1.  Classification / Classification

Gbaya encompasses those languages belonging to the Gbaya-Mandja-Ngbaka group of Adamawa Eastern (Adamawa-Oubangian). (Webbook)

Ethnologue lists four kinds of Gbaya, all classified as follows but with an additional subclassification for each: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, North, Adamawa-Ubangi, Ubangi, Gbaya-Manza-Ngbaka. A fifth language - Bokoto - is listed together with those as languages in the "macrolanguage" of Gbaya by SIL International. Another - Suma - has the same classification and possible interintelligibility with one of the others.

In addition there are several others in the same family: Ali, Boffi, Gbanu, Manza (Mandja), Ngbaka (Ngbaka Minangende), Nbaka Manza.

(Not to be confused with the small Gbaya language of South Sudan.)

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken in the Central African Republic (CAR), eastern Cameroon, and northeastern [northwestern?] Dem. Rep. of the Congo (DRC). (Webbook)

There are also small numbers of speakers of some dialects in the Congo.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Bokoto: 130,000 in CAR (1996)
  • Gbaya, Northwest/Nordouest:
    • 200,000 in CAR (1996)
    • 65,000 to 80,000 in Cameroon (1980)
    • 2,000 in Congo (1993 Johnstone)
  • Gbaya, Southwest/Sudouest:
    • 164,000 in CAR (1996)
    • 13,000 to 18,000 in Cameroon (1998 SIL)
  • Gbaya-Bossangoa: 176,000 in CAR (1996)
  • Gbaya-Bozoum: 32,500 in CAR (1996)
  • Ali: 35,000 in CAR (1996)
  • Boffi: 23,500 in CAR (1996)
  • Gbanu: 95,000 in CAR (1996)
  • Manza: 220,000 in CAR (1996)
  • Ngbaka:
    • 1,012,184 in DRC (2000 WCD)
    • 3,652 in Congo (2000 WCD)
  • Ngbaka Manza: 29,000 in CAR (1996)
  • Suma/Souma: 50,000 in CAR (1996)

Total of all speakers: > 2.25 million

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Noss (personal communication, 1986) states there is considerable dialect variation in Gbaya, with some of the dialects being mutually unintelligible in Cameroon alone. Yaayuwee and Bangando, for example, only share 74 percent of their basic vocabulary. Moñino is presently preparing a reconstruction of Proto-Gbaya, which includes dialect delineation. Tucker and Bryan (1956) consider Gbaya along with Manja and Mbaka (Ngbaka [Ma'bo]), sometimes termed "languages," to be dialects of the same language. Noss and Fr. M. Campagna are preparing a lexicon in four Cameroonian dialects (Yaayuwee, Lai, Dooka, and Mbodomo) of Gbaya using 2,000 basic words with French equivalents. (Webbook)

SIL International considers Gbaya to be a "macrolanguage" with Bokoto, Gbaya-Bossangoa, Gbaya-Bozoum, Northwest Gbaya, and Southwest Gbaya listed under it. According to information compiled from Ethnologue on these five and several others, the dialects are:

  • Bokoto - May be intelligible with Northwest Gbaya
    • Gbaya of Boda (Gbaya de Boda)
    • Bokpan
    • Bokoto
  • Gbaya, Northwest/Nordouest
    • Gbaya Kara (Gbaya de Bouar, Boar)
    • Bodoe
    • Lai (Lay)
    • Yaáyuwee (Yaiwe, Kalla)
  • Gbaya, Southwest/Sudouest
    • Biyanda (Bianda)
    • Buli (Boli)
    • Mbondomo (Mbodomo)
      • Yangamo-Garga-Sarali
      • Petit-Belo-Doumba
    • Bokare (Bokari)
    • Mboundja (Mbunza)
    • Bosoko (Bossouka, Mbusuku)
    • Toongo
    • Yangele
    • Mbakolo (Yasua)
    • Budamono
    • Mbombeleng
    • Dooka
  • Gbaya-Bossangoa - May be inherently intelligible with Gbaya-Bosoum or Suma
    • Gbabana
    • Bossangoa
  • Gbaya-Bozoum - May be inherently intelligible with Gbaya-Bossangoa
    • Diabe
    • Boyali
    • Bozom
  • Ali
  • Boffi
  • Gbanu
    • Gbanu
    • Gbagiri (Gbagili, Bagili, Baguili)
    • Budigri (Bidikili)
  • Manza - Close to Ngbaka-Minangende of DRC
  • Ngbaka - Dialect differences are minor. Related to Gbaya of CAR and Cameroon
  • Ngbaka Manza - May be intelligible with Manza
  • Suma/Souma - May be intelligible with Gbaya-Bossangoa

