The Bassa Vah script is used to write the Bassa language spoken in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and by Bassa speakers in Brazil and the Caribbean. The name originated from the Bassa word 'Vah', meaning 'to throw a sign'; the script developed from the earlier Bassa communication system of signs made from chewed leaves or carved into trees and left in set locations where they would be found and interpreted. As this system developed, it was employed by the Bassa people to avoid slave traders, so was suppressed by colonial powers and became almost extinct.
Widely hailed as the only indigenous African alphabet, the script consists of 23 consonants and 7 vowels. Bassa Vah is the only indigenous Liberian script to represent tones. This is done by means of 5 tone marks, which are written inside the vowel characters.
Characters are sorted in an order called enni-ka-se-fa - the names of the first four consonants. Amongst some users, this sequence is also the name of the script itself. Vowels are sorted at the end of the alphabet.
The alphabet is bicameral, although the lower case has only been developed in recent years, as demonstrated by their absence in Michael Everson's draft chart, and their presence in the subsequent Bassa Vah Association chart.
There are no unique Bassa Vah digits; Latin digits are used. Similarly, the Latin full stop and colon are used, in addition to a + symbol, which also performs a full stop function.