Bozo language

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Region Mali, Nigeria
Ethnicity Bozo people
Native speakers
230,000 in Mali apart from Tieyaxo (2003–2009)[1]
unknown number Tieyaxo; unknown number Jenaama in Nigeria
  • Mande
    • Western Mande
      • Northwestern
        • Soninke–Bobo
          • Soninke–Bozo
            • Bozo
Language codes
ISO 639-3 Variously:
bzx – Hainyaxo (Kɛlɛngaxo)
boo – Tiemacèwè
boz – Tiéyaxo
bze – Jenaama
Glottolog bozo1252[2]

Bozo, or Boso, meaning house of straw, is a Mande language spoken by the Bozo people, the principal fishing people of the Inner Niger Delta in Mali. According to the 2000 census, the Bozo people number about 132,100. The Bozo dialect cluster is often considered to be one language, but there is quite a bit of diversity. Ethnologue recognises four languages on the basis of requirements for literacy materials. Bozo is part of the northwestern branch of the Mande languages; the closest linguistic relative is Soninke, a major language spoken in the northwestern section of southern Mali, in eastern Senegal, and in southern Mauritania. The Bozo often speak one or more regional languages such as Bamana, Maasina Fulfulde, or Western Songhay. The language is tonal, with three lexical tones.

The Bozo cluster is divided into the following varieties:

  • Hainyaxo (Hainyaho, Kɛlɛngaxo) (a few thousand speakers)[3]
  • Tiɛma Cɛwɛ (Tièma cièwe) (2,500 speakers in 1991)
  • Tiéyaxo (Tigemaxo) (a few thousand speakers)
  • Sorogaama (Jenaama, Sorko) (200,000 speakers in 2005)

Hainyaho, spoken by the Hain (sg. Xan), is the most western dialect, spoken in two spots along the Niger. It is most closely related to Tigemaxo, its eastern neighbour which is spoken around Diafarabé. The central and most widely spoken Bozo language is Sorogama, which actually consists of four dialects, Pondori (south of Mopti), Kotya, Korondugu (north of Mopti) and Debo (around Lake Debo). Tièma Cièwè is the northeastern most of the Bozo cluster, spoken in the vicinity of Lake Debo.


  1. ^ Hainyaxo (Kɛlɛngaxo) at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Tiemacèwè at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Tiéyaxo at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
    Jenaama at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bozo". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ The Ethnologue (15th edition) reports for both Hainyaho and Tigemaxo identical speaker counts: 117,696, from the 1987 census. In the fourteenth edition, this number was noted to be the number of 'all mother tongue Boso speakers'. ("Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-30. Retrieved 2006-11-27. , "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2006-05-14. Retrieved 2005-09-15. ) In the light of the 200,000 reported speakers of Sorogama, by far the most widely spoken Bozo variety, speaker numbers for Hainyaho and Tigemaxo are put at 'a few thousand' here.


  • Daget, Jacques & Konipo, M. & Sanakoua, M. (1953) 'La langue bozo' (Études soudaniennes, 1). Koulouba: Institut français d'Afrique noire, Gouvernement du Soudan, Centre IFAN.
  • Blecke, Thomas (1998) Lexikalische Strukturen und grammatische Kategorien im Tigemaxo (Bozo, Mande). Köln: Rüdiger Köppe Verlag. ISBN 3-89645-070-0

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