Mandé Language Family of West Africa:
Location and Genetic Classification

Valentin Vydrin and T. G. Bergman
Cartographer: Matthew Benjamin

There are considerable amounts of data and studies available in the literature concerning the Mandé languages. The purpose of this presentation is to give a detailed set of maps showing the location of the home territory where each variety is spoken and the linguistic relationship of one to the other, according to the present state of our knowledge.

Any work of this nature is necessarily built on the work of many others, both the language location information and the linguistic classification. This is really more an edited summary than original material.1


This map shows the extent of the Mandé languages in West Africa

Index to Mande languages Manding Manding Soninke area links to Yalunka and Jallonke links to Yalunka and Jallonke links to Yalunka and Jallonke Links to Soso Links to Soso Links to Mende Links to Vai Links to Kono Links to Mogofin Links to Koranko and Lele Links to Kpelle, Looma and Bandi Links to Kakabe Links to Soninke Links to Bozo links to Busa Links to Loko Links to Bobo Manding: Marka-Dafin Links to Jogo Links to Samogo (Dzuun-Seeku) Links to Eastern-Southern Links to Eastern-Southern Links to Bisa Links to San Links to Soninke

Click on the map to see a language or section in more detail.

NOTE: Only the following sections are now posted:

Genetic Relations

Study of the linguistic relationships in the Mandé family has a long history. See David Dwyer (1989) and Raimund Kastenholz (1991/92, 1997) for an overview. The classification presented here is based on the work of Valentin Vydrin (2009).

The Internet is an ideal medium for our purpose. We are not dealing with settled and undisputed facts but instead we are presenting what we think is the best available information on the topic, as much to request correction of our understanding as to provide data for others to use. The nature of electronic publishing is such that it is possible to easily update the presentation as further information becomes known. In answer to the frustration of one of our cartographers when the “facts” seem to keep changing and maps are repeatedly redone, it was explained that the process is more important, in many ways, than the product. It is often the process of publishing what we know that elicits improvement in our knowledge. People are able to offer corrections when they see what we are thinking. For further information on Mande languages, see http://mandelang.kunstkamera.ru/index/mande_languages/mande_family/

The Maps

The mapping data come from many sources. Changes that are made from previous maps will become fewer over time as the state of knowledge increases. Boundaries between speech varieties can change if the people move or abandon their language for another one, though large changes don't usually happen very rapidly. New dividing lines between speech forms may be required when scholars change their ideas about relationships. The locations of other features on the maps are less likely to change. However, geographic features such as rivers, lakes, and mountains may be repositioned on the map if improved data is received. Occasionally the location of villages and the alignment of international boundaries are altered, and such changes will be reflected in the maps when they are officially recognized.

These particular maps are built from a database that, among other things, was used to produce the maps shown in the fourteenth edition of the Ethnologue (Grimes:2000). The database is constantly being revised. In deciding which speech forms constitute separate languages, the emphasis is more sociolinguistic in nature than purely linguistic, though of course in most cases the two converge. By sociolinguistic, we mean that in addition to linguistic factors such as intelligibility, ethnic identity and attitudes toward other speakers are all considered in defining the distinction between language and dialect.

The computer database is the work of Irene Tucker, Bernard Wafukho and Matthew Benjamin. The data for the maps comes from numerous sources including Global Mapping International, French 1:200,000 map sheets, English 1:250,000 map sheets. Some geographic data is from Global Ministry Mapping System 1997. The starting point for language locations is based on the Global Ministry Mapping System 1997, but extensive revisions have been made to that in the process of preparing this work. The representation of international and language boundaries is not necessarily authoritative. No political statement is intended by any language or international boundaries placed on any map. Permission to reproduce these maps in any print, electronic, or other medium must be obtained in writing from SIL International.

One of the authors, Vydrin, has also personally gathered mapping information on site from linguists, missionaries, officials and in particular, from speakers themselves. His findings are also incorporated into the maps as shown.

The digital cartography and internet presentation for these particular maps of the Mandé family were created from the database by Matthew Benjamin. Atlas GIS™ was the computer program employed.


1Valentin Vydrin is the head of African Department at the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg). Ted Bergman was the International Coordinator for language survey work of SIL International at the time of his involvement with this project. He is currently the General Editor of the SIL Electronic Survey Reports. Matthew Benjamin is a computer cartographer with SIL International. He is responsible for the maps appearing in this work.

Bibliography

Brasseur, G. and Savonnet, G. 1960. Cartes ethno-demographiques de l'Afrique Occidentale. Dakar: IFAN. Feuille 2: 1960.

Dwyer, David. 1989. Mandé. In The Niger-Congo Languages. John Bendor-Samuel, ed. Lanham: University Press of America.

Galtier, Gérard. 1980. Problèmes dialectologiques et phonographèmatiques des parlers mandingues. Thèse de Doctorat 3ème Cycle, Université Paris VII. Paris.

Grégoire, Claire, and Bernard de Halleux. 1994. Etude lexicostatistique de quarante-trois langues et dialectes mandé. Africana Linguistica XI, Annales du Musée Royal de l'Afrique Centrale, Sciences Humaines, vol. 142. Tervuren, pp. 53–71.

