How to Analyse Soninke Ajami Manuscripts

A workflow for the analysis of Soninke Ajami manuscripts using the open-source software Tropy

This post lays out the software and workflow solutions that I use for analysing Soninke Ajami manuscripts. Together, they may be helpful for other researchers working on digitized manuscripts, especially Ajami manuscripts.

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How to prepare an aligned critical edition in plain text using Markdown

A flexible and sustainable way to analyze and publish about Ajami manuscripts

I previously shared two technical notes explaining how to:

  • digitize and annotate Ajami segments in a West African manuscript using Tropy
  • extract your digitized annotations from Tropy into a CSV file

By following these two steps, you can digitize and extract Ajami data into a tabular format that is useful for further analysis using tools of corpus linguistics (e.g., SketchEngine).

But what happens if you are interested in preparing a version of the text that can be read and appreciated by another person?

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Online Ajami Sources and Resources

Where can one find African languages written in Arabic script on the internet?

One need not go to West African or anywhere else to contribute to research of manuscripts that contain instances of African languages written in Ajami (that is, Arabic characters).

What follows is a list of the most prominent collection of Ajami texts and or resources available on the internet that I could find.

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Transliterating Ajami into the Latin script

The conventions we use to transliterate African languages from Arabic to Latin script.

One of the hardest things about working on Ajami manuscripts is interpreting the African language that is written in the Arabic script. This is because oftentimes certain contrastive sounds (phonemes, nasalization, tone) are not marked.

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How to use Tropy to analyze Ajami manuscripts

Working through Ajami manuscripts can be slow-going. Here is a standard workflow using Tropy that can make it a little easier.

Working through Ajami manuscripts can be slow-going. One important tool in our workflow is the open-source software Tropy from the same people behind everyone’s favorite reference management software Zotero.

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Identifying languages of Ajami commentaries

Identifying an African language written in Arabic script may be problematic even for speakers of the language. It is especially challenging when the Ajami items are represented by isolated words in the margins of an Arabic manuscript. Moreover, if the Ajami item is not visually linked to the intended Arabic phrase or word, it is almost impossible to tell what the Ajami item means and in which language it is written.

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New Technical Notes for Using Tropy to Analyze Manuscripts (en français)

We just released two working technical notes (in French) to help researchers get set up to use Tropy to analyze Ajami annotations/segments in West African manuscripts:

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