definition of Wikipedia
|Spoken in||Senegal, Gambia, Mauritania|
|Native speakers||4.2 million (2006)
L2 speakers: ?
|Regulated by||CLAD (Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar)|
wol – Wolof
wof – Gambian Wolof
Wolof is a language of Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people. Like the neighbouring languages Serer and Fula, it belongs to the Senegambian branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of Sub-Saharan Africa, Wolof is not a tonal language.
Wolof originated as the language of the Lebou people. It is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, spoken natively by the Wolof people (40% of the population) but also by most other Senegalese as a second language. Wolof dialects vary geographically and between rural and urban areas. "Dakar-Wolof", for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, and Arabic.
"Wolof" is the standard spelling, and may refer to the Wolof people or to Wolof culture. Older French publications may use the spelling Ouolof, and some English publications Wollof, predominantly referring to (anglophone) Gambian Wolof. Prior to the 20th century, the forms Volof and Olof were used.
Wolof words in English are believed to include yam, from Wolof nyami "to eat food", nyam in Barbadian English  meaning to eat (also compare Seychellois nyanmnyanm, also meaning to eat  ), and hip or hep, as hip cat, from Wolof hepikat "one who has his eyes open" or "one who is aware".
Wolof is spoken by more than 10 million people and about 40 percent (approximately 5 million people) of Senegal's population speak Wolof as their native language. Increased mobility, and especially the growth of the capital Dakar, created the need for a common language: today, an additional 40 percent of the population speak Wolof as a second or acquired language. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, Wolof is spoken by the vast majority of the people. Typically when various ethnic groups in Senegal come together in cities and towns, they speak Wolof. It is therefore spoken in almost every regional and departmental capital in Senegal. Nevertheless, the official language of Senegal is French.
As stated above, great care should be taken when forming an opinion based on the figures prescribed here. These figures are misleading because other tribes who have been Wolofized and speak the Wolof language are added to this figure when in fact they are not Wolofs at all. Furthermore, not only is Serer and Fula just like Wolof etc. recognised and taught in schools, not everyone speaks or understands Wolof. There are Serers, Fulas, Mandinkas, Jolas etc. who cannot speak or understand Wolof. Moreover, not only Wolof people live in cities and towns. There are cities and towns which are predominantly Serers just as there are cities and towns which are predominantly Wolofs. Furthermore, there are Wolof villages just as there are Serer villages.
In the Gambia, about three percent of the population speak Wolof as a first language, but Wolof has a disproportionate influence because of its prevalence in Banjul, the Gambia's capital, where 25 percent of the population use it as a first language. In Serrekunda, the Gambia's largest town, although only a tiny minority are ethnic Wolofs, approximately 10 percent of the population speaks and/or understands Wolof. The official language of the Gambia is English; Mandinka (40 percent), Wolof (7 percent) and Fula (15 percent) are as yet not used in formal education.
In Mauritania, about seven percent (approximately 185,000 people) of the population speak Wolof. There, the language is used only around the southern coastal regions. Mauritania's official language is Arabic; French is used as a lingua franca in addition to Wolof and Arabic.
Wolof is one of the Senegambian languages, which are characterized by consonant mutation. It is often said to be closely related to Fulani due to a misreading by Wilson (1989) of the data in Sapir (1971) that has long been used to classify the Atlantic languages. However, Segerer (2009, 2010) confirms Sapir's findings that Wolof is not close to Fulani; he finds the closest relatives of Wolof are several obscure languages along the Casamance River.
This paragraph uses the exact orthography developed by the CLAD institute, which can be found in Arame Fal's dictionary (see bibliography below). For the literal translation, please note that Wolof does not have tenses in the sense of the Indo-European languages; rather, Wolof marks aspect and focus of an action. The literal translation given in the table below is an exact word-by-word translation in the original word order, where the meanings of the individual words are separated by dashes.
To listen to the pronunciation of some Wolof words, click here
|Wolof||English||Literal translation into English|
Response: Maalekum salaam !
This greeting is not Wolof—it is Arabic (used by Arabic speakers), but is commonly used.
|(Arabic) peace be with you
Response: and with you be peace
|Na nga def ? / Naka nga def ? / Noo def?
Response: Maa ngi fi rekk
|How do you do? / How are you doing?
Response: I am fine
|How - you (already) - do
Response: I here - be - here - only
|Naka mu ?
Response: Maa ngi fi
Response: I'm fine
|How is it?
Response: I'm here
|Numu demee? / Naka mu demee?/
Response: Nice / Mu ngi dox
|How's it going?
Response: Fine / Nice / It's going
|How is it going?
Response: Nice (from English) / It's walking (going)
|Lu bees ?
Response: Dara (beesul)
Response: Nothing (is new)
|What is it that is new?
Response: Nothing/something (is not new)
|Ba beneen (yoon).||See you soon (next time)||Until - other - (time)|
|Jërëjëf||Thanks / Thank you||It was worth it|
|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 ...?||Where is ...?||Where is ...?|
|Ana loppitaan bi?||Where is the hospital?||Where is - hospital - the?|
|Noo tudd(a)* ? / Naka nga tudd(a) ?
