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Hausa is the Chadic language with the largest number of speakers, spoken as a first language by about 24 million people, and as a second language by about 15 million more.


Hausa belongs to the West Chadic languages subgroup of the Chadic languages group, which in turn is part of the Afro-Asiatic language family.

Geographic distribution

Map showing the linguistic groups of Nigeria in 1979
Native speakers of Hausa, the Hausa people are mostly to be found in the African country of Nigermarker and in the north of Nigeriamarker, but the language is widely used as a lingua franca (similar to Swahili in East Africa) in a much larger swathe of West Africa (Accramarker, Abidjanmarker, Dakarmarker, Lomémarker, Cotonoumarker, Bamakomarker, Conakrymarker, Ouagadougoumarker, etc.) and Central Africa (Doualamarker, Yaoundémarker, Marouamarker, Garouamarker, N'djaménamarker, Banguimarker, Librevillemarker, etc.), particularly amongst Muslims. Radio stations like BBC, Radio France Internationale, China Radio International, Voice of Russia, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, and IRIB broadcast in Hausa. It is taught at universities in Africa and around the world.

Official status

Hausa is an official language in the north of Nigeria, and a "national language" in Niger. It is also the official language of Ghanaian Muslims.


Traditional Hausa Dialects

Eastern Hausa dialects include Kananci which is spoken in Kanomarker, Bausanchi in Bauchimarker, Dauranchi in Dauramarker, Gudduranci in Katagummarker Misau and part of Borno and Hadejanci in Hadejiya.

Western Hausa dialects include Sakkwatanci spoken in Sokotomarker, Katsinanci in Katsinamarker, Arewanci in both Gobir and Adar, Kebbimarker, Zamfaramarker and Kurhwayanci in Kurfey of Niger Republic. Katsinamarker is transitional between Eastern and Western dialects.

Northern Hausa dialects include Arewa and Arawa.

Zazzaganci in Zariamarker is the major Southern dialect.

The Kano dialect is the 'standard' variety of Hausa. The BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America offer Hausa Services on its international news web site using Kananci as standard.

Ghanaian Hausa Dialect

The Ghanaianmarker Hausa dialect (Gaananci) forms a separate group, as it is falls outside of the contiguous Hausa-dominant area, and is usually identified by the use of c for ky, and j for gy. Despite this difference, grammatical similarities between Sakkwatanci and Ghanaian Hausa determine that the dialect was derived from Western Hausa.

Hausa is also widely spoken by non-native Gur and Mande Ghanaian Muslims, but differs from Gaananci, and rather follows the description below of non-native Hausa dialects.

Non-native Hausa

Non-native Hausa is a term which defines the Hausa language as spoken by non-native speakers (especially as Hausa language is used as a lingua franca in West Africa). Non-native pronunciation vastly differs from native pronunciation by way of key omissions of implosive and ejective consonants present in native Hausa dialects, such as ɗ, ɓ and kʼ/ƙ, which are pronounced by non-native speakers as d, b and k respectively. This presents confusion among non-native and native Hausa speakers, as there exists a lack of difference between the pronunciation of words like daidai (correct) and ɗaiɗai (one-by-one) in non-native Hausa. Another difference between native and non-native Hausa is the omission of vowel length in words and change in the standard tone of native Hausa dialects (ranging from native Fulani and Tuareg Hausa-speakers omitting tone altogether, to Hausa speakers with Gur or Yoruba mother tongues using additional tonal structures similar to those used in their native languages). Use of Masculine and Feminine Gender nouns and sentence structure are usually omitted or interchanged, and many native Hausa nouns and verbs are substituted for non-native terms from local languages.

Non-native speakers of Hausa number around 15 million, and in some areas live in close proximity to native Hausa.

Derived languages

Barikanchi is a pidgin formerly used in the military of Nigeria.



Hausa has between 23 and 25 consonant phonemes depending on the speaker.

