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Mende (Mɛnde yia) Mende (Mɛnde yia)

Mende is a Mande language spoken by about 1.5 million people mainly in southern Sierra Leone, and also in Liberia. In Sierra Leone Mende is used as a lingua franca.

Mende was written with a syllbary known as Kikakui, but is now usually written with the Latin alphabet.

Latin alphabet for Mende

Latin alphabet for Mende

Details of the Latin alphabet for Mende compiled by Michael Peter Füstumum

Mende syllabary (Kikakui) Mende (Kikakui)

The Mende syllabary was invented in 1921 by Kisimi Kamara (ca. 1890-1962) of Sierra Leone. Seeing how the British managed to take over his country, Kisimi concluded that their power was partly a result of their literacy. He decided to give his own people that ability. Kisimi claimed he was inspired in a dream to create the Mende syllabary, which he called Ki-ka-ku. During the 1920s and 1930s he run a school in Potoru to teach Ki-ka-ku. The syllabary became a popular method of keeping records and writing letters.

During the 1940s the British set up the Protectorate Literacy Bureau in Bo with the aim of teaching the Mende people to read and write with a version of the Latin alphabet. As a result, usage of Kisimi's syllabary gradually diminished and it was eventually forgotten.

Notable features

Mende syllabary

Mende syllabary

Mende font by Jason Glavy

Sample text (Mende script)

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Mende in the Mende script

Sample text (Latin alphabet)

Numuvuisia Kpɛlɛɛ ta ti le tɛ yɛ nduwɔ ya hu, tao ti nuvuu yei kɛɛ ti lɔnyi maa hɛwungɔ. Kiiya kɛɛ hindaluahu gɔɔla a yɛlɔ ti hun. Fale mahoungɔ ti ti nyɔnyɔhu hoi kia ndeegaa.


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)


Information about Mende

Fonts for Mende and other African scripts

Mande languages

Bambara, Busa, Kpelle, Loma, Mandinka, Maninka, Mende, Soninke, Susu, Vai


Bamum, Caroline Island Script, Celtiberian, Cherokee, Cypriot, Eskayan, Hiragana, Iban, Iberian, Katakana, Kpelle, Loma, Mende, Mwangwego, Ndjuká, Nüshu, Vai, Yi

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