Kpelle - Guerzé - Kpɛlɛwoo

1.  Classification / Classification

Kpelle belongs to the southwestern branch of Mande, Niger-Congo. (Webbook?)

Ethnologue? lists the classification as: Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Central-Southwestern, Southwestern, Kpelle

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Liberia (where it is known in English as Kpelle) and southeast Guinea (where it is known in French as Guerzé). (Webbook and Ethnologue)

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

  • Kpelle, Guinea: 308,000 (1991 Vanderaa)
  • Kpelle, Liberia: 487,400 (1991 Vanderaa)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

No formal dialect survey is known to us. Dwyer reports (personal communication, 1983) that Kpelle displays dialectal variations from east to west. Welmers (personal communication, 1986) elaborates as follows: "Speakers of southwestern dialects have considerable difficulty, at first, in communicating with Guineans, [however,] ... after some practice, mutual intelligibility is pretty good." (Webbook)

Kpelle of Guinea and Kpelle of Liberia are different enough to need separate materials. (Ethnologue)

SIL International calls Kpelle a "macrolanguage" under which Kpelle of Guinea and Kpelle of Liberia are listed as separate languages.

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Kpelle is a local language in Guinea and Liberia. It is broadcast in Liberia. (Webbook)

Ethnologue says it is an "official regional language?" in Guinea and that it is taught in schools there.

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Although various orthographies exist, no authorized standard currently exists. However, the orthography developed in the Welmers (1955) materials is, according to Welmers, "pretty much the only orthography known to native speakers." (Webbook)

However, Guinea established an orthography in the 1960s. This may have been replaced in the late 1980s with one using extended characters from the Bamako orthography (see LatinScript).

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

Alphabets as reported by Hartell (1993):

A sample text is shown on the "Language Museum" site at:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

A Unicode font? with extended character ranges would have the necessary characters.

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

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

NUKAN MAAMƐNI YƐNƐYII ƁO PƐLƐ HU (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Kpelewo Version)

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Not aware of any efforts in this area.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


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

Kpelle, Guinea (Guerzé)

  • ISO 639-3: gkp

Kpelle, Liberia

  • ISO 639-3: xpe

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

9.  Comments / Remarques

Kpelle is another case where some kinds of localisation could be done on the cluster or "macrolanguage" level. At such time as locale data? is compiled for this language, it should be discussed whether to begin with a locale for "kpe" with country specifications for Liberia and Guinea.

10.  References / Références

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

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

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, "Kpelle, Guinea,"

______, "Kpelle, Liberia,"

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

______, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

______, "ISO 639-3 Macrolanguage 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, "Kpelle language,"

______, "Kpèllé (langue),"èllé_(langue)

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Categories: Languages, Liberia, Guinea