.e4 The table shows some examples from a long list at e4:
Lines are mostly broken at inter-word spaces. As in almost all writing systems, certain punctuation characters should not appear at the end or the start of a line.
Show (default) line-breaking properties for characters in the modern N'Ko Kangbe orthography.
Hyphenation occurs in N'Ko. It uses - [U+002D HYPHEN-MINUS].e4
The most common approach to justification relies on adjustment of spaces.u
Sometimes, however, ߺ [U+07FA NKO LAJANYALAN] is used like arabic tatweel to stretch the intra-word baseline.u
There appears to be a tendency to stretch text, like in Arabic, to fit a given space or make a heading, using ߺ [U+07FA NKO LAJANYALAN], eg. ߞߺߺߺߺߺߏ߲.
This section is for any features that are specific to N'Ko and that relate to the following topics: general page layout & progression; grids & tables; notes, footnotes, etc; forms & user interaction; page numbering, running headers, etc.
According to ScriptSource, the N'Ko script is used for the following languages: