Language, Literature and Culture in a Multilingual Society
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Language, Literature and Culture in a Multilingual Society


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1129 pages
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The papers here were selected from presentations made at the 24th Annual Conference of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN) which held at Bayero University Kano. The book contains seventy-seven (77) papers addressing various issues in linguistics, literature and cultures in Nigeria. The book is organized into four sections, as follows: Section One � Language and Society; Section Two � Applied Linguistics; Section Three � Literature, Culture, Stylistics and Gender Studies and Section Four � Formal Linguistics.



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Language, Literature & Culture

A Partial List of Books in Language & Linguistics Published by M & J Grand Orbit
Communications Ltd

1. Four Decades in the Study of Languages & Linguistics in Nigeria
2. In the Linguistic Paradise
3. Languages & Culture in Nigeria
4. Trends in the Study of Language & Linguistics in Nigeria
5. Convergence: English and Nigeria Languages
6. Language, Literature and Culture in Nigeria
7. Critical Issues in the Study of Linguistics, Languages & Literatures in Nigeria
8. Language Policy, Planning & Management in Nigeria
9. Issues in Contemporary African Linguistics
10. Language Endangerment: Globalisation & the Fate of Minority Languages
in Nigeria
11. Globalization & the Study of Languages in Africa
12. Numeral Systems of Nigerian Languages
13. The Syntax of Igbo Causatives: A Minimalist Account
14. Eleme Phonology
15. Basic Linguistics: For Nigerian Language Teachers
16. English Studies and National Development
17. Language, Literature & Literacy in a Developing Nation
18. Language & Economic Reforms in Nigeria
19. The Syntax & Semantics of Yorùbá Nominal Expressions
20. Functional Categories in Igbo
21. Affixation and Auxiliaries in Igbo
22. A Grammar of Contemporary Igbo
23. Empowering Small Nigerian Languages
24. Endangered Languages in Nigeria
25. A Concise Grammar & Lexicon of Echie
26. Bette Ethnography: Theory and Practice
27. Topical Issues in Sociolinguistics: The Nigerian Perspective
28. Studies in Nigerian Linguistics
29. Language, Literature & Communication in Nigeria
30. Literature & Culture in a Multilingual Society

Language, Literature & Culture in a
Multilingual Society

Ozo-mekuri Ndimele
Mustapha Ahmad
Hafizu Miko Yakasai (eds.)

M & J Grand Orbit Communications Ltd
Port Harcourt

M & J Grand Orbit Publications
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Box 237 Uniport P.O.
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Copyright © 2016 M & J Grand Orbit Communications Ltd
First issued in 2014
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ISBN: 978-978-54311-1-7

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Professor Abubakar Rasheed


thhe papers here were selected from presentations made at the 24
Annual Conference of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN) T which held at Bayero University Kano. The book contains
seventyseven (77) papers addressing various issues in linguistics, literature and
cultures in Nigeria. The majority of the papers selected and published in this
volume address the main theme of this project, i.e. “Language, Literature
and Culture in a Multilingual Society”. There are, however, a number of
other papers addressing various aspects of linguistics, literature and cultures
which are included to cater for other interests beyond the main focus. Our
reason for doing this is to enable the reader to have an idea of the current
state of research in linguistics, languages and literature in Nigeria.
The book is organized into four sections, as follows: Section One –
Language and Society; Section Two – Applied Linguistics; Section Three –
Literature, Culture, Stylistics and Gender Studies and Section Four – Formal
The book contains the much that one needs to know about the direction
of linguistic research in Nigeria. It is generously recommended as a
reference material for students and researchers in the subject-matters of
linguistics, language and literature in Nigeria and much more.
We have received support from a number of individuals and institutions
in accomplishing the tasks which gave birth to this book. Our immense
gratitude goes to Professor Abubakar Rasheed (Vice-Chancellor of Bayero
University Kano) and members of the Local Organizing Committee for the
th24 Annual Conference of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (CLAN)
which held at Bayero University Kano and at Ni’ima Hotel in Kano. This
thmade the 24 CLAN a very special one. We are, indeed, grateful to the
Management of Bayero University Kano for the material donations towards
thhosting the 24 CLAN. Let us also acknowledge the efforts and
contributions of Professor Emeritus Ayo Bamgbose and Professor Emeritus
thAyo Banjo for making the 24 CLAN a colourful one.
Our gratitude goes to the keynote speaker, Professor Munzali Jibril
(President of the Nigeria Academy of Letters), and also to the lead paper
presenters: distinguished Professor Emeritus Paul Newman of Indiana

