Mandinka vs Bambara/Jula/Maninka

I am posting this here for future reference.

In the YouTube comments here, “Kmac” asked the following question:

Hi, I’m in the gambia now, how similar is the mandinka of gambia? It sounds fairly divergent, which makes me think that they have gone through assimilation of other peoples. It is nowhere near as tonal as these languages

Here’s my response:

Hi Kmac! Mandinka of the Gambia is the furthest away of the four major Manding varieties (e.g., Bambara, Jula, Maninka and Mandinka). It has only 5 vowels and a number of grammatical features that make it not really mutually intelligible. In my experience, it is a bit like Dutch vs German, but that obscures the shared identity and common historical origin of the people. It definitely is tonal just like the other Manding varieties though – the relative pitch of words plays an important role in the meaning of words.

I made a page of resources that could get you started with Mandinka here:

If you are curious about Manding in general, then try here:

Do others, and especially, speakers of Mandinka such as @Fadiga or @Kamaradeni have other insights or information to offer in response to Kmac’s question? :slight_smile:

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Thank you so much for sharing this piece with us.

the guy is right, we have different mandinka dialets in the Gambia, the one in Wuli and the one in Kombos are different. For example some say "sigi, while others say sii. Go: taa/taka etc

And we have some new mandinka words in Senegambisau (Senegal, Gambia and Guinea Bissau) that you can’t find in Mali, Guinea, and Ivory coast.

For example: dinbaa means fire. Sometimes we use Taa but not much.

I think the people who speak Jahanke dialect understand Jula, Bambara and malinke than others.


Thank you both @Coleman and and @Fadiga for your explainations.

I will join Fadiga saying that some expressions are closer to Gambia, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau than Mali and Conakry.

I will even go further and say tasuma is not used at all in those regions. However, the interaction between communities is bringing new mixture of expressions.

“Tuba ñoo” for example does not seem to be used very much in Ivory Coast and Mali to mean “corn”, we can verify though. “Kaba, kabo, Mako” could be.

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