Songhay, Koyra Chiini


A language of Mali

Alternate Names
Songai, Songhai, Songhay, Songhoy, Songoi, Songoy, Sonrai, Sonrhai, Timbuktu Songhoy, West Songhoy

200,000 (1999 SIL), increasing.


Mopti region: Douentza and Youvarou circles; northeast Ségou region: Niono circle, northeast to Niger river; Tombouctou region: Niger river, both banks.

Language Status

4 (Educational).


Koyra Chiini, Djenné Chiini. Main dialect division between Timbuktu and the upriver towns from Diré to Niafunké. Very distinct in Djenné city. Lexical similarity: 77% with Gao and Timbuktu dialects, 50% lexical similarity with Tadaksahak [dsq].


Kaado (Zarma dialect in Niger) is SOV, West Songhay SVO. Djenné Chiini phonology, lexicon, basic inflection almost identical to Koyra Chiini, but syntax (especially relativization and focalization) very different; Djenné has 7 vowels to 5 for Koyra Chinni (1999 J. Heath); Kaado has 3 tones, West Songhay no tones.

Language Use

Used by all. Positive attitudes. Timbuktu has more prestige than other West Songhoy dialects. Also use Bamanankan [bam], French [fra], Hassaniyya [mey], Tamasheq [taq]. Used as L2 by Tiemacèwè Bozo [boo].

Language Development

Taught in primary schools. Literature. Dictionary. Grammar. NT: 1936.


Latin script [Latn].

Other Comments

Muslim, traditional religion.

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