Mandinka (or Mandinkakaŋ) is the Western variety of one of the most widely distributed language families of West Africa - the Mande language family of the Niger-Congo phylum. Mandinka is primarily spoken in the southern region of Casamance, Senegal, and in The Gambia. It also occurs in Guinea Bissau. It is a major language in the area that used to be part of the former Gaabu Empire, which encompassed southern Senegal, The Gambia, and Guinea Bissau. The language is widely used in commerce, in the local media, and in daily communication in most Mandinka communities in rural and urban areas in Senegambia. Mandinka is known for its canonic CVCV syllable structure, and the occurrence of sequences of oral vowels followed word-finally by the velar nasal consonant 'ŋ'. The Senegalese variety is lexically influenced by French, while the Gambian variety is naturally influenced by English, the official languages of each country. The neighboring variety spoken in Guinea Bissau known as Woyinkaŋ exhibits some nasal vowels possibly resulting from the influence of Portuguese (the official language of Guinea Bissau), and some lexical influence from Portuguese and Crioulo (a Portuguese-based Creole which serves as the lingua franca in Guinea Bissau). Woyinkaŋ also lacks the voiceless bilabial consonant 'p' in its phonemic inventory.