Mende language

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Mɛnde yia Mɛnde yia
Native to Sierra Leone, Liberia
Region South central Sierra Leone
Native speakers
1.5 million (2006)[1]
Latin; Kisimi Kamara's Mende syllabary
Language codes
ISO 639-2 men
ISO 639-3 men
Glottolog mend1266[2]

Mende /ˈmɛndi/[3] (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 branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Early systematic descriptions of Mende were by F. W. Migeod [4] and Kenneth Crosby.[5]

Written forms

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".[6] 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 [7]

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

Mende language in films

Mende was used extensively in the movies Amistad and Blood Diamond.


  1. Mende at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Mende (Sierra Leone)". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Laurie Bauer, 2007, The Linguistics Student’s Handbook, Edinburgh
  4. Migeod, F. W. 1908. The Mende language. London
  5. Crosby, Kenneth. 1944. An Introduction to the Study of Mende. Cambridge University Press.
  6. 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.
  7. Coble, Scott. n.d. "Mende." (accessed 8 October 2014)
  8. A Mende Orthography Workshop: Ministry of Education, Freetown, January 21-25, 1980
  9. Pemagbi, Joe. 1991. "A guide to Mende orthography." SLADEA.

External links