Fula - Peul - Fulfulde - Pulaar - Pular

1.  Classification / Classification

Fula belongs to the northern branch of West Atlantic. ... Technically, Fulfulde or Pulaar is the name of this language, while fulɓe (ful'be; singular = pullo) is the name of the people who speak Fulfulde. Fulani is derived from the the Hausa designation for these people, while Fula is from the Manding term, and Peul is from the Wolof (via French). (Webbook, with modifications)

Ethnologue lists the classification as:
Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Atlantic, Northern, Senegambian, Fulani-Wolof, Fula, ... [Pulaar, Pular, Maasina Fulfulde and Borgu Fulfulde are Western or West Central; all the others are Eastern or East Central]

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Fula is spoken throughout West Africa. Most speakers are found within a band running from Senegal to northern Cameroon, including the countries of Senegal, Mauritania, Ghana, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, northern Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, and Cameroon. (Webbook)

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to information compiled from Ethnologue:

  • Pular
    • 2,550,000 in Guinea (1991 Vanderaa)
    • 178,400 in Sierra Leone (1991)
    • 136,185 in Senegal (2002)
    • 50,000 in Mali (1991)
    • Population total all countries: 2,915,784
  • Pulaar
    • 2,387,340 in Senegal (2002)
    • 262,550 in Gambia (2002)
    • 245,130 in Guinea-Bissau (2002)
    • 175,000 in Mali (1995)
    • 150,000 in Mauritania
    • 24,000 in Guinea (1991)
    • Population total all countries: 3,244,020
  • Fulfulde, Maasina
    • 911,200 in Mali (1991)
    • 7,300 in Ghana (1991)
    • Population total all countries: 919,700
  • Fulfulde, Borgu
    • 280,000 in Benin (2002 SIL)
    • 48,200 in Togo (1993 Johnstone)
    • Population total all countries: 328,200
  • Fulfulde, , Western Niger/Northeastern Burkina Faso/Gorgal
    • 750,000 in Burkina Faso (1999 SIL)
    • 400,000 in Niger (1998)
    • 30,000 in Benin
    • Population total all countries: 1,180,000
  • Fulfulde, Central-Eastern Niger
    • 450,000 in Niger (1998)
  • Fulfulde, Bagirmi
    • 156,000 in Central African Republic (1996)
    • 24,000 in Chad
    • Population total all countries: 180,000
  • Fulfulde, Nigerian
    • 1,707,926 in Nigeria (2000 WCD)
  • Fulfulde, Adamawa
    • 668,700 in Cameroon (1986)
    • 128,000 in Chad (1993 census)
    • 90,000 in Sudan (1982 SIL)
    • Population total all countries: 886,700

Ethnologue also mentions 7,611,000 speakers includes all Fulfulde in Nigeria (1991 SIL). These include Adamawa dialect speakers, which would raise the number above.

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Arnott (1970, p. 3) reports the following dialect areas: "Fuuta Tooro (Senegal), Fuuta Jalon (Guinea), Maasina (Mali), Sokoto and western Niger, 'Central' northern Nigeria (roughly Katsina, Kano, Zaria, Plateau, Bauchi, and Bornu Provinces and eastern Niger), Adamawa." All dialects of Fula are mutually intelligible. (Webbook)

Fulfulde dialects are sometimes considered in two groups: western, which goes about as far east as eastern Mali, and eastern which extends from Nigeria and Niger eastwards. There is a high degree of interintelligibility among dialects. However, Pular of Fuuta Jalon in the west and Aadamawa Fulfulde in the east have enough particularities to make them in some ways outliers even with respect to other varieties of Fula spoken in geographic proximity, meaning that interintelligibility with other dialects is not so high.

See the SIL "Fulfulde Language Family Report" by Annette Harrision at http://gamma.sil.org/silesr/2003/silesr2003-009.htm (it includes some excellent maps).

