Language Diversity

Ivory Coast Table of Contents

French is the official language and is used throughout the country, but linguistic diversity still reflects the ethnographic mosaic of its peoples. Four of the eight major branches of the Niger-Congo language family are represented, including the Kwa, Atlantic, Mandé, and Voltaic (Gur). Language areas correspond closely, but not exactly, to the four cultural regions of the nation.

Agni and Baoulé, both Kwa languages and to some extent mutually intelligible, are the most widely spoken languages in the south. Variants of Mandé and Sénoufo are the most widely spoken in the north but are also heard in virtually all southern trading areas. Most Ivoirians speak two or more languages fluently, but no single African language is spoken by a majority of the population.

French is used in schools and commerce and is spoken more frequently by men than by women. Most publications, including government documents, are also printed in French. Vernacular newspapers are not widely available, although biblical texts and educational materials have been translated into major African languages.

Arabic is taught in Quranic schools, which are most common in the north, and is spoken by immigrants from Lebanon and Syria. Non-Ivoirian African languages are also heard, including Mossi, Gourounsi, Fanti, Ewe, Fon, and Wolof. Many Ivoirians understand English, which is taught in high school and the National University of Côte d'Ivoire (formerly the University of Abidjan), but English is not popular even among educated people.

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Source: U.S. Library of Congress