Response: ... laa tudd(a) / Maa ngi tudd(a) ...
(* Gambian Wolof has an <a> after word-ending doubled consonants )
|What is your name?
Response: My name is ....
|What you (already) - being called?
Response: ... I (objective) - called / I am called ...
It should be noted that the "Wolof words" prescribed in this table mostly derived from the Serer language, which the Wolofs have borrowed and adopted. This borrowing is understandable since the Serers are the ancestors of the Wolofs. Example of borrowed words include (but are not limited to):
Few words are definitely borrowed and corrupted from the Fula language "Jërë" (Jërëjëf) and the word "loppitaan" is obviously borrowed from the French word "L’hôpital".
Note: Phonetic transcriptions are printed between brackets  following the rules of the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA).
The Latin-based orthography of Wolof in Senegal was set by government decrees between 1971 and 1985. The language institute "Centre de linguistique appliquée de Dakar" (CLAD) is widely acknowledged as an authority when it comes to spelling rules for Wolof.
Wolof is most often written in this orthography, in which phonemes have a clear one-to-one correspondence to graphemes.
The first syllable of words is stressed; long vowels are pronounced with more time, but are not automatically stressed, as they are in English.
Wolof adds diacritic marks to the vowel letters to distinguish between open and closed vowels. Example: "o" [ɔ] is open like Received Pronunciation "often", "ó" [o] is closed similar to the o-sound in English "most" (but without the w-sound at the end). Similarly, "e" [ɛ] is open like English "get", while "é" [e] is closed similar to the sound of "a" in English "gate" (but without the y-sound at the end).
Single vowels are short, geminated vowels are long, so Wolof "o" [ɔ] is short and pronounced like "ou" in Received Pronuciation "sought", but Wolof "oo" [ɔ:] is long and pronounced like the "aw" in Received Pronunciation "sawed". If a closed vowel is long, the diacritic symbol is usually written only above the first vowel, e.g. "óo", but some sources deviate from this CLAD standard and set it above both vowels, e.g. "óó".
The letter "a" is pronounced [ɐ], similar to the vowel in Received Pronunciation "cup", while the letter "à" is pronounced [a], like a sound intermediate between the vowels in "cat" and "father" or like the sound of "i" in "ride" without the y-sound at the end. "aa" [a:] is the long counterpart of "à", not "a", which is always short.
The very common Wolof letter "ë" is pronounced [ə], like "a" in English "sofa".
The characters (U+014B) Latin small letter eng "ŋ" and (U+014A) Latin capital letter eng "Ŋ" are used in the Wolof alphabet. They are pronounced [ŋ], like "ng" in English "hang".
The characters (U+00F1) Latin small letter n with tilde "ñ" and (U+00D1) Latin capital letter n with tilde "Ñ" are also used. They are pronounced [ɲ] like the same letter in Spanish "señor".
"c" [c] is between "t" in English (of England) "fortune" and "ch" in English "choose", while "j" [ɟ] is between "d" in English (of England) "duke" and "j" in "June". "x" [χ] is like "ch" in German "Bach", while "q" [q] is like "c" in English "cool". "g" [ɡ] is always like "g" in English "garden", and "s" [s] is always like "s" in English "stop". "w" [w] is as in "wind" and "y" [j] as in "yellow".
In Wolof, verbs are unchangeable words which cannot be conjugated. To express different tenses or aspects of an action, the personal pronouns are conjugated - not the verbs. Therefore, the term temporal pronoun has become established for this part of speech.
Example: The verb dem means "to go" and cannot be changed; the temporal pronoun maa ngi means "I/me, here and now"; the temporal pronoun dinaa means "I am soon / I will soon / I will be soon". With that, the following sentences can be built now: Maa ngi dem. "I am going (here and now)." - Dinaa dem. "I will go (soon)."
In Wolof, tenses like present tense, past tense, and future tense are just of secondary importance, they even play almost no role. Of crucial importance is the aspect of an action from the speaker's point of view. The most important distinction is whether an action is perfective, i.e., finished, or imperfective, i.e., still going on, from the speaker's point of view, regardless whether the action itself takes place in the past, present, or future. Other aspects indicate whether an action takes place regularly, whether an action will take place for sure, and whether an action wants to emphasize the role of the subject, predicate, or object of the sentence. As a result, conjugation is not done by tenses, but by aspects. Nevertheless, the term temporal pronoun became usual for these conjugated pronouns, although aspect pronoun might be a better term.
Example: The verb dem means "to go"; the temporal pronoun naa means "I already/definitely", the temporal pronoun dinaa means "I am soon / I will soon / I will be soon"; the temporal pronoun damay means "I (am) regularly/usually". Now the following sentences can be constructed: Dem naa. "I go already / I have already gone." - Dinaa dem. "I will go soon / I am just going to go." - Damay dem. "I usually/regularly/normally go."
If the speaker absolutely wants 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 (in a sentence, the temporal pronoun is still used in a conjugated form along with the past marker).
