Bissa language

Bissa (or Bisa (singular), Bisan, Bissanno (plural)), is a Mande ethnic group of south-central Burkina Faso, northeastern Ghana and the northernmost tip of Togo. Their language, Bissa,[2] is a Mande language that is related to, but not the same as, a cluster of languages in the old Borgu Kingdom area of Northeast Benin and Northwest Nigeria, including Busa, Boko, and Kyenga. An alternate name for the Bissa is Busansi which is used by the Mossi people or Busanga.

Bisa, Busansi
RegionBurkina Faso, Ghana, Togo
EthnicityBissa people
Native speakers
590,000 (1999–2003)[1]
  • Mande
    • Eastern
      • Bisa–Busa
        • Bissa
Language codes
ISO 639-3bib
Languages of Burkina Faso.png
Majority areas of northern dialects of Bissa, in dark blue, on a map of Burkina Faso.
Total population
1.7 million
Regions with significant populations
 Burkina Faso0.5 million
 Ghana1.1 million
Bissa, French
Related ethnic groups
other Mandé peoples

Daniel McFarland's Historical Dictionary of Upper Volta refers to them as "intrusive Mande who settled the area along the White Volta below Tenkodogo by 1300. Some live across the border in modern northern Ghana and Togo. According to some traditions, Rialle, progenitor of the Nakomse line of Mossi rulers was Busansi."[3]

They are known for their cultivation of peanuts. Traditionally, a Bissa man who wants to court a Bissa girl must work in her mother's peanut field, and be able to provide the girl with her own peanut field if they get married.[4] The Bissa are divided in three language groups, that is the Barka, the Lebir and the Lere. They are further divided into several clans. Each clan has a name and an appellation normally called dedaa by the Bissa. The appellation is now used as a surname in Burkina Faso.

Some Bissa live in Ivory Coast.


The name is usually spelled Bissa. It can also be spelled Bisa, and the name in the Mossi language is Busansi (Singular) or Busanga (Plural); This should not be confused with the Bisa language of Zambia or the Busa language of Nigeria and Benin.

Geographic distributionEdit

In Burkina Faso, Bissa is spoken in Boulgou, Koulpélogo, and Kouritenga Provinces of the Centre-Est Region, in Bazaga and Zoundwéogo Provinces of the Centre–Sud Region (Garango, Gomboussougou, Zabré, and Tenkodogo Cities), and in the Boudry Department of Ganzargou Province of the Plateau-Central Region.

In Ghana, Bissa is spoken in Bawku Municipal District of the Upper East Region.

In Togo, Bissa is spoken in Tône Prefecture of the Savanes Region. There are also some Bissa speakers in Ivory Coast.


Bissa language is the most populous of the Mande languages of Ghana and Togo. It is part of the Eastern Mande group, which also includes several other languages spoken across the Volta River and the Borgu Kingdom, including Boko, Busa, Samo, and Bokobaru.


Bissa has three dialect:

  1. Barka or Baraka (also known as Eastern Bissa)
  2. Lebir or Zeba (also known as Western Bissa)
  3. Lere (also known as Northern Bissa)

The most widely spoken dialects of Bissa are Barka and Lebir.

To the East the Bissa people speak Barka/Baraka. To The West people speak Lebir/Zeba. To the North the Lere dialect is used. To the South, there is no specifics dialect.

Writing SystemEdit

High tone is marked with an Acute accent and low tone is marked with a Grave accent. The following is the alphabet of the Lere and Lebir dialects of Bissa:

Bissa alphabet
A B C D E Ǝ Ɛ F G H I Ɩ J K L M N Ny Ŋ O Ɔ P R S T U Ʋ V W Y Z
a b c d e ǝ ɛ f g h i ɩ j k l m n ny ŋ o ɔ p r s t u ʋ v w y z

The following is the alphabet of the Barka dialect of Bissa:

Bissa-Barka Alphabet (Burkina-Faso)[5]
a b d e ɛ ə f g h i ɩ k l m n ɲ ŋ o ɔ p r s t u ʋ w y z

Comparison of dialectsEdit

Phrase Lere Barka Lebir
Good morning Domireh ki Idomleki
come bur iahh Eyaham
water pi hi
food forbile hobile

Lere phrasesEdit

  • Good morning: Domireh ki (Response: Domireh zain)
  • Good afternoon: Sundareh ki (Response: Sundareh zain)
  • Good evening/night: Yirbaa ki (Response: Yirbaa zain)
  • Thank you: Barka
  • Good: Minga
  • Come: Bur
  • Go: Ta
  • You're welcome: An barka boi
  • I love you: Moi wam

The Busa and Boko peoples of Benin and NigeriaEdit

The Busa and Boko peoples, two subgroups of the Bissa people, live in Northwestern Nigeria and Northern Benin near Borgu in the Nigerian States of Niger, Kebbi and Kwara (mostly Bokobaru subgroup) and in the Beninese Departments of Alibori and Borgou.

