Monday, June 16, 2014

Language Profile: Wolof

Today we're taking a brief look at Wolof, a language spoken in Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania. It is a member of the Niger-Congo language family, which includes languages such as Yoruba and Igbo.

Majestic mountains in Mauritania
Wolof is the most spoken language in Senegal, where it is a recognized regional language. It is spoken by approximately 40 percent of the country's population. You can learn all about the other languages spoken in Senegal in our recent post for Senegal's Independence Day. The language is also spoken in the Gambia and Mauritania, and is recognized as a national language in both countries. In the Gambia, it is spoken as a first language by nearly a quarter of the population, while it is only spoken by around 7% of the population in Mauritania.

Unlike most other African languages, Wolof is not a tonal language. It shares this characteristic with a few other languages, including Amharic and Swahili.

The Wolof language is generally written using a Latin-based alphabet. However, it can also be written using the Wolofal script, the original writing system used with the language, which is based on Arabic script.