Reclaiming Somali Aw Barkhadle's Script (Somali ABS)

What is Far Wadaad? Far wadaad or Wadaad's writing is writing Somali language in the Arabic alphabet. It is attributed to Sh Yusuf Al-Kawnayn by M.I. Lewis in his book Saints and Somalis. Since Aw Barkhadle is reported to live in the 13th century, this makes far wadaad the original Somali alphabet

Where can I see Far Wadaad?

This video by Aziz Farah will show you an 90 years letter from a man called Saleh Dirir in Berbera to his wife Haboon Wacays in Burco.

Where can I try Far Wadaad?

Head to this page where you can convert from Somali Latin to far wadaad

How do these Scripts compare

Below you can see the difference between current Somali (Latin) script, Galaal script and Aw Barkhadle:

How many kinds of Far Wadaad?

Script1: Aw barkhadle's script (13th century)

The original (I call it Aw barkhadle's script or Somali ABS for short). This script was commonly used in Somaliland. It has been reported by our current elders that they or their fathers have used this script similar to that 90 years old Berbera/Burco letter. Furthermore, there is an article written in 1887 by J.S King with hundreds of examples of almost identical scripts to Saleh Dirir's letter. The most unique feature of this script is that it is short and succinct. It does not write every single vowel as a separate letter. Similar to the Arabic language, diacritics (Tashkiil) signs can optionally be used to represent the single vowels. There has been an attempt to formalize this script by Sheekh Maxamed Cabdi Makaahiil later in the 1930s.

Script2: The Maay Dialect (19th century)

The Somali language is divided into three main dialects: Northern (standard), Benadir, and Maay. Sh Aways has created an Arabic-based script for the Maay dialect. This dialect is spoken mainly by the Rahanweyn clans.

Script3: Galaal Script ( 1954)

Muse Galaal was born in Burco Somaliland. He made major contributions to both the final Somali Latin script that we used today and also his own Far Wadaad written in Arabic. I.M.Lewis considered his script as the most mature of all three. However, it is very identical to the Somali Latin since every single bowl is represented by a whole letter. Galaal Script is verbose compared to Aw Barkhadle's script.

Why we need to reclaim Somali Aw barkhadle's script (ABS)

  • Having known that Aw barkhadle's script is 7 centuries old with deep historical value
  • Having known how the Aw barkhadle's script has been misunderstood by linguistic experts who saw Arabic diacritics as a problem instead of a powerful feature We can then use digital tools to give this script a second chance.

Given, the above, we need to reclaim Somali ABS to connect to our past and also maybe improve our present:

  • Think about a browser extension that lets you transform all Latin to Somali ABS.
  • Imagine how Somali kids no longer need to learn three scripts (Somali Latin, English, and Arabic). With Somali ABS, they only need Arabic and English. Somali ABS follows most of the Arabic reading and writing rules.
  • Imagine how many Arabic language processing tools will be leveraged for almost for free since Somali shares almost all Arabic letter sounds. Even if we did not aim to move away from Somali Latin, this point alone is enough to revive Somali ABS.

How can you help?

Far Wadaad is also an open-source project under MIT license. You can help us with:

  • linguistic knowledge to develop a standard for Somali ABS
  • wring features
  • issuing bugs
  • suggesting new ideas