The Hausa Language

    Hausa is the most largely spoken language in West Africa. It has a very large number of speakers, indeed more than seventy million (70 million). The Hausa cities are located in Northern Nigeria and Southern Niger. However, certain factors led to the rapid growth and increase in the population of Hausa speakers. One of such is the traditional and religious practice of marrying up to, but not more than, four wives. Other factors include its simplicity in communication, richness in vocabulary, and its ability to assimilate other minor languages it comes into contact with.
    The language belongs to the Western branch of the Chadic language superfamily within the Afro-Asiatic language phylum. The home territories of the Hausa people lie on both sides of the border between Niger and Nigeria. In Niger, about one-half of the population speaks Hausa as a first language, whereas about one-fifth of the Nigerian population speaks it as a first language. However, the language is carried and spread to almost all major cities in West, North, Central, and Northeast Africa. This is indeed, among others, the result of their tradition of long-distance commerce and pilgrimages to the Holy Cities of Islam. 

    Hausa makes use of two writing systems. One is the modified Roman alphabet known as boko, which is presently used in all forms of media and in most educational writings. The other is the minor modification of the Arabic alphabet, referred to as Ajami. The Ajami writing system is the product of Arabic-speaking Hausa scholars who developed the orthography in the early nineteenth century. Currently, Ajami is still used by traditionalists such as poets, and by those who deem not to resort to book and/or Western education in general. It is also studied in some higher educational institutions. In recent years, the Ajami form of writing has been diminishing due to certain factors including negligence by government and lack of standardization among others. 

    The majority of Hausawa practice Islam. A small minority of Hausa people known as Maguzawa (pagans), practice religions other than Islam. Initially, the Hausawa worship the sun, moon, and idols until after their contact with the Arab traders, when they embraced the religion of Islam. The Hausawa have festivals such as bikin kamun kifi (fishing festival), bikin aure (marriage ceremony), bikin suna (naming ceremony) and many others.

    However, Hausa society has a strong division of labor according to age and sex. The main activity in the towns is trade and agriculture. Many Hausa men have more than one occupation. In the towns and cities, they are mostly civil servants while some engage in trading. In rural areas, they farm, as well as engage in blacksmithing and crafts. On the other hand, Hausa women earn money by petty trading such as selling cloth scraps, pots, medicines, vegetable oils, and other small items. Hausa tradition highly respects the status and personality of women as do Islamic law. Thus, Hausa women do not expose their bodies and voices to other men other than their lawful husbands and relations. For that, their children or maids go to other houses or the market on their behalf. 

    Hausa's rich literature such as poetry, play, prose, and musical literature, which is now available in print and in audiovisual recordings, makes it a rewarding area of study for those who reach an advanced level. 

    There had been attempts for the enrichment of Hausa literature. In an effort to produce Hausa reading materials, the Translation Bureau was formed in 1929. The bureau was assigned the responsibilities of:

    i. Translating English and Arabic books to Hausa,

    ii. Publication of Hausa books and

    iii. Helping citizens to publish books of their own.

    The bureau was initially situated at Kano. It was later, after two years, moved to Zaria under the leadership of Dr. R. M. East. However, in 1933, its name was changed to Northern Regional Literature Agency (NORLA). This agency organized the first Hausa literary competition in which five writers emerged successful, and their books were published. Thus:

    i. Ruwan Bagaja by Abubakar Imam,

    ii. Ganɗoki by Bello Kagara,

    iii. Shaihu Umar by Abubakar Tafawa Valewa,

    iv. Idon Matambayi by Muhammad Gwarzo and,

    v. Jiki Magayi by John Tafida and Dr. R. M. East.

    Thereafter, other agencies were formed, among which were Gaskiya Corporation (1945) and The Northern Nigerian Publishing Company (1966) which was in collaboration with Macmillan Publishers (an England publishing company). However, a new style of Hausa prose was introduced around 1984 notably Adabin Kasuwar Kano (Kano Market Literature). The books based on love stories. Kano Market Literature led to the continuous production of books. Among others, Ranar Qin Dillanci, Mai Uwa a Bakin Murhu, Ba Girin-girin Ba Tai Mai, Allura Cikin Ruwa, So Tsuntsu, Sanin Gaibu and Da Na Sani are published. 

