Songhai language resources
Songhai is spoken on a daily basis in: Niger
Additional background on
The Songhay languages are a group of closely related languages/dialects centered on the Niger River, widely used as a lingua franca, particularly as a result of the medieval Songhay Empire.
They fall into two main groups:
Southern Songhai is centered on the Niger river. Its largest member is Zarma (Djerma), a major language of Niger with 2 million speakers spoken throughout much of southern Niger including the capital Niamey. Immediately to its south is Dendi, spoken in northern Benin and heavily influenced by Bariba. West of Zarma is Kaado, up to the border of Mali. In Mali, Koyraboro Senni with 400,000 speakers, and Koyra Chiini to its west, are spoken almost exclusively along the banks of the Niger, while Humburi Senni is spoken in a linguistic island around Hombori, well to its south. The much smaller Northern Songhai is a group of heavily Berber-influenced dialects spoken in the Sahara. The nomadic varieties include Tihishit in central Niger around Mazababou (with two sub-dialects, Tagdal and Tabarog) and Tadaksahak in northern Mali around Menaka. The sedentary varieties include Tasawaq in northern Niger (with two dialects, Ingelsi in In-Gall and the extinct Emghedeshie of Agadez) and Korandje far to the north on the Algeria-Morocco border at Tabelbala. While varieties of Tamasheq are the main influence on the others, Korandje appears to be influenced more by Northern Berber.
A few pre-colonial poems and letters in Songhay exist in Timbuktu (preserved at the Ahmad Baba Center for Documentation and Historical Research) written in the Arabic alphabet. However, in modern times Songhay is written in the Latin alphabet.
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All data is derived from UNESCO.