Mende is a member of the Southwestern Mande subgroup of the Mande branch of Niger Congo languages within the Niger-Kordofanian family. The most closely related languages are Loko (spoken in northern Sierra Leone) and Bandi (spoken in Liberia). Mende is also closely related to Lorma and Kpelle.
Mende is spoken primarily in the southern region of Sierra Leone in an expanse of land extending to the coast and eastwards to Liberia. Approximately 1.5 million speak Mende natively in Sierra Leone. Some 20,000 people in Liberia are known to speak the language. Many speakers of Mende speak Krio as a second language.
There is very little dialectal variation in Mende. The geographical dividing line between the two major dialects Kpa and Ko is near the town of Kenema. The two most closely related languages, Loko and Bandi, are so close to Mende that they could be considered dialects.
Main dialects: Kpa, Ko, Waanjama, Sewawa.
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