352 363 394 407 410 419 433 525 526 574The Mande languages are spoken in several countries in West Africa by the Mandé people and includeMandinka, Soninke, Bambara, Bissa, Dioula, Kagoro, Bozo, Mende, Susu, Yacouba, Vai, and Ligbi. The population includes millions of speakers, chiefly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania,Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. This linguistic group is traditionally considered a divergentbranch of the Niger-Congo family.
The group was first recognized in 1854 by S. W. Koelle in his Polyglotta Africana. He mentioned 13 languages under the heading North-Western High-SudanFamily, or Mandéga Family of Languages. In 1901 Maurice Delafosse made a distinction of two groups in his Essai de manuel pratique de la langue mandé ou mandingue. He speaks of anorthern group mandé-tan and a southern group mandé-fu. This distinction was basically done only because the languages in the north use the expression tan for ten whereas thesouthern group use fu. In 1924 L. Tauxier noted that this distinction is not well founded and there is at least a third subgroup he called mandé-bu. It is not until 1950 when A. Prostsupports this view and gives further details. In 1958 Welmers published an article The Mande Languages where he divided the languages into three subgroups – North-West, South and East.His conclusion was based on lexicostatistic research. Greenberg followed this distinction in his The Languages of Africa (1963). Long (1971) and G. Galtier (1980) follow thedistinction into three groups but with notable differences.
The N'Ko alphabet (߫ߒߞߏ) is a script for Mande languages developed by Souleymane Kante, which is mostly used in Guinea.