The Fula language, also known as Fulah, Ful, Fulfulde, Fulani, Fulbe, Peul, Pular, or Pulaar, belongs to the Atlantic group of Niger-Congo language family. In comparison to other Atlantic languages, the Fula language has quite a wide geographical extent. This macrolanguage is spread through a variety of African countries, from Senegal in the Atlantic coast to the savannas of East Africa. Also, it is the only Atlantic language to stretch inland from the area to Senegal to Liberia. To be exact, it is spoken in 16 states. They are Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Mali, Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, Central African Republic and Sudan.
The Fula language has numerous dialects. In the most cases, dialects of the Fula language are mutually intelligible. The main dialects are Pulaar (also known as Peul), Pular (also known as Futa Jalon), Maasina Fulfulde, Borgu Fulfulde, Western Niger Fulfulde, Central-Eastern Niger Fulfulde, Nigerian Fulfulde, Adamawa Fulfulde and Bagirmi Fulfulde.
There are about 18 million people who speak Fula language or its dialect. These people can be found in such countries as Guinea, Senegal, Nigeria, Mali, Cameroon, Niger, Burkina Faso, Benin, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Central African Republic, Chad, Mauritania, Sudan and Togo.
In Senegal, the Fula language has an official status. It is also used as an official lingua franca in such countries as Guinea, Senegambia, Maasina, North Eastern Nigeria and Northern Cameroon. It is worth to mention that many speakers are bilingual and use Fula as their second language. Also, the Fula language is a national language in such African countries as Mauritania, Mali, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Togo, Ghana, Benin, Nigeria, Cameroon, and Niger.
Before the colonization, the written Fula was based on the Arabic and Ajami scripts. Between the 1950s and 1960, there were numerous efforts to create an alphabet to write Fula. In 1966, after the Bamako convention, the UNESCO script has remained the only alphabet recognized as the standard for Fula. So today, the written Fula is based on the Latin script. Nevertheless, the script was adapted for r the Fula language so there are additional special “hooked” characters to distinguish meaningfully different sounds in the language.