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In Senegal the Wolof form an ethnic plurality. About 40% (approximataly 3.2 million people) of Senegal’s population are Wolof. In the whole region from Dakar to Saint-Louis, and also west and southwest of Kaolack, the Wolof form the vast majority of the people. In Casamance and Senegal’s west, Wolof people are hardly to be found. Because 80% of Senegal’s population speak the Wolof language, culture and language of the Wolof people have an enormous influence.
In The Gambia, about 15% (approximately 200,000 people) of the population are Wolof. Here, they are just a minority, and, for comparison, the Mandinka people are the dominant majority with 40% of the population. But Wolof language and culture have a disproportionate influence because of their prevalence in Banjul, The Gambia’s capital, where 50% of the population are Wolof.
In Mauritania a minority of about 7% (approximately 185,000 people) of the population are Wolof, who are located in the southern coastal regions of the country.
In older French publications the spelling “Ouolof” is often used instead of “Wolof”. In some English publications, predominantly those referring to Gambian Wolof, the spelling “Wollof” is used, because this spelling will induce native English speakers to pronounce the term correctly as a Wolof speaker. In publications of the 19th century and before the spelling “Volof” and “Olof” can also be found. Rarely used are also the spellings “Jolof”, “Jollof” and “Dyolof”. – The term “Wolof” itself may also refer to the Wolof language or to things originating from Wolof culture or tradition.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolof_people (This Wikipedia article has been updated since this page was posted. I suggest checking it out.)
Wolof is a language of Senegal, The Gambia, and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people. Like the neighbouring languages Serer and Fula, it belongs to the Senegambian branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of Sub-Saharan Africa, Wolof is not a tonal language.
Wolof originated as the language of the Lebou people. It is the most widely spoken language in Senegal, spoken natively by the Wolof people (40% of the population) but also by most other Senegalese as a second language. Wolof dialects vary geographically and between rural and urban areas. “Dakar-Wolof”, for instance, is an urban mixture of Wolof, French, and Arabic. (And some English – Amadou.)
“Wolof” is the standard spelling, and may refer to the Wolof people or to Wolof culture. Older French publications may use the spelling Ouolof, and some English publications Wollof, predominantly referring to (anglophone) Gambian Wolof. Prior to the 20th century, the forms Volof and Olof were used.
Wolof words in English are believed to include yam, from Wolof nyami “to eat food”, nyam in Barbadian English meaning to eat (also compare Seychellois nyanmnyanm, also meaning to eat), and hip or hep, as in hip cat, from Wolof hepikat “one who has his eyes open” or “one who is aware”. (Editor’s note: The supposed Wolof origins of many English words is disputed. – Amadou.)