Grimes, Barbara F., ed. 2000. Ethnologue: Volume 1 - Languages of the world, Volume 2 - Maps and Indexes, 14th edition. Dallas: SIL International.

Habitants du Département de Kédougou, Sénégal (les). Edité par le Centre de Recherches Anthropologiques du Musée de l'Homme. Paris, 1985.

Instituto Nacional de Estatistica. Censo da população de 1950. Provincia da Guiné. Volume II : população não civilizada. Lisboa: Tipografia Portugues, LDA

Kastenholz, Raimund. 1991/92. Comparative Mandé Studies: State of art. Sprache und Geschichte in Afrika 12/13, pp. 107–158.

Kastenholz, Raimund. 1996. Sprachgeschichte im West-Mandé. Methoden und Rekonstruktionen. Köln:Rödiger Köppe Verlag, 281 S.

McCulloch, M. 1950. Peoples of Sierra Leone protectorate. In Ethnographic Survey of Africa. D. Forde, (ed.). Western Africa, Part II. London: International African Institute.

Vydrin, Valentin. 1999. Manding-English Dictionary (Maninka, Bamana). Vol. 1. St. Petersburg: Dimitry Bulanin Publishing House, 315 p.

Vydrin, Valentin. 2009. On the problem of the Proto-Mande homeland. Вопросы языкового родства -Journal of Language Relationship 1, 2009, pp. 107-142.

Main sources of data for Mande language maps

Beng: Wolfgang Paesler. Esquisse phonologique du Beng, parler de Ouassadougou (sous-préfecture de M’Bahiakro) (Côte-d’Ivoire). In: Inge Egner, éd. Esquisses phonologiques de trois langues ivoiriennes: beng, dida, yaouré. Esquisses linguistiques ivoiriennes. Abidjan: Institut de Linguistique Appliquée. ACCT, 1992, pp. 1–47.

Denis Paperno's field data.

Bisa: Bettie Vanhoudt. Lexique bisa-français, suivi d’un index français-bisa. Mandenkan, 34, 1999, 113 pp.

Vossen, Rainer & Schreiber, Henning. Approche de la situation dialectologique du bisa (mandé oriental) : la phonologie // Robert Nicolaï et al. (eds.). Leçons d'Afrique : Filiations, ruptures et reconstruction des langues. Un hommage à Gabriel Manessy. Louvain-Paris : PETERS, 2001, pp. 221-238.

Bobo: The map reproduces, in major lines, the map from the following book: Le Moal, Guy. Les Bobo: Nature et fonction des masques. Paris: ORSTROM, 1980.

Also taken into account:
Sanou J.-F. 1993 – Dafrassi Jean-François Sanou. Le bobo dans l'environnement linguistique bukinabé. // Vorträge Internationales Symposium – Berichte des Sonderforschungsbereichs 268. Franfurt am Main, 16.12. – 19.12.1992, SS. 133-153.

Boko, Busa, Bokobaru: Ross M. Jones. The Boko/Busa language cluster. LINCOM Studies in African Linguistics 30. München: LINCOM Europa, 1998, 353 pp.

Bozo (Xainyaxo, Tieyaxo, Tiema Cewe, Sorogama): Smeltzer, Brad & Smeltzer, Susan. Compte-rendu des enquêtes cartographique, lexicostatistique et sociolinguistique des parlers bozo. Mandenkan, 30, 1995, pp. 55-101.

Dan (Yakuba) in Côte d'Ivoire: unpublished data collected by Margrit Bolli.

Field data by Valentin Vydrin.

Dan (Gio) in Liberia: James C. Riddell, Kjell Zetterstrom, Peter G. Dorliae, Michael J. Hohl. Clan and chiefdom maps for the Mã (Mano) and Dã (Gio). Liberian Studies Journal, IV, 2, 1971-1972, pp. 157-162.

Dan (Kla), Kla-Dan: data collected by Valentin Vydrin in 2001, 2002, 2010.

Duun, Banka, Jo (Jowulu): Lee Hochstetler. Enquête linguistique sur le duungoma: une langue samogo parlée au Burkina Faso et au Mali. Mandenkan, 31, 1996, pp. 1–57.

Gban: J. Le Saout. Etude descriptive du gban. Paris: LACITO, 1976.

Data received from Taki Robert and Olive Howard.

Guro and neigboring peoples: Ariane Deluz. Organisation sociale et tradition orale: Les Guro de Côte-d’Ivoire. (Cahiers de l’Homme. Nouvelle série IX). Paris: Mouton & Co. École Pratique des Hautes Études, 1970, 196 pp.

Jallonke: Unpublished data received from Friederike Liupke, Greg Pruett, Denis Creissels.

Jogo in Ghana: Kropp Dakubu, Mary Esther. 1976. On the Linguistc Geography of the Area of Ancient Begho. Mitteilungen der Basler Afrika Bibliographien, Vol. 14, 63-91

Jeli/Jeri: Raimund Kastenholz. Une première note sur le jeri.kuo (langue Mande des Jeri). Repartition géographique et matériel lexical. Cahiers Ivoiriens de la Recherche Linguistique, 29, 1992, pp. 19–60.

