Kare language (Adamawa)

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nzáà kã́rĩ́[1]
Native toCentral African Republic, Cameroon
Native speakers
97,000 (1996–2000)[2]
62,000 Kare, 35,000 Tale in CAR (1996)
  • Kare (Kari, Kali)
  • ? Tale
Language codes
ISO 639-3kbn

Kare (Kãrɛ̃, Kareng; autonym nzáà kã́rĩ́, where nzáà = "mouth") is a southern Mbum language of the Central African Republic, spoken by the Kare people in the mountains of the northeasterly Ouham-Pendé prefecture around Bocaranga. It is spoken by around 97,000 people in the country, and another few thousand speakers in Cameroon. The language's presence on the southeastern edge of the Mbum family is thought to reflect early 19th-century migrations from the Adamawa Plateau, fleeing Fulani raids[4].

Ethnologue 17 reports that Kare is intelligible with Mbum proper. However, languages more closely related to either are not reported to be intelligible. Ethnologue lists Tale (Tali) as a dialect, but Blench (2004) leaves it unclassified within the Mbum languages. Ethnologue also lists Kali as a synonym; Blench lists a Kali language in a different branch of the Mbum languages.


Kare has the following consonantal phonemes[5]:

Consonant phonemes
Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Palatal Velar Labio-
Implosive ɓ ɗ
Stop p b t d k ɡ kp ɡb
Prenasalized stop ᵐb ⁿd ᵑg ᵑɡb
Fricative f v s z h
Prenasalized fricative ⁿz
Approximant l j w
Flap r

It has the following vowel phonemes[6]:

  Oral vowels Nasal vowels
Front Back Front Back
Close i u ĩ ũ
Close-mid e o    
Open-mid ɛ ɔ ɛ̃ ɔ̃
Open a ã

There is a phonological contrast between high and low tone (eg "say" vs. "laugh"), and a rarer phonetic mid tone whose phonological status is not established. Only monosyllabic words may bear rising or falling tone.[7]


The basic word order of Kare is subject-verb-object, eg kɛ́ hòrò húrù (3SG eat manioc) "he ate manioc"[8].

Negation is handled with the sentence-final particle "not"[9]; when negated, the locative copula "be (in a place)" is replaced by , and the equative copula ɓá "be (equivalent to)" by tí ɓá.

Verbal nouns are formed by raising the last syllable's tone and adding a suffix -Cà, where C = l or r after an oral vowel, n after a nasal vowel, and is empty after a consonant: "deny" > fárà "denial", sɛ̀l "untie" > sɛ́là "untying"[10].


Kare has no grammatical gender. Its personal pronouns are as follows[11]:

Free Subject Object
I mìí
you sg. mɔ̀ɔ́ mɔ̀ mɔ́
he/she/it mɛ̀ɛ́ / kɛ́ kɛ́ rɛ́ / nɛ́
we màá
you pl. yìɓàí ɓàí
they kìí kìí

To these may be added hánà "each other, other".

Noun phrases[edit]

There is a closed class of morphologically invariant adjectives (eg "new", sɛ́ŋɛ́ "red"), which typically precede the noun but may also follow it to indicate a permanent quality, or may be used as nouns in their own right.[12] Determiners (hánà "other", kɛ́ "the", yɛ̀í "this", yɔ̀ɔ́ "that", nɛ̄ "that yonder") follow the noun, and are followed by the plural marker : nzù kɛ́ rí pí (person DEF PL also) "the people too"[13]. Numerals and quantifiers come at the end, following the (optional) plural marker: nzù ndíɓí "five people" (person five), nzù rì sérè "two people" (person PL two)[14]. Direct genitives are formed by juxtaposition, eg sã̀ũ̀ lìà (root story) "the story's basis"[15]; analytic genitives use the particle ʔà, eg vùn ʔà bá (house GEN father) "the father's house"[16]. Relative clauses are formed with a demonstrative followed (not always immediately) by the relative marker ɗá, eg nzù yɛ̀í ɗá rí mí léóɗáà (person this REL rob me yesterday) "the person who robbed me yesterday".


All adpositions in Kare precede their complement. There are four primary (pure) prepositions: "with (instrumental)", "with (comitative)", ʔá "in", báŋ "like"[17], eg kɛ́ ɡí té bá nɛ̄ (3SG come with father 3SG.POSS) "he came with his father". Alongside these there are a number of secondary postpositions transparently derived from nouns (often body parts), eg tûl "head" > túl "on top of"[18].


  • François Lim, Description linguistique du Kare (phonologie-syntaxe), Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle. Paris, 1997, 368 pp. (thèse).


  1. ^ Lim 1997:10
  2. ^ Kare at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  3. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Kare (Central African Republic)". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  4. ^ Lim 1997:3-4
  5. ^ Lim 1997:64
  6. ^ Lim 1997:75
  7. ^ Lim 1997:73-80
  8. ^ Lim 1997:155
  9. ^ Lim 1997:158
  10. ^ Lim 1997:151
  11. ^ Lim 1997:154
  12. ^ Lim 1997:154-155
  13. ^ Lim 1997:166-170
  14. ^ Lim 1997:154-155
  15. ^ Lim 1997:174
  16. ^ Lim 1997:180
  17. ^ Lim 1997:198
  18. ^ Lim 1997:200