Victor Manfredi — joint projects

The selected texts, at various degrees of publication, are posted in .pdf format unless otherwise noted. Critiques are invited, especially data corrections, in addition to the ones already posted here in the supplementary comments.

Philological boilerplate plus Unicode crib sheet
Àjàyí Crowther's orthographic subdot, adopted in 1851 to signify the systematic phonetic feature [+ narrow pharynx] — better known after Chomsky & Halle (1968) as [ATR] — is an essential piece of tech for tens of millions of 9ja literates. In principle, it can be digitally rendered as the Unicode glyph U+0329 ("combining vertical line below" = HTML "& # 8 0 9 ;" (without the wordspaces), or alternatively as U+0323 ("combining dot below") = HTML "& # 8 0 3 ;" (without the wordspaces), but in practice this patch leaves a lot to be desired. For one thing, not all browsers display the subdot, so some readers of this page will see nothing under the first two vowels of É̩hu̩gbò. For another, the kerning (horizontal alignment) of this kludge is chaotic, especially in book‑quality faces in sizes above 8 pt. Even in certain typefaces wishfully called "Unicode compliant", legibility is woeful as can be verified by inspection of the enclosed test page, which was prepared at random. Real published examples can be much worse. This train wreck should matter even to Unicode apologists who hide behind the race-to-the-bottom rampart of "bare legibility in plain text". Third and most devastating for an aspiring information commons — an admittedly quaintly utopian notion in the present day of privatized Orwellian-corporate internet — is the effective kneecapping of unambiguous searchability, a function that currently depends on an unuseable hack called "Unicode normalization". Such defects of the combining subdot notwithstanding, "[p]recomposed [and simultaneously subdotted] accented characters for Yorùbá were rejected from Unicode" (Filip Blažek), but why exactly? By which calculus and with what legitimacy was it decided to deprecate the goal of mass literacy in tropical Africa below, say, the frantic minting of infinite emoji code points for the brave new mass distraction autosurveillance economy more aptly termed "antisocial media"? (Maybe when the complete crosscultural inventory of gestures is exhausted — in all possible skintones, of course — perhaps Unicode then will find the time and bandwidth to address basic African spelling?) Polite inquiries to The Unicode Consortium about this unsatisfactory status quo were replied (email of M.D., 25 September 2008, available on request) with a smooth blend of bureaucratic indifference ("The disclaimer you mentionned [sic] in your email *is* absolute, and these combinations will not be encoded, so you should not waste your time making a proposal for them") and lazy palming off of the problem to apocalyptic and politically radioactive SIL/WBT missionaries, who are presumed to 'own' subdotted roman scripts, maybe based on an implied metaphysical 'ownership' of the speakers of the respective languages: "Those look fine with a font like Doulos SIL that can handle them". Funny enough, δοῦλος/doulos is New Testament Greek for 'slave'—the script kiddies at Camp Wisdom must have been dreaming of Doktor Freud when they named their Africanist digital type. Such self-outing nightmares aside, anyone who thinks that pentacostal interventions are harmless has not observed the condition of civil society in evangelized West Africa of recent decades. This typographic nicety nicely illustrates how priorities are set, who benefits and so on, under globalized neoliberalism. Not to excuse the Abuja ruling elite, who could have taken a benevolent interest in the problem, whereas the opposite has been the case. For example, in late 2006 while preoccupied with funding the PDP's 2007 auto‑succession campaign, the ò̩‑at‑the‑top General Káńkpé experienced a fit of pique at the second executive director of the National Institute for Nigerian Languages, who had failed to parse the plain meaning of the expression o̩mo̩lúwàbí percentage, so the general "ordered its scrap and stoppage of its budgetary allocations" (Wakili 2012, cf. Aziza 2011 and emails of A.A. and O.E., 19 January and 3 September 2007; note that the euphemism for ministerial kickbacks (sc. kickfronts) continues to evolve, e.g. "Chúkwu said because he was not carried along, he would not release the money under his ministry" (Oyèébádé & Gyamfi 2014, emphasis added).

