Sango language resources
Sango is spoken on a daily basis in: Central African Republic
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For other uses, see Sango (disambiguation)
Sango (also spelt Sangho) is the primary language spoken in the Central African Republic: it has 5 million second-language speakers, but only 400,000 native speakers, mainly in the towns. Originally used by river traders, it is a vehicular language, based on the language of the Sango tribe, belonging to the Ngbandi language cluster (including Ngbandi and Yakoma), with many French words. Some linguists, following William J. Samarin, classify it as a creole; other linguists, however (eg Marcel Diki-Kidiri, Charles H. Morrill) reject this classification, saying that changes in Sango structures (both internally and externally) can quite well be explained without a creolization process.
A study by Taber (1964) indicates that some 490 native Sango words account for about 90% of colloquial speech; however, while French loanwords are much more rarely used, they account for the majority of the vocabulary, particularly in the speech of learned people. The situation might be compared to English, where most of the vocabulary - particularly "learned" words - is derived from Latin, Greek, or French, while the basic vocabulary remains strongly Germanic. However, more recent studies suggest that this result is specific to a particular sociolect - the so-called "functionary" variety. Morrill's work completed in 1997 revealed that there were three sociologically distinct norms emerging in the Sango language: an urban "radio" variety which is top-ranked by 80% of his interviewees, and has a very few French loan words, a so called "pastor" variety, which is scored 60%, and a "functionary" variety, spoken by learned people who make the highest use of French loan words while speaking Sango, and this variety scores 40% of the interviewees.
The rapid growth of the city of Bangui since the 1960's has had significant implications for the development of Sango, with the creation, for the first time, of a population of first-language speakers. Whereas rural immigrants to the city spoke a many different languages and used Sango only as a lingua franca, their children use Sango as their main (and sometimes only) language. Firstly, this has led to a rapid expansion of the lexicon, including both formal and slang terms. Secondly, its new position as the everyday language of the capital city has led to Sango gaining greater status and being used increasingly in fields where it was previously the norm to use French.
The official orthography of Sango contains the following consonants: p, b, t, d, k, g, kp, gb, mb, mv, nd, ng, ngb, nz, f, v, s, z, h, l, r, y, w (to which some add implosive 'b.) Sango contains 7 oral vowels - a, e, ?, i, o, ?, u - of which five, i, a ? ? u, can occur nasalized. In the official orthography, E stands for both e and ? and O stands for both o and ?. Nasal vowels are then written : in, en, an, on, un. Sango has three tones - low, mid, and high. In standard orthography, low tone is unmarked (e), mid tone is marked with dieresis (ë), and high tone with circumflex (ê). So do-re-mi would be written do-rë-mî.
The word order is Subject Verb Object, as in English. The pronouns are: mbï "I", mo "you (sg.)", lo "he, she, it", ë "we", âla "you (pl.)", âla "they". Verbs take a prefix a- if not preceded by a pronoun; thus mo eke "you are", but Bêafrîka ayeke "Central Africa is". Particularly useful verbs include eke "be", bara "greet" (> bara o "hi!"), hînga "know". Possessives and appositives are formed with the word tî "of": ködörö tî mbï "my country", yângâ tî sängö "Sango language". Another common preposition is na, covering a variety of locative, dative, and instrumental functions.
Being a vehicular language, Sango is considered unusually easy to learn; according to Samarin, "with application a student ought to be able to speak the language in about three months." However, to reach true fluency takes much longer, as with any language.
For English-speakers there are two main difficulties. Firstly, one must remember not to split the double-consonants - for example the place name Bambari must be pronounced ba-mba-ri and not bam-ba-ri. Secondly, as with any tonal language, one must learn not to vary the tone according to the context. For example, if one pronounces a question with a rising tone as in English , one will inadvertently be saying an entirely different and inappropriate Sango word at the end of the sentence.
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All data is derived from UNESCO.