Gearing up for Garay

In 1961, El Hadji Assane Faye was inspired by listening to a radio speech by the president of newly independent Senegal, Léopold Sédar Senghor, to develop something for his country that would be of lasting value.  He set himself to work to invent a script that he called “Garay”, with influences both from Arabic and Latin script.  It has to date been taught to hundreds of writers who use it in everyday life, from note-taking to list-keeping to authoring or translating substantial texts.  The Koran has been translated, but not fully digitized, as well as a piece on Western political philosophy.  The script is alphabetic in structure, with diacritics.  An in-depth overview of the script can be found here, although followup to the content of the document is still subject to further linguistic analysis and review.


Fig. 1.  Extract from the Koran, in Arabic and Garay script.


While Garay is mostly used for the Wolof language, it is intended for use as well with a wide range of African languages, adapted to representing phonemes found in many of them.  In this way, its design is meant to avoid the modifications and contortions applied to Latin and Arabic script to have them represent sounds found in African languages.

Fonts have been developed for Garay, but a standard encoding and keyboard or input applications are still in progress.  Michael Everson, Tim Brookes, Andrij Rovenchak, Jason Glavy, and Andrew Cunningham have been working on these issues, together with Souleiman Faye, Mamadou Diaw, Mamy Faye, and Assane Faye himself, with support from the US National Endowment for the Humanities via the Script Encoding Initiative at UC-Berkeley, directed by Dr. Deborah Anderson.

In the meantime, the script has begun to work its way into popular culture, being featured in Season 2, Episode 4 of Star Trek:  Discovery, “An Obol for Charon”.  If you look closely, you can recognize it on an on-board computer screen as the characters are trying to determine whether it is Arabic or (perhaps?) Tau Cetian.

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