Mende, Bandi, Loko

1.  Classification / Classification

Mende, Bandi, and Loko belong to the southwestern group of Mande. (Webbook?)

Ethnologue? lists the classification as: Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Central-Southwestern, Southwestern, Mende-Loma, Mende-Bandi, Mende-Loko

Although Mende is in the Mande branch of Niger-Congo the name is a separate term from Mande (see also Manding).

Bandi is also called Gbandi. The Lokaa (or Yako) language of Nigeria, sometimes also called Loko, is unrelated.

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Mende, Bandi, and Loko are spoken in Sierra Leone/Liberia, northeastern Liberia, and north-central Sierra Leone, respectively. (Webbook)

Apparently some speakers of Bandi were (are?) located in Guinea as refugees.

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Mende
    • 1,460,000 in Sierra Leone (1987 UBS)
    • 19,700 in Liberia (1991 Vanderaa)
    • Population total all countries: 1,479,700
  • Bandi
    • 100,000 in Liberia (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk)
    • 50,000 have fled to Guinea (1993 Johnstone)
    • Population total all countries: 107,000
  • Loko
    • 115,000 in Sierra Leone (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL)

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

No thorough dialect survey has come to our attention. Dwyer reports that Mende, Bandi, and Loko "stand on the dividing line between being distinct languages and being dialects." (Webbook)

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Mende
    • Kpa
    • Ko
    • Waanjama
    • Sewawa
  • Bandi [Lexical similarity 96% among the 6 dialects, 83% with the closest Mende dialect. ... considered to be a separate language from Mende]
    • Tahamba
    • Wawana
    • Wulukoha
    • Hasala
    • Lukasa
    • Hembeh
  • Loko

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Mende is a regional lingua franca and first language in southern Sierra Leone; it is one of the four major languages of Sierra Leone. Bandi and Loko are local first languages. (Webbook)

In Bandi, the Tahamba dialect is used for literature. (Ethnologue)

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

Mende is written in a Latin-based alphabet, with extended characters. The exact current status of the orthography needs to be clarified.

The Mende KiKaKui script is apparently still used by a small number of people. It is not yet encoded in Unicode.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

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

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

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Unicode fonts with extended Latin ranges would be necessary.

7.2  Keyboard layouts / Dispositions de clavier

Gate2Home - Krio Keyboard (virtual online keyboard; can be used to type Mende)

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

Dunya Lahi Nuvuu Lɔnyisia Va (Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Mende):

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

Not aware of any.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


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


  • ISO 639-3: bza


  • ISO 639-3: lok

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

10.  References / Références

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

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Mende/Bandi/Loko," )

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, "Bandi,"

______, "Loko,"

______, "Mende,"

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, "Gbandi language,"

______, "Loko language,"

______, "Mende language,"

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Categories: Languages, Sierra Leone, Liberia