Notes on the Study of Loma

A script was developed in the 1930’s for the Loma language by Widɔ Zoɓo of Boneketa, Liberia.  While it has gone through a few iterations in the decades since the design of the original syllabary, it has not seen much use.  Even so, there are three texts of particular interest that were reproduced in a 1943 issue of Man.  One of these texts has now been transcribed and translated, with the help of Jacques Onivogui, Pema Toupou, and Balla Koevogui.  I have presented on it twice, once in Paris and once in New Haven with Balla.  Before I publish the result, I would like to complete Leipzig glossing on the transcription and process the other two texts as fully as possible.  These steps will be helpful in advancing understanding of the nature of how the script has been used historically.

On a larger scale, working out a thorough dialectology for both Liberian and Guinean variants, and comparing orthographies that have been used for representing Loma in Latin script, would be extremely helpful in improving knowledge of the linguistic landscape.  A New Testament translation, Deʋe Niinɛi, was produced in 1971 in Liberian Loma.  Numerous small texts were produced in Wozi, Liberia, by the Loma Literacy Center between 1953 and 1972.  Some important work has also been done on oral traditions and historiography.

The two untranslated texts from 1943 have been provisionally transcribed, with little initial attempt at providing word division or adhering to a standard orthography, as follows.  Question marks indicate unknown values.

[1] From J. Joffre, Man, no. 85, Sept.-Oct. 1943, p. 110, Fig. 3:

“To ba ye wo gbo e pe Loma ne ga

wi ba wo lo ni lo mo ‘ge vo lo

ko bi ga la bai ko ku lo to ba

la lea le po ba ku lu gbo po

mo lu ba koi koi ko ku lo koi ya ba zwo

u ya le wo ya Mamady

ko lu ba ‘be ŋgo ba ta te? ba

wo lo ba ka ze li ye ye

si ba ?? gbo ba bi ña

ko koi bo lu ma bi le ma la ? ba

bo lo to ko ma ve le ge ?

pe ma ? ge pe le ko ko

te? ga u lo sa ma ? li pe li

mo lo mo lo ‘ge ze wi va?

ge ? wi ge ? be te sa ba

gu lo ‘bo lo ki ze sa la”

 

[2] From J. Joffre, Man, no. 85, Sept.-Oct. 1943, p. 110, Fig. 4:

“Do Wido gbo la la? na ‘bu li

po we? bo ye? ‘ba zi lo? bo

‘ba sa to wo o? ne sa la ba la

? li ga le u ni ka ñi ne

? sei bu ? ña le u to wa u

te u ? va le ka li

‘be le ma pa ma ga ? bu? Pa

te pe ko lo do gbo ña le ko do

mi fo se le ne ne koi ne po ne

bo wa te na ba ba ko wi tu u? li

ko mi ga ba se ve? ma e kweŋ ‘o

wig a ba ma ga ŋgo ga yə ‘o

na weŋ la ga ga wi sa ka li wo ge

vo? wi la? gag a ni ? ? koi wo ge

de ? la ga ga la wi le koi wo ge

da gag a to ‘ba koi wo ge”

If, with the help of native speakers, these texts can be more fully understood, that will help in the effort to bring the Loma script into a future version of the Unicode Standard.  This would allow for the script to be well supported in various digital environments, and for new texts in Loma to be produced more easily.

Bibliography:

Deʋe Niinɛi.  Monrovia, Liberia:  Bible Society in Liberia, 1971.

Everson, Michael.  “Update on encoding the Loma script in the SMP of the UCS”.  ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2 N4735, L2/16-201.  July 22, 2016.

Geysbeek, Tim, Barnabas Saji Ndebe, Paul Degein Korvah, and Akoei Golovayaa.  Fala Wubo and the Wònò (Kònò) in Loma oral traditions of origin.  Berlin:  Liberia Working Group, 1994.

Joffre, Joseph.  “A new West African alphabet:  used by the Toma, French Guinea and Liberia”.  Man, vol. 43 (Sept.-Oct. 1943), pp. 108-112.

______________.  “Sur un nouvel alphabet ouest-africain:  le Toma (frontière franco-libérienne)”.  Bulletin de l’Institut Français d’Afrique Noire, vol. 7: pp. 160-173.

Jorgbor, Massayan K. and Patrick K. Manjoe.  Lorma ethnic group:  origin and culture.  Monrovia, Liberia:  Bishop John Collins Teachers College, 2007.

Sadler, Wesley.  “A complete analysis of the Lɔɔma language:  interior Liberia, West Africa”.  Mandenkan no. 42 (2006):  pp. 5-109.

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