Recent insight and studying into the Vai script of Liberia has given researchers and historians a truly unique look into how writing came to exist and how it has evolved into present times. This script was made in 1834, and it was written in an ink made from berries all crushed up for their juice. The most interesting part is that it was in fact created by multiple illiterate individuals, who otherwise wouldn’t have been considered of much or any intelligence by others now or in their time. Linguists and more have been looking into this text for a way to show and analyze how written word can change and develop in time.
Since the script was made and kept isolated for so many years, those wishing to analyze this topic can take the script and put it alongside the same phrases and text written in modern day versions of the same language from the region to compare both visual and more in depth markers of linguistics. It is the first and most concise situation of our time where research can truly be made and quantified regarding written language.
Writing a language is something that is pretty befuddling for historians, since it really doesn’t have a specific origin or system. New systems for writing constantly come into place or shift, and how a language is written down into symbols or letters is usually started out quite complex by singular groups of people and later on devolved, or evolved, into much simpler to use options.
There are other examples of language interaction and writing that have been used, like how the simple letter A can be traced back to symbols in Rome, Paleo-Hebrew, Proto-Sinaitic, and even Heiroglyphic writing. What stumps most of the individuals focusing on this topic is that not every symbol of written languages existed from something else, plenty are just made up. And plenty did come from something else, but wouldn’t have been known of or interacted with by the group of people writing down a language.
Breaking down the Vai script took time and effort, but can now be fairly thoroughly explained and translated across modern day and more ancient concepts. Vai was made by a group of people that created general symbols or drawings for their words needed, so it was easily understood then. Nowadays, those drawings are equivalent to different symbols and letters in Liberia.
What is quite interesting for those of us that aren’t really looking into the technical or symbolic side of this topic is that language is a truly complex learning interest that can really stump even the most knowledgeable professors and researchers and it has quite an interesting of a trace back to history. We learn about things like this particular instance of this script because the Vai script is able to more directly quantify how language is complex. Writing a language is a process that takes many years and tweaks over time, where the more complex things get removed or altered for easier writing or memory needs and some new topics or concepts emerge as humans become more intelligent or aware in creating language in written forms.
Overall, the development and research surrounding this rare script from Liberia has taken many scholars a long time to perform and has given us all a very interesting moment of looking back into history to truly see the transition from things like the hieroglyphs of more ancient times to our common letter systems of today. It wasn’t just a quick and easy thing, and writing a language is much more complicated of an undertaking than many of us who wonder about how it all came to be may have been able to think of. Quite a riveting discovery! And hopefully even more unique knowledge can be found regarding how written language exists or is formed.