Dogon languages                                                                      back to home page           

Much fuller information, including geography, flora-fauna, images, and documentary videos, is available on the project website

Dogon is a family of languages that occur in a single geographical block centered on the Bandiagara (or Dogon) plateau in east central Mali. On the north, east, and west, the plateau is bounded by steep cliffs or rocky slopes that lead down to the sandy plains. The plains stretch out for long distances to the north, (south-)east, and west. In the south, the plateau is less sharply separated from plains.

Many Dogon villages are (or were until recently) located on the rocky slopes or atop the cliffs or slopes at the edge of the plateau. This location provided safety, while permitting daily access to cultivated fields at the base. North of the main plateau, additional Dogon villages were located on (the slopes of) inselbergs near the cities of Douentza and Boni. Over the last hundred years, many Dogon have relocated to villages out in the sandy plains, or have built new dwellings at the base of the slopes in the shadows of the older villages.

There are some 80 locally named varieties that linguists tend to group into about twenty languages, though further study may break up some of the “languages.” An approximate genetic classification follows (Glottocodes and ISO-639-3 codes from the Glottolog site viewed Oct 2017). Indented varieties are here treated (in some cases provisionally) as dialects of the unindented languages above them. I am treating Donno So as a language distinct from Tommo So (as does Ethnologue, but not Glottolog).

                                                                                                                                                Glottocode          ISO-639-3
western Dogon
         languages along the western cliffs/slopes of the main plateau
                  Najamba-Kindige (or Bondu group)                                             bond1248            dbu   
                           Najamba                                                                                                 nadj1238
                           Kindige                                                                                                    kind1242
                           Bondu (in narrow sense)
                  Tiranige                                                                                                           tira1258                tde
                  Dogul Dom                                                                                                     dogu1235             dbg
                  Bunoge                                                                                                             buno1241            dgb
                  Mombo (or Kolu)                                                                                      momb1254         dmb
                  Ampari                                                                                                             ampa1238            aqd
                  Penange                                                                                                           pena1270             —
         eastern offshoot (separated from main group by intervening Tommo So)
                  Yanda Dom                                                                                                    yand1257             dym
                           Ana Tinga                                                                                              anat1248
                  Tebul Ure                                                                                                       tebu1239              dtu
eastern Dogon
         Toro Tegu                                                                                                               toro1253              dtt
         Ben Tey
         Bankan Tey                                                                                                            bank1259             dbw
         Nanga                                                                                                                         nang1261             nzz
         Jamsay                                                                                                                       jams1239             djm
                  mainstream Jamsay
                  Perge Tegu                                                                                                     perg1234
                  Gourou (~ Guru)                                                                                      guru1265
         Tommo So                                                                                                              donn1238            dto
         Donno So                                                                                                                 (=Tommo So)    dds
                  Kamma So
         Toro So group                                                                                                      toro1252              dts
                  Yorno So                                                                                                         yorn1234
                  Ibi So                                                                                                                 ibis1234
                  Sangha So                                                                                                        sang1342
                  (and others)
         southeastern (Tengou/Togo) group                                                    tene1248              dtk         
                  Togo Kan                                                                                                        togo1254
                  Gimri Kan                                                                                                       guim1240
                  Woru Kan (~ Wolu Kan)                                                                      woru1234
                  Tene Kan                                                                                                         tenu1234
                  Tengou Kan                                                                                                   teng1266
         Tomo Kan                                                                                                               tomo1243            dtm

Our project was the first to produce professional reference grammars including tonal markings and tonologies, which are very important in Dogon grammar. The most important works by junior project members are the Tommo So grammar by Laura E. McPherson (Mouton Grammar Library), and (hopefully) grammars to appear in the near future by Vadim Dyachkov on Tomo Kan and Steve Moran on Sangha So. My publications on Dogon languages are the following. Abbreviation: LDH = Language Description Heritage library (online, Max Planck Gesellschaft) as official publisher (pdf’s downloadable), in most cases with backup copies at Deep Blue (University of Michigan libraries).

Funding for the fieldwork was initially from National Endowment for the Humanities (focusing on Jamsay), then as a group project working on the overall language family from National Science Foundation, Documenting Endangered Languages program. 

      @2017a      A grammar of Najamba (Dogon, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2397771
      @2017b      A grammar of Yanda Dom (Dogon, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
      @2017c      A grammar of Bunoge (Dogon, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
      @2017d      A grammar of Yorno So (Toro So subgroup of Dogon, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    (ldh url to be added)
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2326768
      @2016a      A grammar of Dogul Dom (Dogon language family, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2326691
      @2016b      A grammar of Donno So or Kamma So (Dogon language family, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    (best to use the following url until a glitch is fixed)
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2326768
      @2016c      A grammar of Nanga (Dogon language family, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2326771
      @2016d      A grammar of Penange (Dogon, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2378134
      @2015a      A grammar of Toro Tegu (Dogon), Tabi Mountain dialect. Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
      @2015b      Toro Tegu texts. Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
      @2015c      A grammar of Togo Kan (Dogon language family, Mali). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2176494
      @2015d      Togo Kan (Dogon) texts. Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
      @2015e      A grammar of Ben Tey (Dogon of Beni). Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
                                    DOI: 10.17617/2.2176483
      @2015f       Texts in Bey Tey, Dogon of Béni village, Mali. Language Description Heritage Library (MPI). Electronic publication.
      2008            A grammar of Jamsay. Mouton de Gruyter (Mouton Grammar Series). pp. 735.
                                    ISBN 978-3-11-020722-4

      *2016          Dogon adjective-numeral inversion. Linguistics 54(1):189-214.
      *2016          Laura McPherson & J. Heath. Phrasal grammatical tone in the Dogon languages: The role of constraint interaction. Natural Language and Linguistic Theory 34(2):593–639.
      *2015          J. Heath & Vadim Dyachkov. Subject versus addressee in Dogon imperatives and hortatives. Studies in Language 39(3):555-593.
      *2015          Dogon noncompositional constructional tonosyntax. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 36(2):233–252.
      *2013          (J. Heath & Laura McPherson) Tonosyntax and reference restriction in Dogon NPs. Language 89(2):265-96.
                                    Project Muse:
      *2009          (J. Heath & Laura McPherson) Cognitive set and lexicalization strategy in Dogon action verbs. Anthropological Linguistics 51(1):38-63.


[last update Oct 2017]

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