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Communication and Information Sector's news service

Initiative B@bel and Script Encoding Initiative Supporting Linguistic Diversity in Cyberspace

12-11-2004 (Paris)
Efforts continue to add N'ko, a script used by the Manden people of West Africa, to the international character encoding standards Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646 through a project of the University of California Berkeley's Script Encoding Initiative that is supported by UNESCO's Initiative B@bel.
Once included in the standard and after a standardized font is developed, users will be able to use N'ko in email, on webpages, in blogs, or on other electronic documents. Currently, electronic text communication in the N'ko script is very difficult, impeding publication of newspapers, magazines, school texts and other books. For a population of 20 million, this presents a significant barrier to literacy efforts.

With the assistance of UNESCO's Initiative B@bel, a Unicode script proposal for N'ko was written by Irish script-expert Michael Everson, and has been approved for balloting by the relevant International Organization for Standardization working group. N'ko is on the path for inclusion in the next full release of Unicode (5.0). As part of stage two of the project, a font will be created and locale information identified.

This project advances efforts to build knowledge societies by promoting linguistic diversity and survival of the world's languages in the digital world. It will provide a means for minority groups to preserve their cultural and literary heritage and promote literacy in their language. In partnership with UNESCO's Initiative B@bel, the Script Encoding Initiative will be able to continue in its quest to encode the scripts of the world still missing from the Unicode Standard.

The N'Ko alphabet was invented by Soulemayne Kante of Kankan, Guinea, in 1949. It is mainly used by speakers of Malinke, Bambara, Dyula and their dialects, especially in Guinea, Mali and Ivory Coast. It was designed to accurately transcribe African tonal languages with special attention to tones that cannot be transcribed with the Latin alphabet.
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      · Multilingualism in Cyberspace: News Archives 2004
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