Introduction to Songhay language

Songhay alphabet

The Songhay alphabet has 27 letters: 5 vowels and 22 consonants. Each letter corresponds to a sound.

Songhay is not a tone language. If the length is observed, in general, the interlocutor is understood even if the pronunciation is approximate.

# Lowercase Uppercase Spelling(French) Spelling(English)
1 a A "a" comme dans alpha "a" as in alpha
2 e E
"e" comme dans école
"e" as in echo
3 i I "i" comme dans île "i" as in India
4 o O "o" comme dans orange "o" as in orange
5 u U "ou" comme dans outre "u" as in loud
Notes on vowels
  • All vowels can be doubled.
  • The doubling of the vowel is used to mark the vowel length.
  • The vowels [a], [e] and [o] can carry the tilde [~].
  • The tilde over the vowel makes it nasal.
  • The vowels [e], [o] and [u] are rare at the beginning of a word, and in this case, rather serve to harmonize borrowings.
# Lowercase Uppercase Spelling(French) Spelling(English)
1 b B "be" comme dans ben "be" as in bend
2 c C "che" comme dans Tchad "che" as in chest
3 d D "de" comme dans droit "de" as in delta
4 f F "fe" comme dans feu "fe" as in "ferry"
5 g G "gue" comme dans garde "ge" as in girl
6 h H "he" comme helium "he" as in helium
7 j J "dje" comme dans Djenne "je" as in jet
8 k K "ke" comme dans kela "ke" as in Kent
9 l L "le" comme levure "le" as in let
10 m M "me" comme dans mesure "me" as in merry
11 n N "ne" comme dans négocier "ne" as in Nelson
12 ŋ Ŋ "gne" comme dans gong "ng" as in bang
13 ɲ Ɲ "gne" comme dans pagne "gn" as in orange
14 p P "pe" comme dans petit "pe" as in pen
15 r R "re" comme dans rêver "re" as in rest
16 s S "se" comme dans sac "se" as in set
17 š Š "che" comme dans chasse "che" as in chef
18 t T "te" comme dans témoin "te" as in test
19 w W "we" comme dans western "we" as in well
20 y Y "ye" comme dans yaourt "ye" as in yes
21 z Z "ze" comme dans zéro "ze" as in zebra
22 ž Ž "ge" comme dans gens "ge" as in garage
Notes on consonants
  • In Songhay, geminating is marked by the doubling of the consonant.
  • Repeated consonants are doubled in pronunciation.
  • All consonants can be doubled except the consonant [h].
  • The consonant [p] is very rare and often exists in onomatopoeia.
  • The consonants [s] and [z] carry the sign [v] as a modifier.
Soŋay Français English
Fooyan Salutation Greeting
Kani baani [Sing] Bonjour (ca 6:00-8:00) Good morning (ca 6:00-8:00)
Wa kani baani [Plur] Bonjour (ca 6:00-8:00) Good morning (ca 6:00-8:00)
Weete baani [Sing] Bonjour (ca 8:00-11:00) Good morning (ca 8:00-11:00)
Wa weete baani [Plur] Bonjour (ca 8:00-11:00) Good morning (ca 8:00-11:00)
Hoy baani [Sing] Bonjour (ca 11:00-15:00) Good afternoon (ca 11:00-15:00)
Wa hoy baani [Plur] Bonjour (ca 11:00-15:00) Good afternoon (ca 11:00-15:00)
Wicire baani [Sing] Bonsoir (ca 16:00-17:00) Good evening (ca 16:00-17:00)
Wa wicire baani [Plur] Bonsoir (ca 16:00-17:00) Good afternoon (ca 16:00-17:00)
Hiire baani [Sing] Bonsoir (ca 19:00-23:00) Good evening (ca 19:00-23:00)
Wa hiire baani [Plur] Bonsoir (ca 19:00-23:00) Good evening (ca 19:00-23:00)
Foofo Salut / Souvent ‘merci’ Hi / often 'thank you'
Nga ban? / Nga saabu? Comment vas-tu ? How are you ?
War ga ban? / War ga sabu? Comment allez-vous ? How are you ?

Soŋay Français English
Nda baani / Kala baani En paix seulement / Bien In peace only / Good

To take leave
Soŋay Français English
(Ma) kani nda baani [Sing] Bonne nuit Good night
(Wa) kani nda baani [Plur] Bonne nuit Good night
Ir ma handiri gomni Rêvons de bonne fortune Let's dream of good fortune
Counting in Songhay
0 yaada
1 affoo
2 ihinka
3 ihinza
4 itaaci
5 igguu
6 iddu
7 iyye
8 yaaha
9 yagga
10 iwoy
11 iwoy cindi foo
12 iwoy cindi hinka
13 iwoy cindi hinza
14 iwoy cindi taaci
15 iwoy cindi guu
16 iwoy cindi iddu
17 iwoy cindi iyye
18 iwoy cindi yaaha
19 iwoy cindi yagga
20 waranka
21 waranka cindi foo
22 waranka cindi hinka
23 waranka cindi hinza
24 waranka cindi taaci
25 waranka cindi guu
26 waranka cindi iddu
27 waranka cindi iyye
28 waranka cindi yaaha
29 waranka cindi yagga
30 waranza
40 woytaaci
50 woyguu
60 woyddu
70 woyye
80 woyyaaha
90 woyyagga
100 zangu (foo)
200 zangu hinka
300 zangu hinza
400 zangu taaci
500 zangu guu
600 zangu iddu
700 zangu iyye
800 zangu yaaha
900 zangu yagga
1000 ženber foo
2000 ženber hinka
3000 ženber hinza
4000 ženber taaci
5000 ženber guu
1000000 miliyoŋ foo
Calendar and seasons

Days of the week

# Soŋay Français English
1 Atinno Lundi Monday
2 Atalaata Mardi Tuesday
3 Alarba Mercredi Wednesday
4 Alhamiisa Jeudi Thursday
5 Alzumaa Vendredi Friday
6 Asibtoo Samedi Saturday
7 Alhadoo Dimanche Sunday

Original names of songhay days of the week

# Soŋay Français English
1 Duhanteji Samedi Saturday
2 Fahanteji Dimanche Sunday
3 Mahanteji Lundi Monday
4 Bohanteji Mardi Tuesday
5 Woyhanteji Mercredi Wednesday
6 Tohanteji Jeudi Thursday
7 Zinbuza Vendredi Friday

Official months

# Soŋay Français English
1 Žanwiye Janvier January
2 Feewiriye Fevrier February
3 Marsi Mars March
4 Awiril Avril April
5 Me Mai May
6 Zuweŋ Juin June
7 Žuyye Juillet July
8 Ut Août August
9 Sektanbur Septembre September
10 Oktoobur Octobre October
11 Noowanbur Novembre November
12 Deesanbur Décembre December

Traditional months (lunar)

1 Dadaw beeri
2 Dadaw kayna
3 Gaani
4 Gaani banda
5 Binbina
6 Binkuna
7 Woy žeena
8 Cee konna
9 Meehaw
10 Meefeeri
11 Hunanzam
12 Cuuši

Seasons of the year

# Soŋay Français English
1 Koron Saison chaude Hot season
2 Kaydiya Saison des pluies Rainy season
3 Jamde Periode où l'herbe jaunit Spring
4 Jiyaw Saison froide Cold season
5 Lahula Période de la décrue des eaux Period of water recession