Working Papers in Educational Linguistics (WPEL)




Ajami (عجمي) is a term frequently used to refer to the use of the Arabic script to write sub-Saharan African languages. West African lingua francas such as Hausa, Wolof, and Fulani have a rather well-documented record of Ajami artifacts and use. In Eastern Manding varieties such as Bamanan and Jula, however, Ajami practices and texts have been viewed as rather limited in comparison. Recent 2012 fieldwork in Burkina Faso however suggests that Ajami practices in Jula have simply escaped the notice of the Western scholarly community. Drawing on ethnographic fieldnotes about production of Esoteric Islamic medicinal treatment recipes in addition to dialogues, descriptions and songs produced at my request, I explore Jula Ajami as a grassroots literacy existing alongside the Koranic schooling tradition. Turning to the texts themselves, I analyze the graphic system in use as well as the linguistic characteristics that suggest the enregisterment of Kong Jula as appropriate in Jula Ajami texts.