Bangime language

for more detailed information and unpublished documents, see and click on the “Bangime” tab at the top.

Bangime is a language isolate spoken in seven villages that are located in a long cul-de-sac valley cutting into the western edge of the large Dogon (Bandiagara) plateau in eastern Mali. The people (called Bangande) consider themselves to be ethnically Dogon. However, the language shows no affinities in grammar or basic lexicon to Dogon, or (so far as we know) to any other African languages. Bangime may be the only true language isolate in West Africa, though there are some other candidates whose family affinities have not been established, including Pere in Côte d’Ivoire.

The first on-location survey of Bangime was carried out by Roger Blench based on two separate one-day visits in 2005:

Subsequently, the late Stefan Elders began serious fieldwork on the language, mostly in Bounou village. He died tragically in February 2007 in the field after a short illness, and his field notebooks (handwritten in Dutch) are difficult for most of us to understand.

The next fieldworker was Abbie Hantgan, who worked in Bounou village and (with native speakers from there) in our project bases. She produced a substantial 2013 PhD dissertation focusing on Bangime phonology and morphology.

I had visited Bounou several times beginning 2006, mainly to work on flora-fauna vocabulary. During the period 2015-17 I worked intensively on Bangime grammar, lexicon, and texts. I was particularly interested in the tone system, which turned out to have three levels, a rich tone sandhi system, and an interesting tonal ablaut system involving tone inversion processes that reflect abstract semantic distinctions in both nouns and verbs.

Heath & Abbie Hantgan. in press. A grammar of Bangime. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.

[last update Nov 2017]

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