Latin and Arabic script-based alphabets are widely used for Mandinka; the former is official, but the latter is more widely used and older. In addition, the pan-Mandé writing system, the N'Ko alphabet, invented in 1949, is often used in north east Guinea, and bordering communities in Ivory Coast and Mali.
In the Latin script, c represents /t͡ʃ/, ŋ /ŋ/, and ñ /ɲ/; the letters v, x, z, and q are not used. Vowels are as in Spanish or Italian, and are doubled to indicate length or distinguish words that are otherwise homophones.
The Arabic script uses no extra letters (apart from, rarely, an extra vowel mark for e), but some of the letters are pronounced differently from in Arabic.
The Latin and Arabic consonants correspond as follows:
('), aa, ee
(', with madda ŋ)
n, ñ, ŋ
Letters in italics are not normally used in native Mandinka words. ه (h) may also be used to indicate a final glottal stop, which is not noted in the Latin script. The letter ŋ of the Latin script is often indicated with vowel signs in the Arabic script; see below.
The vowels correspond as follows (diacritics are placed over or under the consonant in Arabic):
i, e, ee
(no following vowel)
iŋ, eeŋ, eŋ
Mandinka names of Arabic marks:
sira tilidiŋo duuma;
tambi baa duuma;
sira tilindiŋo fula;
sira tilindiŋo duuma fula;
ŋoo biriŋo fula.
In addition, a small Arabic 2 (۲) may be used to indicate reduplication, and the hamza may be used as in Arabic to indicate glottal stops more precisely.