Native toSenegal, Gambia, Mauritania
Native speakers
1,410,700 (2001-2015)[1]
Standard forms
  • Seereer-Siin
Official status
Regulated byCLAD (Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar)
Language codes
ISO 639-2srr
ISO 639-3srr
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.

Serer, often broken into differing regional dialects such as Serer-Sine and Serer saloum, is a language of the Senegambian branch of Niger–Congo spoken by 1.2 million people in Senegal and 30,000 in the Gambia as of 2009.[2] It is the principal language of the Serer people.


Serer is one of the Senegambian languages, which are characterized by consonant mutation. The traditional classification of Atlantic is that of Sapir (1971), which found that Serer was closest to Fulani.[3] However, a widely cited misreading of the data by Wilson (1989) inadvertently exchanged Serer for Wolof. Dialects of Serer are Serer Sine (the prestige dialect), Segum, Fadyut-Palmerin, Dyegueme (Gyegem), and Niominka. They are mutually intelligible except for the Sereer spoken in some of the areas surrounding the city of Thiès.

Not all Serer people speak Serer. About 200,000 speak Cangin languages. Because the speakers are ethnically Serer, they are commonly thought to be Serer dialects. However, they are not closely related, and Serer is significantly closer to Fulani (also called Pulbe, Pulaar, or Fulbe) than it is to Cangin.[citation needed]



The voiceless implosives are highly unusual sounds.[4]

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop voiceless p t c k q ʔ
voiced b d ɟ ɡ
prenasal ᵐb ⁿd ᶮɟ ᵑɡ ᶰɢ
Implosive voiceless ɓ̥ ɗ̥ ʄ̊
voiced ɓ ɗ ʄ
Flap ɾ
Fricative f s x h
Approximant l j ˀj w


Front Back
Close i iː u uː
Mid e eː o oː
Open a aː

Writing system

Serer alphabet
A B Ɓ C Ƈ D Ɗ E F G H I J K L M N Ñ Ŋ O P Ƥ Q R S T Ƭ U W X Y Ƴ ʼ
a b ɓ c ƈ d ɗ e f g h i j ʃ k l m n ñ ŋ o p ƥ q r s t ƭ u w x y ƴ ʼ
IPA value
a b ɓ c ʄ̊ d ɗ e f ɡ h i ɟ ʄ k l m n ɲ ŋ o p ɓ̥ q r s t ɗ̥ u w x j ˀj ʔ


The following greetings and responses are spoken in most regions of Senegal that have Serer speakers.

Spatial awareness is very important in Sereer. For example, this exchange is only for when the household in question is not nearby. Certain grammatical changes would occur if the greetings were exchanged in a home that the greeter has just entered:

In Senegalese, Gambian, and Sereer culture, greetings are very important. Sometimes, people will spend several minutes greeting each other.

See also


  1. ^ "Serer-Sine". Ethnologue. Retrieved 2018-08-25.
  2. ^ Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International, Figures for (2006) The Gambia only.
  3. ^ Sapir, David, 1971. "West Atlantic: an inventory of the languages, their noun-class systems and consonant alternation". In Sebeok, ed, Current trends in linguistics, 7: linguistics in sub-Saharan Africa. Mouton, 45–112
  4. ^ Mc Laughlin (2005:203)