- Sango language
Sango yângâ tî sängö Pronunciation [jáŋɡá tí sāŋɡō] Spoken in Central African Republic
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Region Central Africa Native speakers 400,000 (1988)
1.6 million as second language (1988)
Language family Official status Official language in Central African Republic Regulated by Institute of Applied Linguistics Language codes ISO 639-1 sg ISO 639-2 sag ISO 639-3 sag This page contains IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.
Sango (also spelled Sangho) is the primary language spoken in the Central African Republic: it has approximately 1,600,000 second-language speakers, but only about 404,000 native speakers, mainly in the towns.
Some linguists, following William J. Samarin, classify it as a Ngbandi-based creole; others, however (e.g. Marcel Diki-Kidiri, Charles H. Morrill) reject this classification, saying that changes in Sango structures (both internally and externally) can be explained quite well without a creolization process.
According to the creolization hypothesis, Sango is exceptional in that it is an African- rather than European-based creole. Although French has contributed numerous loanwords, Sango's structure is wholly African.
A variety of Sango was used as a vehicular language along the Ubangi River before French colonization in the late 1800s. The French army recruited Central Africans, causing them to increasingly use Sango as a means of inter-ethnic communication. Throughout the twentieth century missionaries promoted Sango due to its wide usage.
Originally used by river traders, Sango arose as a vehicular language based on the Northern Ngbandi dialect of the Sango tribe, part of the Ngbandi language cluster, with some French influence.
The rapid growth of the city of Bangui since the 1960s has had significant implications for the development of Sango, with the creation, for the first time, of a population of first-language speakers. Whereas rural immigrants to the city spoke many different languages and used Sango only as a lingua franca, their children use Sango as their main (and sometimes only) language. First, this has led to a rapid expansion of the lexicon, including both formal and slang terms. Second, its new position as the everyday language of the capital city has led to Sango gaining greater status and being used increasingly in fields where it was previously the norm to use French.
Sango is widespread in the Central African Republic, with 350,000 speakers as of the 1988 census. It is also spoken as a trade language in southern Chad, where it is probably not spoken natively and its use is decreasing, and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where it is rapidly spreading.
A study by Taber (1964) indicates that some 490 native Sango words account for about 90% of colloquial speech; however, while French loanwords are much more rarely used, they account for the majority of the vocabulary, particularly in the speech of learned people. The situation might be compared to English, where most of the vocabulary - particularly "learned" words - is derived from Latin, Greek, or French, while the basic vocabulary remains strongly Germanic. However, more recent studies suggest that this result is specific to a particular sociolect - the so-called "functionary" variety. Morrill's work, completed in 1997, revealed that there were three sociologically distinct norms emerging in the Sango language: an urban "radio" variety which is top-ranked by 80% of his interviewees, and has a very few French loan words, a so called "pastor" variety, which is scored 60%, and a "functionary" variety, spoken by learned people who make the highest use of French loan words while speaking Sango, and this variety scores 40% of the interviewees.
Letters are pronounced as their IPA equivalent, except for <y>, pronounced as [j]. Additionally the digraphs ⟨kp, gb, mb, mv, nd, ng, ngb, nz⟩ are pronounced [k͡p], [ɡ͡b], [ᵐb], [(ᶬv)], [ⁿd], [ᵑɡ], [ᵑ͡ᵐɡ͡b] and [ⁿz] respectively.
The official orthography of Sango contains the following consonants: ⟨p, b, t, d, k, g, kp, gb, mb, mv, nd, ng, ngb, nz, f, v, s, z, h, l, r, y, w⟩, to which some add ⟨’b⟩ for the implosive /ɓ/. Sango has seven oral vowels, /a e ɛ i o ɔ u/, of which five, /ĩ ã ɛ̃ ɔ̃ ũ/, occur nasalized. In the official orthography, ⟨e⟩ stands for both /e/ and /ɛ/, and ⟨o⟩ stands for both /o/ and /ɔ/; nasal vowels are written ⟨in, en, an, on, un⟩.