    Though Hausa oral songs must have existed as far back as the origin of Hausa, the Hausa written poetry did not emanate until around the 17th century. In the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century, Hausa poetry was thematically Islamic centered. Shehu Usmanu and his companions used Hausa poetry to orient, educate and socialize the then Hausawa. Today, Hausa poetry is studied in many tertiary institutions across the globe. A reasonable number of individuals has vowed to study the field, some of which have reached a professorial level, whereas, many others are Doctors. Ph. D. thesis on the field of Hausa poetry include Muhammad, (1977); Ɗangambo, (1980); Yahya, (1987); Gusau, (1988); Birnin-Tudu, (2002); Dunfawa, (2002); Ainu, (2007); Maiyawa, (2008); Omar, (2010). 

    Hausa drama started since during the early Hausa history in form of ‘yar tsana, wasan gauta and wawan sarki among others. Later, after the advent of Islam, many form of traditional Hausa drama originated which were religious centered thematically. After contact with the English men, there was diversification in forms of Hausa drama. Thus, written Hausa plays, Hausa plays on radio station and TV stations as well as cinemas. From then, many Hausa plays are being written.

    However, Hausa film production started around 1980 and 1984 at Kano (Gidan Dabino, 2001). Fage, (2004) holds that Hausa film production started earning recognition from 1990. So far, Hausa films are produced and distributed within and outside of Nigeria every day. 

    Hausa has fourteen (14) major dialects and some minor dialects. Seven (7) of the major dialects are found in Nigeria, while the other seven (7) are in Niger.

    The Seven Major Hausa Dialects in Nigeria

    i. Bausanci (the dialect of Bauchi)

    ii. Kananci (the dialect of Kano)

    iii. Katsinanci (the dialect of Katsina)

    iv. Dauranci (the Daura dialect)

    v. Sakkwatanci (the Sokoto dialect)

    vi. Zamfarci/Zamfaranci (the dialect of Zamfara) and

    vii. Zazzaganci (the dialect of Zazzau)

    The Seven Major Hausa Dialects in Niger

    i. Adaranci (the Adar/Twa dialect)

    ii. Agadasanci (the dialect of Agadas)

    iii. Arewanci (the Arewa/Dogon Dutsi dialect)

    iv. Canganci (the dialect of Cangawa/Gaya)

    v. Damagaranci (the Damagaram/Zinder dialect)

    vi. Gobiranci (the Gobir/Tsibiri dialect)

    vii. Kurfayanci (the dialect of Kurfai/Filinge)

    On the other hand, minor Hausa dialects include; Guddiranci (Guddiri/Katagum dialect), Gumulanci (Gumel dialect), Haɗejiyanci (Haɗeja dialect) and Kabanci (the dialect of Kebi) among others.


    Radio and television broadcasting in Hausa is ubiquitous in northern Nigeria and in Niger. Also, radio stations in Ghana and Cameroon have regular Hausa broadcasts. Moreover, international broadcasting co-operations such as the BBC, Radio France Internationale, China Radio International, Voice of Russia, Voice of America, Deutsche Welle, Radio Moscow, Radio Beijing and IRIB broadcast in Hausa.

    Number of magazines and newspapers, however not less than a hundred different publishers, are in constant circulation within the Hausa community and beyond. Bunza, (2008) lists some of them thus; Fitila of Analyst Kanduna, Lifidi of Comemo Nigerian Ltd Zariya, Zamani of Gidan Dabino Publishers Kano, Annashuwa of Smartstar Pictures Kano, Walƙiya of Gimbiya Publishers Kano and Aminiya of Trust News Papers Group Kaduna among others.


    Within the past two hundred years, Hausa has been spreading rapidly within Western and Northern Africa. Over the course of the past 50 years, this expansion has been the most dramatic in northern Nigeria, where Hausa has replaced a number of indigenous languages and has become the dominant lingua franca. No minor language, which is in constant contact with Hausa, could resist its domination. Thus, Fulani, Kudawa, Ayyukawa, Tacene as well as Kirfawa communicate with Hausa unless a few of them who live far from cities. The Hausa language dominates many languages to the extent that their speakers (the minor languages) use Hausa as their first language. In places such as Bauchi, Gombe, Plateau, Kaduna and Poteskum, Hausa has emerged a first language to many people who were native speakers of other languages. However, even amongst the other two major Nigerian languages (Igbo and Yoruba), some communicate in the Hausa language.