Example: Demoon naa Ndakaaru. "I already went to Dakar."
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Wolof lacks gender-specific pronouns: there is one word encompassing the English 'he', 'she', and 'it'. The descriptors bu góor (male / masculine) or bu jigéen (female / feminine) are often added to words like xarit, 'friend', and rakk, 'younger sibling' to indicate the person's gender.
It should be noted that the word "góor" ("goor" or "gor") originated from the Serer language. These words originated from the Serer words "o koor" or "goor" which means "man". "O kor" or "gor" also from the Serer language, means "husband". It is from this the Serer word "gorie" ("honour" or "honourable") comes. All these words and their derivatives are used by other Senegambians including the Wolof, but they all originated from the language of the Serer people.
For the most part, Wolof does not have noun concord ("agreement") classes as in Bantu or Romance languages. But the markers of noun definiteness (usually called "definite articles" in grammatical terminology) do agree with the noun they modify. There are at least ten articles in Wolof, some of them indicating a singular noun, others a plural noun. In "City Wolof" (the type of Wolof spoken in big cities like Dakar), the article -bi is often used as a generic article when the actual article is not known.
Any loan noun from French or English uses –bi –- butik-bi, xarit-bi, 'the boutique, the friend'
Most Arabic or religious terms use –ji -- jumma-ji, jigéen-ji, 'the mosque, the girl'
Nouns referring to persons typically use -ki -- nit-ki, nit-ñi, 'the person, the people'
Miscellaneous articles: si, gi, wi, mi, li, yi.
The Wolof numeral system is based on the numbers "5" and "10". It is extremely regular in formation, comparable to Chinese. Example: benn "one", juróom "five", juróom-benn "six" (literally, "five-one"), fukk "ten", fukk ak juróom benn "sixteen" (literally, "ten and five one"), ñett-fukk "thirty" (literally, "three-ten"). Alternatively, "thirty" is fanweer, which is roughly the number of days in a lunar month (literally "fan" is day and "weer" is moon.)
|0||tus / neen / zéro [French] / sero / dara ["nothing"]|
|2||ñaar / yaar|
|3||ñett / ñatt / yett / yatt|
|4||ñeent / ñenent|
|11||fukk ak benn|
|12||fukk ak ñaar|
|13||fukk ak ñett|
|14||fukk ak ñeent|
|15||fukk ak juróom|
|16||fukk ak juróom-benn|
|17||fukk ak juróom-ñaar|
|18||fukk ak juróom-ñett|
|19||fukk ak juróom-ñeent|
|26||ñaar-fukk ak juróom-benn|
|30||ñett-fukk / fanweer|
|66||juróom-benn-fukk ak juróom-benn|
|101||téeméer ak benn|
|106||téeméer ak juróom-benn|
|110||téeméer ak fukk|
|1000||junni / junne|
|1100||junni ak téeméer|
|1600||junni ak juróom-benni téeméer|
|1945||junni ak juróom-ñeenti téeméer ak ñeent-fukk ak juróom|
|1969||junni ak juróom-ñeenti téeméer ak juróom-benn-fukk ak juróom-ñeent|
|1000000||tamndareet / million|
For example two is ñaar and second is ñaaréélu
The one exception to this system is “first”, which is bu njëk (or the adapted French word premier: përëmye)
(Past tense for action verbs or present tense for static verbs)
(Emphasis on Object)
|Processive (Explicative and/or Descriptive)
(Emphasis on Verb)
(Emphasis on Subject)
|1st Person singular "I"||maa ngi
(I am+ Verb+ -ing)
(I + past tense action verbs or present tense static verbs)
(I will ... / future)
(Puts the emphasis on the Object of the sentence)
(Indicates a habitual or future action)
(Puts the emphasis on the Verb or the state 'condition' of the sentence)
(Indicates a habitual or future action)
(Puts the emphasis on the Subject of the sentence)
(Indicates a habitual or future action)
|2nd Person singular "you"||yaa ngi||yaa ngiy||nga||dinga||nga||ngay||danga||dangay||yaa||yaay||nga||ngay|
|3rd Person singular "he/she/it"||mu ngi||mu ngiy||na||dina||la||lay||dafa||dafay||moo||mooy||mu||muy|
|1st Person plural "we"||nu ngi||nu ngiy||nanu||dinanu||lanu||lanuy||danu||danuy||noo||nooy||nu||nuy|
|2nd Person plural "you"||yéena ngi||yéena ngiy||ngeen||dingeen||ngeen||ngeen di||dangeen||dangeen di||yéena||yéenay||ngeen||ngeen di|
|3rd Person plural "they"||ñu ngi||ñu ngiy||nañu||dinañu||lañu||lañuy||dañu||dañuy||ñoo||ñooy||ñu||ñuy|
Note that many of the words stated in this table are borrowed from Serer, including:
Words such as “dafa” and “dina” are obviously borrowed from Arabic
In urban Wolof it is common to use the forms of the 3rd person plural also for the 1st person plural.
It is also important to note that the verb follows certain temporal pronouns and precedes others.
|Wolof language edition of Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia|
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