Mende /ˈmɛndi/[2] (Mɛnde yia) is a major language of Sierra Leone, with some speakers in neighboring Liberia and Guinea. It is spoken by the Mende people and by other ethnic groups as a regional lingua franca in southern Sierra Leone. In southern Sierra Leone, it is the regional lingua franca that allows all tribes to communicate.[citation needed]

Mɛnde yia / 𞠗𞢱𞡓𞠣 / Mɛnde yia
Native toSierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea
RegionSouth central Sierra Leone
EthnicityMende people
Native speakers
2.5 million (2019–2020)[1]
  • Ko
  • Kpa
  • Sewawa
  • Wanjama
Mende Kikakui script
Language codes
ISO 639-2men
ISO 639-3men
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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 (𞠀𞠁𞠂 /  ). 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.[citation needed]

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]

Phonology edit

Consonants edit

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

Vowels edit

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


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.

Sample text edit

Numuvuisia Kpɛlɛɛ ta ti le tɛ yɛ nduwɔ ya hu, tao ti nuvuu yei kɛɛ ti lɔnyi maa hɛwungɔ. Kiiya kɛɛ hindaluahu gɔɔla a yɛlɔ ti hun. Fale mahoungɔ ti ti nyɔnyɔhu hoi kia ndeegaa.

Translation edit

All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

References edit

  1. ^ Mende at Ethnologue (25th ed., 2022)  
  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.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)

External links edit