Sango - Sängö

1.  Classification / Classification

Sango is a lingua franca related to Ngbandi of Adamawa Eastern. (Webbook) which has been more acurrately renamed "Adamwa Ubangian" (LLacan). The Ngbandi language cluster including Sango partains to the Ubangian branch of Adamawa-Ubangian.

Ethnologue lists the classification as: Creole, Ngbandi based. It should be noted that this classification is very controversial.

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken primarily in the Central African Republic, where it is widespread. In addition, one finds some limited usage in border areas of neighboring countries, especially Chad. (Webbook)

Also in the Dem. Rep. of the Congo (DRC) and in the neighbouring countries along the CAR boundaries.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue:

  • 350,000 in Central African Republic (1988 census)
  • Population total all countries: 404,000
  • 1,600,000 second-language speakers (Please, read note here-after).

For a better understanding of the figures given by Etnologue, you must know that there are two (2) Sango tongues in the Central African Republic: one is a vernacular Ngbandi dialect which is spoken along the Ubangi riversides by native speakers called "riverside Sango people"; and the other is the lingua franca, also related to Ngbandi language group which is spoken throughout the Central African Republic as first language by younger generations (350.000 people according to the census of 1988) and second language by the rest of the population (3.150.000 in 1988). The figure of 1.600.000 secong-language speakers is very surprising and highly questionnable. Definitely, many data given by Ethnologue should not be taken for granted! (Marcel Diki-Kidiri)

Wikipedia gives a figure of 5 million second-language speakers.

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Samarin considers the relationship between Sango and Ngbandi to be analogous to that of African Pidgin English, while Thomas (1981) is content to say that Sango and Ngbandi are similar enough to be considered dialects. (Webbook)

The suggestion that Sango is a pidgin is controversial and apparently not accepted by recent scholarship.

However Ethnologue describes it in these ways:

  • A rapidly spreading creole derived from Ngbandi. Lexical similarity 51% with French, 49% from African languages. However, the African-based words are used more frequently.
  • A rapidly spreading language derived from Ngbandi with loans from Bantu languages and French.

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Sango is a national language of the Central African Republic and has great importance as a commercial language on the Ubangi River throughout this area. Sango is frequently broadcast on radio and television by Radio-Television Centrafricaine. (Webbook)

National language in CAR. ... More men than women speak it as second language. All domains. Spoken and written for informal use, used for instruction in community schools, in public schools when students do not understand French, church and mission publications. (Ethnologue)

Used as a trade language in parts of Chad and DRC.

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Since January 28, 1984, the government of the Central African Republic has codified by law the official orthography of Sango based on research by l'Institut National d'Éducation de Formation and l'Institut de Linguistique Appliquée, University of Bangui, Ministry of Education and Educational Reform (Diki-Kidiri, personal communication, 1985). Current orthographic work by these institutions involves elaborating an orthographic dictionary and developing materials using the new official orthography. (Webbook)

Legislation in CAR: "[D]écret no 85-004 portant rectificatif au Code de l'orthographe officielle du sango; décret no 84-025 fixant l'orthographe officielle du sango (langue nationale centrafricaine); ordonnance impériale no 77/011 fixant l'alphabet phonétique utilisable dans la transcription de la langue nationale sango; décret no 65-002 portant institution d'une Commission nationale pour l'étude de la langue sango; loi n°91/003 du 8 mars 1991." (Aménagement linguistique)

A new orothography has been proposed (2005) according to

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

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

See also the Omniglot page

A sample text is shown on the "Language Museum" site, though it is possible that this is now out of date:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Most standard Latin fonts have the necessary characters.

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

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

Yângâ tî Sängö tî Bêafrîka

Sahngo tî lâsô

Wikipedia in Sango at (very little actual content as of 5-2007)

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

There is an OpenOffice project under the "Native Language Confederation" program:

There is an Ubuntu page for the YSB Sängö Team

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

  • ISO 639-1: sg
  • ISO 639-2: sag
  • ISO 639-3: sag

7.6  Other / Autre

LLACAN in France and the Meraka Institute of South Africa have begun collaboration on speech synthesis? of Sango. [need more info, 8/2007]

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

Marcel Diki-Kidiri, CNRS

8.2  Institutions / Institutions

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

Yângâ tî Sahngo tî Bêafrîka

Rosetta Project

An article by M. Diki-Kidiri, C. Mbodj, and A.B. Edema on computer terminology in Sängö, Wolof, and Lingala is available (en français) at

9.  Comments / Remarques

Need details on changing/changed(?) orthography

10.  References / Références

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

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

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).

Leclerc, Jacques. L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, "République centrafricaine,"

LLACAN, "Langage, Langues et Cultures d'Afrique noire, CNRS, France"

Omniglot, "Sango (Yângâ tî Sängö),"

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

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

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, "Sango,"

______, "Sango language,"

______, "Sängö,"ängö

< Rwanda, Rundi | Major Languages | Sara >

Categories: Languages, Central African Republic, Southern Chad, Northern DRC