I appreciate the help being offered. To clarify a few things...
>The script is definitely standard Arabic, written with a ball-point pen.
Good guess, but actually it was written on a blackboard with chalk. But you
are right in seeing it wasn't done with the normal writing instrument used
for Arabic script :-)
>> In Unicode: 0647 0650 0643 (or 06A9) 064E 0627 0020
>I don't think so. It can't be any kind of Kaf in my
>Arabic [script] eye.
This is one of the particular letters I am trying to figure out. Any other
candidates for what it might be?
>I don't know much about Arabic calligraphy, but the writing looks like the
>"childish hand" of illiterate people. E.g., my handwriting in Arabic is
>similar to that :-(
Could be. We are unsure of the origins of the photo, but it would not
surprise me that it is from some sort of literacy or school situation.
>The key to identify the language is probably 06A0 (note: the 3 dots
become ^ in handwriting): "ARABIC LETTER AIN WITH THREE DOTS ABOVE"
Seems like several people believe this character to be 06A0. I was
clueless, so I'll accept the consensus.
>which, according to the Unicode book, is only used in old Malay.
Hm, I guess I wouldn't want to interpret the Unicode book as suggesting
that a given character is used ONLY in the languages which the book happens
to list. I would rather interpret the listed languages as those which the
proposer knew to require that character and which would therefore
constitute sufficient defense of the proposal to Unicode.
>The unique letter (`ayn with three dots) in Malay represents /N/ ("ng").
>My exposure to Malayo-Polynesian is a little bit of Cebuano 30 years
>ago, but the distribution of this letter seems consistent with its
>prevalence in that related language.
Very helpful -- thanks.
>But again, why the writer has included all the points? Is this a child
My understanding is that "all the points" are needed in many (non-Arabic)
languages where Arabic script is used because the phonology of the language
is such that vowel choice isn't obvious. Whether Old Malay is like this or
not I don't know.