Boko alphabet

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Boko (or bookoo) is a Latin-script alphabet used to write the Hausa language. The first boko was devised by Europeans in the early 19th century,[1] and developed in the early 20th century by the British (mostly) and French colonial authorities. It was made the official Hausa alphabet in 1930.[2] Since the 1950s boko has been the main alphabet for Hausa.[3] Arabic script (ajami) is now only used in Islamic schools and for Islamic literature. Since the 1980s, Nigerian boko has been based on the Pan-Nigerian alphabet.

The word boko also refers to non-Islamic (usually western) education ('yan boko = "modern school")[4] or secularism. The word is commonly stated to be a borrowing from English book. In 2013, leading Hausa expert Paul Newman published "The Etymology of Hausa boko", in which he presents the view that boko is in fact a native word meaning "sham, fraud", Western learning and writing being seen as deceitful in comparison to traditional Koranic scholarship.[5]

Boko alphabet
Letter A a B b Ɓ ɓ C c D d Ɗ ɗ E e F f G g H h I i J j K k Ƙ ƙ L l M m N n O o R r S s Sh sh T t Ts ts U u W w Y y (Ƴ ƴ) Z z ʼ
IPA /a/ /b/ /ɓ/ /tʃ/ /d/ /ɗ/ /e/ /ɸ/ /ɡ/ /h/ /i/ /(d)ʒ/ /k/ /kʼ/ /l/ /m/ /n/ /o/ /r/, /ɽ/ /s/ /ʃ/ /t/ /(t)sʼ/ /u/ /w/ /j/ /ʔʲ/ /z/ /ʔ/

There are some differences in boko used in Niger and Nigeria due to different pronunciations in the French and English languages. The letter ⟨ƴ⟩ is used only in Niger; in Nigeria it is written ⟨ʼy⟩.

Tone, vowel length, and the distinction between /r/ and /ɽ/ (which does not exist for all speakers) are not marked in writing. So, for example, /daɡa/ "from" and /daːɡaː/ "battle" are both written daga.

See also[edit]

  • Ajami (Arabic alphabet) for Hausa language


  • Coulmas, Florian (1999). The Blackwell encyclopedia of writing systems. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 196. ISBN 0-631-21481-X.
  • Austin, Peter K. One Thousand Languages: Living, Endangered, and Lost. University of California Press. p. 64. ISBN 0-520-25560-7.


  1. ^ Awoyale, Yiwola; Planet Phrasebooks, Lonely. Africa: Lonely Planet Phrasebook. Lonely Planet. p. 79. ISBN 1-74059-692-7.
  2. ^ Dalby, Andrew (1998). Dictionary of languages: the definitive reference to more than 400 languages. New York: Columbia University Press. p. 242. ISBN 0-231-11568-7.
  3. ^
  4. ^ (Hausa-English dictionary)
  5. ^ Newman, Paul (2013). "The Etymology of Hausa boko" (PDF). Mega-Chad Research Network / Réseau Méga-Tchad. Retrieved 2014-04-27.