Aziza, R. [2011]. Nigerian languages teaching and usage; problems and prospects. Ms., Department of Languages & Linguistics, Delta State University, Abraka.

Oyèbádé, 'W. & C. Gyamfi. [2014]. My battle with prostate cancer, by 'Wo̩lé S̩óyín̄ká; Nobel laureate, others urge govt to release N400m for centre. Guardian (Lagos), 25 November.

Wakili, I. [2012]. Senate Opposes Scrap of Languages Institute. Daily Trust (Abuja), 5 July.

[Update 6 April 2017] Stray signs from 2015 suggest that generalissimo O̩básanjó̩'s 2006 revenge gambit to dash NINLAN to Ǹsú̩ká eventually collapsed — an outcome that did not need a díbi̩à áfá to foretell, given the condition of the 200 km. of federal roads separating Wáàwa Land from Ńgh̩wà Land in the Oriental Province of 9ja! Apparently in the less longthroated (post-PDP) era, Prof. Elugbe was recalled to resume his occupātus interruptus and resurrect the àbíkú/ògbáńje institute as "an Inter-University Centre for Nigerian Language Studies" (references below, archived here). No hint of this yet at Nigerian Universities Commission but è̩gbó̩n professor, maybe NINLAN can haz website soon?

Adbot. [2015]. National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) Recruitment 2015. Automated job listing.

Ùmé[h], K. [2015]. NINLAN to award degrees. NINLAN to award degreesGuardian (Lagos), 2 July.

A project to accommodate the subdot and other Nigeriana in typewriters, letterpress and desktop publishing took shape in 1983 with support from the Federal Ministry of Education in Lagos and from Hermann Zapf (cf.  Hermann Zapf, ein Arbeitsbericht. Maximilian‑Gesellschaft Hamburg 1984, p. 82. ISBN 3921743281). Like other nationalist efforts, PanNigerian vanished into "the chaotic complex" when the appropriation vortex shifted to Babangidan Abuja (cf. O. Láwúyì, "Understanding the Nigerian state; popular culture and the struggle for meaning", The Transformation of Nigeria; essays in Honour of 'Tóyìn Fálọ́lá, edited by A. Oyèbádé, 511‑30. Africa World Press, Trenton New Jersey, ISBN 0865439982). Current hopes rest on civil society efforts like Lagos Analysis Corporation Technologies and African Languages Technology Initiative (Ìbàdàn).
[NOTE: Technically savvier discussion of these points, plus more doctrinal pushback from Unicode defenders, appeared on Language Log shortly after my own hapless collision with the planet's typographic authorities. See also this forthright critique, cited as an undated update by Language Log:
"After the intervention of the Greek national authorities, the Unicode organization abandoned the composite approach for Greek and replaced it with the precomposite approach that had long before been universally adopted for Latin-alphabet varieties such as French, Spanish or Czech. …[C]omposite characters are aesthetically unacceptable and lead to technically unpredictable data. They are therefore in direct conflict with the aims of the International Standards Organization."

