Koyra Chiini language

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Koyra Chiini
Native toMali
RegionNiger River
Native speakers
200,000 (1999)[1]
  • Djenné Chiini
Language codes
ISO 639-3khq
Songhay languages.svg
Location of Songhay languages[3]

Northwest Songhay:

  Koyra Chiini

Eastern Songhay:

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Koyra Chiini ([kojra tʃiːni], figuratively "town language"), or Western Songhay, is a member of the Songhay languages spoken in Mali by about 200,000 people (in 1999) along the Niger River in Timbuktu and upriver from it in the towns of Diré, Tonka, Goundam and Niafunké as well as in the Saharan town of Araouane to its north. In this area, Koyra Chiini is the dominant language and the lingua franca, although minorities speaking Hassaniya Arabic, Tamasheq and Fulfulde are found. Djenné Chiini [dʒɛnːɛ tʃiːni], the dialect spoken in Djenné, is mutually comprehensible, but has noticeable differences, in particular two extra vowels (/ɛ/ and /ɔ/) and syntactic differences related to focalisation.

East of Timbuktu, Koyra Chiini gives way relatively abruptly to another Songhay language, Koyraboro Senni.

Unlike most Songhai languages, Koyra Chiini has no phonemic tones and has subject–verb–object word order rather than subject–object–verb. It has changed the original Songhay z to j.[4]


Koyra Chiini has 5 vowels: /a, e, i, o, u/. All vowels have lengthened counterparts.[4]

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Stop voiceless (p) t k
voiced b d g
Affricate voiceless t͡ʃ
voiced d͡ʒ
Fricative voiceless f s (ʃ) (x) h
voiced (z) (ʒ)
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Approximant j w
Flap ɾ


  1. ^ Koyra Chiini at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Koyra Chiini Songhay". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. ^ This map is based on classification from Glottolog and data from Ethnologue.
  4. ^ a b Heath, Jeffrey (1999-01-01). A Grammar of Koyra Chiini: The Songhay of Timbuktu. Walter de Gruyter. ISBN 9783110804850.
  • ed. Jeffrey Heath, Wilhelm J. Möhlig, 1998. Texts in Koyra Chiini Songhay of Timbuktu, Mali. Ruediger Koeppe. ISBN 3-89645-260-6.
  • Jeffrey Heath, Dictionnaire Songhay-Anglais-Français: Tome 1 - Koyra Chiini, ou "songhay de Tombouctou", Tome 2 - Djenné Chiini, ou "songhay de Djenné". L'Harmattan:Paris 1998. ISBN 2-7384-6726-1.