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PanAfriL10n - PanAfrLoc - ArabicScript

Arabic script & "Ajami"

The Arabic script used for writing Arabic and other languages in Africa as well as Asia.

1.  Background

1.1  History

Before European colonisation, the Arabic script found use for writing many languages of the Sahel and the east coast of Africa, today often referred to as "Ajami."*

The Arabic script for the Arabic language is well standardized and indeed its calligraphy is a high art form in many countries. Nevertheless there are local variants, such as in the Arabic language of the Maghreb (western North Africa) and as used in Koranic instruction in the countries of the western Sahel.

In addition, the Arabic script or Ajami used to transcribe the different sound systems of subsaharan African languages also has added forms.

Ajami use was not favored under colonial rule or by independent African states, however its use continues, and is the focus of recent and new research.

There was an effort by the Islamic States Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (ISESCO) and Mohamed Chtatou in 1992 to standardize Arabic script usage for African languages. This was based largely on adaptations of the script for non-Arabic languages in the Middle East (notably Farsi and Urdu) rather than the actual practice in Africa.

Other researchers are working on documentation of current practice.

1.2  Current technical issues

Currently Unicode covers the most modified Arabic character needs in the Arabic and extended Arabic ranges, though there are proposals for additional characters. [give ranges & references]

The issues of RTL (right to left) and bidirectional text in ICT have been largely resolved [is this blanket statement accurate?] in Arabic, and these solutions are applicable for any use of Arabic script / Ajami for other languages, and perhaps other scripts like N'Ko.

2.  Languages in the Major Languages section written in Arabic script

2.1  Arabic script is the main or only writing system used

  • Arabic and dialects such as Hassaniya and Chadian Arabic
  • Bedawi

2.2  Arabic transcription exists, was used historically, and may be in use unofficially

3.  Arabic alphabet & variants

3.1  Standard Arabic alphabet

Consonants only are shown. Adapted from: http://www.lexilogos.com/arabe_alphabet.htm

letter / lettrename/nomend/ finmiddle/milieubeginning/ début
ءhamzaأ ؤ إ ئ

3.2  Variations

Two characters that in the traditional orthography of the Maghreb ("Warsh") differ from Standard/Classical Arabic ("Hafs"). This usage is also seen in the western Sahel, including in Ajami:

 Standard ArabicMaghrebian Arabic

See also the table and discussion regarding Unicode support on the ScriptSource site - "What is a Warsh Orthography?" (2014) - at: http://scriptsource.org/cms/scripts/page.php?item_id=entry_detail&uid=yq85dn9q24

Comments on a document showing some extended Arabic characters (used in some non-Arabic languages) that have since been approved: http://www.quicktopic.com/18/H/y4dBcRx9hQWK

4.  Utilities

5.  ISO-15924

CodeEnglish NameNom françaisProperty Value AliasDate

Source: Codes for the representation of names of scripts / Codes pour la représentation des noms d’écritures, http://www.unicode.org/iso15924/iso15924-codes.html

6.  References and other links

Chtatou, Mohamed. 1992. Using Arabic script in writing the languages of the peoples of Muslim Africa. Rabat : Institute of African Studies.

Geonames, "Arabic characters," http://www.geonames.de/arabchar.html

______, "Unicode test page...: Arabic abjad - الأبجدية العربية (al-abǧadiyyâtu l-ʿarabiyyâ)" http://www.geonames.de/alphab.html#ara

Ishida, Rick. "Arabic" http://r12a.github.io/scripts/summaries/arabic (characteristics of the script)

______, "Arabic character notes" http://rishida.net/scripts/block/arabic (Note sections on extended Arabic letters & vowel signs for African languages, and a Berber letter)

Mimer, "Arabic Collation Chart," http://developer.mimer.com/charts/arabic.htm

______, "UCA Arabic Collation Chart," http://developer.mimer.com/charts/UCA_arabic.htm

Omniglot, "Arabic script," http://www.omniglot.com/writing/arabic.htm

Wikipedia, "Adjami," https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adjami

______, "Ajami," https://ha.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajami

______, "Ajami script," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajami_script

______, "Alfabeto árabe," http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfabeto_%C3%A1rabe

______, "Alphabet arabe," http://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabet_arabe

______, "Arabic alphabet," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabic_alphabet

______, "Arabiese alfabet," https://af.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arabiese_alfabet

______, "Escrita ajami," https://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Escrita_ajami

______, "Herufi za Kiarabu," https://sw.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herufi_za_Kiarabu

______, "أبجدية عربي" http://ar.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D8%A3%D8%A8%D8%AC%D8%AF%D9%8A%D8%A9_%D8%B9%D8%B1%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A9

7.  Notes

* Note on the term "Ajami": This Arabic word is derived from a root that means "foreign person" usually meaning non-Arab or non-Arabic-speaking. In addition to being applied to use of Arabic writing for languages other than Arabic, it also means Iranian/Persian (person or culture) in the Mashrek dialects of Arabic.

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