SIL International calls Fula a "macrolanguage" under which nine languages are listed. According to information compiled from Ethnologue the dialects for these nine are:

  • Pular (Fuuta Jalon)
    • Kebu Fula (intelligible with Fula Peta of Guinea and with dialects of Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, and Senegal)
    • Fula Peta
    • A slightly modified form of Pular is known as Krio Fula with many loans from Sierra Leone languages
  • Pulaar
    • Toucouleur (Tukolor, Tukulor, Tokilor, Pulaar, Haalpulaar, Fulbe Jeeri)
    • Fulacunda (Fulakunda, Fulkunda)
  • Fulfulde, Maasina
    • Western Macina
    • Eastern Macina
  • Fulfulde, Borgu
    • Bakuure
    • Korakuure
    • Djougoure (Juguure)
    • Tchabankeere (Caabankeere)
  • Fulfulde, Western Niger/Northeastern Burkina Faso
    • Dallol [Niger]
    • Bitinkoore [Niger]
    • Barani (Barain, Baraniire) [BF]
    • Gourmantche [BF]
    • Bogandé [BF]
    • Jelgoore [BF]
    • Liptaakoore [BF]
    • Barkoundouba [BF]
    • Seeba-Yaga (Yaaga) [BF]
    • Ouhiguyua [BF]
    • Fada Ngurma [BF]
  • Fulfulde, Central-Eastern Niger
    • Wodaabe
  • Fulfulde, Bagirmi
  • Fulfulde, Nigerian
    • Kano-Katsina
    • Bororo (Mbororo, Ako, Nomadic Fulfulde)
    • Sokoto
  • Fulfulde, Adamawa
    • Maroua
    • Garoua
    • Ngaondéré
    • Kambariire
    • Nomadic Fulfulde
    • Bilkire Fulani (Bilkiri)

There are five Fulfulde varieties in Guinea-Bissau (Ethnologue)

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Fula is an officially recognized national language in the following countries: Mauritania, Senegal, Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and Gambia. ... Each country where it is an official language has (1) a government office responsible for adult literacy in Fula and (2) a section in the Department of Education responsible for introducing national languages into the school system and radio broadcasts in Fula (Fagerberg-Diallo, personal communication, 1985) (Webbook)

Notes from Ethnologue:

  • Pulaar and Pular are different enough to require separate literature.
  • Literacy rate of Pulaar speakers in Senegal(according to Ethnologue):
    • L1: 10% to 30%
    • L2: 15% to 25%
  • Fulfulde, Maasina is a national language in Mali. All domains, local administration, trade language, some oral use in first 2 grades, oral and written use in religious services, and oral use in commerce. Positive language attitude.
  • In Niger, Fulfulde is a national language. Taught in primary schools [?]

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

A standard Latin-based orthography (based on the 1966 Bamako conference on orthographic standardization) has been adopted in all of West Africa, Europe, and the United States. It uses the following additional special "hooked" characters to distinguish meaningfully different sounds in the language: Ɓ/ɓ, Ɗ/ɗ, Ŋ/ŋ, Ɲ/ɲ, Ƴ/ƴ (i.e. implosive B, implosive D, velar N [sounds like "ng" in "king'], palatal N, ejective Y). The apostrophe (ʼ) is used as a glottal stop. Transcription of the palatal n varies by country: Senegal uses ñ; Nigeria and Niger use ny; Mali uses ɲ (the n with left hook). (elements from Webbook and Wikipedia)

Ajami was historically used to write Fula and is still frequently used in some places, such as the Futa Jalon region of Guinea.

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

A summary of Latin extended characters for Fula and their Unicode code points is given at http://www.bisharat.net/A12N/FulUnicode.htm

Latin alphabets as reported by Hartell (1993) and presented in Systèmes alphabétiques:

Alphabet fulfulde (arrété 211-99 de la République du Niger): http://www.sciences.univ-nantes.fr/info/perso/permanents/enguehard/recherche/Afrique/alphabet_fulfulde.htm

"Language Museum" samples (NB- These may not be standard or "official" orthographies:

7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Unicode: most Unicode fonts with extended Latin ranges would include the necessary extended characters (Arial Unicode MS, Code 2000, Doulos SIL, Gentium, Lucida Sans Unicode).

8-bit legacy fonts (it is not recommended to used these for new documents):

7.2  Keyboards / Claviers

Keyboard Layouts / Dispositions de clavier

Andrew Cunningham has developed several keyboard layouts for Fula (Latin script) using Tavultesoft Keyman 5&6. See http://www.openroad.net.au/languages/files/

The CNRS/LLACAN "AFRO" Tavultesoft Keyman keyboard (for AZERTY) is intended to support this language: http://www.tavultesoft.com/keyman/downloads/keyboards/details.php?KeyboardID=377&FromKeyman=0

Ramon Mathias Soares Pontes has developed a Fulfulde Ajami keyboard layout using MSKLC.

