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(fo͞olä`nē), people of W Africa, numbering approximately 14 million. They are of mixed sub-Saharan African and Berber origin. First recorded as living in the Senegambia region, they are now scattered throughout the area of the Sudan from Senegal to Cameroon. Both as a sedentary and as a nomadic people, they have played an important part in the history of W Africa. A number of African states, including ancient Ghana and Senegal, had Fulani rulers. The Fulani became zealous Muslims (11th cent.), and from 1750 to 1900 they engaged in many holy wars in the name of Islam. During the first part of the 19th cent. the Fulani carved out two important empires. One, based on Massina, for a time controlled Timbuktu; the other, centered at SokotoSokoto
, city (1987 est. pop. 164,000), NW Nigeria, on the Sokoto River. It is the commercial center for a wide region and a collection place for hides, skins, and peanuts. Rice and tobacco are grown for local consumption.
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, included the Hausa States and parts of BornuBornu
, former Muslim state, mostly in NE Nigeria, extending S and W of Lake Chad. It began its existence as a separate state in the late 14th cent. From the 14th to the 18th cent. Bornu exported slaves, eunuchs, fabrics dyed with saffron, and other goods to N Africa.
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 and W Cameroon. The Fulani emir of Sokoto continued to rule over part of N Nigeria until the British conquest in 1903. The Fulani of Massina were conquered (1861) by al-Hajj UmarHajj Umar, al-
or Hajj Omar
, 1797–1864, Muslim religious and military leader in W Africa. A chieftain of the large Tukulor tribe of Senegal, he desired to convert the pagan tribespeople of the W Sudan.
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, but their resistance ultimately resulted in his death.


See D. J. Stenning, Savannah Nomads (1959, repr. 1964); H. A. S. Johnston, The Fulani Empire of Sokoto (1967).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(also Peul, Pullo, Fulbe, Foulah, Ful, Fellata, Fellani, Filani), a people living in various countries of West Africa, including Guinea, Nigeria, Senegal, Mali, and Cameroon. According to a 1975 estimate, the Fulani number 12 million. They are related to the peoples of the Ethiopian race. When the Europeans began colonizing Africa in the 19th century, the Fulani lived under feudal forms of government. The majority of them profess Islam, but some cattle-raising tribes practice ancestor and nature worship. The Fulani chiefly engage in nomadic cattle raising, although those who have settled among the Negroid population of the western Sudan also engage in farming; the chief crops are sorghum, rice, legumes, and peanuts.


Ismagilova, R. N. Narody Nigerii, Moscow, 1963.



(also Fula, Fulbe, Fulfulde, Peul), the language of the Fulani people, spoken in West Africa from the Atlantic coast to Lake Chad. According to a 1975 estimate, there are approximately 12 million speakers of Fulani. In certain areas, the language is used as a means of intertribal communication, especially in northern Cameroon. Fulani belongs to the West Atlantic branch of the Congo-Kordofanian languages. Its principal dialects are Fouta Toro (Senegal), Fouta Djallon (Guinea), Masina (Mali), Western Nigerian (Nigeria), and Adamawa (Cameroon and eastern Nigeria).

Fulani consonants exhibit voicing opposition, and they may be preceded by glottalization or nasalization (for example, mb, nd, nj, ng). Vowels show the opposition between long and short. An important feature is the morphophonemic alternation of initial consonants in singular and plural forms (for example, w–b–mb, r–d–nd, s–c, and f–p). Fulani has a highly developed system of more than 20 nominal classes that governs agreement between nouns and attributive forms (adjectives, numerals, participles, demonstratives, possessives, and articles) and anaphoric forms (pronouns). Noun classes are distinguished by suffixes and by the degree of alternation of the initial consonant.

The verb is marked for voice (active, medial, and passive) and form (for example, causation, intensity, instrumentality, reciprocity, and simulation of action). Fulani has a highly developed system of forms for indicating tense and aspect. Aspectual opposition is also expressed in pronouns in subject position. Negative forms follow a special paradigm.

The Fulani script, known as Adjame, was developed from the Arabic alphabet. Since the 1970’s, Fulani has been written in Latin script.


Labouret, H. La Langue des peuls ou foulbé [vols. 1–2]. Dakar, 1952–55.
Klingenheben, A. Die Sprache der Ful. Hamburg, 1963.
Arnott, D. W. The Nominal and Verbal Systems of Fula. Oxford, 1970.
Taylor, F. W. A Fulani-English Dictionary, Oxford, 1932.
Sow, A. I. Dictionnaire élémentaire fulfulde-français-English. Niamey, 1971.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Um exemplo contemporaneo desse conhecimento linguistico tradicional, forjado nos ambientes multilingues, e dado pelo escritor fula Hampate Ba, do Mali.
Conhecido como Gana-Goga, "que fala todas as linguas", o lancado alentejano Joao Ferreira entrou no sertao, incorporouse ao reino fula e se casou com uma princesa, tirando vantagem disso para negociacoes que alimentariam os interesses escravistas (ALENCASTRO 2000, p.
Such a feeling is enforced on the Guinea Bissau-Senegal Fula communities who seem to rebel against a deliberate governmental strategy of enclosure of the High Casamance region (Fanchette 2002).