Mueller, G. [2006]. Why Nanos uses precomposite Greek characters in preference over composite ones.
Maybe we need to update Max Weinreich's immortal wisecrack about glossopolitics to something like "A language is a dialect with precomposed/precomposite diacritics."]
Thanks to the clout of Vietnamese and romanized Indic languages in corporate software's higher echelons, an integrated (precomposed), therefore correctly aligned and (we can hope) unambiguously searchable subdot has been made available for upper and lower roman vowels and s. This resource accidentally represents real progress for any users of 9ja orthographies who choose not to mark tone, or even for those who are prepared to play the lottery of combining tonemark alignment. Here are the Unicode and HTML (remove wordspaces) bit addresses for the subdotted letters most commonly used in 9ja orthographies, and for the nonintegrated but nonspacing (i.e. possibly "combining") acute and grave accents as well as the less important macron, plus a more fully descriptive link for each:
U + 1 E A 1 = & # 7 8 4 1 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER A WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E B 9 = & # 7 8 6 5 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E E 5 = & # 7 9 0 9 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER U WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E 6 3 = & # 7 7 7 9 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER S WITH DOT BELOW
U + 1 E 6 2 = & # 7 7 7 8 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER S WITH DOT BELOW
U + 0 3 0 1 = & # 7 6 9 ; = COMBINING ACUTE ACCENT
U + 0 3 0 0 = & # 7 6 8 ; = COMBINING GRAVE ACCENT
U + 0 3 0 4 = & # 7 7 2 ; = COMBINING MACRON
Unfortunately the "combining" superscript accents are just as blunt an instrument as the "combining" subdot, so it would still be more reasonable for the wise bosses of Unicode to kindly provide precomposed subdots for all of the five roman vowels upper and lower case EVEN WHEN THESE VOWELS ALSO BEAR PRECOMPOSED ACUTE AND GRAVE ACCENTS. But until that glory day arrives, southern 9ja literates will be forced to choose their poison: either to tweak the alignment of the combining subdot, or that of the acute and grave accents. At least, thank goddisses, there's no need to drink both poisons at the same time; instead, the prudent 9ja typist will ensure that either the subdot or the accent is used in the composed or integrated (not the "combining") form. A fortiori, the "combining" superscript accents should emphatically not be used with plain (non‑subdotted) vowels or tonebearing nasals for which composed/integrated tonemarks exist (see complete list below). Some text editors are programmed to automatically substitute the respective composed/integrated character for the sequence of letter plus combining diacritic, but it would be naive to trust this to happen on any given day. Apple's tablet‑like OS10.8 (enervatingly named after yet another cat species — can Civettictis civetta be next?) is the worst of both worlds: all the illegibility of combining characters, wrapped in a pseudo‑composed display format so that diacritics can't be tweaked.
U + 0 0 E 1 = & # 2 2 5 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER A WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 E 0 = & # 2 2 4 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER A WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 E 9 = & # 2 3 3 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 E 8 = & # 2 3 2 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER E WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 E D = & # 2 3 7 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER I WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 E C = & # 2 3 6 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER I WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 F 3 = & # 2 4 3 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER O WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 F 2 = & # 2 4 2 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER O WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 F A = & # 2 5 0 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER U WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 F 9 = & # 2 4 9 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER U WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 C 1 = & # 1 9 3 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 C 0 = & # 1 9 2 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER A WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 C 9 = & # 2 0 1 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER E WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 C 8 = & # 2 0 0 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER E WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 D 3 = & # 2 1 1 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER O WITH ACUTE
U + 0 0 D 2 = & # 2 1 0 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER O WITH GRAVE
U + 0 0 D 9 = & # 2 1 7 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER U WITH GRAVE
U + 1 E 3 F = & # 7 7 4 3 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER M WITH ACUTE
U + 0 1 4 4 = & # 3 2 4 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH ACUTE
U + 0 1 F 9 = & # 5 0 5 ; = LATIN SMALL LETTER N WITH GRAVE
U + 0 E 3 E = & # 7 7 4 2 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER M WITH ACUTE
U + 0 1 4 3 = & # 3 2 3 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER N WITH ACUTE
U + 0 1 F 8 = & # 5 0 4 ; = LATIN CAPITAL LETTER N WITH GRAVE
By whatever means tones manage to be typed, the tonemarks given here for any of the Benue‑Kwa (BK) languages follow a dual convention, consistent with best practice known to me although not necessarily matching current popular or official usage — fully explicit tonemarking being rare outside of Yorùbá. Throughout BK, [ ́ ] = high, [ ̀ ] = low, but marking differs in a principled way between the BK1 and BK2 subgroups correlated to prosodic type as discussed in Manfredi (2009a). For clarity, the pitch labels H, M, L and ! (downstep juncture) are added parenthetically. In BK2 (comprising the Gbè, Yorùbá, Nupe and Ìdọmà macro‑clusters) with 3 lexical tones, marking economy is paradigmatic i.e. syllable‑by‑syllable, thus no mark = mid, but in BK1 (the historic remnant including Àkan, Ẹ̀dó, Ìgbo, Tiv, "Bantu" &c.) with only 2 lexical tones, marking economy is syntagmatic, thus no mark = same as preceding and a sequence of two high marks = downstep starting on the second (Welmers & Welmers 1968, cf. Christaller 1875, Nwáchukwu 1995), e.g. Ẹ̀dó Ólokún (HH!H) '[tutelary supernatural, from Yorùbá]'. Furthermore, following Bám̄gbóṣé (1966) and Ámayo (1976), downstep preceding nonhigh is marked by a word‑internal period, e.g. Yorùbá Oló.kun (MH!M) 'possessor/epitomē/personfication of òkun (LM) [the ocean]' vs. Olókun (MHM) 'possessor/epitomē/personfication of okun (MM) [energy]' and the same expedient conveniently generalizes to a non‑spreading juncture between high and a following low, e.g. Yorùbá oló. (MH!L) 'possessor/epitomē/personfication of an òdù (LL) [clay cauldron]' vs. olódù (MHL) 'possessor/epitomē/personfication of an odù (ML) [8‑bit oracle sign]', cf. also Ẹ̀dó .̩ (H!L) 'yesterday'.

