Manding - Mandingue

Bamanankan, Maninkakan, Mandinka(kan), Julakan, N'Ko...

1.  Classification / Classification

Manding (also known as Mandekan and Mandingo) belongs to the northern branch of Mande. It represents a collection of mutually intelligible dialects, including Mandinka, Bambara, Dyula, and others. (Webbook)

Manding is "a typical dialectal continuum where sharp linguistic boundaries are rare, and language differences accumulate gradually with geographic distance. Within this continuum, several poles of gravity can be singled out: Maninka of Guinea, Standard Bamana, Mandinka, interethnic Jula, and Marka-Dafing. These poles can be referred to, with some reservations, as 'languages.'" (Vydrine and Bergman, 2001)

The Manding tongues are sometimes referred to as "Mande core" languages.

Ethnologue gives the following classification for Manding languages (with differing subcategories): Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Central-Southwestern, Central, Manding-Jogo, Manding-Vai, Manding-Mokole, Manding, ...

(The similar-sounding term Mende denotes a language in a separate branch of the Mande languages family.)

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

It is spoken primarily in Mali, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso.

For more information on classification and location of Mande languages, see "Mandé Language Family of West Africa: Location and Genetic Classification" by Valentin Vydrine and T. G. Bergman at

A map of where Manding languages are spoken is available at:

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to figures compiled from Ethnologue (from the 2007 edition; these figures which focus mainly on first language (L1)/mother tongue speakers with mention of L2 speakers):

  • Bambara / Bamanankan
    • 2,700,000 in Mali (1995)
    • 5,500 in Côte d'Ivoire (1993 SIL)
    • 300 in Burkina Faso (1991 Vanderaa)
    • Population total all countries: 2,786,385
    • ? second-language speakers
  • Dyula/Jula
    • 1,000,000 in Burkina Faso, (1990 SIL)
    • 179,100 in Côte d'Ivoire (1991)
    • 50,000 in Mali (1991)
    • Population total all countries: 1,229,100
    • 3-4 million second-language speakers
  • Jahanka/Dyakanke
    • 12,600 in Guinea (1991)
    • 500 in Mali (2001)
    • Population total all countries: 13,100
  • Kagoro
    • 15,000 in Mali (1998 Valentin Vydrine)
    • Ethnic population: 21,500 (1991 Vanderaa)
  • Khasonke / Xaasongaxango
    • 120,000 in Mali (1991)
    • 8,170 in Senegal (2002)
    • Population total all countries: 128,170
  • Mandinka / Mandingo
    • 606,645 in Senegal (2002)
    • 453,500 in Gambia (2002)
    • Population total all countries: 1,214,345
  • Maninka, Forest
    • 15,000 in Côte d'Ivoire
  • Maninka, Konyanka
    • 128,400 in Guinea (1986)
    • ? in Liberia
  • Maninka, Sankaran
    • ? in Guinea
  • Maninkakan, Eastern
    • 1,890,000 in Guinea (1986)
    • 90,000 in Sierra Leone (1989 J. Kaiser)
    • Population total all countries: 2,013,800
  • Maninkakan, Kita / (Central) Malinke
    • 600,000 in Mali (1991 Vanderaa)
  • Maninkakan, Western / Western Malinke
    • 382,670 in Senegal (2002)
    • 100,000 in Mali (based on Vanderaa 1991)
    • 12,600 in Gambia (2004)
    • Population total all countries: 495,270
  • Wojenaka 120,000 (1999 SIL) in Côte d'Ivoire
  • Worodougou 80,000 (1999 SIL) in Côte d'Ivoire
  • Total, all related languages: 8,823,570 plus several million second language speakers

As a second language (L2) serving as a lingua franca/LWC:

  • Bamanankan dialects are spoken in varying degrees by 80% of the population in Mali. (Ethnologue) Considering an estimated Malian population of 16 million (2015), that would mean just under 13 million L1+L2 speakers of Bambara in that country alone.
  • Jula is a trade language of western Burkina Faso and northern Côte d'Ivoire. It is a separate language from Bambara and Malinke, and ethnically distinct. (Ethnologue)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Bambara is spoken primarily in Mali and also in eastern Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, and Burkina Faso. Dyula is spoken in Côte d'Ivoire, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Ghana. Mandinka is spoken in The Gambia and Senegal (where it is often called Malinké in French). Maninka is spoken in Guinea and southwestern Mali (also called Malinké). (Webbook)

SIL International considers "Mandingo" as a "macrolanguage" including Eastern Maninkakan, Konyanka Maninka, Western Maninkakan, Mandinka, Sankaran Maninka, Kita Maninkakan, and Forest Maninka (see below). "Forest Maninka" is indicated as "retired" in the latest list, and is no longer included in Ethnologue.

