The Mande language family belongs to the Niger-Congo macrofamily. It counts 60 to 70 languages. The Mande languages are spoken in West Africa, from Nigeria to Senegal. One can get an idea of the geographical distribution of the languages of the family from a series of language maps drawn by Valentin Vydrin and transformed into an electronic format by Matthew Benjamin from the Summer Institute of Linguistics, with the administrative support of Ted Bergman.

Mande language maps

There is a specialized journal dealing with Mande languages. It began in Paris starting from 1981, mainly in French, but some articles are published in English:


A systematic study of Mande languages in Russia were began through an initiative of Dmitry Olderogge. Beginning in 1961, the Maninka (Malinke) language has been taught at the Faculty of Asian and African Studies of the Leningrad/St. Petersburg State University. In 1963, it was joined by the Bamana (Bambara) language. Since the same period, Mande language studies have been carried out at the Department of the Ethnography of Africa in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography, Russian Academy of Sciences (at that time, it was a Leningrad branch of the Institute of Ethnography, Academy of Sciences of the USSR).

Beginning in 2000, students and lecturers of the Faculty of Philology and Arts of the St. Petersburg State University are more and more involved in the Mande language studies. They have been joined by researchers and graduate students of the Institute for Linguistic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences (St. Petersburg). An important contribution to the Mande language studies also comes from the scholars from the Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow). Students of universities of Moscow get more and more interested in Mande languages too.

Beginning in 2001, there are annual research expeditions of Russian scholars and students travelling to Côte-d'Ivoire (and, beginning in 2008, to Guinea too). Their participants have as a goal the integral description of different Mande languages. These descriptions are intended to include dictionaries, grammars and glossed electronic corpora of texts.

On September 15-17, there took place in St. Petersburg (Russia) the 2nd International Conference "Mande Languages and Linguistics". During the Conference its participants tried to strike a balance of Mande language studies during the nearly two decades that had passed since the first such Conference (Paris, 1989).

The "Mande languages" division of the site is meant to represent the results of research of the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography and other institutions of the Russian Academy of Sciences and Russian universities. However, it would be wrong to display these results in isolation from the research carried out by colleagues all over the world: in the academic world, state boundaries are irrelevant.

Any question concerning the "Mande languages" division can be addressed to its administrator, Valentin Vydrin:,