Tonal marks in dictionaries

Hi Coleman,
I was writing down some of the words from the An Ka Taa and Bamadaba dictionaries and noticed that there is a difference in the tonal markings for certain words. One difference I see a lot is some words having a hache in your dictionary instead of a low tone like in Bamadaba.
I am wondering about which one to follow and why. Since you dictionary is new, I am guessing that it is more updated with the realities.


Hi Malik,

There is no single standard for writing tone in Latin-based Bambara. Different authors have adopted different solutions. The AKT dictionary uses that of Charles Bailleul (who wrote the original source dictionary for Bamadaba, but they changed his tonal system).

There’s a section on tone in the AKT dictionary’s introduction.

No system is inherently better than the others. They are only just different conventions. Once you know them, you can easily jump between them.

So in terms of which one to use, it depends on your purpose and preference.

In general, in school and literacy centers (and the public newspaper Kibaru, as well as VOA Mandenkan), there is no marking of tone at all. A layperson who can read/write in standard Bambara won’t think that one is more up-to-date or anything, because they generally won’t know any system for marking tone.

If you have a specific question about the use of hache tonal mark in AKT and Bailleul’s dictionaries after reading up, feel free to post it as a question as another topic here in the Forum :slight_smile:

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Thank you very much!
I have been able to learn a lot like how tones in a word change based on its use, which explains a question I had about the hache!

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Hey Coleman!
I truly want to thank you for your work. I came across your dissertation online and it truly allowed me to understand all the questions I had about tone. It also showed me all that you went through and the greatness of N’ko.
Thank you,