In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Hausa Language and Literature

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Book Chapters
  • Collections
  • Dictionaries
  • Journals: Local, Hausa
  • Polemics on Contemporary Hausa Literature
  • Reference Works

African Studies Hausa Language and Literature
Abdalla Uba Adamu
  • LAST REVIEWED: 24 May 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 May 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846733-0202


Hausa is one of the most widely spoken languages in West Africa, as noted in Kenneth Katzner’s The Languages of the World (London: Routledge, 2011). Further, Philip J. Jaggar, the author of “Chadic Languages,” published in the Concise Encyclopedia of Languages of the World (Oxford: Elsevier, 2009), notes that with upward of over thirty million first-language speakers, Hausa is spoken “more than any other language in Africa south of the Sahara. The remaining languages, some of which are rapidly dying out (often due to pressure from Hausa), probably number little more than several million speakers in total, varying in size from fewer than half a million to just a handful of speakers” (p. 206). The influence of Islam on the development of the language (see, e.g., Joseph Harold Greenberg’s The Influence of Islam on a Sudanese Religion [New York: J.J. Augustin, 1966]) has created an enriched vocabulary of the language that mixes both indigenous Hausa words and expressions and those adapted from the Arabic language. The early contact of Hausa with Islam, going back to about 13th century through Malian cleric-merchants (see Herbert R. Palmer’s “The Kano Chronicle,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 18 [1908]: 58–98) has enabled the Arabic language to have a great influence on Hausa. Prior to 1932, when the British who colonized Nigeria established a Translation Bureau in the city of Zaria, reference works on Hausa language and literature were written by colonial administrations and academicians, whose main focus was trying to understand the language, and thus the people they were ruling. Such writings were, of course, all in the English language, and they offer a diversity of perspectives on the Hausa people and their history, rather than their literary output, at least in the Roman script. This is because although the Hausa did not acquire the ability to write in the Roman script until Western-style schools were established by the colonial administration in 1910 (see Sonia Graham’s Government and Mission Education in Northern Nigeria 1900–1919, with Special Reference to the work of Hanns Vischer [Ibadan, Nigeria: Ibadan University Press, 1966]), a large number of writings were documented by Hausa Muslim intellectuals hundreds of years before the coming of the British to the region in 1903 (see John O. Hunwick’s Arabic Literature of Africa, Vol. 4 [Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2003]). In writing this selective bibliography, the focus was more on contemporary materials, rather than classic references such as James Frederick Schön’s monumental Magana Hausa (1885). There is also a lot of focus on locally available materials in Nigerian libraries. For those familiar with the earlier references to Hausa language and literature, this bibliography provides a more dynamic perspective of the disciplines, most of which were rooted in indigenous local scholarship.


While the focus of many scholars of Hausa literature tend to be on the “classic” novels published in the 1930s, very few focus on contemporary Hausa fiction. This gap is covered by Furniss, et al. 2004, a definitive first look at contemporary Hausa fiction (also known as littattafan soyayya, or “romantic fiction”) that provides not only a listing of the fiction available in the years covered (more has been written since then, of course), but also photographs of the covers of the novels, which are themselves a source of reflection. The definitive bibliography with a focus on Hausa linguistics, however, remains Newman 2013. Widely available online, it puts together an impressive list of resources assembled by authors who literally defined the field of Hausa studies. Few Hausa women get as much attention as Nana Asma’u. Omar 2013 therefore gives a refreshing look at another female scholar, the little known Modibbo Kilo, who followed in the footsteps of Asma’u in furthering the cause of female Islamic education in northern Nigeria. Ibrahim 1988 provides a comprehensive first history of Hausa written literature, from newspapers to poetry to novels.

  • Furniss, Graham, Malami Buba, and William Burgess. Bibliography of Hausa Popular Fiction: 1987–2002. Cologne: Rüdiger Köppe, 2004.

    This work goes into an emergent area largely ignored by “mainstream” Hausa scholars. This listing of littattafan soyayya (romantic fiction) is the first published work in a series of private collections in predominately Kano, northern Nigeria. It brings together 731 fiction titles, all published in the Hausa language. Local reactions to this genre of Hausa literature in northern Nigeria are included.

  • Ibrahim, Yaro Yahaya. Hausa a rubuce: Tarihin rubuce-rubuce cikin Hausa. Zaria, Nigeria: Northern Nigerian Printing Company, 1988.

    An outstanding bibliography written in the Hausa language by one of the most famous local Hausa folklorists. Hausa a rubuce provides an exhaustive listing, although without annotation, of available Hausa newspapers, pamphlets, books, and other literary materials gathered from all over northern Nigeria up to the time of publication.

  • Newman, Paul. Hausa and the Chadic Language Family: A Bibliography. Cologne: Köppe, 1996.

    This is a bibliography of linguistic essays and monographs on Hausa and other languages of the Chadic family. It lists all books, articles, reviews, and PhD and MA theses written about Hausa and other Chadic languages. Excludes studies of Hausa literature and texts written in Hausa.

  • Newman, Paul, comp. Online Bibliography of Chadic and Hausa Linguistics. Version-02. Edited by Paul Newman, with the assistance of Doris Löhr. Bayreuth, Germany: DEVA, Institute of African Studies, University of Bayreuth, 2013.

    The most comprehensive bibliography on Hausa linguistics, with scant reference to Hausa language and literature. Published online as an open source project, it brings together diverse sources of writings on Hausa linguistics.

  • Omar, Sa’adiya. Modibbo Kilo (1901–1976): Rayuwarta da Ayyukanta; Ta biyu ga Nana Asma’u bint Fodiyo a ƙarni na 20. Zaria, Nigeria: Ahmadu Bello University Press, 2013.

    Annotated bibliography of work s by the female Sokoto Islamic scholar Modibbo Kilo.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.