1.  Classification / Classification

Classified in the Chari-Nile subfamily of the Nilo-Saharan languages, Sara-Bongo-Baguirmi languages are scattered from Lake Chad to the White Nile in southwestern Sudan. Unlike Central Saharan languages, when mapped out they form a patchwork quilt rather than a solid band. (Country Data)

In Ethnologue, several separate languages are listed with the classification: Nilo-Saharan, Central Sudanic, West, Bongo-Bagirmi, Sara-Bagirmi, Sara, Sara Proper (information on these is presented below)

According to Wikipedia, "The Sara languages comprise about fifteen languages ... classified as Nilo-Saharan languages, members of the Central Sudanic subgrouping (in the now-obsolete Chari-Nile languages grouping). Tucker and Bryan (1966) consider the Sara languages a dialect cluster consisting of several languages, while Greenberg in his 1966 classification treats all varieties as dialects of one language."

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Sara languages of southern Chad constitute the quilt's largest patch, stretching from Logone Occidental Prefecture to eastern Moyen-Chari Prefecture. (Webbook)

Some languages in the Sara group are also spoken in Central African Republic (CAR).

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Bedjond: 36,000 in Chad (1969 Caprile and Fedry)
  • Dagba:
    • 40,000 in CAR (1996)
    • ? in Chad
  • Gor: 75,000 in Chad (1999 SIL)
  • Gulay: 163,271 in Chad (1993 census)
  • Kaba:
    • 72,000 in CAR (1996)
    • 11,000 in Chad (1971 Welmers)
    • Population total all countries: 83,000
  • Kaba Deme: 40,000 in Chad (1993 UBS)
  • Kaba Na: 35,000 in Chad (1993 UBS)
  • Kulfa: 2,200 (2004)
  • Laka:
    • 55,143 in Chad (1991 census)
    • 2,050 in CAR (1996)
    • Population total all countries: 57,193
  • Mango: 50,000 in Chad (1981 Bernard Lanne)
  • Mbay:
    • 80,000 in Chad (1990 Keegan)
    • 8,300 in CAR (1996)
    • Population total all countries: 88,300
  • Ngam:
    • 43,743 in Chad (1993 census)
    • 17,700 in CAR (1996)
    • Population total all countries: 61,443
  • Ngambay:
    • 750,000 in Chad (1999 SIL)
    • ? in Cameroon
  • Sar: 183,471 (1993 census)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Linguists divide Sara languages into five subgroups. (Webbook) [what are they?]

There is no agreement about the exact number of Sara dialects, and the degree of mutual intelligibility has not been determined. Tucker and Bryan (1956) consider Sara a "dialect cluster," while Greenberg (1966) considers these variants dialects of one language. There are around ten Sara dialects. (Webbook) [what are they?]

The Sara languages and those of the northern members of the [Sara-Bongo-Baguirmi] group are mutually unintelligible. (Country Data)

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Bedjond (Mbay Bediondo) (A distinct language from Sar or Ngambai)
    • Bedjond
    • Bébote
    • Yom
  • Dagba (May be intelligible with Kaba)
  • Gor (Close to Bedjond ..., with high inherent intelligibility)
    • Bodo
    • Yamod
  • Gulay
    • Gulay
    • Pen (Peni)
  • Kaba (Alternate names: Kabba, Sara Kaba, Sara) (Different from Kaba Deme, Kaba Na, Kulfa (Kaba So), Sara Kaba, Laka (Kabba Laka), or Kaba of Ethiopia, a dialect of Bench)
  • Kaba Deme (Tà Sàra)
    • Siime
    • Mara
    • Kuruwer
  • Kaba Na (Dunje may be the same as Kaba Dunjo of CAR. Kaba Na may be the same as Sara Kaba of CAR)
    • Dunje (Dendje, Dindje, Dinje, Denje, Dounje)
    • Na
    • Banga (Mbanga)
    • Tie (Tiye)
  • Kulfa (Lexical similarity 80% with Kaba Na)
  • Laka (Some consider it to be a dialect of Ngambai)
    • Mang
    • Bémour
    • Maïngao
    • Goula
    • Paï
  • Mango (Close to Bedjond and Gor, with high inherent intelligibility)
  • Mbay
    • Bédjou
    • Kan (Mbay-Kan)
    • Ngoka (Mbang)
    • Bédégué
    • Mougo
    • Bbate
  • Ngam (Sarngam)
    • Ngam Tel
    • Ngam Tira
    • Kon Ngam
    • Kle
    • Ngam Gir Bor
  • Ngambay (Sara Ngambai) (The dialects are reported to be completely intelligible with each other)
    • Lara
    • Benoye
    • Murum (Mouroum)
    • Kere
    • Bemar (Daba de Goré)
  • Sar
    • Majingai (Majinngay, Madjingaye, Madjingay, **Madja Ngai)
    • Nar
    • No

