Talk:Wolof language

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Text/template pending deletion[edit]

What is that message about text/template pending deletion all about? The wikilinks it cites are quite uninformative. Also, why was it put there?
Lucidity 22:51, 26 Dec 2004 (UTC)

It's referring to the little "This language has its own Wikipedia Project. You can visit and contribute at the Wolof language Wikipedia." InterWiki box at the top, not the whole article; it's there cause someone wants to delete the InterWiki template. Rather an ugly and confusing way to do things, I agree, but it should be gone soon. - Mustafaa 00:07, 27 Dec 2004 (UTC)
Thanks, Mustafaa, that clears it up.
Lucidity 08:18, 28 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Phrase lists[edit]

Is it usual to add phrase lists like the one here to language pages? While it's a nice list, wouldn't it be better suited to Wikibooks or something? --babbage 16:01, 20 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Nope, it isn't usual, and I agree with you that it would be better to transwiki the data to somewhere. It is usual to include some illuminating sample sentences; but the present list is more like a tourist phrasebook (actually, I wouldn't be surprised if it's an outright copy from one). mark 22:08, 20 Feb 2005 (UTC)

Basic sentences[edit]

I pulled the following out of the article. While it might be useful information for some, it is somewhat out of place in an encyclopedic article about the language. I did not delete it because it might need to be transwikied to (for example) Wikibooks or something. mark 21:32, 28 Mar 2005 (UTC)

Here are some useful phrases:

English Wolof literally
How are you? Nanga def?  
I'm fine/doing all right. Mangi fii (rekk). I am here (only).
Are you in peace? Yaangi ci jamm?  
peace only, thanks be to God jamm rekk, Alxamdulilaay  
How is your family? Ana sa waa ker? How are the people of your house?
They're fine. Ñunga fa. They are there.
How much (is it)? (Bi) Ñaata (la)?  
It's expensive. Dafa cher/jaffe.  
Lower the price. Waññi ko.  
thank you jërejëf  
You're welcome. Ñoo ko bokk. We share it.
yes waaw  
no déedéet  
I'm hungry. Dama xiif.  
I'm thirsty. Dama mar.  
I'm tired. Dama sonn.  
good morning (Did you pass the night in peace?) Jamm ngam fanaan?  
yes, thank you jamm rekk, Alxamdulilaay in peace only, thanks be to God
good morning/How are you? (this morning) Naka suba si? How is the morning?
It's going fine. (in the morning) Suba si, sangi nii (rekk). The morning is here (only).
See you later. ba ci kanam until later on
See you next time. ba beneen (yoon) until (the) next (crossing)
goodbye (Go in peace.) jamm ak jamm peace and peace

Etymology for "ba beneen", anyone? Sounds like could be local language replacement for hearing some one say "va bene" (latin based languages, vadere=go bene=well). Seikku Kaita (talk) 11:10, 5 October 2010 (UTC)

"Ba beneen" is short for "Ba beneen yoon," meaning "until another time." "Ba" = until; "ben" = one, "beneen" = one other. Source: my notes from the Wolof class I took in Dakar from a native speaker, 2012. AnariTekir (talk) 02:51, 23 November 2013 (UTC)

Here's another part of the table that was on the main page, but I think it would be better suited for wherever we put the list of phrases:

|- |Fan la ... am ? |Where is a ...? |Where - that which is - ... - existing/having |- |Fan la fajkat am ? |Where is a physician/doctor? |Where - the one who is - heal-maker - existing/having |- |Fan la ... nekk ? |Where is the ...? |Where - it which is - ... - found? |- |Ana loppitaan bi? |Where is the hospital? |Where is - hospital - the?

Annekoplinka (talk) 18:27, 5 January 2008 (UTC)

"English language loanwords"[edit]

The following section was added to Wolof and then moved here. I've pulled it out first of all because it is unreferenced but mainly because, frankly, many of the etymologies are highly unlikely. — mark 14:16, 7 October 2005 (UTC)

Because many of the African slaves sent to America were kidnapped from the regions of West Africa where Wolof and related West African languages were spoken, these language groups have made numerous incursions into English, including:
  • banana (Wolof)
  • banjo (mbanza?)
  • bug (bugu = annoy)
  • dig (degu = to understand)
  • hip, hep, hepcat (Wolof 'hepicat' = one who has his eyes wide open)
  • jazz (from Arabic 'jazib' = one who allures)
  • jigger (a bloodsucking mite)
  • jive (from Wolof 'jev', 'jeu' = to talk about someone absent, especially in a disparaging manner).
  • mumbo-jumbo (the name of a West African god)
  • voodoo (obosum = guardian spirit)
Also, the phrases "sweet-talking", "every which way", to "bad-mouth" and "high-five" may be loan translations from Wolof or other related West African languages.