A version of Manding based on use of the N'ko script seems to be emerging as a sort of literary standard for at least some Mandephones. It is apparently based mostly on the Maninka and Mandinka varieties of Manding, but its use is established user communities among Bambara and Jula speakers as well. As of mid-2006 it has an ISO-639-2 language code (see below, 7e).

According to information compiled from Ethnologue these are the Manding tongues:

  • Bambara / Bamanankan
    • Standard Bambara [influenced heavily by Western Maninkakan]
    • Somono
    • Segou
    • San
    • Beledugu
    • Ganadugu
    • Wasulu (Wasuu, Wassulunka, Wassulunke)
    • Sikasso
    • There are many local dialects
  • Dyula/Jula
  • Jahanka/Dyakanke [Jahanka in Gambia may be the same as that of Guinea, or a dialect of Western Maninkakan. Jahanka in Senegal and Guinea-Bissau is a dialect of Western Maninkakan. Lexical similarity 75% with Mandinka]
  • Kagoro [Close to Khasonke. Bamanankan speakers have poor comprehension of Kagoro. Lexical similarity 86% with Kita Maninkakan]
  • Khasonke / Xaasongaxango [Highly intelligible with Western Maninkakan and a little less with Bambara, but for sociolinguistic reasons they are not considered dialects. 90% inherent intelligibility of Malinke in eastern Senegal. Lexical similarity 70% with Mandinka of Gambia and Senegal. ... Most Xasonga and Bambara manage to understand each other.]
  • Mandinka / Mandingo [Mandinka, Eastern Maninkakan, and Malinke are separate languages. Lexical similarity 79% with Kalanke, 75% with Jahanka, 70% with Kassonke, 59% with Malinke, 53% with Mori, 48% with Bambara]
    • Wasulu (Wassulunka, Wassoulounka, Wassulunke)
  • Maninka, Konyanka [Lexical similarity 72% with Eastern Maninkakan]
  • Maninka, Sankaran [Lexical similarity 79% with Eastern Maninkakan]
  • Maninkakan, Eastern [Maninka of Liberia is the same as Maninka of Guinea (Eastern Maninkakan), Bambara of Mali and parts of Senegal is not vastly different. Eastern Maninkakan of Côte d'Ivoire [= Forest Maninka??] is close to Bambara; Western Maninkakan of south central and southeast Senegal is considerably different. Wasulu is a dialect of Eastern Maninkakan in Guinea, but of Bambara in Mali. Eastern Maninkakan has 92% lexical similarity with Wasulu, 79% with Sankaran, 72% with Konyanka]
See Survey report for Maninka Konyanka, Maninka Sankaran and Maninkakan Eastern at
  • Amana (Kourousa)
  • Koulounkalan
  • Maninka-Mori (Mori)
  • Wasulu (Wassulu, Wassulunka, Wassulunke)
  • Maninkakan, Kita / (Central) Malinke [Kita speakers have 64% intelligibility of Bambara. See SIL Mali survey report at
    • Fulanke
  • Maninkakan, Western / Western Malinke [Vocabulary and grammar differences with Mandinka. Lexical similarity 59% with Mandinka.] See SIL Mali survey report at
    • Kenieba Maninka [in Mali]
    • Nyoxolonkan [in Mali]
    • Jahanka (Jahanque, Jahonque, Diakkanke, Diakhanke, Kyakanke) [in Senegal]
  • Wojenaka [Forest Maninka may be Folongakan, a dialect of Wojenaka.]
    • Odienneka
    • Sienkoka
    • Nafana
    • Bodougouka
    • Toudougouka
    • Vandougouka
    • Wasulu (Wassulunka, Wassoulounka, Wassulunke, Forest Maninka)
  • Worodougou
    • Worodougouka
    • Karanjan
    • Kanika

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Manding is a widely spoken first language and lingua franca in the above-mentioned areas. It is broadcast on radio and television (the latter at least in Mali) and appears in some periodicals (such as Kibaru in Mali). (Webbook) It is certainly also widely used on community radio stations in Manding-speaking areas.

International radio programming:

During the Ebola crisis in 2014-15, various materials were produced &/or translated in Manding.

In Gambia, 50% of Mandinka speakers are literate in the Ajami transcription. (Ethnologue)

(need more info on literacy in Manding varieties)

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

a) Latin

The basis of a Romanized Manding orthography was established at the UNESCO expert meeting in Bamako, Mali, in l966. Various governments with Mandephone populations have standardized variants of this orthography (e.g., Senegal in 1975). (Adapted from Webbook)

"Writing was introduced to the Bambara during the French occupation (1880-1960) and Bambara is usually written with the Latin alphabet, though the N'Ko and Arabic alphabets are also used to some extent." (Omniglot)

The current Bambara orthography was adopted in 1982 (Décret n°159 PG-RM du 19 juillet 1982; a history of the Latin transcription written in 1988 by Etienne Balenghien is available at ).

b) Arabic

Use of the Arabic alphabet or Ajami predates colonization and persists in many areas. It is notable today especially among Mandinka speakers of Gambia and Senegal

c) N'Ko

The N'Ko script is especially popular among Maninka speakers in upper Guinea, with about 50 publications, and schools teaching it. (adapted from Ethnologue) It is also used by a growing number in Mali.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple


Note that many or most Malian publications in Bambara use the "n-form" rather than "N-form" capital letters for ɲ and ŋ.

