Bangime language

Region Dogon cliffs, Mali
Native speakers
2,000 (2005)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 dba
Glottolog bang1363[2]
  Bangi-me, among the Dogon languages

Bangime /ˌbæŋɡiˈm/ (bàŋɡí–mɛ̀, or, in full, Bàŋgɛ́rí-mɛ̀[3]) is a language isolate spoken by 1,500 ethnic Dogon in seven villages in southern Mali, who call themselves the bàŋɡá–ndɛ̀ ("hidden people"). Long known to be highly divergent from (other) Dogon languages, it was first proposed as a possible isolate by Blench (2005). Research since then has confirmed that it appears to be unrelated to neighbouring languages.

Roger Blench, who discovered the language was not a Dogon language, notes,

This language contains some Niger–Congo roots but is lexically very remote from all other languages in West Africa. It is presumably the last remaining representative of the languages spoken prior to the expansion of the Dogon proper,

which he dates to 3,000–4,000 years ago.

Bangime has been characterised as an anti-language, i.e., a language that serves to prevent its speakers from being understood by outsiders, possibly associated with the Bangande villages having been a refuge for escapees from slave caravans.[4]

Blench (2015) suggests that Bangime and Dogon languages may have a substratum from a "missing" branch of Nilo-Saharan that had split off relatively early from Proto-Nilo-Saharan, and tentatively calls that branch "Plateau".[5]


Bangime is spoken in 7 villages east of Karge, near Bandiagara, Mopti Region, central Mali (Blench 2007). The villages are:

  • Bara (IPA: [bara])
  • Bounou (IPA: [bunu])
  • Niana (IPA: [ɲana])
  • Die'ni (IPA: [jene])
  • Digari (IPA: [diɡarɔ])
  • Doro (IPA: [dɔrɔ])
  • Due (IPA: [ʔjeni])


Bangime is an isolating language. The only productive affixes are the plural and a diminutive, which are seen in the words for the people and language above.



Vowels have an ±ATR distinction, which affects neighbouring consonants, but unusually for such systems, there is no ATR vowel harmony in Bangime. Vowels may be long or nasalised.

Front Central Back
Close i u
Close-mid e o
Open-mid ɛ ɔ
Open a


Bangime has consonant distinctions not found in the Dogon languages.

Bilabial Alveolar Alveolo-palatal Palatal Velar Glottal
plain prenasalized plain prenasalized plain labialized plain prenasalized labialized
Stop voiceless p ᵐpt ⁿt k ᵑk
voiced b ᵐbd ⁿd ɡ ᵑg
Fricative s ɕʒ h
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Approximant l j ɥ w
Trill r

NC sequences tend to drop the plosive, and often lenite to a nasalized sonorant: [búndà] ~ [búr̃a] ~ [bún] 'finish', [támbà] ~ [táw̃à] ~ [támà] 'chew'.

/b/ and /ɡ/ appear as [ʋ] and [ɣ], depending on the ATR status of the adjacent vowels.

/s/ appears as [ʃ] before non-low vowels, /t/ and /j/ as [tʃ] and [ʒ] before either of the high front vowels. /j/ is realized as [dʒ] after a nasal.


There are three tones on moras (short syllables): high, low and rising. In addition, falling tone may occur on long (bimoraic) syllables. Syllables may also have no inherent tone.


  1. Bangime at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Bangime". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. /Vr/ sequences are frequently dropped. The language has also been called Numadaw, which is part of a greeting.
  4. Bradley, Matthew Timothy (2014-05-31). "The 'secret ones': tales from Mali's anti-language". New Scientist. 222 (2971): 42–45. doi:10.1016/S0262-4079(14)61070-8.
  5. Blench, Roger. 2015. Was there a now-vanished branch of Nilo-Saharan on the Dogon Plateau? Evidence from substrate vocabulary in Bangime and Dogon.


  • Bangime at the Dogon languages and Bangime project
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