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Journal of West African Languages

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Languages in contact -- Guinea, Languages -- Guinea, Kissi language, Mandingo (African people) -- Guinea, Mandingo language -- Effect on Kissi language


Strong claims have been made as to the influence of Mande languages on the languages of the Atlantic Group. This paper analyzes Mande borrowings in one Atlantic language in order to understand the nature of that influence. The Atlantic language of focus is Kisi, a member of the Southern Branch, spoken primarily in Guinea. The Kisi people have separated from their closest relatives on the Atlantic Coast in historic times, probably due to the second Mande expansionist wave of the sixteenth century at the collapse of the Mali Empire. Today the Kisi are completely surrounded and interpenetrated by speakers of Mande languages. The Mande influence has been great and extends to such areas as personal and place names, politeness terms, cultural items, terms for political organization, foods, animals, and even body parts. This paper assesses the nature of Mande influence based on the semantic fields in which borrowings appear and on the known historical facts in order to better understand both the languages and the history of their speakers.

II existe des declarations vigoureuses que Jes langues mandes ont eu beaucoup d'influence sur Jes langues atlantiques. Cet article fait une analyse des emprunts mande dans une seule langue atlantique afin de comprendre I' essence de cette influence. Le kissiei est la langue en question; ii appartient au sous-groupe «Southern Branch» et on le parle en Guinee essentiellement. Les Kissi se sont separes de leurs parents Jes plus proches (linguistiquement) qui se trouvent a la cote atlantique actuellement, probablement a cause de la deuxieme vague d'expansionnisme mande a la chute de !'Empire Mali. De nos jours on trouve Jes Kissi enkystes et traverses completement par Jes locuteurs des langues mandes. L'influence mande sur le kissiei se manifeste partout dans le lexique: Jes noms personnels, Jes lieux, !es formes de politesse, etc. Nous evaluons ici !'influence mande par moyen des champs semantiques dans lesquels on trouve Jes emprunts vis-a-vis des donnees historiques, afin de mieux comprendre Jes langues et l'histoire de leurs locuteurs.


Originally appeared in the Journal of West African Languages, volume 29, issue 2: 81-120, published by the West African Linguistic Society. May be accessed at

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