Mandingo (Bambara)

Mandinka began to develop as one of the main languages of West Africa around the time of the creation of the Mali empire (around the 13th century). Today, the number of native and non-native speakers is estimated at between 30 and 40 million. Mandinka is a continuum of dialects covering vast territories in Mali, Guinea, Burkina-Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Sierra-Leone. Within this group, a number of literary standards have recently emerged (sometimes based on variants spoken in national or regional capitals, sometimes on more traditional, prestigious variants).

Discovering the language

The most important normative variant of Mandinka is Bambara (Bamanan), the most important language of Mali, often regarded by the country's inhabitants as "the Malian language" par excellence. Bambara established itself as a distinct language during the kingdom of Segou (18th-19th centuries). Apart from the four million Bambaras, it serves as a lingua franca for the vast majority of other Malians. Bambara as a lingua franca is also spoken in Senegal along the Dakar-Bamako railroad (notably in Tambacounda) and in Malian diaspora circles around the world. Bambara exists in various forms. The first is "standard Bambara", the basic variant used in Bamako (this form is becoming increasingly widespread throughout Mali). Then there are the local dialects, sometimes quite different from "standard Bambara".

Bambara is the main language taught in the Mandingo section of Inalco. It is a tone-based language, of the isolating type (therefore having little morphology), characterized by a very special syntax. It has a rich and lively epic tradition, a written press and a nascent literature. The riches of the Bambara language are represented in the Corpus Bambara de Référence, compiled by Inalco teachers and students in cooperation with colleagues from other countries, and actively used in teaching. Courses in grammar, text reading and oral practice are offered to students.

The maninka (Malinké) is one of the main languages of Guinea; other forms of maninka are also spoken in western Mali, eastern Senegal and northern Côte d'Ivoire. The Maninka of Guinea has given rise to another normative variant of Mandinka (largely based on the Kankan language) whose main driving force is the N'ko script, invented in 1949 by Solomana Kantè, who became both the initiator of a written literature and the creator of a literary language. The N'ko script (and the written standard based on Kankan maninka) is becoming increasingly widespread, first and foremost in Guinea, but also in Mali and other Mandingo countries. An introduction to Maninka and N'ko is offered to students at L3 level.

The soninké (sarakolé) is a language of the Mande family whose propagation is due to the empire of Wagadou (the Ghana of Arab travelers and geographers), the oldest of the great empires of West Africa. The language is spoken by around two million people in western Mali, eastern Senegal and Gambia, and southeastern Mauritania. There is a large Soninke diaspora throughout the world, particularly in France and Côte d'Ivoire. An introductory course in Soninke is offered to students at L2 level, but may also be open to students at other levels.

Training courses

These languages can be studied as part of the following courses:
Licence LLCER - Parcours Afrique-Océan Indien - langue mandingue
Master LLCER - Parcours Afrique-Océan Indien