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Gbaya is an important regional language; Grimes (1978) notes that 27 percent of the Central African Republic's population speak Gbaya. It is also an official media (radio) language of eastern Cameroon (Noss, personal communication, 1986). (Webbook)

Ethnologue says the following about Ngbaka in DRC: "Vigorous. Speakers of Gilima, Ngbundu, Mbandja, and Mono use it as second language. All domains. Oral and written use in administration, religion, oral use in commerce, oral literature. Used in some schools for first three years. All ages. Positive language attitude. One-third speak Lingala, 5% speak French."

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Noss (personal communication, 1986) reports that "an orthography has been established for a number of dialects, including Yaayuwee, Bangando, Ngbaka, and others." (Webbook) [need more information]

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

Alphabet as reported by Hartell (1993) and presented in Systèmes alphabétiques:

The "Language Museum" has a sample of Gbaya (NB- This may not represent the standard or "official" orthography):

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Not aware of any.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

Gbaya (CAR) [SIL, the RA for ISO-639-3, includes bdt, gbp, gbq, gya, gso, & gmm under this heading; mdo was retired in 2008]

  • ISO 639-1: -
  • ISO 639-2: gba
  • ISO 639-3: gba


  • ISO 639-3: bdt

Gbaya, Northwest/Nordouest

  • ISO 639-3: gya

Gbaya, Southwest/Sudouest

  • ISO 639-3: mdo (retired in 2008 - split into gso & gmm)
  • ISO 639-3: gso


  • ISO 639-3: gbp


  • ISO 639-3: gbq


  • ISO 639-3: gmm


  • ISO 639-3: aiy


  • ISO 639-3: bff


  • ISO 639-3: gbv


  • ISO 639-3: mzv


  • ISO 639-3: nga

Ngbaka Manza

  • ISO 639-3: ngg


  • ISO 639-3: sqm

7.6  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

Latin & diacritic character picker

9.  Comments / Remarques

Although the speakership of this language is important, would the complex dialect situation pose a challenge for localisation efforts?

There is a need for clarification on what dialects/languages are closely related and which ones are more distant (in terms of intelligibility).

10.  References / Références

Chanard, Christian (2006), Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines, LLACAN, CNRS,

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Gbaya," )

Hartell, Rhonda L., ed. (1993), The Alphabets of Africa. Dakar: UNESCO and SIL. (The French edition, published the same year, is entitled Alphabets de Langues Africaines).

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Ali,"

______, "Bofi,"

______, "Bokoto,"

______, "Gbanu,"

______, "Gbaya, Northwest,"

______, "Gbaya, Southwest," (retired in 2008)

______, "Gbaya, Southwest,"

______, "Gbaya-Bossangoa,"

______, "Gbaya-Bozoum,"

______, "Gbaya-Mbodomo,"

______, "Manza,"

______, "Ngbaka,"

______, "Nbaka Manza,"

______, "Suma,"

SIL International, "Documentation for ISO 639 identifier: gba,"

______, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

______, "ISO 639-3 Macrolangauge Mappings,"

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language,"

Wikipedia, "Gbaya languages,"

______, "Gbaya (langue),"

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Categories: Languages, Central African Republic, NW DRC, Eastern Cameroon, Northern Congo