Seereer سࣹيرࣹيرْ‎
Native toSenegal, Gambia, Mauritania
Native speakers
1.7 million (2017–2022)[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 the Niger–Congo family 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, and was the language of the early modern kingdoms of Sine, Saloum, and Baol.


Serer is one of the Senegambian languages, which are characterized by consonant mutation. The traditional classification of Atlantic languages 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 w ˀj


Front Back
Close i u
Mid e o
Open a

Writing system

Serer today is primarily written in Latin alphabet . The Latin alphabet has been standardized in various government decrees, the latest of which was issued in 2005.[5]

However, historically, similar to Wolof language, its first writing system was the adaption of the Arabic Script. The Arabic script is used today as well, albeit in a smaller scale, and only mostly limited to Islamic school teachers and students. The Arabic-based script of Serer was set by the government as well, between 1985 and 1990, although never adopted by a decree, as the effort by the Senegalese ministry of education was to be part of a multi-national standardization effort.[6] The script is referred to as "Serer Ajami script" (In Serer: ajami seereer, اَجَمِ سࣹيرࣹيرْ‎).

Serer Latin alphabet

Serer Latin 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
Serer Ajami Script Equivalent
‌ اَ / ◌َ‎ ب ࢠ‎ ݖ‎ ࢢ‎ د ط‎ اࣹ / ◌ࣹ‎ ف گ ه اِ / ◌ِ ج ݖ ‌ک ل م ن ݧ ݝ‌ اࣷ / ◌ࣷ‎ ݒ ݕ ق ‌ ر س ت اُ / ◌ُ‎ و خ ‌ي ڃ ‌ ع
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

Serer Ajami script

There are 29 letters in Serer Ajami script. The list does not include consonants that are used exclusively in Arabic loanwords and do not occur in Serer words, nor does it include digraphs used for showing prenasalized consonants.[7]

Serer Letters[6][7]
Name Forms Sound represented Latin equivalent Example Notes
Isolated Final Medial Initial Wolofal Latin
ا ـا ا /a/ - / a اُوݒْ
  • The alif has two functions: first, to be the carrier of vowel diacritic as word initial, and second to indicate long vowel "-aa".
ب ـب ـبـ بـ [b] b بَنَانَ banaana
ݒ ـݒ ـݒـ ݒـ [p] p فَاݒْ faap
ـࢠ ـࢠـ ࢠـ [ɓ] ɓ ࢠَلِگْ ɓalig
ݕ ـݕ ـݕـ ݕـ [ƥ] ƥ ݕِيݕْ ƥiiɓ
ت ـت ـتـ تـ [t] t ݧࣷوتْ ñoot
ݖ ـݖ ـݖـ ݖـ [c] c / ʃ ݖَاݖِ caaci
ج ـج ـجـ جـ [] j جُعࣷوخْ juoox
ڃ ـڃ ـڃـ ڃـ [ˀj] ƴ ڃࣹیوْ ƴeew
ـࢢ ـࢢـ ࢢـ [ʄ] ƈ ࢢَارْ ƈaar
خ ـخ ـخـ خـ [x] x خَارِيتْ xaariit
د ـد د [d] d دࣷونَا doonaa
ر ـر ر [r] r رِيتِ riiti
س ـس ـسـ سـ [s] s سُݒِتْ supit
ط ـط ـطـ طـ [ɗ] ɗ طِيسْ ɗiis
ـࢣ ـࢣـ ࢣـ [ɗ̥] ƭ وَاࢣْ waaƭ
ع ـع ـعـ عـ - / [ʔ] - / ' اِسْرَعࣹلْ Israel
  • Used for writing vowel sequences, and mid-word syllables that start with vowels.
ݝ ـݝ ـݝـ ݝـ [ŋ] ŋ ݝَتْ ŋat
ف ـف ـفـ فـ [ɸ] f فࣷوفِ foofi
ق ـق ـقـ قـ [q] q اَ قࣷوقْ اَلࣹ a qooq ale
ک ـک ـکـ کـ [k] k اَکࣷيْ akoy
گ ـگ ـگـ گـ [g] g جࣷگࣷݧْ jogoñ
  • Character not found in Arabic.
ل ـل ـلـ لـ [l] l لَکَسْ lakas
م ـم ـمـ مـ [m] m مُکَندࣷونگّ
  • Used either as an independent consonant, or as part of a digraph in prenasalized consonants.
ن ـن ـنـ نـ [n] n نࣷمْتُ
  • Used either as an independent consonant, or as part of a digraph in prenasalized consonants.
ݧ ـݧ ـݧـ ݧـ [ɲ] ñ رࣵݧِّ ràññi
و ـو و [w] w وَتْ
  • The waw has two functions: first, to be a consonant with the sound /w/, and second to indicate long vowels "-oo" and "uu".
ه ـه ـهـ هـ [h] h اَبْرَهَمْ abraham
ي ـي ـيـ يـ [j] y يِݒُ
  • The yeh has two functions: first, to be a consonant with the sound /j/, and second to indicate long vowels "-ee" and "ii".

