Ethnologue: Areas: Africa

Sierra Leone

4,726,000 (1995). Republic of Sierra Leone. Literacy rate 15%. Also includes 700 Greek, people from Lebanon, India, Pakistan, refugees from Liberia. Information mainly from Dalby 1962, TISLL 1995, L. Vanderaa CRC 1991. Data accuracy estimate: A2. Muslim, traditional religion, Christian. Blind population 28,000 (1982 WCE). Deaf institutions: 5. The number of languages listed for Sierra Leone is 23.

BASSA [BAS] 5,000 in Sierra Leone (1991 D. Slager UBS); 347,600 in Liberia (1991 L. Vanderaa CRC); 353,000 in all countries. Freetown. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Kru, Western, Bassa. Traditional religion. NT 1970. Bible portions 1844-1988.

BOM (BOME, BUM, BOMO) [BMF] 250 speakers out of an ethnic group of 5,000 (1991 D. Slager UBS). Along the Bome River. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Mel, Bullom-Kissi, Bullom, Northern. They are being absorbed into the Mende group. Traditional religion.

BULLOM SO (NORTHERN BULLOM, BOLOM, BULEM, BULLUN, BULLIN, MMANI, MANDINGI) [BUY] Few speakers out of 6,800 in the ethnic group (1988 L. Vanderaa). Along the coast from the Guinea border to the Sierra Leone River. Also in Guinea. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Mel, Bullom-Kissi, Bullom, Northern. Dialects: MMANI, KAFU. Bom is closely related. 66% to 69% lexical similarity with Sherbro dialects, 34% with Krim. Little intelligibility with Sherbro, none with Krim. The people are intermarried with the Temne and the Susu. Traditional religion. Bible portions 1816. Nearly extinct.

ENGLISH [ENG] 322,000,000 in all countries (1995 WA). Indo-European, Germanic, West, North Sea, English. Used in administration, law, education, commerce. National language. Bible 1535-1989. NT 1525-1985. Bible portions 1530-1987.

FUUTA JALON (FUTA JALLON, FOUTA DYALON, FULBE, PULAR, FULLO FUUTA, FUTA FULA) [FUF] 178,400 in Sierra Leone (1991); 2,550,000 in Guinea (1991); 50,000 in Mali (1991); 100,000 in Senegal (1991); 3,000,000 in all countries (1991 WA). Throughout the country but especially in the north. Also in Guinea Bissau and Gambia. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Northern, Senegambian, Fula-Wolof, Fulani, West Central. Dialects: KRIO FULA, KEBU FULA. People live in settled and migrant communities. Recent immigrants from Guinea speak the original Futa Jalon or the Kebu dialect (Dalby 1962). It is intelligible with Fula Peta of Guinea and with dialects of Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Senegal. A slightly modified form of Futa Jalon is known as Krio Fula with many loans from Sierra Leone languages. Muslim. Bible portions 1929-1975. Work in progress.

GOLA (GULA) [GOL] 8,000 in Sierra Leone, or 0.2% of the population (1989 TISLL); 99,300 in Liberia (1991 L. Vanderaa CRC); 107,300 in all countries. Along the border and a few miles into Sierra Leone. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Mel, Gola. Dialects: DE (DENG), MANAGOBLA (GOBLA), KONGBAA, KPO, SENJE (SENE), TEE (TEGE), TOLDIL (TOODII). Different from Gola of Nigeria (dialect of Mumuye) or Gola (Badyara) of Guinea Bissau and Guinea. Most Gola in Sierra Leone have become Mende speakers. Muslim, Christians. Bible portions. Work in progress.

KISI, SOUTHERN (KISI, GISSI, KISSIEN) [KSS] 85,000 in Sierra Leone (1995); 115,000 in Liberia (1995); 200,000 in all countries. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Mel, Bullom-Kissi, Kissi. Different from Northern Kissi. 3% literate. Traditional religion, Muslim, Christian. NT 1991. Bible portions 1982-1987.

KISSI, NORTHERN (GIZI, KISI, KISSIEN, KISIE) [KQS] 40,000 in Sierra Leone (1991 LBT); 286,500 in Guinea (1991 Vanderaa); 326,500 in all countries. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Mel, Bullom-Kissi, Kissi. Dialects: LIARO, KAMA, TENG, TUNG. Closely related to Sherbro. Southern Kissi is different. Traditional religion. NT 1966-1986. Bible portions 1935-1968.

KLAO (KRU, KROO, KLAOH, KLAU) [KLU] 8,000 in Sierra Leone, or 0.2% of the population (1989 TISLL); 184,000 in Liberia (1991 L. Vanderaa CRC); 192,000 in all countries. Freetown. Originally from Liberia. Also in Accra, Ghana; Lagos, Nigeria; USA. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Kru, Western, Klao. Traditional religion. NT in press (1996). Bible portions 1921-1989.

