Spoken in Benin
Total speakers 24 million as a first language, 15 million as a second language
Language family Afro-Asiatic
West Chadic A
Writing system Latin, Arabic
ISO 639-1 ha
ISO 639-2 hau
ISO 639-3 hau
Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols in Unicode.
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.
Map showing the linguistic groups of Nigeria in 1979Native speakers of Hausa, the Hausa people are mostly to be found in the African country of Niger and in the north of Nigeria, but the language is used as a lingua franca (similar to Swahili in East Africa) in a much larger swathe of West Africa (Accra, Abidjan, Dakar, Lomé, Cotonou, Bamako, Conakry, Ouagadougou, etc.) and Central Africa (Douala, Yaoundé, Maroua, Garoua, N’djaména, Bangui, Libreville, 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.
Eastern Hausa dialects include Kananci which is spoken in Kano, Bausanchi in Bauchi, Dauranchi in Daura, Gudduranci in Katagum Misau and part of Borno and Hadejanci in Hadejiya.
Western Hausa dialects include Sakkwatanci spoken in Sokoto, Katsinanci in Katsina, Arewanci in both Gobir and Adar, Kebbi, Zamfara and Kurhwayanci in Kurfey of Niger Republic. Katsina is transitional between Eastern and Western dialects.
Northern Hausa dialects include Arewa and Arawa.
Zazzaganci in Zaria 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 Ghanaian 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 speakers of Hausa number around 15 million, and in some areas live in close proximity to native Hausa.
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-
alveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
palatalized Plain labialized Plain palatalized
Nasal m n
Stop voiceless t tʃ kʲ k kʷ ʔ ʔʲ
voiced b d dʒ ɡʲ ɡ ɡʷ
ejective tsʼ tʃʼ kʲʼ kʼ kʷʼ
implosive ɓ ɗ
Fricative voiceless ɸ s ʃ h
Approximant l j w
The three-way contrast between palatalized velars /kʲ ɡʲ kʲʼ/, plain velars /k ɡ kʼ/, and labialized velars /kʷ ɡʷ kʷʼ/ is found only before long or short /a/, e.g. /kʲʼaːɽa/ (‘grass’), /kʼaːɽaː/ (‘to increase’), /kʷʼaːɽaː/ (‘shea-nuts’). Before front vowels, only palatalized and labialized velars occur, e.g. /kʲiːʃiː/ (‘jealousy’) vs. /kʷiːɓiː/ (‘side of body’). Before rounded vowels, only labialized velars occur, e.g. /kʷoːɽaː/ (‘ringworm’).
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’ / ɓ, an implosive consonant, IPA [ɓ], or sometimes [ʔb];
d’ / ɗ, an implosive [ɗ], sometimes [dʔ];
ts’, an ejective consonant, [tsʼ] or [sʼ] according to the dialect;
ch’, an ejective [tʃʼ] (does not occur in Kano dialect)
k’ / ƙ, an ejective [kʼ]; [kʲʼ] and [kʷʼ] are separate consonants;
‘y is a palatalized glottal stop, found in only a small number of high frequency words. Historically it developed from palatalized [ɗ].
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.
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.
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 Ɓ ɓ C c D d Ɗ ɗ E e F f G g H h I i J j K k Ƙ ƙ L l
/a/ /b/ /ɓ/ /tʃ/ /d/ /ɗ/ /e/ /ɸ/ /ɡ/ /h/ /i/ /(d)ʒ/ /k/ /kʼ/ /l/
M m N n O o R r S s Sh sh T t Ts ts U u W w Y y (Ƴ ƴ) Z z ʼ
/m/ /n/ /o/ /r/, /ɽ/ /s/ /ʃ/ /t/ /(t)sʼ/ /u/ /w/ /j/ /ʔʲ/ /z/ /ʔ/
The letter ƴ is used only in Niger; in Nigeria it is written ʼy.
Tone, vowel length, and the distinction between /r/ and /ɽ/ (which does not exist for all speakers) are not marked in writing. So, for example, /daɡa/ “from” and /daːɡaː/ “battle” are both written daga.
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.
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.
A script that apparently originated with the writing/publishing group Raina Kama in the 1980s.
A script called “Tafi” proposed in the 1970s(?)