Yoruba is a Niger-Congo language with about 50 million speakers. In Nigeria and Togo, it's currently written in a Roman alphabet with one digraph, Gb, and one diacritic, a small vertical line underneath e̩ o̩ s̩ to indicate an open vowel or a postalveolar sibilant. In Benin, there is a standard national alphabet which writes these three sounds as ɛ ɔ sh. Two of the remaining letters have unusual pronunciations: p represents kp (and is so spelled in Benin), and j represents a palatal plosive like Hungarian ty. In addition, the acute accent ´, grave accent `, and optionally macron ¯, circumflex ^, and caron ˇ are used to indicate tone.
The Musa script has the missing letters. Here are the vowels:
|e̩ (ɛ)||o̩ (ɔ)|
There are nasal versions of five of the vowels, although on and an are allophones:
In Syllabary gait, the nasal suffix is above or below the vowel.
There is also a syllabic nasal which assimilates to a following consonant. In Musa, it's written as a full syllable, with the nasal suffix being used as a vowel, preceded by the appropriate nasal consonant: m before b f m, n before t d s n l r j sh y, and ng before everything else, including vowels and a pause. The current Roman orthography doesn't indicate the assimilation, so you have to know the rules. But in Musa, we write it out instead of using rules. The current orthography is also ambiguous when a syllabic nasal follows a vowel, which is why we write n̄.
Many Yoruba words start with a vowel, and these vowels often assimilate with the final vowel of the preceding word, possibly with elision. Musa writes the resulting form, combining the two words.
Within a word, two different vowels are separated in Musa by a Break , and the two are pronounced distinctly as two different syllables. But reduplicated vowels - often the result of assimilation - are pretty common, resulting in a long vowel that may bear two tones. The current orthography simply writes the vowel twice, but Musa writes the second as a long mark . The second tone is marked on the long mark.
Like the current orthography, Musa spells l as n before a nasal vowel, as it's pronounced. Unlike the current orthography, Musa also writes the following vowel as nasal.
Yoruba is written in Syllabary gait, and marks tone using accents:
The transcriber is a tool for writing Yoruba in Musa. It enables you to convert existing Yoruba text from the Roman alphabet to Musa. In addition, it offers three different keyboards for text entry and editing.
Now that you know the letters, why not try to read some Yoruba written in Musa?
|O dájú dánu, o ò mo̩ e̩sán me̩sàn-án|
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