KONO (KONNOH) [KNO] 190,000 first language speakers, or 4.8% of the population (1989 TISLL), 25,000 second language speakers (1981 Cranmer UBS). Northeast. There are probably none left in Guinea or Liberia. Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Northwestern, Northern, Greater Mandekan, Vai-Kono. Dialects: NORTHERN KONO (SANDO), CENTRAL KONO (FIAMA, GBANE, GBANE KANDO, GBENSE, GORAMA KONO, KAMARA, LEI, MAFINDO, NIMI KORO, NIMI YAMA, PENGUIA, SOA, TANKORO, TOLI). Not intelligible with Vai. The dialects have minor differences, and can use the same literature. Different from the Kono dialect of Kpelle in Guinea. Hills. Agriculturalists: cassava, rice, greens, coffee, cocoa; diamond miners. Traditional religion, Muslim, Christian. Bible portions 1919-1993. Work in progress.

KRIM (KIM, KITTIM, KIRIM, KIMI) [KRM] 500 speakers or fewer out of an ethnic group of 10,000 (1990 CRC). On the coast between Sherbro and Vai, along the Krim River. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Mel, Bullom-Kissi, Bullom, Southern. 44% to 45% lexical similarity with Sherbo, 34% with Northern Bullom. There are 7 or 8 towns where children and others speak Krim. The people are bilingual in Sherbro, and being absorbed into the Mende group. Traditional religion, Muslim.

KRIO (CREOLE) [KRI] 472,600 in Sierra Leone (1993), or 10% of the population are first language speakers (1987 Frederick Jones); possibly 4,000,000 or 95% of the remainder are second language speakers (1987 F. Jones); 6,600 in Gambia (1991); 480,000 or more in all countries. Communities in Freetown, on the Peninsula, on the Banana Islands, York Island, in Bonthe, by de-tribalized Sierra Leoneans and as the lingua franca throughout the country. Also small numbers in Senegal, Guinea, Equatorial Guinea. Creole, English based, Atlantic, Krio. The dominant language of the younger generation. Domains of use include education, urban and town living, every-day life. Spoken more in provincial towns than in villages, and for inter-ethnic communication. Possibly half the speakers use Krio in their workplace. It is the formal language for those who do not speak English. Taught as an elective from primary to college level. Second language users prefer their indigenous languages for informal situations. Krio and Jamaican Creole, and Krio and Sea Islands Creole may have some interintelligibility; mother tongue Krio speakers are mainly descendents of repatriated slaves from Jamaica. Less than 15% are literate in English. There is linguistic influence from Yoruba (I. Hancock 1987). Language of wider communication. Traditional religion, Christian. NT 1986-1992. Bible portions 1987-1992.

KURANKO (KORANKO) [KHA] 250,000 in Sierra Leone (1995), 3.7% of the population (1991 J. Kaiser TISLL); 20,000 second language speakers (1981 Cranmer); 55,200 in Guinea (1991); 305,000 in all countries. Northern Province around Kabala. Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Northwestern, Northern, Greater Mandekan, Mandekan, Kuranko. Dialects: BARRAWA, NIENI, MANKALIYA, SAMBAYA, NEY, SENGBE, MONGO. The dialect near the Guinea border is more similar to Maninka, so some have called Kuranko a dialect of Maninka. Farther south, the dialects are distinct from Maninka. 5% literate. Traditional religion, Muslim, Christian. NT 1972. Bible portions 1899-1911.

LIMBA, EAST (YIMBA, YUMBA) [LMA] (4,000 in Guinea; 1993 Johnstone). North central. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Limba. Dialects: NORTHERN LIMBA (WARAWARA, KE-WOYA-YAKA), SOUTHERN LIMBA (BIRIWA-SAROKO-KALANTUBA-SUNKO). Traditional religion, Muslim.

LIMBA, WEST-CENTRAL (YIMBA, YUMBA) [LIA] 335,000 in Sierra Leone including East Limba, or 8.4% of the population (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL). North central area north of Makeni. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Limba. Dialects: WESTERN LIMBA (TONKO, SELA), CENTRAL (TAMISO, GBONGOGBO). It is quite different from East Limba of Sierra Leone and Guinea. Traditional religion, Muslim, Christian. NT 1966-1983. Bible portions 1911-1950.

LOKO (LANDOGO) [LOK] 115,000 in Sierra Leone, or 3% of the population (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL) 4,000 in Guinea (1993 Johnstone); 119,000 in all countries. Two separate areas; parts of the Koya, Ribbi, and Bumpe chiefdoms; Sanda Loko chiefdom. Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Northwestern, Southwestern, Loma-Loko, Loko-Mende, Loko. Dialects: MAGBIAMBO, GBENDEMBU, NGOAHU, NAGBANMBA, SANDA, LAIA, LIBISEGAHUN, KOYA, RIBBI, BUYA. Closely related to Mende. Traditional religion, Muslim, Christian. NT 1983.