University, USA; Professor Russell Schuh of the UCLA, USA; Professor
Nina Pawlak of the University of Warsaw, Poland; Professor Sergio Baldi of
the Oriental University of Naples, Italy; Professor Kola Owolabi of the
University of Ibadan; Professor Abdulhamid Abubakar and Professor
Muhammad Munkaila both of the University of Maiduguri. We also thank
our hard-working immediate past President of LAN, Professor A.H. Amfani,
thfor guiding the LOC on the general organization of the 24 CLAN. The
current LAN President, Professor (Mrs.) Chinyere Ohiri-Aniche, deserves
special acknowledgement for her encouragement to see that the editorial
team meets deadline. Mr. Salem Ejeba provided immense help in formatting
the manuscript when extra-hands to complete the assignment.

Professor Ozo-mekuri Ndimele
Founding Editor

Table of Contents

Dedication v
Preface vii

Section One: Language & Society

1. The Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN) and the
Promotion of Language and Linguistics 1
Ayo Bamgbose

2. Using Africa’s Indigenous Languages as Tools for
Sustainable Development: A Pragmatic Approach 5
Kola Owolabi

3. Variations in Transmission of Message of Proverb
between Hausa & Swahili Cultures 33
Xahiru Muhammad Argungu

4. The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission and
Globalization: The Language Perspective 45
Sadiya Sani Daura

5. Towards Investigating Perceived Endangerment Status of
the Igala Language 63
Joseph Abuh

6. Body Language as Social Dialect in Hausa Culture 75
Aliyu Mu’azu

7. A Semantic Study of Obscenity and Verbal Abuses in Jukun 83
Butari Nahum Upah

8. Honorifics in Igala 93
Abdullahi Ahmad

9. Semantic Changes: An Annotative Exploration of
Select Hausa Political Coinages 101
Khalid Imam

10. A Sociolinguistic Appraisal of Arabic Usage in Teacher
Preparation in Nigeria 117
Abdul Kabeer Tihamiyu Otunuyi

11. Language Issues in Nigeria 127 Usman Ahmadu Mohammed

12. Language in National Development: The Nigerian Perspective 151
Ndubuisi Ogbonna Ahamefula

13. Religion: The Cultural Language of Order & Stability in Society 171
Bartholomew Chidili

Section Two: Applied Linguistics

14. The City at the Edge of Forever – Archiving and Digitizing
Arabic Sources on the History of Kano, Nigeria 183
Abdalla Uba Adamu

15. Errors of Translation of Leaflets of some Pharmaceutical
Products Made in Nigeria: English to French 209
Bashir Muhammad Sambo

16. Study Hausa, Understand Kanakuru 221
Paul Newman

17. Choosing the Language for Literacy: The Nigerian Experience 231
Appolonia Uzoaka Okwudishu

18. An Overview of the Procedures & Guidelines for the
Development & Approval of Orthographies of
Nigerian Languages 243
Garba D. Gandu

19. NEEDS Analysis of Igbo for Specific Purposes:
The Case of Non-Igbo Speaking Youth Corps Members 253
Ndubuisi O. Ahamefula & Evelyn Ezinwanne Mbah

20. The Role of the English Language in the Teaching
and Learning of Mathematics 269
Hosea Yakubu, Dorathy K. J Hinjari & Joyce N. Ishaku

21. Engendered Languages and Strategies for their Preservation
in Nigeria 281
Ramlatu Jibir Daura


22. Teaching Poetry at the Secondary School: A Tripartite Approach 291
Isma’il Bala

23. A Corpus-Based Analysis of “Credit” & “Loan” in a Business
English Classroom 301
Sani Yantandu Uba

24. Challenges of the Multicultural Nature of Nigerian Universities
in Effective Classroom Discourse in General English Lessons 315
Clifford Irikefe Gbeyonron

25. Towards a Stable Orthography for Urhobo 331
Odirin Victor Abonyi

26. Computerization and Preservation of West African Pre-colonial
Manuscripts: A Case Study of Hausa Ajami 353
Yakubu Aliyu Gobir

27. The Use of Adjuncts in Descriptive & Narrative Essays:
A Comparative Analysis of Some Students’ Essays 363
Bala Xanyaro Aminu

