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Vai syllabary   Vai

The Vai syllabary was invented in about 1820 in Liberia by Momolu Duwalu Bukele, who was inspired by a dream to create a writing system for the Vai language. In 1854 a German philologist, S. W. Koelle, met Duwalu Bukele while researching the Vai langauge and was told that in Bukele's dream a tall, venerable-looking white man in a long coat appeared and said "I am sent to you by other white men ... I bring you a book." Bukele was then shown many signs, but couldn't remeber them when he woke up, so he made new signs with some friends.

Another theory about the origins of the Vai syllabary is that it developed from ancient pictographs, and that Bukele possibly phoneticized those symbols.

The syllabary proved popular with the Vai and by the end of the 19th century most of them were using it. In 1962 the Standardization Committee at the University of Liberia standardized the syllabary. A Vai version of the New Testament in the Vai script appeared in 2003.

Notable features

Used to write

Vai (ꕙꔤ), a member of Mande group of Niger-Congo languages spoken by about 104,000 people in Liberia, and by about 15,500 people in Sierra Leone.

Vai Syllabary

Vai syllabary

Historic syllables

These are syllables that uesd tobe written with different symbols. The symbols used today are show below them.

Historic Vai syllables

Vai logograms

Vai logograms

Vai punctuation

Vai punctuation

Vai numerals

Vai numerals

Download the Excel speadsheet used to make these charts

Sources: and

Sample text

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Vai


Adhama deng nu gbi tong manja deng nu wa anuan wooloo kiiye fe, amu bee sii londoe wa be anuan koowa. anda koo temaan lo ka so amu anu fala be. Koomu anuhin koo nu tahaye lei la kemu nehin nyoon la kung tiya anu te.


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.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Information about Vai | Numbers in Vai


Information about the Vai language and syllabary

Official Vai unicode chart (PDF)

Free Vai fonts

Mande languages

Bambara, Kpelle, Loma, Mandinka, Mende, Soninke, Susu, Vai


Bamum, Caroline Island Script, Celtiberian, Cherokee, Cypriot, Eskayan, Hiragana, Iberian, Katakana, Kpelle, Loma, Mende, Mwangwego, Ndjuká, Nüshu, Vai, Yi