Bassa Orthography and Resources

Legend has it that the first Bassa orthography consisted of marks on leaves. A Roman script was also introduced in the 1830’s by Baptist missionary William Crocker (Konrad Tuchscherer, American Baptist Quarterly, Volume 22). But the earliest well-documented orthography is the indigenous Bassa Vah alphabet, which was one of five indigenous scripts in Liberia.

The following documents provide a variety of information on the Vah alphabet and how it compares to more recent scripts.

  • Bassa Orthography, by Dr. Abba G. Karnga: A summary of the Bassa orthography originally written in English, Bassa, and (partially) Bassa Vah. It was written in 1995, as a gift to the Bassa people for Abba’s 65th birthday. It is published here as a gift back to him—and to the Bassa people—25 years later, for his 90th birthday. This is the English version, but has Bassa examples, including 25 Bassa proverbs.
  • A Comparison of Three Bassa Orthographies, by Jana S. Bertkau: Jana Bertkau was a linguist and U.S. Peace Corps volunteer who worked with the Liberian Ministry of Education in the the mid 1970s.
  • A Phonology of Bassa, by Jana S. Bertkau. While portions of this document are illegible, it contains a detailed explanation of Bassa phonology and how the sounds are represented.
  • Bassa Vah Proposal, by Charles  Riley. An initial proposal for encoding Bassa Vah script as a Unicode character set.
  • Bassa Vah Keyboard. A screenshot that shows the mapping of the keyboard for type Bassa Vah used in Bassa Orthography.