28. Investigating Students’ Reticence in the Nigerian
English Language Classroom 375
Bashir Ibrahim & Usman Ambu Muhammad

29. Kambari Orthography 385
Gimba Benjamin

Section Three: Literature, Culture, Stylistics & Gender Studies

30. Wa’azi in Ilorin: A Manipulation of Religious Discourse 391
Ahmad S. Abdussalam & Abdulganiy A. Abdussalam

31. Laughter in a Multilingual Society 401
Aliyu Muhammad Bunza
32. Symbolic Values of Language in the Context of Globalization 411
Nina Pawlak

33. Digging their Graves; Burying their Dead; & Writing their
Epitaphs: Feminism, Womanism, & Northern Nigeria’s
Women Writers 423
Ibrahim A. M. Malumfashi

34. Culture, Language & the Meaning of Colour Terms in three
Nigerian Languages: A Study of Idiomatic &
Metaphorical Usages 455
Rabi Abdulsalam Ibrahim

35. The Making of Hausa Literature: From 1939-1945 471
Aliya Adamu Ahmad

36. Tearing the Veil of Invisibility: Balkisu Ahmad &
the Feminist Instinct/Thrust in Sa’adatu Sa’ar Mata. 487
Asabe Kabir Usman

37. Culture and Communication Diversity: A Challenge to both
Students & Teachers in Inclusive Settings 501
Hassana Sani Darma &
Aishatu Basiru Muhammad Gwarzo

38. Power and Asymmetry in Nigerian Police-Suspect Discourse 513
Farinde Raifu Olanrewaju

39. The African Novel & Female Revolutionary Characters:
Mariama Ba’s So Long A Letter and Abubakar Gimba’s
Sacred Apples 527
Umar Saje

40. Idiomatic Lexis of Body Component Expressions in Hausa 541
Tijjani Shehu Almajir

41. Text & Context Perspective on Religious Discourse 559
Salisu Alhaji Sadi

42. Using Corpora in Discourse Analysis: A Case of the
Nigerian 2011 General Elections 569
Sani Uba Yantandu

Section Four: Formal Linguistics

43. Word Families in Hausa 579
Russell G. Schuh

44. The Development & Harmonization of Hausa Orthography 599
Lawan Xanladi Yalwa ̣


45. The Interface between Phonology & Syntax: A Case of Stability
of Tones of Hausa Direct & Indirect Object Clitic Pronouns 613
Lawan Xanladi Yalwa

