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Kanuri /kəˈnri/ is a dialect continuum spoken by some four million people, as of 1987, in NigeriaNigerChad and Cameroon, as well as small minorities in southern Libya and by a diaspora in Sudan. At the turn of the 21st century, its two main dialects, Manga Kanuri and Yerwa Kanuri (also called Beriberi, which its speakers consider to be pejorative), were spoken by 5,700,000 people in Central Africa.[4] It belongs to the Western Saharan subphylum of Nilo-Saharan. Kanuri is the language associated with the Kanem and Bornu empires which dominated the Lake Chad region for a thousand years.

The basic word order of Kanuri sentences is subject–object–verb. It is typologically unusual in simultaneously having postpositions and post-nominal modifiers – for example, “Bintu’s pot” would be expressed as nje Bintu-be, “pot Bintu-of”.

Kanuri has three tones: high, low, and falling. It has an extensive system of consonantal lenition; for example, sa- “they” + -buma“have eaten” → za-wuna “they have eaten”.

Traditionally a local lingua franca, its usage has declined in recent decades. Most first-language speakers speak Hausa or Arabicas a second language.