Languages of Mauritania
The languages of Mauritania mainly consist of various Afroasiatic languages, including: Zenaga-Berber, Tamasheq-Berber, Hassaaniya Arabic and Standard written Arabic. French is also used due to colonial influence. Some ethnic minorities speak Niger-Congo languages.
Afro-Asiatic languages (formerly known as Hamito-Semitic)
- Modern Standard Arabic: the official language of the government of Mauritania.
- Hassaniyya Arabic: the colloquial spoken variety of Arabic. It is close to the dialect used by the Bedouins. The language serves as a lingua franca. It is also the language of the Imraguen who also use elements of Soninke.
- Zenaga: Berber language that was more widely spoken in the past, but is still used in the south of the country, close to the River Senegal. The speakers of the Zenaga language are eponymously known as Zenaga Berbers. Otherwise, most of the Moor population speaks Berber languages. Islamisation and Arabisation of the population have reduced the number of Berber speakers. In 1978, the term Arabo-Berber to designate the Moors was replaced by Arab.
- Tamasheq: Tamasheq, the Berber language of the Tuareg, is spoken in the extreme south-east of the country, close to the Malian border.
According to Ethnologue, there are 705,500 speakers of French in Mauritania. It serves as a de facto national working language. Mauritania is also a member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (La Francophonie).
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