Mali is a country located in Africa, and is a multilingual nation. The official language is French. Most people who speak French in Mali speak it as their second language. Estimates point that there are only 9000 people who speak it as their first language. There are 13 languages accorded the status of national language. Many of these languages are part of the Mande languages. It is an accepted view that the Mande languages are part of the Niger-Congo languages. Bambara is a lingua franca and has roughly 15 million speakers, 5 million of whom are native speakers. The other 10 million speak Bambara as a second language. It has two lexical tones. Bambara's clause structure takes a subject-object-verb form. The Bambara language has seven vowels which are ‘a, e, ɛ, i, o, ɔ and u.’ Bambara has many similarities with the Dyula language. The Dyula language is used widely in Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast.

The Bambara language is mostly spoken in southern and central Mali. It is spoken by 46.3% of the Mali population. Following distantly is the Fula language which is spoken by 9.4% of the population. The Dogon language has 7.2% of the population, Soninke 6.4%, Malinke 5.6%, Djerma 5.6%, Minianka 5.6%, Tuareg 3.5%, Bobo 2.1% and others 7.0%.

The French variant language spoken in Mali can be termed as standard French. It is a set of formal variants of French spoken across many nations. Bambara, spoken by 80% of the population, is an agglutinative language, just like Turkish and Japanese, meaning that morphemes are attached to form a word. Bambara does not vary the form of words for gender representation. Gender is instead specified by the addition of certain adjectives. Some useful phrases in Bambara include "i ni ce" for "hello" and "i ka kεnε wa?" for "how are you"?

Some of the minority languages spoken in Mali include Senufo spoken in Sikasso region, Fula, a trade language spoken in the Mopti region and further, Songhay languages, Tamasheq, and Arabic languages. Formal education for the deaf applies American Sign Language. Andrew Foster, a missionary who was deaf introduced the language to West Africa. Other than this, Tebul and Bamako sign languages are also used. Tebul sign language is mostly used in a village with many cases of congenital deafness.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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