[Update 4 November 2021] After further indignant complaints directed by email to "higher" instances, a Unicode mafioso/ológbòóni sent a detailed reply (available on request) which though unofficial is undeniably informed with deep technical knowledge, whatever it may still lack in selfawareness of the sociology of knowledge and the political economy of digital capital. On the plus side, our correspondent does supply a few missing fragments of the broken Unicode story which I take the liberty to share below, adding obvious objections which like all sceptical responses to religious dogmata will remain substantively unanswered per saecula saeculōrum:

(i) "Unicode has a concept of 'Combining Character Class'… Diacritics below a base character should always precede diacritics above, regardless of how they are input. Normalization Form C, which is also defined by Unicode and should be done by any database system, provides that" in the Nigerian case, either the precomposed (Vietnamese) subdot or at worst the wretchedly "combining" subdot should precede a superscript tonemark. Translation: if the alphabetic planet is condemned to coding hell, there's an approved way to get there. But who even knew this? I've been hacking away at the problem alongside other civic-minded amateurs for decades and this is the first time any Uni-maven ever clued me to this rule. What are the chances that street-level users will guess the mystic combination, far less apply it consistently in practice across ever-changing proprietary platforms? And WITHOUT magically conforming to Normalization C, what hope of treating coded characters as clean data. This failure seems to defeat the datamining business model, unless of course they've already written off Niger-Congo or handed it off to the "SIL" (see below).
(ii) "SIL's font makers and IT specialists are not missionaries (except by accident). Doulos SIL (new name) does indeed handle ẹ́ correctly as far as kerning is concerned, given a proper underlying OS." If the SIL is not a missionary enterprise then "der Herrgott" is indeed "boshaft" (in the words of Albert Einstein) and even so, the plain meaning of "doulos" is still slave, so inquiring minds still want to know who decided that African literacy should be pwned by a privately held trollfarm of rightwing "spiritual warfare"? Instead of which, Unicode's omni-scient, -present and -potent deities could just wake up one day and decide to liberate the best part of a continent by creating sixteen measly code points: subdotted u&lc roman e, i, o and u with precomposed acute and grave. Fīat odù mẹ́rìndínlógún!
(iii) "[T]he Church is an absolute monarchy (under God), whereas Unicode is determined by a consortium of companies and some governments plus an ISO working group representing governments." A distinction without a difference kimosabe, but thanks for the free theology lesson. As for "governments" and "pre-existing national character sets", this is not a simple matter that can be left to unsupervised googool-ing cubicle geeks (see below).
(iv) "XCCS, a Xerox standard that is the direct ancestor of Unicode, had no precombined characters at all. The precombined characters that were added were solely to provide 1:1 conversion between pre-existing national character sets and Unicode 2.0, which is why Vietnamese has a direct mapping between Unicode and national standards and African languages do not." Aha, now we're getting somewhere dottore. So who the dickens was the Xerox drone tasked to survey "pre-existing national character sets"? I put my hand on fire that Nigeria had already established such sets since the 1960's (if not the 1860's when it was just a glint in George Goldie's golden monocle), so if some distracted Silicon Valley flunky managed to miss this, whose fault is that na? No can rectify? I concede to no one in upbraiding dysfunctional federal Nigerian bureaucrats and autocrats for serially failing the cause of national languages (see tragicomical anecdotes above) but it's not as if the universities of the Global North lacked a knowledge base of how Nigerian languages are officially written. Libraries, dear chap, and U.S. Title VI-funded area-studies centers. Evidently it was cheaper to hand over the lion's share of African literacy to self-elected saviors who predictably served (saved) themselves, then the rest all'inferno.
(v) "Unicode is, as I said above, simply the wrong target for such pressure, and they get a lot of it, so they tend to reply in brief, which is perceived as curtness." And wilful incomprehension is less painful to absorb in small doses.

