N'Ko

Updated 7 August, 2017 • tags scriptnotes, nko

This page provides basic information about the N'Ko script. For similar information related to other scripts, see the Script comparison table.

Click on red text examples or highlight part of the sample text to see a list of characters. Click on the vertical blue bar (bottom right) to change font settings for the sample text.

For more details see: Character notes Script links

Sample (Mandinka)

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.

Key features

N'Ko is an alphabet. This means that it is phonetic in nature, where each letter represents a basic sound.

Words are separated by spaces, and contain a mixture of consonants and vowels, with diacritics to indicate things such as tone, nasalisation, or foreign sounds. Several diacritics have multiple uses.

A base character may carry multiple combining characters, for example:

ߣߌ߲߬

The script is normally cursive, but in certain circumstances a non-joining font styles may be used.

Usage hint : 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.1

For more information see ScriptSource, Wikipedia, Omniglot, and the Unicode Standard.

Text direction

N'Ko script is written right-to-left. Unlike other RTL scripts, such as Arabic and Hebrew, numbers are also written right-to-left.

Click on the following example, which contains numbers and words, to see how the order of characters in memory matches the simple right-to-left order as displayed.

ߏ߬ ߞߏߛߐ߲߬߸ ߂߀߀߉ ߞߊߙߏ߫ ߁߀߲/߂߂

Consonants

N'Ko has 19 regular consonants (ߓ ߔ ߕ ߖ ߗ ߘ ߙ ߚ ߛ ߜ ߝ ߞ ߟ ߡ ߢ ߣ ߤ ߥ ߦ), a nasal syllabic (ߒ), and two 'abstract' consonants (ߠ ߧ).

Nasal syllabic

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.1

This character may carry a tone diacritic, eg. ߒ߬.

Abstract consonants

Abstract consonants indicate a NA or NYA mutated by a preceding nasal, either word-internally or across word boundaries.1

The abstract consonants are ߠ [U+07E0 NKO LETTER NA WOLOSO] and ߧ [U+07E7 NKO LETTER NYA WOLOSO].

Consonant clusters

Adjacent consonants with no intervening vowel sound are indicated using ߑ [U+07D1 NKO LETTER DAGBASINNA], eg. ߓߟߏ bolo bloo is pronounced with the vowel after the first letter, even though none is present, because of the rule explained below. To show that this should be pronounced without the vowel you need ߓߑߟߏ blo.1

Vowels

Vowel characters

There are 7 vowel characters (ߊ ߋ ߌ ߍ ߎ ߏ ߐ ). Each can carry a tone mark and a nasalisation mark.

If there is no vowel between two consonants, this is indicated by using ߑ [U+07D1 NKO LETTER DAGBASINNA].1

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.)1

Tone marks

Diacritics are used to indicate tones, and which is used depends on the length of the vowel, per the following table.2

high low rising falling
short  ߫  ߬  ߭
long  ߯  ߰  ߱  ߮

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.

Nasalisation

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.

ߣߌ߲߬

Usage hint : This mark should be typed before any tone mark to preserve the canonical order.1

Context-based glyph changes

Cursive joining

N'Ko is cursive, ie. letters in a word are joined up. Fonts need to produce the appropriate joining form for a code point, according to its visual context. In the following example, note that there is both a medial and final form of ߐ.

ߕߟߋ߬ߓߊ߰ߓߟߐߟߐ

The cursive treatment doesn't produce significant variations of the essential part of the glyph for a character (unlike Arabic).

Display fonts for books and articles sometimes use a font that doesn't join the characters (the characters are the same).1

Glyph positioning

The Noto Sans Nko font changes the height of diacritics according to the height of the base character.

ߊ߬ߟߎ߬

Transliteration

Three diacritics are used to represent foreign sounds in conjunction with existing N'Ko letters, eg. ߛ߳ represents the arabic sound θ (ث). For more information, follow the links to the character descriptions for  ߫ [U+07EB NKO COMBINING SHORT HIGH TONE​],  ߭ [U+07ED NKO COMBINING SHORT RISING TONE​], or  ߳ [U+07F3 NKO COMBINING DOUBLE DOT ABOVE​].1For example, ߓߐߗ߭ߎߙ. ߓߌߢߍ߲ ߝ߭ߋߣߎ߳. bɔʒur. bi‌ñɛ̃ veny. Bonjour. Bien venue.

Punctuation & symbols

N'Ko uses punctuation borrowed from Arabic, including ، [U+060C ARABIC COMMA], ؛ [U+061B ARABIC SEMICOLON], and ؟ [U+061F ARABIC QUESTION MARK].1

Other ASCII punctuation is also used. The sample text at the top of the page also shows the use of ASCII colon and full stop.

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.1 See 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 .

Other borrowings from Arabic include [U+FD3E ORNATE LEFT PARENTHESIS], and ﴿ [U+FD3F ORNATE RIGHT PARENTHESIS], although the shape is often different.1

߶ [U+07F6 NKO SYMBOL OO DENNEN] is added to phrases to indicate remote future placement of the topic under discussion.1

߷ [U+07F7 NKO SYMBOL GBAKURUNEN] is used to end major sections of the text.1

Numbers

Digits

N'Ko uses native digits (߀߁߂߃߄߅߆߇߈߉), 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.1 This means that numbers don't produce bidirectional text in N'Ko.

ߝߌߟߊߣߊ߲ ߕߋ߬ߟߋ߫ ߂߇-߂߈/߂߀߁߀ ߕߊ߬ߡߌ߲߬ߣߍ߲ ߠߊ߫߸

Ordinal numbers

Ordinal numbers are produced using diacritics.

The first ordinal is produced using  ߭ [U+07ED NKO COMBINING SHORT RISING TONE​], eg. ߁߭ first.1

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.1

Text layout

Justification

The most common approach to justification relies on adjustment of spaces.1

Sometimes ߺ [U+07FA NKO LAJANYALAN] is used like the arabic tatweel to instead stretch the intra-word baseline.1

Use the control below to see how your browser justifies the text sample here.

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.

Letter spacing

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.

References

  1. The Unicode Standard v9.0, N'Ko.
  2. Wikipedia, N'Ko alphabet
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