Tröbs, Holger. Funktionale Sprachbeschreibung des Jeli (West-Mande). (Mande Languages and Linguistics; Vol. 3). Köln: Köppe, 1998, 241 pp.

Kagoro: cf. Vydrin, Valentin. 2001. Esquisse contrastive du kagoro (Manding). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe.

Field data collected by Brad Smeltzer, Susan Smeltzer, Dmitri Idiatov, and Valentin Vydrin in 1998.

Kakabe, Kuru-Maninka, Wure-Kaba Maninka: Field data collected by Valentin Vydrin in April 2001; field data collected by Alexandra Vydrina & Valentin Vydrin in January 2008, January 2009, January 2010.

Koranko: Kastenholz, 1987a - R. Kastenholz. Das Koranko. Ein Beitrag zur Erforschung der Nord-Mande-Sprachen. Dissertation. Universität zu Köln, 345 S.

Kyenga: Ross M. Jones. The Boko/Busa language cluster. LINCOM Studies in African Linguistics 30. München: LINCOM Europa, 1998, 353 pp.

Manding in Mali: Bird, Charles S. ed.1982. The Dialects of Mandekan. Bloomington: Indiana University.

D.N.A.F.L.A. 1983. Dialectes Manding du Mali. Sér. "Promotion des langues manding et Peul (MAPE)". Agence de cooperation culturelle et technique, Paris.

Galtier, Gérard. Problèmes dialectologiques et phonographématiques des parlers mandingues. Thèse de Doctorat 3ème Cycle, Universitée Paris VII. Paris, 1980. 449 p.

Field data by Valentin Vydrin.

Manding in Côte d'Ivoire: Derive, Marie-Jo. 1990. Etude dialectologique de l'aire manding de Côte-d'Ivoire. Paris: Peeters: Diffusion, J. Vrin.

Manding in Guinea-Bissau: Instituto Nacional de Estatistica. Censo da população de 1950. Provincia da Guiné. Volume II : população não civilizada. Lisboa: Tipografia Portugues, LDA

Manding in Guinea and Senegal: Unpublished data received from Tim Geysbeek on the location of Manding variants in South Guinea.

Mano in Guinea: James C. Riddell, Kjell Zetterstrom, Peter G. Dorliae, Michael J. Hohl. Clan and chiefdom maps for the Mã (Mano) and Dã (Gio). Liberian Studies Journal, IV, 2, 1971–1972, pp. 157–162.

Mano in Liberia: James C. Riddell, Kjell Zetterstrom, Peter G. Dorliae, Michael J. Hohl. Clan and chiefdom maps for the Mã (Mano) and Dã (Gio). Liberian Studies Journal, IV, 2, 1971–1972, pp. 157–162.

Marka-Dafing in Burkina Faso: Harrison, Byron and Annette Harrison. 2002. Sociolinguistic Survey Report for the Marka-Dafin Language.

Marka-Jalan (San area in Mali): Kalilou Tera (Institut de Linguistique Appliquée, Abidjan), oral communication.

Mogofin: Sketch map presented by Jacqueline Janse.

Mwan in Côte d'Ivoire: unpublished data collected by Margrit Bolli.

San and Sane: Suzy Platiel. Description du parler Samo de Toma, phonologie-syntaxe. Thèse de Doctorat d’État. Paris: Université René Descartes, 1974.

Seenku: data from Tassere Sawadogo (Burkina Faso); Julie Strand's personal communication.

Shanga: Ross M. Jones. The Boko/Busa language cluster. LINCOM Studies in African Linguistics 30. München: LINCOM Europa, 1998, 353 pp.

Soninke: Field data collected by Brad Smeltzer, Susan Smeltzer, Dmitri Idiatov, and Valentin Vydrin in 1998; personal data of Brad Smeltzer and Susan Smeltzer (Mali).

Williams, Gordon, and Demba Traoré. Field report on Soninke in Senegal. 1990.

Soumaré, Mamadou. Le Sooninke en Mauritanie: Etude dialectologique. Institut des Langues Nationales, R.I.M., 1985.

Data received from Peter Jorgensen.

Tura: Thomas Bearth. L’énoncé toura. 1971. Unpublished data collected by Thomas Bearth under the auspices of SIL.

Field data collected by Dmitri Idiatov and Valentin Vydrin.

Wan: unpublished data collected by Margrit Bolli.

Yowre (Yaure): Frank Lautenschlager. Esquisse phonologique du Yaouré, parler de Zégata (sous-préfecture de Bouaflé) (Côte-d’Ivoire). In: Inge Egner, éd. Esquisses phonologiques de trois langues ivoiriennes: beng, dida, yaouré. Esquisses linguistiques ivoiriennes. Abidjan: Institut de Linguistique Appliquée. ACCT, 1992, 41 p.

Gadou, Henri. Quelques aspects des processus phonologiques, morphologiques et énonciatifs de la langue yaouré. Tomes I, II. Université Paris VII, 1995, 658 pp.


Any comments on this paper should be directed to Ted Bergman
Comments or questions on the maps should be directed to Valentin Vydrin