|Native to||Liberia, Sierra Leone|
|(120,000 cited 1991–2006)|
The Vai language, also called Vy or Gallinas, is a Mande language spoken by the Vai people, roughly 104,000 in Liberia, and by smaller populations, some 15,500, in Sierra Leone.
Vai is noteworthy for being one of the few African languages to have a writing system that is not based on the Latin or Arabic script. This Vai script is a syllabary invented by Momolu Duwalu Bukele around 1833, although dates as early as 1815 have been alleged. The existence of Vai was reported in 1834 by American missionaries in the Missionary Herald of the ABCFM and independently by Rev. Sigismund Wilhelm Koelle, a Sierra Leone agent of the Church Missionary Society of London.
The Vai script was used to print the New Testament in the Vai language, dedicated in 2003.
Vai is a tonal language and has 11 vowels and 31 consonants, which are tabulated below.
|Oral vowels||Nasal vowels|
|Close||i iː||u uː||ĩ ĩː|
|Close-mid||e eː||o oː||ɛ̃ ɛ̃ː||ɔ̃ ɔ̃ː|
|Open-mid||ɛ ɛː||ɔ ɔː|
|Open||a aː||ã ãː|
|Approximant||l ~ ɗ||j||w|
[r] and [ʃ] occur only in recent loanwords.[clarification needed from which language?]
The following is a sample text in Vai of Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Vai: "ꕉꕜꕮ ꔔꘋ ꖸ ꔰ ꗋꘋ ꕮꕨ ꔔꘋ ꖸ ꕎ ꕉꖸꕊ ꕴꖃ ꕃꔤꘂ ꗱ, ꕉꖷ ꗪꗡ ꔻꔤ ꗏꗒꗡ ꕎ ꗪ ꕉꖸꕊ ꖏꕎ. ꕉꕡ ꖏ ꗳꕮꕊ ꗏ ꕪ ꗓ ꕉꖷ ꕉꖸ ꕘꕞ ꗪ. ꖏꖷ ꕉꖸꔧ ꖏ ꖸ ꕚꕌꘂ ꗷꔤ ꕞ ꘃꖷ ꘉꔧ ꗠꖻ ꕞ ꖴꘋ ꔳꕩ ꕉꖸ ꗳ."
IPA: /adama ɗeŋ nũ g͡bi tɔŋ maⁿd͡ʒa ɗeŋ nũ wa anũa wolo kiːjɛ fɛ, amũ ɓɛː siː lɔⁿɗɔɛ wa ɓɛ anũa kowa. aⁿɗa ko tɛmaː lɔ ka sɔ amũ anũ fala ɓɛ. komũ anũhĩ ko nũ tahajɛ lɛi la kɛmũ nɛ̃hĩ ɲɔ̃ː la kuŋ tija anũ tɛ./
English original: "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood."
- ^ Vai at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
- ^ Ethnologue report for Vai
- ^ "Report of Messrs. Wilson and Wynkoop". Missionary Herald. June 1834. p. 215.
- ^ "A Written language in Western Africa". The New-Jerusalem Magazine. A. Howard. 23 (10): 431. 1850.
- ^ Welmers, William (1976). A Grammar of Vai. University of California Press.
- ^ "UDHR - Vai". unicode.org. Retrieved 2023-01-31.
- Vai Script workshop
- Omniglot entry on Vai script
- Smithsonian exhibit on Vai and other African scripts
- Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Vai