(end of pulled out section) — mark

Wolof language spread by slave trade?[edit]

Because many of the African slaves sent to America were kidnapped from the regions of West Africa where Wolof and related West African languages were spoken
The Senegambia region provided for 4.8% of the slaves (that may have come from very deep into the country). The Wolof ethnic group is about 40% of the population, so that might make 1.9%. I wouldn't call that 'many', especially not because the Wolof were the ruling group, and most possibly less victim of slave trade. A refutation of this Wolof theory can be found here (pages 77-79), where the author emphasises that the slave trade took place over 6000 kms length of coast, 1000 kms deep into Africa, hence a very diverse origin. The author also mentioned that the slaves could hardly understand eachother and that the owners moreover forbade the use of African languages. May I hence conclude that this argument is unlikely? Riyadi (talk) 20:56, 20 August 2009 (UTC)

I agree with criticism above. I have been in understanding, that the locals at west coast African cities have much been traders, dealing with Arab traders trafficking slaves from inland. This could explain why "banana" is common in western languages. The Arabic word "banan" refers to the banana traded by Arabs across the Arfican continent (from east to west). IMHO linguistics should be handles with care, the origins of the words are not always as simple as they might look like. And sometimes they just are.

There is a chance that if Wolof language had significance in words like banana, these words passed through from eastern traders (Arabs) via west cost traders (Wolof people) to English, French and dozens of other languages by West-European and American traders. Seikku Kaita (talk) 10:44, 5 October 2010 (UTC)


"many etymologists believe"..."some etymologists".
Actually how many? I believe just one. The word 'hepicat' cannot have been invented independently by 'many etymologists', as it is in non-standard spelling. If there would have been 'many', they would have agreed on this spelling: xippikat. Xippi means to open your eyes, and the suffix -kat means a person that practices or knows some skill (e.g. jangalekat: teacher; fenkat: liar). This etymology is clearly false, and devised by one person (a fenkat). In the same style, one might imagine that fat cat comes from Wolof as well, it would mean a doctor (faytkat). Feel free to invent more, may the cat be with you.Riyadi (talk) 20:45, 20 August 2009 (UTC)


I just noticed that Talk:Wolof, oddly, redirects to here. Presumably they were once considered one article and are now separated? I'm moving my last comment to Talk:Wolof and making it its own talk page, but if anything more complicated needs to be done in separating edit history, etc., let me know and I'll give it a shot. --Dvyost 21:55, 11 October 2005 (UTC)


Either there is one standard orthography that provides a 1:1 correspondence to the Roman alphabet, or there is not one standard orthography and 1:1 correspondence is impossible. Everything else about English and French not having the 'original Latin alphabet sounds' is meaningless to this article. The Dogandpony 06:43, 17 February 2006 (UTC)


This article is marked as unreferenced, but the bibliography contains quite a few references. Is there any specific type of reference still missing?--Sannab 14:41, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Sorry, it does look like there's a lot of reference here, and they seem good (except we need a link to the Peace Corps PDF dictionary). But there are some claims that seem unclear to me, and they aren't cited to any one reference, to any particular page, so there's no way I can go look for myself without digging through all of them. Maybe I put the wrong tag on. The Dogandpony 16:43, 17 February 2006 (UTC)

Missing gender[edit]

In the section entitled "Missing gender" it is stated that

Grammatically, Wolof does not dinstinguish between male (masculine), female (feminine) and neuter; in other words, it does not use a grammatical gender. So, for example, mu ngi dem can be translated into "he goes", "she goes" or "it goes", depending on the actual context.

This statement is confused. Grammatical gender has nothing to do with the personal pronouns such as the it, he and she of English. Is the author trying to say that Wolof lacks gender-specific pronouns, in which case the example used is correct but the term grammatical gender is inappropriate), or is he trying to say that Wolof—like English—lacks grammatical gender, in which case the example is incorrect and instead it would be useful to specify whether gender is marked on some or all nouns (as it is with the words actor and actress in English). Note that marking gender on nouns is neither necessary or sufficient for a language to have grammatical gender. Unfortunately, I don't know which of these two possibilities is true of Wolof, and so I cannot correct the statement. --Wikcerize

I tried to disambiguate this section - please let me know what you think. Wolof has neither a grammatical gender, nor gender-specific pronouns, so I hope this is clearer from what I wrote. Please let me know, and maybe we can un-tag it. - Annekoplinka 15:33, 21 December 2006 (UTC)


The information added about consonants comes from the Wolof New Testament available as a PDF download from [1].

