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Letter in Bamum Script
Rebus Writing in the Development of the Bamum Script
Shümom Text


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Writing systems that use this script (1)
Name Code Is used to write language
Bamun written with Bamum script bax-Bamu Bamun [bax]

  • Letter in the most widely used variant of the Bamum script, Akauku Mfemfe, and the Roman script, to Nji Mama of Njintüt Foumban, from Njoya Arouna Shuwat of Nkongsamba, dated 26 November 1937. From the collection of Nji Mama, Nsangou Pekekou, Njintüt. Used with permission from the Royal Palace of Bamum Kings. We are grateful to Nji Oumarou Ncahre and Konrad Tuchscherer for their assistance in providing this specimen.

    Over the course of 2006-2009, the Bamum Scripts and Archives Project (BSAP) organized all the documents in the Royal Palace of Bamum Kings. The project was supported by a grant from the British Library’s Endangered Archives Programme. The BSAP will continue its work in a partnership with St. John’s University (New York, USA) that will run through 2016.

    Copyright© APRB 2011
    LicenseRestricted content - see terms below

    This image (Archives du Palais des Rois Bamum (APRB) MS979) is reproduced here with permission from the Royal Palace of Bamum Kings. Modification, reproduction, and distribution are prohibited.

    ContributorSteph Holloway
  • The rebus principle refers to the process whereby a logograph normally associated with a particular word is applied to a lexically unrelated but homophonous word, for example, in English, a picture of an eye representing the word "I". This strengthens the phonetic aspect of a writing system by exploiting phonetic similarities. Potentially, this can be extended so that a picture of an eye comes to represent the sound [ai]. The Bamum script employed this process in its initial developments. A monosyllabic language such as Bamum lends itself to a syllabic script, and in the script's final developments the rebus principle was transferred to individual syllables, so that logographs become associated with an abstract but stable sound value rather than with a particular word. About 40 years after first being devised, the Bamum script had transformed from a logography with an inventory of over 500 symbols to a syllabary comprising just 80 basic symbols.


    Coulmas, Florian. 1999. The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Writing Systems. Blackwell Publishing. Oxford.

    ContributorScriptSource Staff
  • Text from 1910 in a-ka-u-ku script (originally designed for the Bamum language) in the artificial language Shümom, which was developed by the inventor of the script, Sultan Ibrahim Njoya.



    CopyrightNot indicated
    LicenseCreative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Allows modification and redistribution
    ContributorSteph Holloway



Copyright © 2017 SIL International and released under the  Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license (CC-BY-SA) unless noted otherwise. Language data includes information from the  Ethnologue. Script information partially from the  ISO 15924 Registration Authority. Some character data from  The Unicode Standard Character Database and locale data from the  Common Locale Data Repository. Used by permission.