Sango has three tones: low, mid, and high. In standard orthography, low tone is unmarked, ⟨e⟩, mid tone is marked with dieresis, ⟨ë⟩, and high tone with circumflex, ⟨ê⟩. So do-re-mi would be written ⟨do-rë-mî⟩.
Sango has little written material apart from religious literature, though some basic literacy material has been developed.
Sango vowels Oral vowels Nasal vowels Front Back Front Back Close i u ĩ ũ Close-mid e o Open-mid ɛ ɔ ɛ̃ ɔ̃ Open a ã
Sango consonants  Bilabial Labio-
Dental Alveolar Palatal Velar Labial-
Glottal Plosive p b (ɓ) t d k ɡ k͡p ɡ͡b Prenasalized ᵐb (ᶬv) ⁿd ⁿz nj ᵑɡ ᵑ͡ᵐɡ͡b Nasal m n Fricative f v s z h Approximant l r j w
Palatal affricates occur in loan words and certain dialects. In some dialects there are alternations between [ᶬv] and [m], [ᵐb] and [ᵑ͡ᵐg͡b], [ᵐb] and [b], word-medial [l] and [r], and word-initial [h] and [ʔ]. [ᶬv] is quite rare.
Words are generally monosyllabic or bisyllabic, less commonly trisyllabic. Four-syllable words are created via reduplication and compounding, and may also be written as two words (e.g. kêtêkêtê or kêtê kêtê 'tiny bit', walikundû or wa likundû 'sorcerer').
Sango has three basic tones (high, mid, and low), with contour tones also occurring, generally in French loanwords. Tones have a low functional load, but minimal pairs exist, for instance dü 'give birth' versus dû 'hole'.
Monosyllabic loan words from French usually have the tone pattern high-low falling (e.g. bâan 'bench' from French banc). In multi-syllabic words all syllables carry low tone except the final syllable, which is lengthened and takes a descending tone. The final tone is generally mid-low falling for nouns (e.g. 'ananäa' pineapple from French ananas) and high-low falling for verbs (e.g. 'aretêe' 'to stop' from French arrêter).
Tones in isolation have ideolectual variation, and may also be affected by the mother language of non-native speakers.
mbênï kêtê môlengê indef. small child
- "a small child"
Plurals are marked with the proclitic â-, which precedes noun phrases:
âmbênï kêtê môlengê PL-indef. small child
- "some small children"
â- may be attached to multiple items in the noun phrase by some speakers, but this is less common:
âkötä (â)zo PL-big person
- "important people/dignitaries"
The derivational suffix -ngö nominalizes verbs. It also changes all tones in the verb to mid:
kono to grow, be big kîri to return, repeat könöngö size kïrïngö return
Genitives are normally formed with the preposition tî 'of':
dû tî ngû hole of water
- "water hole, well"
The verbal prefix a- is used when the subject is a noun or noun phrase, and absent when the subject is a pronoun or implicit (as in imperatives):
âmôlengê tî lo agä PL-child of 3S SM-come
- "his children came"
adü lo SM-give.birth 3S
- "he was born" (lit. "someone bore him")
löndö mo gä rise 3S come
- "get up and come (here)"
This prefix is sometimes written as a separate word.
The pronouns are: mbï "I", mo "you (sg.)", lo "he, she, it", ë "we", âla "you (pl.)", âla "they". Verbs take a prefix a- if not preceded by a pronoun; thus mo yeke "you are", but Bêafrîka ayeke "Central Africa is". Particularly useful verbs include yeke "be", bara "greet" (> bara o "hi!"), hînga "know". Possessives and appositives are formed with the word tî "of": ködörö tî mbï "my country", yângâ tî sängö "Sango language". Another common preposition is na, covering a variety of locative, dative, and instrumental functions.
