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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Who Were the Vai?
Author:Jones, AdamISNI
Periodical:The Journal of African History
Geographic terms:Liberia
Sierra Leone
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
History and Exploration
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/181580
Abstract:The Vai of northwestern Liberia speak a Northern Mande language, fairly closely related to Manding Previous attempts to date the breakaway of the Vai from their Manding homeland have been unconvincing, though they probably reached the coast more than 500 years ago. The leaders of the Mani or Kquoja invasion of Sierra Leone in the mid-sixteenth century almost certainly spoke a contemporary version of Vai. Probably the Vai entered present-day Sierra Leone in company with the Kono. It is likely that the Kono, Vai and speakers of the now extinct 'Dama' language formed a continuous band from eastern Sierra Leone to the sea, cutting off the Gola and Kisi from other Mel speakers. Later this band must have been split by the westward movement of Southwestern Mande speakers. The 'migration' of the Vai probably involved the gradual creation of trade corridors, with a few Northern Mande speakers resident on the coast and a large number carrying salt, dried fish and other wares from the coast towards the head of the Niger. The Vai language survived near the coast because of its importance in trade and because links with the Manding were never completely severed. Fig., notes, tab.