A West African writing system shows how letters evolve to get simpler

1 year ago 42

The characters used to write the Vai script, which was invented in Liberia in 1833, have become visually simpler over time, reflecting the evolutionary pressures acting on writing

Humans 11 January 2022

By Colin Barras

New Scientist Default Image

A character representing the syllable “bi” in Vai script

Kelly et al

The symbols we use to write words evolve to become visually simpler over time, and an analysis of a writing system from West Africa shows that they can do so over just a few generations.

The script used to write the Vai language was invented in Liberia in 1833 and is still in use today. Those who devised it may have had some awareness of the Latin and Arabic alphabets, but the Vai script isn’t modelled on either. Its characters denote …

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