The SoninkÚ in Mauritania are the westernmost branch of the large and widely dispersed SoninkÚ people (also called the SarakolÚ), most of whom live in Mali, Burkina Faso, and C˘te d'Ivoire. They inhabit the banks of the Senegal River in southcentral Mauritania, where they engage in agriculture and trading. Their ancestors were the founders of the ancient kingdom of Ghana. Some Mauritanian SoninkÚ speak Azayr, a SoninkÚ dialect heavily influenced by Berber; however, most speak the languages of the peoples among whom they live. They are fervent Muslims.
SoninkÚ society is rigidly stratified, allowing for little social mobility. Descent, inheritance, and succession to kingroup and family authority are all patrilineal, and the household unit is the patrilocal extended family. Polygyny is permitted, but the extent to which it is practiced among the SoninkÚ in Mauritania is not clear. Bride-price is a well-established custom, and folklore and ritual are integral to SoninkÚ life.
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