Serer language

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.[3] It is the principal language of the Serer people.

Native toSenegal, Gambia, Mauritania
Native speakers
1,410,700 (2001-2015)[1]
Standard forms
Official status
Regulated byCLAD (Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar)
Language codes
ISO 639-2srr
ISO 639-3srr


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.[4] 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.



The voiceless implosives are highly unusual sounds. /ˀj/ is not listed below, but exists in the language.[5]

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


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

Writing System

Serer alphabet
abɓcƈ dɗefg hijkl mnñŋo pƥqrs tƭuwx yƴʼ
IPA value
abɓcʄ̊ dɗefɡ hiɟkl mnɲŋo pɓ̥qrs tɗ̥uwx jˀjʔ


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

  • Nam fi'o? (pronounced nam feeyoh) = How are you doing?
  • Mexe meen. (pronounced may hay men) = I am here.
  • Ta mbind na? (pronounced, tah mbind nah) = How is the family (or more literally house)?
  • Awa maa. (pronounced Awa maa) = They are good (or more literally They are there).

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

  • Ta mbind ne? (pronounced tah mbind neh) = How is the family/house (which is here)?
  • Awa meen (pronounced Awa men) = they are good (or more literally They are here).

In Senegalese 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. Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2017). "Sereer". Glottolog 3.0. Jena, Germany: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History.
  3. Lewis, M. Paul (ed.), 2009. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Sixteenth edition. Dallas, Tex.: SIL International, Figures for (2006) The Gambia only.
  4. 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
  5. Mc Laughlin (2005:203)


  • Fall, Papa Oumar (2013). "The ethnolinguistic classification of Seereer in question". in Africa: Challenges of Multilingualism, ds Altmayer, Claus / Wolff, H. Ekkehard, Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford: 47–60.
  • McLaughlin, Fiona (1994). "Consonant mutation in Seereer-Siin". Studies in African Languages. 23: 279–313.
  • McLaughlin, Fiona (2000). "Consonant mutation and reduplication in Seereer-Siin". Phonology. 17: 333–363. doi:10.1017/S0952675701003955.
  • Mc Laughlin, Fiona (2005), "Voiceless implosives in Seereer-Siin", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 35 (2): 201–214, doi:10.1017/S0025100305002215
  • Crétois, L. (1972). Dictionnaire sereer-français (différents dialects) (in French). Dakar: Centre de Linguistique Appliquée de Dakar.
  • Fal, A. (1980). Les nominaux en sereer-siin: Parler de Jaxaaw (in French). Dakar: Nouvelles Editions Africaines.
  • Senghor, L. S. (1994). "L'harmonie vocalique en sérère (dialecte du Dyéguème)". Journal de la Société des Linguistes (in French). 14: 17–23.
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