NALRC Language Map of Africa


Berber tribes migrated to Mauritania from the 3rd to 7th centuries displacing the indigenous Bafours, the ancestors of the Soninke. Arab-Berber migration drove indigenous black Africans south to the Senegal River. Around 1076, Islamic warrior monks had conquered Mauritania. The Berbers continued to resist the Arabs for 500 years until 1674. France colonized the country at the beginning of the 20th century. Independence was granted in 1960. Independence saw migration of ethnic Sub-Saharan Africans (Haalpulaar, Soninke, and Wolof) into Mauritania.

Remnants of Stone Age cultures have been found in northern Mauritania. Settled by Berbers in the 1st millennium AD, the region was the center of the ancient empire of Ghana (700–1200) and later became part of the empire of Mali (14th–15th cent.). It is named after the ancient Berber kingdom of Mauretania.

With the exception of a narrow strip in the south along the Sénégal River, the country lies entirely within the Sahara. The most important resource of Mauritania is its large deposits of iron ore located in the Fdérik area. Other mineral resources of the country include deposits of phosphates, sulfur, copper, and gypsum. The population of Mauritania (2005 estimate) is 3,086,859. Nouakchott is the capital.

Languages spoken

  • Hassaniya Arabic
  • Pulaar
  • Soninke
  • Wolof


Hassaniya Arabic (a Moorish dialect of Arabic) is the official language. Pulaar, Wolof, Soninke, and French are also widely spoken


Pulaar update coming


Soninke is spoken from the intersection of north east Senegal, south central Mauritania, and west/ southwest Mali, to a line running east roughly along the Mali-Mauritanian border. It is also spoken in parts of Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, and Niger


Wolof is spoken by a large number of people in The Gambia and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. It is a member of the Niger-Congo language family. The Wolof language serves as an important link between people who do not have the same mother tongue. Wolof’s status as Senegal’s lingua franca stems from its function as a widely used communication tool.