Prenasalized consonants are written as a digraph (combination of two consonants). While historically, there were single letter alternatives, these letters are no longer used. Prenasalized consonants are constructed using meem (م) or noon (ن) in combination with other consonants. The letter meem (م) appears in pairs with beh (ب), whereas the letter noon (ن) appears in pairs with dal (د), jeem (ج), qaf (ق), and geh (گ).

Prenasalized consonants cannot take the zero-vowel diacritic sukun (◌ْ). If they are at the end of the word and have no vowels, they will take the gemination diacritic shadda (◌ّ).

In prenasalized consonants, the first letter of the digraph, namely either meem (م) or noon (ن), is written with no diacritic. This is what distinguishes them from consonant sequences.

Some Serer-speaking authors treat these digraphs as their own independent letters.

Serer Ajami prenasalized Consonant Digraphs[7]
Forms Sound represented Latin equivalent Example Notes
Isolated Final Medial Initial Wolofal Latin
مب ـمبّ ـمبـ مبـ [ᵐb] mb مبُودْ mbuud
ند ـندّ ـند ند [ⁿd] nd ندَبِدْ ndabid
نج ـنجّ ـنجـ نجـ [ᶮɟ] nj نجࣹکْ njek
نق ـنقّ ـنقـ نقـ [ⁿq] nq نقࣹيخْ nqeex
نگ ـنگّ ـنگـ نگـ [ᵑɡ] ng نگُلࣷوکْ ngulook
  • Important to note that it is different from ݝ

Serer Ajami script, like its parent system, the Arabic script, and like other Ajami scripts, is an abjad. This means that only consonants are represented with letters. Vowels are shown with diacritics. As a matter of fact, writing of diacritics, including zero-vowel (sukun) diacritic as per the orthographic are mandatory.

Arabic has 3 vowels, and thus 3 vowel diacritics. But in Serer, there are 5 vowels, and as all vowels are shown with diacritics in Serer. This means that on top of the 3 original diacritics, 2 additional ones have been created.

Vowels in Wolof are also distinguished by length, short and long. Short vowels are only shown with a diacritic. Similar to Arabic, long vowels are indicated by writing alif (ا), waw (و), or yeh (ي). But unlike Arabic, this does not mean that the vowel diacritic can be dropped. It cannot, as there 5 vowels and not 3.[7]

When vowels appear at the beginning of the word, an alif (ا) is used as the carrier of the vowel. If a long vowel is at the beginning of the word, an alif, an alif (ا) is used as the carrier of the vowel, followed by either waw (و) or yeh (ي) as appropriate. The exception is when a word starts with the long vowel "Aa". Instead of two alifs (اا) being used, an alif-maddah (آ) is used.[7]

Vowel diacritics in Serer Ajami
Short Long
-a -i -u -e -o -aa -ii -uu -ee -oo
◌ْ ◌َ ◌ِ ◌ُ ◌ࣹ ◌ࣷ ◌َا ◌ِيـ / ◌ِي ◌ُو ◌ࣹيـ / ◌ࣹي ◌ࣷو
Vowel at the beginning of word
Short Long
A I U E O Aa Ii Uu Ee Oo
اَ اِ اُ اࣹ اࣷ آ اِيـ / اِي اُو اࣹيـ / اࣹي اࣷو


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 Sereer culture like many cultures in that region, greetings are very important. Sometimes, people will spend several minutes greeting each other.

Sample Text

Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Translation Latin Script Serer Ajami Script
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. Ween we naa ñoowaa na ’adna, den fot mbogow no ke war na ’oxu refna na den ’a jega ’o ngalaat ’umti yiif ’um, le mbarin o meƭtowtaa baa mbaag ’o ñoow den fot no fog. وࣹينْ وࣹ ݧُووَا نَ اَدْنَ، دࣹنْ فࣷتْ مبࣷگࣷوْ نࣷ کࣹ وُر نَ اࣷخُ رࣹفْنَ نَ دࣹنْ اَ جࣹگَ اࣷ نگَلَاتْ اُمْتِ يِيفْ اُمْ، لࣹ مبَرِنْ اࣷ مࣹࢣࣷوْتَا بَا مبَاگْ اࣷ ݧࣷووْ دࣹنْ فࣷتْ نࣷ فࣷگْ.

See also


  1. ^ Serer at Ethnologue (26th ed., 2023) Closed access icon
  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)
  5. ^ Gouvernement du Sénégal, Décret N° 2005-990 du 21 octobre 2005.
  6. ^ a b Priest, Lorna A; Hosken, Martin; SIL International (12 August 2010). "Proposal to add Arabic script characters for African and Asian languages" (PDF). pp. 13–18, 34–37.
  7. ^ a b c d e Andaam a ajami seereer - Ndax o jang too bind a seereer na pindooƭ a araab / Alphabétisation - Cours pour apprendre à lire et à écrire le sérère en caractères arabes (5 July, 2014) Link (Archive)