Structure dataset 59: Sango

This language is described more fully in survey chapter 59.

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.’


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.

Glossed text (108.1KB, application/pdf)
No. Feature Value lect Details Source
No. Feature Value lect Details Source


Pulmonic Consonants
Place → Labial Coronal Dorsal Laryngeal
↓ Manner Bilabial Labio­dental Linguo­labial Dental Alveolar Palato-
Retroflex Alveolo-
Palatal Velar Uvular Pharyngeal
/ Epiglottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop p b mb t d k  g ʔ
Sibilant affricate t͡s d͡z d͡ʒ
Non-sibilant affricate
Sibilant fricative s z ʃ ʒ
Non-sibilant fricative f v h
Approximant l j
Flap or tap ɾ
Trill r
Lateral affricate
Lateral fricative
Lateral approximant
Lateral flap


Front Near-front Central Near-back Back Close Near-close Close-mid Mid Open-mid Near-open Open ihigh front unrounded vowel nasalized high front unrounded vowel uhigh back rounded vowel nasalized high back rounded vowel ehigher mid front unrounded vowel ohigher mid back rounded vowel əmid central unrounded vowel ɛlower mid front unrounded vowel ɛ̃nasalized lower mid front unrounded vowel ɔlower mid back rounded vowel ɔ̃nasalized lower mid back rounded vowel alow central unrounded vowel nasalized low central unrounded vowel

Special segments

Other segments
 w  voiced labial-velar glide
 k͡p  voiceless labial-velar plosive
 g͡b  voiced labial-velar plosive


       Exists (as a major allophone)
       Exists only as a minor allophone
       Exists only in loanwords
No. Feature Value lect Details Source