Mende language

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Mɛnde yia Mɛnde yia
Native toSierra Leone, Liberia
RegionSouth central Sierra Leone
EthnicityMende people
Native speakers
1.5 million (2006)[1]
  • Western Mande
Mende Kikakui script
Language codes
ISO 639-2men
ISO 639-3men
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Mende /ˈmɛndi/[2] (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 language family. Early systematic descriptions of Mende were by F. W. Migeod[3] and Kenneth Crosby.[4]

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".[5] 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. [6][7]

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



Bilabial Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Plosive plain p t k
voiced b d ɡ
prenasalized m͡b n͡d ŋ͡ɡ
Fricative plain f s h
voiced v
Affricate plain k͡p
voiced d͡ʒ ɡ͡b
prenasalized ɲd͡ʒ ŋɡ͡b
Lateral l
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Approximant w j


Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


Mende language in films[edit]

Mende was used extensively in the films Amistad and Blood Diamond, and was the subject of the documentary film The Language You Cry In.


  1. ^ Mende at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  3. ^ Migeod, F. W. 1908. The Mende language. London
  4. ^ Crosby, Kenneth. 1944. An Introduction to the Study of Mende. Cambridge University Press.
  5. ^ 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.
  6. ^ Coble, Scott. n.d. "Mende." (accessed 8 October 2014)
  7. ^ "Langue : mende". Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines. Retrieved 2019-02-14.
  8. ^ A Mende Orthography Workshop: Ministry of Education, Freetown, January 21-25, 1980
  9. ^ Pemagbi, Joe. 1991. "A guide to Mende orthography." SLADEA.
  10. ^ Dwyer, David James (1969). Consonant Mutation in Mende. Michigan State University.

External links[edit]