Language & Culture

The culture of Liberia reflects this nation’s diverse ethnicities and long history. Liberia is located in West Africa on the Atlantic Coast.The official language of Liberia is English. There are also more than 16 indigenous languages. Among the most widely studied Liberian languages in schools and universities   are Kpelle and Bassa languages and to a lesser extent, VaiLoma and Mende also have their own unique alphabets but are studied less.
Both languages are noted for their unique alphabets and phonetics that are not based on the Latin alphabet, or any European language but emerged from visions of each language’s inventor. Bassa alphabet was popularized by Dr. Thomas Narvin Lewis in the early 20th century, after attending studies in the U.S at Syracuse University. He modeled it after he came into contact with former slaves of Bassa origin in Brazil and the West Indies who were still using the alphabet. Vai is another well known ancient script from Liberia, but distinct from the Bassa alphabet.Among the listed alphabets, Bassa Vah is compared to include Armenian, Coptic (used by Egyptian Coptic and Coptic Church), Avestan used in Ancient Persia to write sacred hymns of Zoroastrianism, Georgian language in Republic of Georgia, Mongolian, Meroitic alphabet of ancient Sudan and parts of Nile Valley, and many other ancient scripts, Greek-based and Cyrillic alphabets. Some Vah letters resemble certain letters from the Ge’ez alphabet of Ethiopia and Eritrea, N’ko alphabet in Guinea, and Armenian alphabet.

The syllabary of Vai also been compared to Hiragana and Katakana scripts also syllabary for Japanese language. However many linguists hold that Bassa and Vai alphabets are unique in their own right for being African languages with alphabets alongside Ge’ez, N’ko, and Tifinagh (used to write Berber languages) that are neither influenced by Latin or Western writing system.