(See also 7.1, above)

Production Keyboards / Claviers de production

Lancor's "KỌNYIN" keyboard for Windows includes all needed characters for Fula (minus the n with left hook which is not used for the palatal n in Nigeria and Niger) - http://www.konyin.com/

7.3  Content on computers & internet / Contenu en informatique et sur l'Internet

Universal Declaration of Human Rights versions:

Wikipedia in Fula at http://ff.wikipedia.org/ (less than 200 pp. as of 11-2015)

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue


  • ISO 639-1: ff
  • ISO 639-2: ful
  • ISO 639-3: ful

Fulfulde, Adamawa

  • ISO 639-3: fub

Fulfulde, Bagirmi

  • ISO 639-3: fui

Fulfulde, Borgu

  • ISO 639-3: fue

Fulfulde, Central-Eastern Niger

  • ISO 639-3: fuq

Fulfulde, Maasina

  • ISO 639-3: ffm

Fulfulde, Nigerian

  • ISO 639-3: fuv

Fulfulde, Western Niger

  • ISO 639-3: fuh


  • ISO 639-3: fuc


  • ISO 639-3: fuf

7.6  Other / Autre

The African Language Materials Archive? has some materials in Fula. Search Fulfulde, Pulaar, or Pular at http://catalog.crl.edu/search~S16(approve sites) ("Dakar-Digital archive")

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions


  • Lancor Technologies, Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria


  • ARED, Dakar, Senegal

Governmental agencies:

  • In Gambia, an official literacy committee is concerned with Pulaar. (Ethnologue)

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

A short list of proposed computer terms in Fula is given at http://www.jamtan.com/jamtan/fulani.cfm?chap=8&linksPage=332

Edition en langue nationale de Burkina Faso http://www.abcburkina.net/sedelan/contenu/services/edition.html

Correcteur d'orthographe Fulfulde http://www.abcburkina.net/sedelan/contenu/services/linguistique.htm

"Computing with Fula" (TLT, Penn State Univ.) http://tlt.its.psu.edu/suggestions/international/bylanguage/fula.html [NB- this page erroneously calls Ɗ/ɗ "implosive G" instead of "implosive D"; also the palatal-n characters Ñ/ñ are used in Senegal only, cf. http://www.bisharat.net/A12N/FulUnicode.htm ]

Character pickers:

9.  Comments / Remarques

Fula represents a special challenge for localisation as there is both dialect variation and a wide geographic distribution of speakers. If software localisation is attempted for diverse dialects (probably done on a country by country level), an effort should be made to harmonize the translations and terminologies as much as possible.

10.  References / Références

Chanard, Christian (2006), Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines, LLACAN, CNRS, http://sumale.vjf.cnrs.fr/phono/

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, http://www.isp.msu.edu/AfrLang/hiermenu.html (page on "Fula (Fulfulde/Pulaar)," http://www.isp.msu.edu/AfrLang/Fula_root.htm )

Hartell, Rhonda L., ed. (1993), The Alphabets of Africa. Dakar: UNESCO and SIL. (The French edition, published the same year, is entitled Alphabets de Langues Africaines).

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Fulfulde, Adamawa," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/fub

______, "Fulfulde, Bagirmi," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/fui

______, "Fulfulde, Borgu," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/fue

______, "Fulfulde, Central-Eastern Niger," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/fuq

______, "Fulfulde, Maasina," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/ffm

______, "Fulfulde, Nigerian," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/fuv

______, "Fulfulde, Western Niger," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/fuh

______, "Pulaar," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/fuc

______, "Pular," http://www.ethnologue.com/language/fuf

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/codes.asp

______, "ISO 639-3 Macrolangauge Mappings," http://www-01.sil.org/iso639-3/macrolanguages.asp

U.S. Library of Congress, "ISO 639.2: Codes for the Representation of Names of Languages: Alpha-3 codes arranged alphabetically by the English name of language," http://www.loc.gov/standards/iso639-2/php/English_list.php

Wikipedia, "Fula language," https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fula_language

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