5.  Usage / Utilisation

The Sara dialect cluster represents local first languages. (Webbook)

Dans la région de Sarh, le sara sert de langue véhiculaire. (Aménagement)

Notes from Ethnologue:

  • (Gor) There is a Gor Language Committee. The speakers have a clear understanding of their identity as separate from Mango and Bedjond. ... Primer, literacy classes
  • (Gulay) Sar is the lingua franca
  • (Mango) There is a Mango Language Committee. The speakers have a clear understanding of their identity as separate from Gor and Bedjond. ... Primer, literacy classes
  • (Ngambay) Trade language. Largest language of the Sara-Bagirmi group
  • (Sar) Trade language. The principal language of Sarh

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Thayer (l973) noted that Chad uses a standardized Ngambai orthography. No other information has come to our attention as of this writing. (Webbook) It is Latin-based and apparently includes some extended characters and diacritics. [more information on this orthography]

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

Sample texts are shown on the "Language Museum" site as follows (these may or may not reflect current standards and use):

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

Table with alphabet for Sar (source: Nanasta 1990):

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Unicode fonts with extended Latin ranges would be required.

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

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

Not aware of any.

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Not aware of any efforts in this area.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

(No specific ISO 639-1 or ISO 639-2 codes)


  • ISO 639-3: bjv


  • ISO 639-3: dgk


  • ISO 639-3: gqr


  • ISO 639-3: gvl


  • ISO 639-3: ksp

Kaba Deme

  • ISO 639-3: kwg

Kaba Na

  • ISO 639-3: kwv


  • ISO 639-3: kxj


  • ISO 639-3: lap


  • ISO 639-3: mge


  • ISO 639-3: myb


  • ISO 639-3: nmc


  • ISO 639-3: sba


  • ISO 639-3: mwm

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

Rosetta Project:

9.  Comments / Remarques

It is not clear if all of the above-listed languages from Ethnologue? should be listed here. Even if some are eliminated, it still seems as though the dialect situation is complex. Localisation may have to focus on Ngambay and/or Sar?

10.  References / Références

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

Country Data, "Chad: Sara-Bongo-Baguirmi Languages,"

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

Greenberg, Joseph. 1963. The Languages of Africa (International Journal of American Linguistics 29.1). Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. [Reprinted 1966, The Hague: Mouton.]

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, "Tchad,"

Nanasta, Ngetolabay. 1990. Bien écrire et bien lire le sar: nouveau code orthographique. Koumra, [Chad]

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

______, "Dagba,"

______, "Gor,"

______, "Gulay,"

______, "Kaba,"

______, "Kaba Deme,"

______, "Kaba Na,"

______, "Kulfa,"

______, "Laka,"

______, "Mango,"

______, "Mbay,"

______, "Ngam,"

______, "Ngambay,"

______, "Sar,"

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

Tucker, A. N., and Margaret A. Bryan. 1956. The Non-Bantu Languages of Northeast Africa (Handbook of African Languages, part III). London: Oxford University Press and International African Institute.

Tucker, A. N., and Margaret A. Bryan. 1966. Linguistic Analyses: The Non-Bantu Languages of Northeast Africa. London: Oxford University Press and International African Institute.

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, "Langues sara,"

______, "Sara languages,"

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Categories: Languages, Chad, Northern CAR