Advancing on the encoding of Loma

As I noted in my first post for the Digital Orientalist in 2018, two 1943 Loma texts remain to be fully translated and understood, using the earliest known version of the indigenous Loma script.  While we are waiting for that work to be realized, Pema Toupou has sent me a letter using a more recent version of the script, with helpful transcriptions and translation.  A group set up to discuss Loma encoding on WhatsApp is starting to come to a consensus that Toupou’s version of the script should constitute the core of what becomes encoded into the Unicode Standard. 

Conditions in Guinea are under heavy stress at the moment, not only from COVID-19 but from a recent outbreak of Ebola in the village of Goueké, near Nzérékoré.  Alongside Kpelle, Mano, and Maninka, Loma (also known as Toma) is one of the languages spoken in this region1.  We have seen in the case of COVID-19 how effective communication strategies need to be developed for diverse, multilingual populations.  Much remains to be done to build on the infrastructure that allows that to happen.

Toupou’s letter to me represents one step in this regard.  He writes as transcribed from the Loma characters:

“na Pemè tupu

ze woke ga kölè ni

ga e luo so ga pa gö

Ga la mama nu Pèè kèdè gèle Pelè u

ga pö a de kölè zo ga yë felegö

a da kè zo bo ze ghe ni nè gë

ti fa mè

e yè e ghi da yè vhilin è gaza gha

ge Bhala Koèwogë luo ga pagö.”

Translated, he’s saying, “I, Pema Toupou, this written text is by me.  I greet you very well.  Thank God, everyone is doing fine in the household.  I want that we hold this writing in two hands.  We will do it for the new generation.  Where you get lost, ask me.  I greet Balla Koevogui, he’s a good friend of mine.”

1 Translations Without Borders Communications “Ebola Outbreak in N’Zérékoré, Guinea – Crisis Language Map.” Accessed March 16, 2021.

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