Consonant phonemes
  Bilabial Alveolar Post-
Palatal Velar Glottal
palatalized Plain labialized Plain palatalized
Nasal m n            
Stop voiceless   t   k ʔ ʔʲ
voiced b d   ɡʲ ɡ ɡʷ    
ejective   tsʼ tʃʼ   kʲʼ kʷʼ    
implosive ɓ ɗ              
Fricative voiceless ɸ s ʃ         h  
voiced   z              
Trill   r              
Flap     ɽ            
Approximant   l   j     w    

The three-way contrast between palatalized velars , plain velars , and labialized velars is found only before long or short , e.g. ('grass'), ('to increase'), ('shea-nuts'). Before front vowels, only palatalized and labialized velars occur, e.g. ('jealousy') vs. ('side of body'). Before rounded vowels, only labialized velars occur, e.g. ('ringworm').

Glottalic consonants

Hausa has glottalic consonants (implosives and ejectives) at four or five places of articulation (depending on the dialect). They require movement of the glottis during pronunciation and have a staccato sound.

They are written with modified versions of Latin letters. They can also be denoted with an apostrophe, either before or after depending on the letter, as shown below.

b' / , an implosive consonant, , or sometimes ;

d' / , an implosive , sometimes ;

ts', an ejective consonant, or according to the dialect;

ch', an ejective (does not occur in Kano dialect)

k' / , an ejective ; and are separate consonants;

'y is a palatalized glottal stop, found in only a small number of high frequency words. Historically it developed from palatalized .


Hausa has 5 phonemic vowel sounds which are both single and long, giving a total of 10 vowel phonemes which are called Monophthongs and 4 joint vowel sound that are called Diphthongs giving a total number of 14 vowel phonemes.

Monophthongs are:

Single Vowels :/a/, /e/, /i/, /o/ and /u/.Long Vowels:/aa/, /ee/, /ii/, /oo/, and /uu/.

Diphthongs are:/ai/, /au/, /iu/ and /ui/.


Hausa is a tone language. Each of its five vowels a, e, i, o and u may have low tone, high tone and falling tone.

For representing tones accented vowels may be used:

à è ì ò ù (low tone)

á é í ó ú (high tone)

â ê î ô û (falling tone)

In standard written Hausa, tone is not marked. However it is needed for disambiguation and thus it is marked in dictionaries and other scientific works.

Writing systems

Boko (Latin)

Hausa's modern official orthography is a Latin-based alphabet called boko, which was introduced in the 1930s by the British colonial administration.

A a B b C c D d E e F f G g H h I i J j K k L l
M m N n O o R r S s Sh sh T t Ts ts U u W w Y y Z z
The letter is used only in Nigermarker; in Nigeriamarker it is written .

Tone, vowel length, and the distinction between and (which does not exist for all speakers) are not marked in writing. So, for example, "from" and "battle" are both written daga.

Ajami (Arabic)

Hausa has also been written in ajami, a variant of the Arabic script, since the early 17th century. There is no standard system of using ajami, and different writers may use letters with different values.

In the following table, vowels are shown with the Arabic letter for t as an example.
Latin Arabic ajami
a ـَ
a ـَا
b ب
ب (same as b), (not used in Arabic)
c ث
d د
د (same as d), ط (also used for ts)
e (not used in Arabic)
e (not used in Arabic)
f ف
g غ
h ه
i ـِ
i ـِى
j ج
k ك
ك (same as k), ق
l ل
m م
n ن
o ـُ (same as u)
o ـُو (same as u)
r ر
s س
sh ش
t ت
ts ط (also used for ), (not used in Arabic)
u ـُ (same as o)
u ـُو (same as o)
w و
y ى
z ز, ذ

Other systems

At least three other writing systems for Hausa have been proposed or "discovered." None of these are in active use beyond perhaps some individuals.

  • A Hausa alphabet supposedly of ancient origin and in use in north of Maradi, Niger. There are serious doubts about these claims.
  • A script that apparently originated with the writing/publishing group Raina Kama in the 1980s.
  • A script called "Tafi" proposed in the 1970s(?)


  1. "Hausa alphabet"
  2. Hausa alphabet from a 1993 publication
  3. Hausa alphabet from a 1993 publication

See also

External links

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