Kanuri (language)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spoken in

Cameroon , Nigeria , Niger and Chad
speaker over 4 million
Official status
Official language in NigeriaNigeria Nigeria (regional)
Recognized minority /
regional language in
NigerNiger Niger
Language codes
ISO 639 -1


ISO 639 -2 ( B ) chew ( T ) chew
Distribution area of ​​the Kanuri dialects
Kanuri distribution area in Niger

Kanuri is a regional lingua franca of the Chad Basin in Cameroon , northeastern Nigeria , eastern Niger and western Chad , beside the Luo , the largest of the Nilo-Saharan languages to their saharanischem branch it is expected. In the Borno state of Nigeria, it is used in primary school education, the mass media and parliament.

The main dialects are:

  • Yerwa
  • Suwurti
  • Kanembu (Western Chad)

The standard language is based on the Yerwa dialect. The Kanembu dialect was previously considered an independent language.

Linguistic description

The Kanuri is a tonal language with two base tones (high / low), from which the rising, falling and middle tones are combined.

The language is distinguished in the morphology of the verb by a rich use of prefixes and suffixes that express different modes , aspects and derivations . The person is also marked on the verb, for both the subject and the object . Modes and aspects are sometimes also identified by tone patterns.

The subject morphemes are as follows:

person Singular Plural position
1. -k -ye suffused
2. -m -w suffused
3. s- sa- prefigured

There are basically two verb classes, one of which is characterized by the formative -n , which can be traced back to a verb for “say”.

The nouns have no gender , but have a plural , which is indicated by the suffix -wa . Various suffixes are used to mark the semantic roles in the sentence (agent, patient, dative / allative, ablative, possessor). There are also a number of word formation morphemes .

The basic word sequence in the sentence is subject-object-verb .

The few foreign words in Kanuri are mostly of Arabic origin.

key vocabulary

Some words and phrases:


  • Lalê! - "Hello!"
  • Wish! - Answer to it, also "Thank you!"
  • Ála kəléwa! - "Goodbye!"
  • - "yes"
  • á'a - "no"
  • mbéjí - "there is"
  • bâ / báwo - "there is not"
Word meaning Kanuri Word meaning Kanuri
I wu big kura
you nyi small gana
he she it shi eat bukin - zəwin
we and I drink yakin - sai
her nandi sleep lenngin - letcin
she ( plural ) sandi to die nukin - nui
human came go lengin - lejin
man kwa, kwanga come is (ə) kin - ishin
woman kamu give yikin - cin
head kəla to take gongin - gojin
eye shim one fal, tilo, laska
ear səmo two indi
nose kənza three yaskə / yakkə
mouth ci four degə
tooth timi five uwu
tongue təlam six arakkə
heart karəgə seven tulur
hand musko eight wusku
foot shi nine ləgar
water nji ten mewu
Fire can u twenty findi
Sun kəngal hundred mea
moon kəmbal thousand dəwu


  • Johannes Lukas: A study of the Kanuri language: grammar and vocabulary . Oxford University Press, London 1937.
  • Norbert Cyffer : Syntax of Kanuri: Dialect of Yerwa (Maiduguri) . Buske, Hamburg 1974.
  • John P. Hutchison: A reference grammar of the Kanuri language . Madison and Boston 1981.
  • Norbert Cyffer and John P. Hutchison (eds.): Dictionary of the Kanuri language . Foris, Dordrecht 1990.
  • Norbert Cyffer: We learn Kanuri . Köppe, Cologne 1991.
  • Norbert Cyffer: English-Kanuri dictionary . Köppe, Cologne 1994.
  • Norbert Cyffer: A sketch of Kanuri . Köppe, Cologne 1998.
  • Thomas Geider: Kanuri text resources and the organization of “A reference book of Kanuri oral narratives” . Reprint from: Treatises of the North Rhine-Westphalian Academy of Sciences . Vol. 102, 1998, pp. 341-361.

Individual evidence

  1. from Cyffer (1994)