Identification. "Fulbe" is the preferred self-name of the group the Hausa term the "Fulani" or "Hilani." In French countries, they tend to be termed "Peul" or "Fulata." Because of their spread over a wide area and their assumption of cultural traits from surrounding groups, there is great confusion regarding the nature of Fulani ethnicity. This confusion is reflected in the confounding and conflating of names for particular segments or local groups of Fulbe, such as Toroobe and Bororo'en, with the entire ethnic group.
Location. The Fulani live in an area that stretches from Ouadaï, a city east of Lake Chad, to Senegal's Atlantic shore. There are groups of Fulani as far east as the border of Ethiopia.
Demography. Estimates of the number of Fulani vary. A major problem in reckoning the population is that Fulani are found in twenty nations in a wide swath of Africa—from Mauritania and Senegal to Sudan, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Only Liberia may not have any Fulani settlements. It seems reasonable to accept an estimate of 7 to 8 million nomadic Fulani and 16 million settled Fulani.
Linguistic Affiliation. The language is variously known as "Fulfulde," "Pulaar," "Fula," or "Peul," among other names. It belongs to the West African Subfamily of the Niger-Congo Group, along with Wolof, Serer, and Temne. There are many variations and dialects of Fulfulde. The influence of surrounding peoples is clearly seen in its local variations. Fulfulde is generally written in Roman script, although in the past it was written in Arabic.