Being a vehicular language, Sango is considered unusually easy to learn; according to Samarin, "with application a student ought to be able to speak the language in about three months." However, reaching true fluency takes much longer, as with any language.
For English-speakers there are two main difficulties. First, one must remember not to split double-consonants. The place name Bambari, for example, must be pronounced ba-mba-ri and not bam-ba-ri. Second, as with any tonal language, one must learn not to vary the tone according to the context. For example, if one pronounces a question with a rising tone as in English, one may inadvertently be saying an entirely different and inappropriate Sango word at the end of the sentence.
- ^ a b c d Lewis (2009)
- ^ (French) Le Sango
- ^ Karan (2006, 12.3 Sango: Classification and vocabulary base)
- ^ a b c Walker & Samarin (1997)
- ^ a b c Karan (2006, 12.1 Sango: language of wider communication and of the churches)
- ^ a b Karan (2006, 12.9 The Sango orthography before 1984)
- ^ a b c d Karan (2006, 12.9 The 1984 orthography decree)
- ^ Karan (2006, 12.7 Sango literature)
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Karan (2006, 12.5 The phonology of Sango)
- ^ a b c d e f g h i j Karan (2006, 12.4 Sango grammatical structure)
- Buquiaux, Luc. Jean-Marie Kobozo et Marcel Diki-Kidiri, 1978 Dictionnaire sango-français...
- Diki-Kidiri, Marcel. 1977. Le sango s'écrit aussi...
- Diki-Kidiri, Marcel. 1978. Grammaire sango, phonologie et syntaxe
- Diki-Kidiri, Marcel. 1998. Dictionnaire orthographique du sängö
- Henry, Charles Morrill. 1997. Language, Culture and Sociology in the Central African Republic, The Emergence and Development of Sango
- Karan, Elke (2006). Writing System Development and Reform: A Process. Grand Forks, North Dakota: University of North Dakota. http://www.und.edu/dept/linguistics/theses/2006Karan.PDF.
- Lewis, M. Paul (ed.) (2009), "Sango", Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition, Dallas, Tex.: SIL International, http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=sag
- Samarin, William J. (2008). "Convergence and the Retention of Marked Consonants in Sango: The Creation and Appropriation of a Pidgin". Journal of language contact (Dynamique du langage et contact des langues at the Institut Universitaire de France) 2: 225–237. http://cgi.server.uni-frankfurt.de/fb09/ifas/JLCCMS/issues/THEMA_2/12_W_Samarin.pdf. Retrieved January 8, 2011.
- Samarin, William. 1967. Lessons in Sango.
- Saulnier, Pierre. 1994. Lexique orthographique sango
- SIL (Centrafrique), 1995. Kêtê Bakarî tî Sängö : Farânzi, Anglëe na Yângâ tî Zâmani. Petit Dictionaire Sango, Mini Sango Dictionary, Kleines Sango Wörterbuch
- Walker, James A.; Samarin, William J. (1997). "Sango Phonology". In Kaye, Alan S.; Daniels, Peter T.. Phonologies of Asia and Africa: (including the Caucasus). Eisenbrauns. pp. 861–882. ISBN 1575060183.
- Taber, Charles. 1964. French Loanwords in Sango: A Statistical Analysis. (MA thesis, Hartford Seminary Foundation.)
- Thornell, Christina. 1997. The Sango Language and Its Lexicon (Sêndâ-yângâ tî Sängö)
- (French) Interactive and intelligent French Sango dictionary (by Jolome DAGBO)
- (French) Test your level in Sango (by Jolome DAGBO)
- Online Sango English French Dictionary
- Established French loanwords in Sango
- Ethnologue report on Sango
- A site in Sango - Yângâ tî Sangho tî Bêafrîka
- Sango lessons in French
- Sango computer terminology
- PanAfrican L10n page on Sango
- Kasahorow On-line Sango-English/English-Sango dictionary (Bakarî Sängö)
- Resources in and about the Sango language
Languages of the African Union Working Transnational NationalAmharic · Sango
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