Languages of Mali
|Languages of Mali|
|Official language||French (Standard)|
|National languages||Bambara, Bomu, Tieyaxo Bozo, Toro So Dogon, Maasina Fulfulde, Hasanya Arabic, Mamara Senoufo, Kita Maninkakan, Soninke, Koyraboro Senni Songhay, Syenara Senoufo, Tamasheq, Xaasongaxango|
|Lingua francas||Bambara, French, Fula (esp. in Mopti region), Songhai|
|Other important languages||Arabic (Classical), English|
Mali is a multilingual country. The languages spoken there reflect ancient settlement patterns, migrations, and its long history. Ethnologue counts 50 languages. Of these, French is the official language and Bambara is the most widely spoken. Altogether 13 of the indigenous languages of Mali have the legal status of national language.
French, which was introduced during the colonial period, was retained as the official language at independence and is used in government and formal education. However, estimates of the number of people who actually speak it are low. Figures estimated in 1986 give a number of 386,000 speakers of French in Mali, derived from the numbers of school attendees. This would mean roughly 21% of the population speak French, by 1986 figures, a number considerably lower than those who speak Bambara. Almost all people who speak French in Mali speak it as a second language. 1993 estimates are that there are only around 9,000 Malian speakers of French as a first language. French is more understood in urban centres, with 1976 figures showing a 36.7% "Francophone" rate in urban areas, but only an 8.2% rate in rural areas. French usage is gender weighted as well, with 1984 figures showing 17.5% percent of males speaking French, but only 4.9% of women.
Bambara (Bambara: Bamanankan), a Manding language (in the Mande family) is said to be spoken by 80% of the population as a first or second language. It is spoken mainly in central and Southern Mali. Bambara and two other very closely related Manding languages Malinke or Maninkakan in the southwest and Kassonke (in the region of Kayes in the west), are among the 13 national languages. Bambara is used as a trade language in Mali between language groups.
(Bambara is also very close to the Dyula language (Dyula: Jula or Julakan; French: Dioula), spoken mainly in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. The name "Jula" is actually a Manding word meaning "trader.")
Other Mande languages (not in the Manding group) include Soninke (in the region of Kayes in western Mali), Dogon languages (of Pays Dogon or Dogon country in central Mali), the Bozo languages (along the middle Niger).
Other languages include Senufo in the Sikasso region (south), Fula (Fula: Fulfulde; French: Peul) as a widespread trade language in the Mopti region and beyond, the Songhay languages along the Niger, Tamasheq in the eastern part of Mali's Sahara and Arabic in its western part.
Thirteen of the most widely spoken indigenous languages are considered "national languages."
Most formal education for the deaf in Mali uses American Sign Language, introduced to West Africa by the deaf American missionary Andrew Foster. There are two other sign languages in Mali. One, Tebul Sign Language, is found in a village with a high incidence of congenital deafness. Another, Bamako Sign Language, developed in the after-work tea circles of the cities; it is threatened by the educational use of ASL.
Most of the languages of Mali are among the Mande languages, which is generally accepted as a branch of Niger–Congo, Africa's largest language family. Non-Mande languages include the Dogon languages, perhaps another Niger–Congo branch, and the Senufo languages, which are unquestionably part of that family. Mande, Senufo, and Dogon stand out among Niger–Congo because of their deviant SOV basic word order. The Gur languages are represented by Bomu on the Bani River of Mali and Burkina Faso. Fulfulde, spoken throughout West Africa, is a member of the Senegambian branch.
Other language families include Afro-Asiatic, represented by the Berber language Tamasheq and by Arabic, and the Songhay languages, which have traditionally been classified as Nilo-Saharan but may constitute an independent language family.
