Building tools with Bété, Mende, and Kpelle users

While proposals for Unicode inclusion of the Bété and Kpelle scripts are being developed, there has been some interest on the part of both of these user communities in seeing fonts and tools become available for them to test. Mende Kikakui has already been encoded into Unicode. Jason Glavy, a fellow co-founder with me of Athinkra, LLC, has designed fonts that, although not all are tied yet to a standard encoding, may be used for this purpose. At the same time, Craig Cornelius, a programmer who works for Google, has been working on drafting input tools with the intent of serving Bété, Mende, and Kpelle script users. Jason’s previous work has included designing fonts for Asian scripts including Balinese, Javanese, and Lepcha, and Craig has also worked on Hanifi Rohingya and Cherokee among other scripts, in part through the Script Encoding Initiative housed at the University of California-Berkeley and through the Unicode Consortium.

Craig’s input tools, paired with Jason’s fonts, can be found here, here, and here.  I have found a few users so far who are willing to test them, but within the user communities of each there may be more interest that remains untapped at the moment. The fact of experimental development of these tools should not be construed as a definite commitment from any party as to their long-term support.

Fig. 1. Demonstration of the experimental Kpelle input tool.

I have mentioned existing work on Mende in previous posts. With regard to Bété, a translation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been developed, basic tips on COVID-19 guidance have been written up, and there is a start toward what may soon become an incubated Bété Wikipedia. For Kpelle, a new development of a source that can be shared is the appearance of Maria Konoshenko’s Guinean Kpelle dictionary in a recent issue of Mandenkan, in Latin script with a French index. That may be found here.   

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