Hausa - Haoussa - هوس

1.  Classification / Classification

Hausa belongs to the Hausa-Gwandara subgroup of the Chadic branch of Afro-Asiatic. (Webbook)

Classification according to Ethnologue: Afro-Asiatic, Chadic, West, A, A.1

2.  Where Spoken / Localisation géographique

Hausa is spoken in a very large portion of West Africa. It is a first language in the northern Nigerian states of Sokoto, Kaduna, Kano, and Bauchi, as well as in south central Niger. It is a universal lingua franca in the remainder of the northern states of Nigeria as well as in much of Niger. It is a second language for many people in Benin, Chad, Cameroon, and Togo, and it is also spoken in enclaves in Ghana, Côte d'Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Libya, southern Nigeria, Sudan (Blue Nile Province), Senegal, and Congo (Brazzaville). (Webbook, with modifications)

3.  Number of Speakers / Nombre de locuteurs

According to Ethnologue: 18,525,000 in Nigeria (1991 SIL); 500 in Burkina Faso (1991 Vanderaa); 23,500 in Cameroon (1982 SIL); 5,000,000 in Niger (1998); 489,000 in Sudan (2001 Johnstone and Mandryk); Population total all countries: 24,162,000. Also 15,000,000 second-language speakers.

4.  Dialect Survey / Enquête de dialecte

Gouffe (1981) notes the "remarkable unity" of Hausa, even though there are noticeable differences from west to east. (Webbook)

According to Ethnologue: Kano, Katagum, Hadejiya, Sokoto, Gobirawa, Adarawa, Kebbawa, Zamfarawa, Katsina, Arewa. Barikanchi is a Hausa pidgin used in military barracks. There is a pidgin or market Hausa. Subdialects of Eastern Hausa: Kano, Katagum, Hadejiya; of Western Hausa: Sokoto, Katsina, Gobirawa, Adarawa, Kebbawa, Zamfarawa; of North Hausa: Arewa, Arawa. Abakwariga is a subgroup.

Kano Hausa is taken as the standard for most publications. [verify]

5.  Usage / Utilisation

Schuh reports that "Hausa is an official language in Nigeria. It is a main trade language in northern Nigeria and Niger and in common use throughout Nigeria. It is a subject in Nigerian secondary schools and universities and is the language of instruction for the elementary grades in Hausa-speaking areas. More than half of the broadcasting on northern Nigerian radio and television stations is in Hausa, and Nigeria boasts several Hausa language newspapers as well as an ever increasing number of publications of all types in Hausa. In addition to, Nigerian and Cameroonian radio stations, all international broadcasters with transmissions to West Africa have programs in Hausa. These include the BBC, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, Radio Moscow, and Radio Peking." (Webbook)

There is popular literature in Hausa as well as a local Hausa film industry ("Kannywood" = Kano + Hollywood) in Nigeria. An association of Nigerian writers in Hausa is called Hausa Arts Writers Association (HAWA).

6.  Orthography / Orthographe

6.1  Status / Statut

a) Background

Hausa has both a standardized Romanized/Latin orthography called "Boko" and a traditional Arabic orthography known as "Ajami." Until the 1950s ajami and boko were both used, though since then boko has been the main alphabet for most Hausa speakers. (Webbook & Omniglot)

Hausa is a tonal language, but tones are not generally marked (except, for example, in learning materials), and then only in Boko (verify!). There is no standard tone marking system in either orthography.

For more information see:

b) Boko (Latin)

The Latin-based Boko orthography is based primarily on the Kano dialect and includes several extended characters. It was developed during the period of British colonial rule.

Boko is standardized in Nigeria and Niger and widely seen in publications.

c) Ajami (Arabic)

Hausa Ajami is not formally standardized, although it follows certain conventions.

"Since the beginning of the 17th century, Hausa has been written with a version of the Arabic script known as ajami. Most of the early writing in Hausa was Islamic poetry or on Islamic themes. Ajami is still used, mainly to write poetry, but also for at least one newpaper and some books. There is no standard spelling system for Hausa written with the Arabic script so there is some variation in spelling between different writers." (Omniglot)

6.2  Sample Alphabet / Alphabet exemple

a) Boko

Boko alphabet (listing only 2 digraphs, sh & ts), per the UCLA "Hausa Writing" page above, 6.1:

  • Nigeria: ʼ a b ɓ c d ɗ e f g h i j k ƙ l m n o r s sh t ts u w y 'y z
  • Niger: ʼ a b ɓ c d ɗ e f g h i j k ƙ l m n o r s sh t ts u w y ƴ z

Other alphabet descriptions also list these digraphs:
gw kw ƙw ƙy

Alphabet (Boko, for Nigeria & Niger) as reported by Hartell (1993) (note, this differs a little from the above):

  • presented in Systèmes alphabétiques :

Alphabet hausa (arrété 212-99 de la République du Niger) or sites)

See also:

b) Ajami


7.  Use in ICT / Utilisation dans les TIC

7.1  Fonts / Polices

Most common Unicode fonts with the following extended Latin ranges should have the necessary characters for Hausa Boko (e.g., Lucida Sans Unicode, Code 2000, Gentium, Doulos SIL, Arial Unicode MS):

Extended Arabic ranges might cover Ajami needs [need more info!]

7.2  Keyboards / Claviers

a) Keyboard Layouts / Dispositions de clavier

Some are discussed on the "Hausa charsets & keyboards" message board at

Andrew Cunningham has developed several keyboard layouts for Hausa Boko using Tavultesoft Keyman 5&6. See

The CNRS/LLACAN "AFRO" Tavultesoft Keyman keyboard (for AZERTY) is intended to support this language:

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

b) Production Keyboards / Claviers de production

Lancor's "KỌNYIN" keyboard for Windows includes all needed characters for Hausa -

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

Universal Declaration of Human Rights (not in Hausa orthography)

Wikipedia in Hausa at (not much content as of 7-2006)

The websites of several international shortwave radio stations have pages in Hausa, but generally in an ASCII orthography:

Some weblogs with content in Hausa:

Hausa Online (site with some content & links to content)

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) program in Nigeria will include some Hausa content: Kwamfyutar Cinya Ɗaya ga Kowani Yaro -

7.4  Localized software / Logiciels localisés

There is one Hausa software that we have not been able to evaluate.

7.5  Language codes / Codes de langue

  • ISO 639-1: ha
  • ISO 639-2: hau
  • ISO 639-3: hau

7.6  Other / Autre

8.  Localisation resources / Ressources pour localisation

8.1  Individuals (experts) / Individuelles (experts)

8.2  Institutions / Institutions


  • Lancor Technologies, Ikeja, Lagos State, Nigeria

8.3  On the internet / Sur la toile

9.  Comments / Remarques

Hausa would seem to be a high priority language for localisation, given its use in several countries.

10.  References / Références

Chanard, Christian (2006), Systèmes alphabétiques des langues africaines, LLACAN, CNRS,

Dwyer, David (1997), Webbook of African Languages, (page on "Hausa," )

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).

Omniglot, "Hausa (حَوْسَ),"

SIL International, Ethnologue: Languages of the World, "Hausa,"

SIL International, "ISO 639 Code Tables,"

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,"

Wikipedia, "Hausa language,"

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