Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences - Institute of Asian and African Studies


(Lecturer: Dr. Yusuf Baba Gar)

Hausa is a Chadic language spoken by at least 40 million people (Ethnologue 2017) in West and Central Africa, making it the region’s most important indigenous lingua franca as well as one of the most widely spoken languages ​​on the continent. The core of the Hausa community lies in northern Nigeria and southern Niger, but diaspora communities of Hausa-speaking traders and immigrants are also found in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Togo, Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Hausa has a long literary tradition. It was originally written with a modified Arabic alphabet, called ajami, and later with a Latin-based alphabet known as boko. The prominent role of the language can be traced back to the rise of the Hausa Kingdoms (ca. 1000–1800 ad) as well as to its adoption as an administrative language in northern and central Nigeria during the British colonial period.

The phoneme inventory of standard Hausa contains 32 consonants and 12 vowels (a, e, i, o, u, all of which can be short or long, and the diphthongs ai and au). Hausa is a tonal language, with a high tone, a low tone, and a falling tone used to distinguish between grammatical word categories. There are only three syllable types: the simple CV (consonant vowel), CVV (consonant vowel vowel) and CVC (consonant vowel consonant). Thus all Hausa words begin with a consonant.

Hausa is taught and studied at universities in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe. It is also widely used by the media, and international broadcasters like the BBC, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle and France International also have programming in Hausa.


Some Materials on Hausa

Awde, Nicholas. Hausa: Hausa-English & English-Hausa Dictionary. New York: Hippocrene Books. 1996.

Cowan, J. Ronayne & Schuh, Russell G. Spoken Hausa. New York: Spoken Language Services, Inc. 1979.

Jaggar, Philip J. Hausa. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company. 2001.

Paul, Newman.  The Hausa Language: An Encyclopedic Reference Grammar. New Haven & London: Yale          University Press. 2000.