Text by Susanne Wenger/Àdùnní Olórìs̩à, set in JolanPanNigerian.
Thanks to C. King and C. Sloan for help in liberating these keystrokes from unsupported proprietary software.
[7 folios 8.5 x 11 inches plus two ms. sheets, 20  March 1988]
UPDATE 25 August 2016: Text now reposted on the Orisha Image blog, illustrated with 30 original photos of Igbó Ò̩s̩un by the artists D. Herzog and M. Kone.

Prepared by Susanne Wenger/Àdùnní Olórìs̩à for an exhibition of Òs̩ogbo artists at Muson Centre, Oní.kan, Lagos.
[6 pp. A4, early 1994]
Published in Susanne Wenger, New Sacred Art Exhibition.

Weak focus-movement islands in Yorùbá
Joint talk with O̩. Oyèláràn, ACAL 31, Boston University, 3 March.
[handout, 2 pp., 8.5 x 11 inches]

Bàtá surrogate speech in the egúngún ritual amalgam
Outline of guest lecture with Dr. Ọládiípọ̀ Ajíbóyè, Music 351 "Topics in World Music", Boston University.
Similar joint presentation at Music 1128 "Music of Africa", Northeastern University, 27 October 2009.
[handout, 1 p. 8.5 x 11 inches, 22 October 2009]
Accompanied by video excerpts of Àyàn Làmídì Àyánkúnlé and colleagues from Ẹ̀rìn-Ọ̀ṣun in the Department of Performing Arts, University of Ìlọrin, October 1997. Transcription [handout, 1 p. 8.5x11, 22 October 2009]

[link not yet live] Critical edition of La Lengua Sagrada de los Ñáñigos
Etymological analysis and English translation of the most detailed document of African linguistic heritage in the Americas, originally published in Miami by the Cuban ethnologist Lydia Cabrera (1899‑1991). Collaboration with I. Miller (University of Calabar), P. González Gómez‑Cásseres (Smith College) and a network of Caribbean and Westafrican specialists. Ongoing.


Supporting dataset for "Parameters versus cartography in Benue-Kwa (Niger-Congo)"
Audio files and pitch tracks for comparison of wh-domains in the Benue-Kwa languages of Ògè (Arìgìdì) and Yorùbá, prepared in cooperation with P. Adénúgà (Kwara State University, Màlété). Last updated 14 July 2015. Draft text here.

[link not yet live] Critical edition of La sociedad secreta Abakuá, narrada por viejos adeptos
English translation and critical edition of the pioneering study of the Abakuá fraternity, originally published in Havana (Ediciones C.R. 1959) by the Cuban ethnologist Lydia Cabrera (1899‑1991). Collaboration with I. Miller (University of Calabar), P. González Gómez‑Cásseres (Smith College) and a network of Caribbean and Westafrican specialists. Ongoing.

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4 November 2021