They speak Busa (also known as Bisã) and Boko (also known as Boo). This peoples are referred to as Bussawa in Hausa.

Some notable clans and Appellations of the Bissa TribeEdit

The Clan Appellations
Pagou Nombre/Ziginni
Gassuogou Yaalah
Tangari Lengani
Tangaré Lingani
Garango Bambara
Tunugu Saare
Bussim Guerm/Guerne
Sandugu Zeba
Lergu Jinko
Ziglah Bandau
Pakala Billa
Tuuro Dabre
Woono Zaare
Saawunno Nyenni
Chenno Yabre
Bura Zuure
Saarugu Saare
Muungo Gamine
Kayo Gampine
Bugula Darga
Gulagun Nombone
Yiringu Galbane
Lengi Monnie
Kadpugu Yankini
Ganni Samandulugu
Jangani Guengane
Bedega Wandaago
Leda Zampaligidi
Woono Wango
longa Welgu/Keera
Sasima Daboni
Zangila Kidibari
Kuu Lenkoni
Zaka Boibani
Hunzaawu Zombra
Bergu Baara
Nyaawu Campaore
Gulanda Bayere
leere Zampoo
Dansanga Genni
Somma Zakaani
Sominne Senre/Sebene
Gudu Sewonner
Sonno Lembani
Wargu Bansi
Tollah Bansi
Wanda Gulla
Dansanga Genni
Zhetta Zesonni
Koonteega Yourda
Bangu Sambare
Youngou Gambo
Gerrimah Nyenni
Kerimah Ziigani
Yakungu Gengani
Gangila Nunkansi
Kele Gansani
Tinga Bidiga
Bann Zanni

The Bissa people are divided into numerous clans. Their language differs slightly; dialects are Barka, Lere, and Lebir.

Most Bissa are Muslim. The Bissa of the Garango Circle are among the most representative of the north. The Garango township, which forms the center of the northern Bissa, remained independent, while the northwestern districts were under the tutelage of the Mossi kingdom of Ouagadougou and the northeastern townships under the supervision of the Mossi kingdom of Tenkodogo. In Accra, Ghana, some of the established and notable towns are Busanga line in the North Kaneshie area of the Okai Koi constituency. Other towns noted for their Bissa people are Town Council line or Lartebiokorshie and shukura in the Ablekuma central constituency, and Nima in Ayawaso central constituency. In Bissa's tribes, Lingani's are the holder of both the political power and the mystical power. The person that hold the power is not the one with the crown but the one that gives the crown. No one can access to the power and wear the crown prior being mystically prepared by the Lingani's in Tangaré village of Garango in the province of Boulgou (Burkina Faso). The Lingani's are hunters and the ceremonial fig tree with their ancestors centenary hunting spear is still visible today near Tangaré mountain facing Lingani's familial house. Bissas live with their dead ancestors buried in front of their houses in order to honor them. Bissa burial sites are dug in shape of traditional building but underground with a small hole for the body entrance and the person that receives the body to lay him for rest. Several people can be buried in the same familial grave. The grave entrance is covered with a clay vase that can be removed for future burial. Barso the ancestor of the Bissas was a hunter. NOTE. Is From Bissa Bissam Baa Kamaji house.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Bissa at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015) (subscription required)
  2. ^ Lewis, 2009
  3. ^ McFarland, 1978
  4. ^ An actual member of the Bissa tribe – which is probably a better source than any book written by Western scholars. There is not much information on the Bissa tribe at all in the literature.
  5. ^ SIL 2016.


  • "Dictionnaire Bissa-Barka". SIL International. 25 April 2016., the SIL entry direct towards "Dictionnaire Bissa-Barka". Sous-Commission de la langue Bisa.