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Afrikan Alphabets: The Story of Writing in Afrika Paperback – 30 Aug 2007

3.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Mark Batty Publisher; 01 edition (30 Aug. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0977282767
  • ISBN-13: 978-0977282760
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 1.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,852,747 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product description


Afrikan alphabets have a long history, fantastic variety, and some continue to be in current use today. They are comparatively little known due largely to their suppression by colonial powers. This book sets the record straight. An entertaining and anecdotal text explains the wealth of highly graphical and attractive illustrations. Writing systems across the Afrikan continent are reviewed, compared and contrasted. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book provides a very interesting survey of an area often neglected in discussions of writing systems; indeed, as the author and the preface-writer Tadadjeu indicate, it is often assumed (though not by linguists) that African languages were seldom written before the introduction of alphabets (mainly by European colonisers) in modern times. The material covers the origins and characteristics of a wide range of scripts used to write various African languages.

The main problem with the book involves a considerable element of `Afrocentrism': the recent tendency (especially in the USA and elsewhere in the African diaspora) to exaggerate the role of Africa in world culture, by way of reaction to the previous, often racist down-playing of Africa's contributions to history and intellectual life (and to institutions such as slavery). Examples are the ready acceptance of Bekerie's extreme and often dubious claims about the Ethiopic `abugida' (intermediate between an alphabet and a syllabary), and the seriously exaggerated claims made for the Cameroonian Shu-Mom system (made especially strongly in the preface). Afrocentric pseudo-historical works are cited without any acknowledgment of their highly marginal status. Quasi-mystical notions involving `harmony' and spirituality are foregrounded in places.

There are also some oddities, commencing with the decision to spell the words Africa and African with K rather than C, on the ground that K is the letter normally used for the sound in question in Africa itself. The C-K contrast arises only in the context of the modern use of the roman alphabet, where either letter would serve. The Romans used the form with C because this was how they transliterated all Greek loans which had kappa (K) in the original.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program)

Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars 8 reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Isn't Egypt in Afrika? Revised 10 Aug. 2015
By PictureMe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Update: this is such scholarly work. It was a mistake to give it 4 stars. Thank you Mr. Saki, I believe you are an absolutely brilliant artist and writer. There aren't any Egyptians in Egypt anymore, the people there now, came from across Afrika's border.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars 2 Dec. 2016
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The reader, is very impressed and enthusiastic about the challenges, that the material will create in a positive note!!!!
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars light on ancient thought 3 Aug. 2013
By T S - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
cool. good quality, good info. extensive stuff on the symbolic level. I liked that. The encoding of meaning in shapes, and the manifestations of meaning in sound. yum stuff.
0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Expectation 27 April 2008
By dedee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had expected this book to be worded differently and to include many alphabets of the afrikan languages. It was a good read.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great overview of the history of indigenous African scripts, but incomplete. 10 July 2006
By The Sesh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book is fantastic in covering the history of indigenous African scripts, a subject many are unaware of. However, the author should have begun by discussing the beginning of African writing which took place in Ancient Kemet (Egypt). He did not discuss it at all. Perhaps one could claim that it is because the script is no longer in use, but then why did the author discuss some contemporary scripts that are not in use? The only other reason I could think of is because Egypt is already so well known and he wanted to focus on the Sub-Saharan groups that are more disregarded. Fair enough, but then the author should have discussed the Meroitic script of the ancient Nubians of Kush and noted the lack of global interest in deciphering this ancient alphabet.

Otherwise, the book is fantastic and the Zimbabwean author a blessing to the global community of people of African descent. His understanding of the unity of our people is unsurpassed and refreshing in light of the separatism we are taught to practice among ourselves.
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