MANINKA (MANDINGO, MADINGO, MANDE, MANINKA-MORI, SOUTHERN MANINKA) [MNI] 90,000 in Sierra Leone, or 2.3% of the population (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL); 1,816,500 in Guinea (1991); 33,800 in Liberia (1991); 200,000 in Mali (1991); 2,140,300 in all countries. Kabala area. Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Northwestern, Northern, Greater Mandekan, Mandekan, Manding. A few traders around Kabala and small groups throughout the country. Trade language. Traders. Muslim. NT 1932-1966. Bible portions 1931-1964.

MENDE (BOUMPE, HULO, KOSSA, KOSSO) [MFY] 1,460,000 in Sierra Leone (1987 UBS), 30.9% of the population (1989 TISLL); plus 600,000 second language speakers (1981 Cranmer); 19,700 in Liberia (1991 L. Vanderaa CRC); 1,480,000 in all countries. South central. Expanding along the coast and to the south and east. Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Northwestern, Southwestern, Loma-Loko, Loko-Mende, Mende-Bandi. Dialects: KPA, KO, WAANJAMA, SEWAWA. Taught as an elective from primary to college levels. Dialects have 92% to 98% lexical similarity with each other. There are a number of monolinguals. Bandi, mainly in Liberia, is considered to be a separate language. Trade language. Traditional religion, Muslim, Christian. Bible 1959. NT 1956. Bible portions 1867-1954. Work in progress.

SHERBRO (SOUTHERN BULLOM, SHIBA, AMAMPA, MAMPA, MAMPWA) [BUN] 135,000, or 3.4% of the population (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL). Southern Province adjoining the Western Area; York District on western peninsula, Ribbi Shenge, Dima, Sicie, Timdel, Benducha, Nongoba. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Mel, Bullom-Kissi, Bullom, Southern. Dialects: SHENGE SHERBRO, SITIA SHERBRO, NDEMA SHERBRO, PENINSULA SHERBRO. Not intelligible with Krim or Bullom So. 83% to 89% lexical similarity among dialects; 66% to 69% with Bullom So, 44% to 45% with Krim. Shenge is the prestige dialect. Traditional religion, Muslim, Christian.

SUSU (SUSOO, SOUSSOU, SOSO, SOSE) [SUD] 120,000 in Sierra Leone, or 3.1% of the population (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL); 800,800 in Guinea (1993); 3,000 in Guinea Bissau (1993); 923,000 in all countries. Northern Province, interspersed throughout western sections. Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Northwestern, Northern, Susu-Yalunka. A separate language from Yalunka. People have limited bilingualism in Krio or English in Sierra Leone. Muslim. NT 1884-1988. Bible portions 1869-1963.

THEMNE (TEMNE, TIMNE, TIMENE, TIMMANNEE, TEMEN) [TEJ] 1.200,000 first language speakers, or 29.8% of the population (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL); 240,000 second language speakers (1981 Cranmer). Northern Province, west of Sewa River to Little Scarcie. Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Southern, Mel, Temne, Temne-Banta. Dialects: BANTA, KONIKE, YONI, BOMBALI, WESTERN TEMNE (PIL), SANDA, RIBIA, KHOLIFA, KOYA, MASINGBI, MALAL. The people claim to understand all dialects, although lexical similarity between Masingbi and Malal is 74%; between Konike and western varieties 70%. A number of monolinguals. Used as a second language in parts of neighboring tribes. The predominant language of central Sierra Leone. Taught as an elective from primary to college level. The people are 6% literate. Trade language. Agriculturalists: rice. Traditional religion, Muslim, Christian. NT 1868-1955. Bible portions 1865-1993. Work in progress.

VAI (VEI, VY, GALLINAS, GALLINES) [VAI] 15,500 in Sierra Leone (1991), or 0.3% of the population (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL); 89,500 in Liberia (1991); 105,000 in all countries (1991 L. Vanderaa CRC). Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Northwestern, Northern, Greater Mandekan, Vai-Kono. Not intelligible with Kono. Most are Mende speakers in Sierra Leone. Indigenous script. Typology: SOV. Muslim. Work in progress.

YALUNKA (DJALLONKE, DYALONKE, JALONKE, YALUNKE) [YAL] 28,000 in Sierra Leone, or 0.7% of the population (1989 J. Kaiser TISLL); 146,800 in Guinea (1991 Vanderaa); 13,000 in Senegal (1991 Vanderaa); 10,000 in Mali (1991); 187,800 in all countries. Northern Province around Yifin, Falaba area. Niger-Congo, Mande, Western, Northwestern, Northern, Susu-Yalunka. Dialects: MUSAIA, FIRIA, SULIMA. Dialects have 83% to 92% lexical similarity. Close to Susu, but only marginally intelligible. Most people are monolingual. People are 2% literate. They want literature in Yalunka. Muslim, traditional religion, Christian. NT 1976. Work in progress.


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Part of the Ethnologue, 13th Edition, Barbara F. Grimes, Editor.
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