Bambara, or Bamanakan in the language itself, is a language in West Africa, mostly in Mali, where it is mother tongue of the Bambara people (30% of the population), and where 80% of the population can communicate in the language. Bambara will also be useful in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Gambia. Together with Jula (French spelling Dioula), Malinké, and Mandingo, it belongs to the Mandekan family of more or less mutually comprehensible languages, which itself part of the Mande group, which is a Niger-Congo language subgroup. The bambaran tribe were mostly Muslim.
It is a Subject Object Verb language and it is a tonal language with two tones. It uses seven vowels a, e, ɛ, i, o, ɔ and u (a like in car, e like in echo, ɛ similar to the second e in echelon but more open, i like in India, o like in for, ɔ like the final sound in gnaw, and u like in the name Honolulu).
In the past and present Bambara has strongly been influenced by French. Any knowledge of French is of great use when learning Bambara. And during your first attempts of actually speaking the language you can try to use French words if you don't yet know the Bambara word for something.
It is a tonal language, with two different tones, high and low. Within a word the tone can only be rising.
Like Turkish and Japanese, it is an agglutinative language, meaning that morphemes are glued together to form a word.
The basic sentence structure is Subject Object Verb. Take the phrase, "n t'a don" (I don't know [it]). "n" is the subject (me), "a" is the object (it), and "[ka] don" is the verb ([to] know). The "t'" is from the present tense marker "té." "té" is the negative present tense marker and "bé" is the affirmative present tense marker. Therefore, "n b'a don" would mean "I know it".
There are no definite particle in Bambara.
Gender can explicitly be expressed by using the suffixes -muso for feminine and -kè for masculine. For instance
In Bambara there are three different ways for turning a sentence into a question. The first is simply using a question mark, or a change of expression, of tone, which is common in French, and the other two are like Japanese and Chinese where an interrogative particle is used to indicate that the sentence is a question:
- .. wa? - at the end of a sentence
- ¿yali .. - at the beginning of a sentence
- min? (at the end of the sentence)
- mun .. ?
- munna .. ?
- jon .. ?
The plural is indicated with a w at the end of a word, and uu for words ending in u.
- me, I, my, mine
- you, your, yours
- he, she, him, her, his, hers, it
- you, your, yours (plural)
- us, our, ours
- u, alou
- they, their, theirs
Note that Bambara doesn't have a special possessive pronoun. Possession is formed using the ka particle, e.g. ne ka mobili - my car.
- An Ka Bamanankan Kan Kalan: Intermediate Bambara contains many downloadable MP3s