The fulbe call their language Pulaar or Pular in western dialects and Fulfulde in the central and eastern dialects, but the language is also known in the Western literature as Fulani, Fulah, and Peul in French. Pulaar/Fulfulde is a Senegambian language spoken as a set of various dialects in a continuum that stretches across some 28 countries in West and Central Africa. Along with other related languages such as Serer and Wolof, it belongs to the Senegambian branch within the Niger-Congo languages, which does not have tones, unlike most other Niger-Congo languages. More broadly, it belongs to the Atlantic geographic grouping within Niger-Congo. It is spoken as a first language by the Fulbe or Haalpulaar’en people (also known as Toucouleur) from the Senegambia region and Guinea to Cameroon, Nigeria, and Sudan. It is also spoken as a second language by various peoples in the region, such as the Kirdi, Gisga, and Touppouri of northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria; Soninke and Wolof of northern Senegal and southern Mauritania; the Bassari in southeastern Senegal and northern Guinea; Gurmance, Mossi, Sonrahai, Hausa, and Bella in Burkina Faso.
Although some Ethnologue treats the varieties of Pulaar/Fulfulde dialects as separate languages, the Fulbe themselves regard Pulaar/Fulfuld as a single language and never find the communication between the different dialects impossible. This is also the conclusion reached by the Fulani linguist and member of the African Academy of Languages, Fary Silat Ka. According to Ka, “Pulaar/Fulfulde is still fundamentally one language despite its geographic span and dialect variation.”