Mande (mänˈdā) [key], language group, W Africa, including the Malinke, Dyula, Marka, Mende, Bambara, and Soninke subgroups. The Mande-speakers today number about 3 million and live mainly in Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. Their societies are patrilineal, and most practice sedentary agriculture and profess Islam. The Mande probably originated in the region of the upper Niger River, and they formed numerous states based on trade. The Soninke founded the ancient empire of Ghana (7th–13th cent.), and the Malinke established the empire of Mali (13th–16th cent.). Mande traders were important in spreading Islam in W Africa.
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