The following table gives a summary of the 49 spoken languages reported by Ethnologue (NB- the sort by numbers of speakers does not work optimally):
|Language (Ethnologue)||Cluster||Language family||Legal status||L1 speakers in Mali*||L2 speakers in Mali**||Main region|
|French||Indo-European||Official||9,000||1,500,001||All (esp. urban)|
|Arabic, Hasanya||Arabic||Afro-Asiatic: Semitic||National||106,100||?||NW|
|Bambara, Bamanankan||Manding||Mande||National||2,700,000||8,000,000 ??||South, most of country|
|Bomu||Niger–Congo / Gur||National||102,000||?||SE|
|Dogon, Toro So||Dogon||National||50,000||?||Central-east|
|Fulfulde, Maasina||Fula||Niger–Congo / Senegambian||National||911,200||? (some L2 speakers)||Central|
|Senoufo, Mamara (Miniyanka)||Senufo||Niger–Congo||National||737,802||?||S|
|Songhay, Koyraboro Senni||Songhay (Southern)||National||400,000||? (a trade language)||N|
|Soninke (& Marka/Maraka)||Mande||National||700,000||?||NW|
|Tamasheq||Tamashek||Afro-Asiatic / Berber||National||250,000||?||N|
|Bobo Madaré, Northern||Mande||None?||18,400||?||SE|
|Bozo, Tièma Cièwè||Bozo||Mande||None?||2,500||?||Central|
|Dogon, Bangeri Me||Dogon||None?||1,200||?||Central-east|
|Dogon, Bondum Dom||Dogon||None?||24,700||?||Central-east|
|Dogon, Dogul Dom||Dogon||None?||15,700||?||Central-east|
|Dogon, Donno So||Dogon||None?||45,300||?||Central-east|
|Dogon, Kolum So||Dogon||None?||24,000||?||Central-east|
|Dogon, Tene Kan||Dogon||None?||127,000||?||Central-east|
|Dogon, Tomo Kan||Dogon||None?||132,800||?||Central-east|
|Dogon, Toro Tegu||Dogon||None?||2,900||?||Central-east|
|Jula, Dioula||Manding||Mande||None?||50,000||? (very close to Bambara)||SE, all?|
|Koromfé||Niger–Congo / Gur||None?||100||?||SE|
|Mòoré||Niger–Congo / Gur||None?||17,000||?||SE|
|Pana||Niger–Congo / Gur||None?||2,800||?||Central-east|
|Pulaar||Fula||Niger–Congo / Senegambian||None?||175,000||?||W|
|Pular||Fula||Niger–Congo / Senegambian||None?||50,000||?||SW|
|Sàmòmá||Niger–Congo / Gur||None?||6||?||SE|
|Songhay, Humburi Senni||Songhay (Southern)||None?||15,000||?||N|
|Songhay, Koyra Chiini||Songhay (Southern)||None?||200,000||?||N|
|Tamajaq||Tamashek||Afro-Asiatic / Berber||None?||190,000||?||N|
* First language / mother tongue speakers. Figures from Ethnologue. ** Second or additional language speakers. It is difficult to get accurate figures for this category.
might be similar in Mali:
In the Sahara:
- Mozabite (Tumẓabt) in the M'zab
- Ouargli language at Ouargla
- language of Touat and Gourara (called "Taznatit" by the Ethnologue, but that name is in fact used for most of the Zenati languages)
- language of Touggourt and Temacine
- Tamahaq, among the Tuareg of the Hoggar (see Tuareg languages)
- "Tachelhit", the dialect of the western ksours (see also Figuig). Despite the name, this is not the same as Moroccan "Tachelhit". These languages, though the most common, are not found in many parts of the country. An interesting tidbit: in 1566 a man by the name of Francis DuBway [doo-BWaw] was traveling in Mali and heard a very obscure language (the splelling has been lost, but it is likely that this was Tamahaq language), was inspired and wrote a poem. This prose, eventually, after much revision became what we now call "The Mockeraina"
Language Policies & Planning
French is part of the standard school curriculum. There is a new policy to use Malian languages in the first grades and transition to French.
- Anne Lafage. French in Africa. Carol Sanders (ed.) French Today: Language in Its Social Context. pp 215-238. Cambridge University Press (1993) ISBN 0-521-39695-6 p. 217. This cites a report by the Haut Council du Francophonie, Bull. du FIPF (1986), pp. 10-12.
- 386,000 in a population of ~ 8.2 Million in 1986, according to Data FAOSTAT, year 2005 : http://faostat.fao.org/faostat/help-copyright/copyright-e.htm (last updated 11 February 2005)
- ethnologue.com, cites: Johnstone (1993)
- Anne Lafage (1993), p. 219, citing Perrot: 1985 for both 1974 and 1984 figures.
- Leclerc, Jacques. L'aménagement linguistique dans le monde, "Mali," Laval University, Canada. Citing: GAUTHIER, François, Jacques LECLERC et Jacques MAURAIS. Langues et constitutions, Montréal/Paris, Office de la langue française / Conseil international de la langue française, 1993, 131 p