Mende language

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Not to be confused with Mende language (Papua New Guinea).
Mɛnde yia Mɛnde yia
Native to Sierra Leone, Liberia
Region South central Sierra Leone
Native speakers
1.5 million (2006)[1]
Latin; Kisimi Kamara's Mende syllabary
Language codes
ISO 639-2 men
ISO 639-3 men
Glottolog mend1266[2]

Mende /ˈmɛndi/[3] (Mɛnde yia) is a major language of Sierra Leone, with some speakers in neighboring Liberia. It is spoken by the Mende people and by other ethnic groups as a regional lingua franca in southern Sierra Leone.

Mende is a tonal language belonging to the Mande branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Early systematic descriptions of Mende were by F. W. Migeod [4] and Kenneth Crosby.[5]

Written forms[edit]

In 1921, Kisimi Kamara invented a syllabary for Mende he called Kikakui (Kikaku). The script achieved widespread use for a time, but has largely been replaced with an alphabet based on the Latin script, and the Mende script is considered a "failed script".[6] The Bible was translated into Mende and published in 1959, in Latin script.

The Latin-based alphabet is: a, b, d, e, ɛ, f, g, gb, h, i, j, k, kp, l, m, n, ny, o, ɔ, p, s, t, u, v, w, y [7]

Mende has seven vowels: a, e, ɛ, i, o, ɔ, u [8][9]

Mende language in films[edit]

Mende was used extensively in the movies Amistad and Blood Diamond.


  1. ^ Mende at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Mende (Sierra Leone)". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. 
  3. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. ^ Migeod, F. W. 1908. The Mende language. London
  5. ^ Crosby, Kenneth. 1944. An Introduction to the Study of Mende. Cambridge University Press.
  6. ^ Unseth, Peter. 2011. Invention of Scripts in West Africa for Ethnic Revitalization. In The Success-Failure Continuum in Language and Ethnic Identity Efforts, ed. by Joshua A. Fishman and Ofelia García, pp. 23-32. New York: Oxford University Press.
  7. ^ Coble, Scott. n.d. "Mende." (accessed 8 October 2014)
  8. ^ A Mende Orthography Workshop: Ministry of Education, Freetown, January 21-25, 1980
  9. ^ Pemagbi, Joe. 1991. "A guide to Mende orthography." SLADEA.

External links[edit]