Serer language

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Native to Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania
Native speakers
1.2 million (2006)[1]
Standard forms
Official status
Regulated by CLAD (Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar)
Language codes
ISO 639-2 srr
ISO 639-3 srr
Glottolog sere1260[2]
This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.

Serer, sometimes called Serer-Sine "Serer proper" (Seereer-Siin, etc.) after its prestige dialect, 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.


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. Segerer (2009, 2010) confirms Sapir's findings on this point; Serer and Fulani are closely related (they share noun-class suffixes not found elsewhere in Atlantic), while Wolof is relatively distant from either.[5]

Dialects of Serer are Serer Sine (the prestige dialect), Segum, Fadyut-Palmerin, Dyegueme (Gyegem), and Niominka. They are mutually intelligible.

Not all Serer people speak Serer. About 200,000 speak Cangin languages. Because the speakers are ethnically Serer, these are commonly thought to be Serer dialects. However, they are not closely related: Serer is significantly closer to Fulani than it is to Cangin.[5]



Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular Glottal
Nasal m n ɲ ŋ
Stop p
Implosive ɓ̥ ɓ ɗ̥ ɗ ʄ̊ ʄ
Fricative f s x h
j w
Flap ɾ

The voiceless implosives are also written ⟨ƥ ƭ ƈ ⟩; these are highly unusual sounds.

Serer greetings

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?
  • Owa maa. (pronounced owa maa) = It is good.

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

See also


  1. Serer at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. Nordhoff, Sebastian; Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin, eds. (2013). "Serer". Glottolog. Leipzig: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  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. 5.0 5.1 Guillaume Segerer & Florian Lionnet 2010. "'Isolates' in 'Atlantic'". Language Isolates in Africa workshop, Lyon, Dec. 4
  6. 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.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McLaughlin, Fiona (1994). "Consonant mutation in Seereer-Siin". Studies in African Languages. 23: 279–313.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • McLaughlin, Fiona (2000). "Consonant mutation and reduplication in Seereer-Siin". Phonology. 17: 333–363. doi:10.1017/S0952675701003955.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Mc Laughlin, Fiona (2005), "Voiceless implosives in Seereer-Siin", Journal of the International Phonetic Association, 35 (2): 201–214, doi:10.1017/S0025100305002215<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Crétois, L. (1972). Dictionnaire sereer-français (différents dialects) (in français). Dakar: Centre de Linguistique Appliquée de Dakar.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Fal, A. (1980). Les nominaux en sereer-siin: Parler de Jaxaaw (in français). Dakar: Nouvelles Editions Africaines.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Senghor, L. S. (1994). "L'harmonie vocalique en sérère (dialecte du Dyéguème)". Journal de la Société des Linguistes (in français). 14: 17–23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>