Pour mieux lire ce livre…
L’alphabet officiel dont on se sert est facile à lire. Les seuls symboles qui présentent une certaine difficulté sont les suivants :
j se trouve dans la paix     —jàmm (ji)
            et dernier       —mujj
c se trouve dans le couscous —cere (ji)
            et descendre     —wàcc
ñ se trouve dans tous        —ñépp
            et refuser       —bañ
x se trouve dans savoir      —xam
            et la main       —loxo (bi)
ë se trouve dans l’oeil      —bët (bi)
            et demain        —ëllëg
ŋ se trouve dans la mâchoire —ŋaam (wi)
            et seulement     —doŋŋ

DFH (talk) 20:10, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

this article have a big error about the Wolof speakers, it says: Total speakers = 3.2 million (mother tongue)speakers, 3.5 million (second language) [1], that's not true because example in Senegal about 80% of the population speak wolof fluently, and Senegalese population are 12million, without Gambia wolof people, and Mauritania.... you may check this article immediately,

thanks for you understanding —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:10, 1 October 2009 (UTC)
Dear M., though I am not the author of the article, I believe that you mix up mother tongue with fluency. To me, the article is quite clear about the difference. Riyadi (talk) 20:01, 20 December 2009 (UTC)


Consonant and vowel IPA charts would be lovely if anyone has a reference (talk) 20:06, 13 November 2010 (UTC)


The fourth paragraph is a long discussion about nyam/nyami and its local roots. It seems misplaced since Nyama for meat is found in even the most remote outpost of the expansion of the Bantu, the Xhosa of the Eastern Cape. That's about 10 000km from Senegal. Its also found in Swahili, Ewondo, Fula, Vai and Gullah and I suspect many more.. I think that the roots of the word are perhaps rather more complex than explained in the 4th paragraph. (See Dr. Katherine Harris [2] and Xhosa Dictionary [3])

I would suggest that the discussion on nyam be moved to a new section on the History of Wolof below the geography section. (talk) 15:31, 13 September 2011 (UTC)

"Wolof–Nyun"! Is this a joke?[edit]

How did the linguists missed this one : "Wolof-Nyun" in the infobox? Nyun (loaned from other languages as usual mostly Serer) in Wolof means we. Wolof-Nyun is a play on the word "Nyun-Wolof" which means "We Wolof". It is an upitty Wolof editor who put that. For the sake of the credibility of Wiki, remove that dubious claim. I have lost patients for all Wolof related articles, I do not know what is fiction and what is fact anymore. SMH!Tamsier (talk) 23:16, 23 March 2012 (UTC)

Check the tree. Wolof–Nyun is Wolof + Buy–Nyun, which is Buy + Nyun. Three languages, no proper name, so we connect a couple together. Just like any of hundreds of other clusters of languages. — kwami (talk) 05:08, 24 March 2012 (UTC)

Loan words[edit]

"Today it is difficult to reconstruct precisely what Africans a century and a half ago took labels such as "Wolof* and "Sereer" to mean - under exactly what conditions thev applied such terms to linguistic phenomena, sociological phenomena, or connections they saw between these. Linguistically, for example, one cannot now be completely sure whether expressions that nineteenth-century linguists treated as borrowings were or were not considered so by Africans at the time. This is a hugely complicated matter. But despite uncertainties and complexities, what we would like to emphasize here is the role of ideological representations - European, African, or both - in "tidying up" a complex sociolinguistic situation through register stripping and boundary drawing. Ir is not just that language came to be taken as an index of ethnic group membership {thus delimiting an ethnic boundary). but also that the contents of a language - materials assigned to it. rather than to some other language from which it "borrowed" them - seem to have been rearranged to match." pp415-416 Judith T Irvine and Susan Gal. “Language Ideology and Linguistic Differentiation” in ‘’Linguistic Anthropology: A Reader’’ ed Alessandro Duranti[4]. All these articles seem to suffer from pov editing, whether it is pro-Wolof or with Tamsier pro-Serer, with little distinction being made between what oral tradition says and what historical records say, and assumptions about things that we simply can't prove such as ancestral relationships of different ethnic groups (which are based on what the groups say, nothing more). Dougweller (talk) 11:46, 30 August 2012 (UTC) Normal 0 false false false EN-GB X-NONE X-NONE

Changing languages and ethnic groups[edit]

Senegambia and the Atlantic Slave Trade By Boubacar Barry[5], chapter "From the fifteenth to the Seventeenth century" p. 35[6] "Though economically rather independent of each other, each with its subsistence economy, these societies were by no means isolated from each other. Individuals and groups did a great deal of traveling in all directions. When they reached a different community, they intermingled according to the rules of their host communities, in a region where there was still plenty of space for incoming migrants.

