Falatɔ vs. yatiimɛ (orphan)

After speaking with a Bambara speaker, we came across a differentiation between the two words to describe an Orphan. One should be for a loss of a single parent and the other for both parents.

Can you help me figure this question out? Thank you

I ni tuma, Malik! I wasn’t aware of this specific distinction or nuance myself! Thanks for finding it and bringing it up!

I haven’t asked any native Manding speakers, but after doing a bit of research, it is clear that yatiimɛ comes from Arabic. This means that many people may appeal to the “original meaning” of the source word when using it in Bambara.

I don’t know much Arabic so I can’t comment much, but it appears that in Arabic the source term generally means ‘orphan’ but that historically it may also meant in particular ‘fatherless’.

In Bamadaba, yatiimɛ is listed as meaning ‘orphan (with no parents; abandoned)’ whereas falatɔ has no information beyond "orphan’.

If we take the Arabic etymology and its historical meaning into account then it seems that it might be the case that yatiimɛ could mean without a father (and therefore potentially with only one parent). The meaning of words often shifts slightly when they are borrowed and then things are never quite stable, so we’d likely need to do some observation and survey work to figure out how most people understand and use the term today!

What did your friend say?