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languages related to the Congo-Kordofanian language group of the Niger-Congolese branch. The Mande languages are divided into two groups: Mande-tan (northern), and Mande-fu (southern). Mande-tan includes the Mandingo languages, Soninke, Kasonke, Aser, Konyanke, Koranko, and Vai. The Mande-fu languages include Kpelle, Mende, Toma, Shanga, and Busy. The Mande languages are spoken by 5.3 million people in Mali, Guinea, Senegal, Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Upper Volta, and the Ivory Coast.
Distinctive phonetic features of the Mande languages include the labiovelars kp and gb and the velar fricative x (Mande-fu). Tones are used to distinguish meaning; for example, pu “to put,” pù “England,” pû “cave,” and pú “ten” (Mende). Most stems are disyllabic. Words are formed with the use of suffixes.
REFERENCESRowlands, E. C. A Grammar of Gambian Mandinka. London, 1959.
Innes, G. A Mende Grammar. London, 1962.
I. N. TOPOROVA