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Serer language

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Title: Serer language  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
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Subject: Serer creation myth, Tukar, Senegal, Serer maternal clans, Saloum
Collection: Serer Language
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Serer language

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]

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.


  • Classification 1
  • Phonology 2
    • Consonants 2.1
  • Serer greetings 3
  • See also 4
  • Notes 5
  • Bibliography 6


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 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. ^
  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. ^ a b Guillaume Segerer & Florian Lionnet 2010. "'Isolates' in 'Atlantic'". Language Isolates in Africa workshop, Lyon, Dec. 4
  6. ^ Mc Laughlin (2005:203)


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