Scripting Ndebe

First of all, forgive my terrible hand writing. I’ve recently discovered that just because one has beautiful handwriting on paper does not necessarily mean that one will have beautiful handwriting when using a marker on a dry-erase board.

Seriously yo, my handwriting  is so shameful in this video (in both languages) that if I wasn’t too tired to make another video, I simply wouldn’t post it. (But that won’t do, we need people to start testing this thing).

So here’s the first video for everyone that said they were interested in scripting for the Ndebe project. This video details the first scripting task. It’s really, really, insanely EASY so if you want to try it out please do. I only ask that you scan or photograph and upload your writing samples and send me a link or post them on the Facebook page when you’re done.


Also, to counteract the shame of my disgusting handwriting in the following video, I shall be posting some of my (very amateur) calligraphy later on 😀

I messed up the first pronunciation of ‘ano’ – one of the roots. It was meant to be two high tones but I pronounced it with a low tone and a high tone. I did get it right in the other pronunciations though 😀

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  1. sugabelly

    @the misses: I get that a lot.

    @2cute4u: The video is demonstrating what I want scripters to do: Write out THREE sets of the basic forms as demonstrated in the video.

    On a sheet of paper, write out three sets of roots/kada (there are five root types – rure, tiji, daga, ano, and giri ) so write three of each of the five types.

    Then on another sheet of paper, write out three sets of radicals/yiyi (there are six types of radicals – laka, juka, nika, pika, soka, and gika ) so write out three of each of the six types.

    Then when you’re done, scan your writings and upload them to the Facebook Group album for everyone to see.

    See? Easy peesy lemon squeezy.

  2. sugabelly

    @one3snapshot: I haven’t explained it yet officially (i.e. on the blog/facebook group) but I’ll explain it here for you. Here’s how it works. The goal of the project is to perfect Igbo writing with two scripts working hand in hand: Nsibidi (the original Igbo script) and Ndebe (the new one).Nsibidi won’t be tackled until much later because Nsibidi is the more difficult of the two and requires the most research and work.

    The original Nsibidi script is pictographic. Each pictogram represents a complete concept. Contrastingly, the Ndebe script is an alphabet with each grapheme representing a sound which can then be used to spell out words to represent concepts. The idea is to write Igbo with a combination of Nsibidi and Ndebe.

    This is directly comparable to the Japanese system of Kanji and Hiragana (and no, this is not where I got the idea. The two are simply similar). Kanji is a pictographic symbol that represents an entire concept. Hiragana is a syllabic alphabet used to spell out words which represent concepts (nouns, verbs, etc). There are thousands of Kanji, and it is theoretically possible to write Japanese in only Kanji, however, your ability to do this is limited only by the number of Kanji that you are able to memorize. (Most Japanese 18 year olds know about 2000 – 3000 kanji by heart). At the same time, it is also possible to use Hiragana to spell out the words whose Kanji you either do not remember, or for which there are no Kanji. If you choose not to use Kanji at all, you can write all your Japanese in Hiragana. However, most Japanese people write at least half of all their words in Kanji and the remaining half in Hiragana. So the two scripts are used hand in hand. (There is a third script used to write Japanese called Katakana but it’s not relevant to what I’m trying to explain here)

    Now, in the same vein, in order to preserve our heritage and put the original script to use, the intent with The Ndebe Project is to use Nsibidi in a manner similar to Kanji, and Ndebe in a manner similar to Hiragana. However, there are some key differences.

    1.There are far fewer Nsibidi in existence than there are Kanji. This is because the continued use of the script and its development was limited originally by the fact that it was restricted only to secret societies and elite upper classes, and later on because of European incursion and the subsequent forcing of the Latin script down our throats. As a result, Nsibidi can only be used to express a limited number of concepts.

  3. sugabelly

    2.While the Japanese use ratio for Kanji vs Hiragana is maybe something like 50-50, I am estimating that the feasible use ratio for Nsibidi vs Ndebe will have to be something like 20-80 due to the limited number of Nsibidi. This means that you’ll still be able to mix both scripts into your writing but you’re going to have more Ndebe at any given point in time.

    The reason Nsibidi is not being discussed now (it WILL be addressed later on) is because it is the more difficult of the two scripts and needs far more research and work.

    Like Traditional Chinese, Nsibidi is in pictograph form, which is not very efficient for mass duplication in writing (this is how Chinese started out by the way). Nsibidi will need to be simplified from pictographs down to ideograms (compare the transition from the original pictographs to Traditional Chinese to Modern Chinese) in order to make it easy and efficient to write. This will be done as part of the project but at a later date.

    Ndebe is mostly being covered now because it is the easier half of this project and it will carry majority of the writing in either case. Also, Nsibidi will have to be analysed to see how its simplification can be done in such a way that on paper both forms of writing blend into one visually cohesive script.

    But to answer your question in short, as of now scripters will only be practicing Ndebe, but once the Nsibidi is analysed and simplified, scripters will also practice Nsibidi and use the two interchangeably with the only difference being that each Nsibidi character will represent a complete word (or sentence or even paragraph) on its own while a string of Ndebe characters will spell out a word. In other words, including Nsibidi in writing will make some sentences or pieces of writing much, much shorter than if they were to be written only in Ndebe. Also, Nsibidi is perfect for conveying concepts that are either only found in Igbo or that have no equivalent in English or outside Nigeria/Africa e.g. Ogbanje

  4. One3snapshot!

    Your response is very insightful, so will I be right in assuming that the basic gist from what I understand is you want people to learn a few fundamental ndebe writings and from there create others that would become part of the ndebe library.

    A few more questions…
    1. Are the radicals and roots you identified part of what is currently taught in Igbo textbooks? I ask because I have been out of secondary school for a really long time so I honestly do not remember.

    2. Have you considered pursing a Ph.D? because this looks like it will take a tremendous amount of time.

  5. sugabelly

    @one3snapshot: The basic gist about this part of the project (i.e. Scripting) is that I want people to learn the basic forms of the Ndebe script (the alphabet script) from which I will then add on new videos each week until participants are able to write fairly well with the script.

    Along the way I would like feedback of course so that appropriate changes can be made to the script to make it easier for everyone to use.

    In other words, this ‘scripting’ is an exercise under the umbrella of the entire project.

    The basic gist about the entire project is to simplify Nsibidi and adapt it for writing, perfect Ndebe as a co-writing system for encoding Igbo along side Nsibidi, replace the flawed Latin writing system for Igbo with the Nsibidi/Ndebe combination writing system. So I want people to learn as many Nsibidi as they can, and then supplement the ones they don’t know with Ndebe.

    To answer your other questions:

    1. No. This project is entirely my own creation/invention. (except for Nsibidi which is an Igbo writing system that was developed by Igbo secret societies thousands of years ago). This project exists however, because the state of written Igbo today is terrible and laughable at best because Igbo is written with a writing system that was never intended for it in the first place.

    2. No. I am much too poor to pursue a PhD. (That and much too lazy). This is an ongoing project. I’ve been working on it for almost a year now. As for taking a really long time, well I imagine a project of this magnitude would take a long time, but if you mean learning to write Igbo this way, then no. It takes very little time. I was able to write in Ndebe fairly rapidly after about two months of sporadic practice.

    Let me know if you have any questions.

    And will you do a writing sample? Please do 😀

  6. One3snapshot!

    Per Ph.D if you look in the right places you can go to school basically for free. Just think about it.

    I will do a writing sample, I don’t know about committing to becoming a scripter as of yet. I’ll keep you updated.

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