[Mansa-l] Malinke/Maninka

Nicholas Hopkins hopkins at aucegypt.edu
Thu Oct 23 11:04:11 CDT 2008

When I went to Kita in 1961, I was thinking that the local people were
the Malinke, because I was coming from exposure to the French academic
tradition. Slowly I shifted to Maninka and maninkakan, which were the
words locally used (also Fula, Bamama, etc.). On the other hand,
Django Cissé of Kita published his PhD thesis as "Structures des
Malinké de Kita", so made a different choice. But I tried to go by
what I heard.

Nicholas Hopkins

On 10/21/08, Valentin Vydrin <vydrine at gmail.com> wrote:
> Dear Frederick,
>  If you are not yet bored with the opinions of linguists, I'll try to
>  answer your question. In fact, "Malinke" is a xenoyme for "Maninka".
>  The original form is "Mandenka", i.e., "inhabitant/originary of
>  Manden/Manding". According to a common rule, in Bamana and in some
>  other Manding varieties, *Mandenka > Manenka or Maninka. (On the other
>  hand, in the North-West, *Mandenka > Mandinka, because in that area a
>  semi-closed *e regularly yields  i).
>  In Soninke, the cluster -nd- in some conditions yields -ll-. So, we
>  have *Mandinka > Malinka (by the same way, I think, the Arabs borrowed
>  for Manden/Manding a Soninke form: Mande > Malle, and in Arabic
>  writing, where only 3 vowels are available, "Malli" or "Melli" or
>  "Meli" or "Male" can be written in the same way). Besides, Soninke has
>  a noun morpheme -e which is added to the end of the great majority of
>  nouns in this language. Therefore, Malinka > Malinke. As Soninke was a
>  very important language in West Sudan for many centuries, it is the
>  Soninke form that was borrowed by many other languages of the region,
>  and it was also taken by Europeans.
>  Therefore, Malinke is absolutely the same thing as Maninka; it is just
>  a variant of the same name.
>  Valentin Vydrin
>  PS. I'm sorry for so many technical details...
>  2008/10/21 Lamp, Frederick <frederick.lamp at yale.edu>:
> > "Could I ask a dumb question?" the MANSA scholar said, timidly, after seven
>  > rounds of palm wine.  "What's the name of those people we study?"
>  >
>  >
>  >
>  > Europeans say Manding when the Americans say Mande, and the Americans say
>  > Manding when the Europeans say Mande.  The French say Bambara, the Americans
>  > say Bamana.  We never did resolve any of that, some asserting that one is
>  > pejorative, and then our foremost linguist informing us that both are
>  > pejorative and have the same root.
>  >
>  >
>  >
>  > Now the question has arisen among some of us as to what to call the Malinke,
>  > or is it Maninka?  Linguists identify Maninka as a language in Haute Guinée
>  > and southwestern Mali.  Malinké is commonly used in both areas to indicate
>  > the culture or ethnic group, and it appears on all existing maps I've found
>  > on Guinea including the official maps [See for example the Atlas Scholaire
>  > de la Guinée, 2002, published by the Ministere de l'Education
>  > Pre-Universitaire].  We know of several cases in Africa where different
>  > terms are used for language and culture (e.g. Akan/Twi).  Is this proper in
>  > the case of Malinké/Maninka?  Ethnologue cannot answer this question because
>  > it is focused on languages, not culture. Language is easier to identify than
>  > culture because it can be quantified whereas culture cannot, so many
>  > scholars just opt for using the linguistic term.  Culture and ethnic
>  > identity sometimes transcend linguistic borders or can be extremely
>  > localized -- it's much messier, some would say vague.  The question of "what
>  > do the people call themselves" may be irrelevant because generally peoples
>  > don't give themselves names -- other people do (The Dutch don't call
>  > themselves Dutch but were given the name by the English, who couldn't
>  > pronounce Deutsch, a name the Dutch rejected anyway in favor of another name
>  > probably dismissively given to them by the Deutschen).  In the literature,
>  > even up to the present, Malinke and Maninka are often confused by our own
>  > experts.  If MANSA can't decide who these people are, who can?
>  >
>  >
>  >
>  > I don't think MANSA ought to be sending out the terminology gestapo in this
>  > postmodern age of "many voices."  And the issue is extremely complex.  But I
>  > think it would be useful to have some discussion that would help us to at
>  > least clarify the complexity now hopelessly muddled, if not to arrive at a
>  > consensus.
>  >
>  >
>  >
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