The extended characters mentioned above for Bambara are the same as those used in Jula in Burkina Faso, per a document on keyboard key allocations at . They include: ɛ, ɔ, ɲ, ŋ

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

See the page on the N'Ko alphabet for information on that writing system.can be seen at and

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Unicode: most Unicode fonts with extended Latin ranges would include the necessary extended characters (Arial Unicode MS, Code 2000, Doulos SIL, Gentium, Lucida Sans Unicode)

8-bit (these fonts are not recommended for creation of new documents or web content):

  • Mali Standard SIL Doulos
  • Mali Standard SIL Manuscript
  • Mali Standard SIL Sophia
The Mali Standard font package from SIL along with keyboard layouts for QWERTY? and AZERTY
  • RCI Std Doulos
  • RCI Std Manuscript
  • RCI Std Sophia
  • (some individual researchers have developed their own fonts)
  • Bambara Times and Bambara Arial (designed by the Ministere de l'Education de Base with ACCT in the late 1990s, but still apparently in use)

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

Several "Pan-Sahelian" layouts at

A Tavultesoft Keyman keyboard layout for Jula is available for download at

The CNRS/LLACAN "AFRO" Tavultesoft Keyman keyboard (for AZERTY) is intended to support Bambara and Mandinka:

Lexilogos has an online keyboard for "bambara - bamanankan" in Latin script/Malian orthography at

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

Hadamaden josiraw dantigɛkan (Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Bambara):

DUNUƝA BƐNMAKAN KA A BƐN (Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Maninka):

There is a Bambara Wikipedia at

Casablanca Statement written in N'Ko:

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Some efforts have begun for Bambara and Jula.

The Open Knowledge network has a Bambara version of its project software [seeking more info].

A DOS-based N'Ko wordprocessor called "Koma Kuda" was developed a few years ago. It was used in the production of some print materials.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


  • ISO 639-1: bm
  • ISO 639-2: bam
  • ISO 639-3: bam


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


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


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


  • ISO 639-3: jad


  • ISO 639-3: xkg


  • ISO 639-3: mnk

Maninka, Forest

  • ISO 639-3: myq

Maninka, Konyanka

  • ISO 639-3: mku

Maninka, Sankaran

  • ISO 639-3: msc

Maninkakan, Eastern

  • ISO 639-3: emk

Maninkakan, Kita

  • ISO 639-3: mwk

Maninkakan, Western

  • ISO 639-3: mlq


  • ISO 639-3: jod


  • ISO 639-3: jud


  • ISO 639-3: kao

7.6  Locales / Paramètres régionaux

7.7  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

For Jula:

9.  Comments / Remarques

Since some varieties of Manding are quite close and others somewhat different, it would be helpful to have a clearer idea of what sort of affinities there would be for localisation. For instance, Bambara and Jula may be similar enough for a single software localisation and common development of some kinds of content, but different enough for separate translations of more detailed texts. On the other hand, Mandinka and Maninka might each be different enough from the others to require separate localisation strategies, etc.

The increasing use of N'ko in some areas also needs to be accounted for, not only in localisation but also in developing good transliteration programs to facilitate use of both the Latin-based and N'ko scripts.

10.  References / Références

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

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

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).

Konta, Mahamadou, et Valentin Vydrine. 2014. "Propositions pour l’orthographe du bamanankan." Mandenkan Vol. 52, pp. 22-54.

Omniglot, "Bambara (Bamanankan),"

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

______, "Jahanka,"

______, "Jula,"

______, "Kagoro,"

______, "Mandinka,"

______, "Maninka, Konyanka,"

______, "Maninka, Sankaran,"

______, "Maninkakan, Eastern,"

______, "Maninkakan, Kita,"

______, "Maninkakan, Western,"

______, "Wojenaka,"

______, "Worodougou,"

______, "Xaasongaxango,"

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

______, "ISO 639-3 Macrolangauge Mappings,"

Sullivan, Terrence D. 1983 (2004). "A Preliminary Report of Existing Information on the Manding Languages of West Africa." (SIL Electronic Survey Reports)

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,"

Vydrine, Valentin and Bergman, T. G. 2001. "Mandé Language Family of West Africa: Location and Genetic Classification"

Wikipedia, "Manding languages,"

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