Fula alphabets

From Infogalactic: the planetary knowledge core
Jump to: navigation, search

The Fula language (Fula: Fulfulde or Pulaar or Pular) is written primarily in a Latin script, but in some areas is still written in an older Arabic script called the Ajami script.

Latin alphabets


The Latin script was introduced to Pular-speaking regions of West and Central Africa by Europeans during, and in some cases immediately before, invasion. Various people — missionaries, colonial administrators, and, later during the colonial period, scholarly researchers — devised various ways of writing the Pular language they encountered. One issue similar to other efforts by Europeans to use their alphabet and home orthographic conventions to write African languages with unfamiliar sounds was how to represent the implosive b and d, the ejective y, the velar n (the latter being present in European languages, but never in initial position), prenasalised consonants, and doubled vowels (the latter being as significant in Pular for meaning as tone differences are in other languages).

Major influences on the current forms used for writing Pular were decisions made by colonial administrators in Northern Nigeria and the Africa Alphabet. A major conference on African language orthographies held in Bamako in 1966 confirmed this trend.

Nevertheless, orthographies for the language and its variants are determined at the country level. So while Pular writing uses basically the same character sets and rules (such as for doubling vowels), there are some variations.


Some general rules:

  • Vowels
    • Long vowels are doubled
    • Two different vowels are never used together
  • Consonants
    • To accentuate a consonant, double the consonant (or write ⟨'⟩ before the consonant; e.g., “temmeere” = “te'meere”.[citation needed])

Alphabets by country

Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania

a, aa, b, mb, ɓ, c, d, nd, ɗ, e, ee, f, g, ng, h, i, ii, j, nj, k, l, m, n, ŋ, ñ, o, oo, p, r, s, t, u, uu, w, x, y, ƴ


Version 1: a, b, ɓ, nb, d, ɗ, e, f, g, ɠ, ng, h, i, j, nj, k, l, m, n, ɲ, ŋ, o, p, r, s, t, c, u, w, y, ƴ
Version 2 (with QWERTY/AZERTY keyboard-ready characters; corresponds with pre-1985 orthography): a, b, bh, nb, c, d, dh, nd, e, f, g, ng, gn or ny, h, i, j, k, l, m, n, nh, o, p, q, r, s, t, u, w, y, yh
Matching the two versions: bh = ɓ (as in bheydugol); dh = ɗ (as in dhuytugol); q = ɠ (as in qaagnagol, or qermugol); gn or ny = ɲ (as in gnaamugol or nyaamugol); nh = ŋ (as in nhari); yh = ƴ (as in yhettugol).

Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Liberia

a, b, ɓ, c, d, ɗ, e, f, g, h, i, j, k, l, m, mb, n, nd, ng, nj, ŋ, ñ, o, p, r, s, t, u, w, y, ƴ, '

Mali, Burkina Faso

a, aa, b, mb, ɓ, c, d, nd, ɗ, e, ee, f, g, ng, h, i, ii, j, nj, k, l, m, n, ŋ, ɲ, o, oo, p, r, s, t, u, uu, w, x, y, ƴ

Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic

a, aa, b, mb, ɓ, c, d, nd, ɗ, e, ee, f, g, ng, h, i, ii, j, nj, k, l, m, n, ŋ, ny, o, oo, p, r, s, t, u, uu, w, x, y, ƴ

Arabic (Ajami) alphabet

The Arabic script was introduced into the West African Sahel with Islam several centuries before European colonization. As was the case with other languages such as Hausa, Muslim Fulas who went through Koranic education adapted the script to writing their language. This practice, while never formally standardized, followed some patterns of customary use in various regions. These usages differ on some details, mainly on how to represent certain consonants and vowels not present in the Arabic language.

Adlam alphabet

Languages Fula
Creator Ibrahima Barry and Abdoulaye Barry
Time period
Invented 1980s
Direction Right-to-left
ISO 15924 Adlm, 166

During the late 1980s an alphabetic script was devised by the brothers Ibrahima Barry and Abdoulaye Barry, in order to represent the Fulani language. After several years of development it started to be widely adopted among Fulani communities, and is currently taught in Guinea, Nigeria, Liberia and other nearby countries. The name Adlam is an anagram of the first four letters of the alphabet (A, D, L, M), standing for Alkule Dandaydhe Leñol Mulugol ("the alphabet that protects the peoples from vanishing"). The Adlam script has been accepted for inclusion in a future version of Unicode.[1][2]

Other scripts

There has been at least one effort to adapt the N'Ko alphabet to the Pular language of Guinea.


  1. "Proposed New Scripts". Unicode Consortium. 2015-06-12. Retrieved 2015-07-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Everson, Michael (23 September 2014). "N4628: Proposal for encoding the Adlam script in the SMP of the UCS" (PDF).<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>