The Sango Language and Its Lexicon (Sêndâ-yângâ tî Sängö)

Christina Thornell

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


This doctoral dissertation is an overview of the recently arisen Sango language spoken in the Central African Republic. The overview contains a sociolinguistic and linguistic dimension with a lexical-semantic focus. The study is set within a multidisciplinary framework including a functional-typological perspective, language change induced by contact, and language planning. The study shows that the diachronic sociolinguistic context of Sango has greatly influenced its structures, while little language-internal development has taken place. It is justified to treat Sango as an Ubangi language both from a sociolinguistic and typological point of view. Sango arose in the Upper Ubangi area, probably before the arrival of the Europeans, as the outcome of intense contact between the Ngbandi people and other ethnic groups speaking different languages. These contacts gave rise to several simplified varieties based on the Ngbandi language which have developed to present day Sango under strong influence from other Ubangi languages in close contact. This is evident from, for instance, the clause-final position of negation and the encoding of 'take' and 'give' in the same verb – features which occur in Ubangi languages but which are rare elsewhere. The language has also been influenced by language-planning activities which have led to the emergence of both general and standardised varieties. The vocabulary is composed of words from primarily Ngbandi and from French. The 20 most frequent verbs are characterised by a number of criteria for unmarked lexical items in general. Lexical patterns of some of the 20 verbs are studied, as are verbs of motion with regard to kind of motion, syntactic frames, and conflation of components. The verbs show general tendencies but also parallels with other Ubangi languages and culture-specific tendencies. The study also showed that lexicalisation processes involving conflation of components are going on. The study is based on a wide range of sources, including a tape-recorded corpus of approximately 52,000 running words (the most important source), and observations made under my eleven-year stay between 1970 and 1991 in the western part of the CAR.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • General Linguistics
  • [unknown], [unknown], Supervisor, External person
Award date1997 May 16
ISBN (Print)91-7966-420-2, 0-86238-482-6
Publication statusPublished - 1997

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 1997-05-16
Time: 10:15
Place: Hörsalen, Humanisthuset, Helgonabacken 14

External reviewer(s)

Name: Stroud, Christopher
Title: [unknown]
Affiliation: [unknown]


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • General Language Studies and Linguistics

Free keywords

  • Linguistics
  • lexical semantics
  • lexicology
  • language planning
  • language contact
  • functional linguistics
  • language typology
  • Ubangi language
  • pidgin/creole
  • Sango
  • Central African Republic
  • Lingvistik


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