Othographies for Nigerian languages

Although a number of Nigerian languages have been and are written to some degree using the Arabic script or Ajami, the Latin script was adapted for major languages (notably Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo) in the 19th century and promoted in the colonial ands post-independence periods. Its use is thus widespread and more or less standardized for at least the major languages.

This page will deal mainly with efforts to define the standardized orthographies on a countrywide basis. For the history and curent state of orthographies for specific languages, please see the specific language pages.


PanNigerian Alphabet

Wikipedia has some information on this. The history given there may be incomplete.

"Alphabets of Nine Nigerian Languages" (1984)

Linguist Kay Williamson published in 1984 a book on orthographies of Nigerian languages. This builds on earlier work by, among others, Ayo Bamgbose. Appendix 2 in Williamson's book (pp. 61-63) summarizes this information (scanned images are presented below). There is some question about whether these represent the orthographies currently in use (see Current trends below).

Nigerian languages in Alphabets of Africa (1993)

Rhonda Hartell edited a book (1993) on orthographies of African languages including data on 22 Nigerian languages. The information on Latin extended and diacritic characters from that data is summarized at http://www.bisharat.net/A12N/NIGERIA-table.htm . (See also Current trends below).

Current Trends

Roger Blench (personal correspondence) indicates that current usage for at least some languages may not conform with the orthographies indicated in Williamson's (1984) book. This is due in part to use of computer systems and fonts that did nopt accommodate certain extenced characters and diacritics.


Bamgbose, Ayo. 1982. Orthographies of Nigerian Languages.

Blench, Roger. Personal correspondence, 2006.

Hartell, Rhonda L. ed. 1993. The Alphabets of Africa/Alphabets de Langues Africaines. Dakar: UNESCO & SIL.

Wikipedia, "Pan-Nigerian alphabet," http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pan-Nigerian_alphabet

Williamson, Kay. 1984. Practical Orthography in Nigeria.

Wolff, Hans. 1954. Nigerian Orthography.