Sango

Sango is the national language of the Central African Republic and co-official with French. It is certainly the vernacular (the most common language of every-day use) of Bangui, the nation’s capital, with more than half a million inhabitants. In 1994 69 per cent of pre-school children of different ethnicities spoke only Sango; among school children 10 to 16 years of age 31 per cent were similarly Sangophone. For Protestant adults, the figure was 26 per cent. Sango is probably spoken by most of Central African Republic’s indigenous population out of a total number of three to four million. The number of people not competent in Sango has probably increased in recent years as people fled social and political upheavals in neighbouring Chad and Sudan, the most recent one being the Islamist invasion and conquest in April 2013. As a vernacular, it is more important than French, which is the written language, even in popular political discourse. Sango literature is entirely religious. Though there are radio broadcasts in Sango, much of them extemporaneous translations of French texts, this must be considered a separate lect because of its extreme francification. The default lect used for this project is characteristic of young inhabitants in Bangui in the 1990s as found in tape recordings of extemporaneous speech. Another lect, which I call written, is extemporaneous speech with a

great deal of French. This lect is also used in the Sango of personal letters and in publications of religious literature.Plans three decades ago for the standardization of Sango and its implementation in the educational system came to nought very quickly. For the future, the most certain prediction is that Sango will continue to change under the influence of ‘broken French.’

Acknowledgements

The persons to whom I am indebted for having been able to study Sango from a scholarly point of view are too numerous to name in their entirety, but special note must be given to Louise (deceased) and Antoine Depeyre for their hospitality in France and Jeannine Gerbault for her various kinds of help in Bangui. Among the institutions that provided research grants are these: the United States Department of Education, the International Studies Program of the University of Toronto, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Canada Council, the University of Toronto, and Centre national de la Recherche scientifique (CNRS) of France. The Congrégation du Saint-Esprit provided hospitality in Paris and enabled me to consult the archives of its mission in Oubangui-Chari/Central African Republic. The International Grace Brethren Missions (USA) (known as Mission Evangélique des Frères in the Central African Republic) also provided housing and a vehicle. The Ministry of Education of the Central African Republic opened its country to me to travel and conduct research, and Célestin Kanzi-Soussou and Lamine Ndocko transcribed some of the tape recordings.

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No. Feature Value % lect Details Source
No. Feature Value % lect Details Source

Consonants

bilabial
labiodental
dental
dental/alveolar
dental/alveolar
affricate
palato-alveolar
retroflex
palatal
velar
labial-velar
uvular
glottal
plosive/affricatepbtdt͡sd͡zt͡ʃd͡ʒʈɖcɟkgk͡pg͡bqʔ
aspirated plosive/affricatet͡sʰt͡ʃʰ
glottalized stop/affricateɓt͡sʼt͡ʃʼ
nasalmnɳɲŋ
trill, tap or flaprɾ
fricativeɸβfvθðszʃʒxɣχh
lateral/approximantɬlɭjw

Vowels

frontnear-frontcentralnear-backback
high
higher-mid
mid
lower-mid
low

Special segments

labialized voiceless velar plosive - Exists (as a major allophone)
mbprenasalized voiced bilabial plosive - Exists (as a major allophone)

Legend

 Exists (as a major allophone)
 Exists only as a minor allophone
 Exists only in loanwords
 Does not exist
No. Feature Value % lect Details Source