In the process, people switched ethnic groups and languages. There were Toures, originally Manding, who became Tukulor or Wolof; Jallos, originally Peul, became Khaasonke; Moors turned into Naari Kajor; Mane and Sane, originally Joola surnames, were taken by the Manding royalty of Kaabu. There was, in short, a constant mixture of peoples in Senegambia, destined for centuries to share a common space. Senegambia, in some respects, functioned like a vast reserve into which populations in the Sudan and the Sahel habitually poured surplus members. In their new home the immigrants created a civilization of constant flux, in which ethnic identities were primarily a result of the mutual isolation of domestic communities caused by the subsistence economy. Nowhere in this Senegambia, where population settlement patterns assumed stable outlines as early as the end of the fifteenth century, did any Wolof, Manding, Pcul, Tukulor, Serccr, Joola, or other ethnic group feel they were strangers." Dougweller (talk) 12:13, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

Comparison with RP[edit]

Single vowels are short, geminated vowels are long, so Wolof "o" [ɔ] is short and pronounced like "ou" in Received Pronunciation "sought", but Wolof "oo" [ɔ:] is long and pronounced like the "aw" in Received Pronunciation "sawed".

I doubt that this particular comparison is helpful at all. I'm not a native speaker of English, but I do know the vowel in 'sought' is supposed to be pronounced shorter than the one in 'sawed' because of the voiceless consonant. Still, intuitively, the difference seems so minor and gradient that at first, I just couldn't understand what the article was trying to say. In my intuition (possibly influenced by the standard Daniel Jones school transcription), the vowels in 'sought', 'sawed' and 'sort' are "really" all long, as contrasted with the truly short vowel in sock and sob. In any case, since the difference in length between 'sought' and 'sawed' is just an irrelevant, allophonic effect of the voicing of the following consonant, I doubt that even native speakers of RP or such having constant exposure to it would find it easy to identify the difference and, especially, to re-apply it to describe a true phonemic contrast such as the one found in Wolof. Of course, the last word on this belongs to such speakers.-- (talk) 20:56, 24 April 2013 (UTC)

Word-final devoicing[edit]

I'd like to get more data on this; in particular, how it applies. The article currently notes that it applies specifically in the cases where it does not cause a merger: singleton /b ɟ g/ are realized as /p c k/. But it doesn't describe if geminates or prenasalized stops are devoiced in final position, and if the result is neutralization with voiceless geminates or nasal + voiceless stop. Taking some example words from the article, do "dëpp" and "nëbb" rhyme or not? I'm especially unsure because I remember reading somewhere that Wolof geminate stops, unlike singletons, are released word-finally, which seems like it might prevent devoicing. Urszag (talk) 08:42, 1 November 2015 (UTC)


The section "Pronoun conjugation instead of verbal conjugation" says

(1) verbs are unchangeable words which cannot be conjugated.
(2) To express different tenses or aspects of an action, the personal pronouns are conjugated – not the verbs.

The section "Conjugation with respect to aspect instead of tense" says

(3) conjugation is not done by tenses, but by aspects.
(4) to express that an action took place in the past, this is not done by conjugation, but by adding the suffix -(w)oon to the verb

Now (1) and the middle part of (4) seem to be contradicted by the last part of (4). And the first part of (2) seems to be contradicted by the first part of (3). Moreover, the first part of (3) seems to be contradicted by the examples I here and now, I am/will soon. Loraof (talk) 22:05, 27 December 2015 (UTC)


Wolof words in English are believed to include yum/yummy, from Wolof nyam "to taste", nyam in Barbadian English meaning "to eat" (also compare Seychellois nyanmnyanm, also meaning "to eat").

This sounds more like onomatopoeia to me. Bataaf van Oranje (talk) 09:43, 24 February 2016 (UTC)

Far away[edit]

The Seychelles Creole is too far away to have been influenced by Wolof. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 16:21, 4 June 2016 (UTC)

Pronunciation + loanwords[edit]

First thing: how come Wolof people is pronounced /wəʊlɒf/ (according to Wikipedia), but Wolof language /wɒlɒf/?

Second thing: isn't yummy just an onomatopoeia? Most languages have similar words like yum, nyam, nam etc. According to Oxford Dictionaries it's an onomatopoeia. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 19:52, 20 July 2016 (UTC)

\h\ phoneme and older orthography[edit]

The old orthography wrote E instead of Ë and È instead of E. Â was used instead of À and Ă was also used. Ó was written as the digraph AU. H̤ and T̤ were used too. Ŋ was written as NG and Ñ as NY. One more question. Do any dialects of Wolof have the \h\ phoneme? There were letters for it in various scripts, but I suspect it only exists in loanwords.

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