Ngambay language

Ngambay (also known as Sara, Sara Ngambai, Gamba, Gambaye, Gamblai and Ngambai) is one of the major languages spoken by Sara people in southwestern Chad, northeastern Cameroon and eastern Nigeria, with about a million native speakers. Ngambay is the most widely spoken of the Sara languages, and is used as a trade language between speakers of other dialects.

Native toChad, Cameroon, Nigeria
Native speakers
950,000 (2005–2006)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3sba

Ngambay has SVO word order.[2] Suffixes indicate case.[2] There is no tense; aspect is indicated by a perfective–imperfective distinction.[2] Modifiers follow nouns.[2] The numeral system is decimal, but eight and nine are expressed as 10-minus-two and 10-minus-one.[3] It is a tone language with three tones, high, mid and low.[4] There are loan words from both Arabic and French.[4]



Labial Dental Alveolar Palatal Labial-
Plosive voiceless p t k
voiced b d ɡ
implosive ɓ ɗ
prenasalized mb nd nd͡ʒ ŋɡ
Fricative s
Nasal m n ɲ
Trill/Flap r
Lateral l
Approximant j w


Front Central Back
Close i ĩ u ũ
Close-mid ɛ ɛ̃ ə o õ
Open-mid ɔ ɔ̃
Open a ã

Vowels can be accented or nasalised. Diacritics and accents include high /á/, mid /ā/, low /à/, and nasalised /ã/.[5]


  1. Ngambay at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. The World Atlas of Language Structures Online: Ngambay. Accessed November, 2008.
  3. Numeral Systems of the World's Languages: Ngambay. Department of Linguistics, Max Planck Institute, Leipzig. Accessed November, 2008.
  4. 50 Lessons in Sara-Ngambay, Volume 1., by Linda J. Thayer, James E. Thayer, Noé Kyambé and Adoum Eloi Gondjé. Indiana University, 1971. Accessed November 2008.
  5. Sarah Moeller, Mekoulnodji Ndjerareou, Christy Melick (2010). A Brief Grammatical Sketch of Ngambay (PDF).

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