46. The Status of Determiners and Quantifiers:
Radfordian Approach 631
Mukhtar A. Yusuf

47. À-ì-Derived Nominals in Yorùbá 645
Ọládiípò Ajíbóyè

48. Lexicalization as a Gradual Process in Hausa Reduplication 667
Hafizu Miko Yakasai

49. The Pronominal System of Kolokuma-Izon 691
Enieketin C. Eneware & Ebini-Ipiri R. Worufah

50. Deletion in Hausa 705
Abdulhamid Abubakar

51. What About Passivization in Warji? 737
Ibriszimow Dymitri & Aisha Iya Ahmed

52. The Syllable Structure of Izere 753
Victoria I. N. Isha & Andrew Haruna

53. The Sociolinguistic Dimension of Reduplication in
the Nigerian Linguistic Terrain 763
Salisu Ahmed Yakasai

54. The Noun Phrase in Kolokuma-Izon 771
Enieketin C. Eneware & Ebini-Ipiri R. Worufah

55. On the Status of the Downstep in Yoruba 787
Kolawole Adeniyi

56. Hausa Deverbal Noun Forms and their Metonymic
Affinity from the Cognitive Perspective 803
Yakubu Magaji Azare

57. Nominal Inflection in Bassa 809
Imoh Philip Manda


58. The Psychological Reality of the Phoneme: Evidence from
Ngas speakers of English 823
Polycarp. N. Dajang

59. Syntax of Pronominal Subject in Igala 833
Salem Ochala Ejeba

60. An Acoustic Investigation of Igbo Vowels 843
Linda Chinelo Nkamigbo

61. An Optimality Analysis of Tone & Vowel Harmony in Oworo 863
Adebola Ayoola Isaiah

62. Vowel Harmony in Ekiti Dialect of Yoruba 881
Balogun Nasrudeen Akanbi

63. Deixis in Obolo 891
Ataisi Emiya Gladday

64. Existential Sentences of Hausa: A Study of
Movement Operations 901
A.G. Batagarawa

65. Aspects of Tsureshe Morphology 911
Apollos Agamalafiya

66. An Autosegmental Account of Reduplication in
Hausa & Yoruba 923
Ibrahim Awwal

67. Negative Concord in Hausa: A Minimalist Account 931
Abubakar Muhammad

68. The Presence of Portuguese in Some African Languages 955
Sergio Baldi

69. Verb Derivation in Bura 977
Mohammed Aminu Muazu & Fibi Balami

70. Morphology-Syntax Interaction in the Derivation of
Nominal Compounds in Yorùbá 985
Oye Taiwo

71. The Head-feature Parameter and the Igbo Verb Compound 1011
Amaechi B. Oha

72. A Systemic Linguistic Analysis of Legalese: The Case of
Independent Corrupt Practices & other
Related Offences Act, 2000 1025
S.I. Abochol

73. Focus Constructions in Urhobo 1037
Eseoghene Aleh

74. Head-Modifier Shift in Igbo 1045
Stephen Madu Anurudu & Ayo Bamgbose

75. A Comparative Lexical Study of Kilba & Margi 1065
Amos Dlibugunaya

76. Sentence Structure in Gokana 1075
B.H. Isaac

77. Nigerian Pidgin: An Overview 1087
Ozo-mekuri Ndimele
1. The Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN) and the Promotion of
Language and Linguistics

Ayo Bamgbose
University of Ibadan

thOn this occasion of the 24 Conference of LAN, I wish to congratulate the
President of LAN, Professor Ahmed Amfani, and the entire membership of
the Association on the great strides the Association has made over the years.
In particular, I wish to express my gratitude to the Vice-Chancellor,
Professor Abubakar Rasheed, for his kind invitation to me to be a Special
Guest at this Conference. As I have already explained in my letter to him,
my inability to come is due to an unavoidable circumstance; but, in
mitigation of my absence, I have prepared a brief address, which the
Chairman of this Opening Session, Professor Emeritus Ayo Banjo, has
agreed to present on my behalf. I commend the Vice-Chancellor for his
commitment to activities that enrich the intellectual life of a university, as
evidenced by his ready acceptance to host this Conference as well as the
forthcoming Nigerian Academy of Letters (NAL) Lecture coming up in
February 2012.
A major activity of LAN is the annual Conference of this Linguistic
Association of Nigeria (CLAN), which the association has been able to
sustain for many years. These Conferences provide a forum for young
scholars to share the results of their research ad get a feedback from more
experienced scholars. In the days when university funding was adequate,
provision was made by most universities for academic staff to attend local
and international conferences. Today, not many young scholars have this
opportunity. Hence, the desirability of the continued existence of CLAN! I
will even go further to suggest that an endowment should be set up for the
funding of CLAN.
Research and publications constitute a major preoccupation for us as
university teachers. LAN has been active in bringing out research papers in
form of Conference Proceedings and other edited papers. Beginning with the
influential volume, Multilingualism Minority Languages and Language
Policy in Nigeria edited by E. Nolue Emenanjo, a former President of LAN,
a series of books have been published, particularly the Festschrift series
edited by the immediate past President of LAN, Professor Ozo-mekuri
Ndimele. However, the Association has been less successful in the
publication of the Journal of the Linguistics Association of Nigeria
(JOLAN). Yet, it is important to stress that, without a local outlet, most

2 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

young research hers may be tempted to go for self-publishing or
pay-as-youpublish in an attempt to secure rapid promotion. Some of our fellow
linguistics are lucky to have their publications accepted in international
journals, but not many are so lucky. In an era when some universities insist
on a certain percentage of publications appearing in international journals,
one can easily see the temptation to resort to paying some obscure journal in
Asia or Eastern Europe to have one’s paper published. The same quest for
rapid promotion can be seen in scholars writing on diverse unrelated topics
just to be able to play the numbers game. This often leads to lack of focus.
Whatever we do, our discipline still needs specialists in the different areas
such as phonetics, phonology, syntax, sociolinguistics, etc., who can hold
their own in the community of linguistics. Failure to do this will result in a
regression to the early days of the introduction of linguistics into the country
in the 1960’s, when prospective students of linguistics had to go abroad for
study or when expatriate lecturers had to be imported to the country to teach
Our Departments of Linguistics have done well in teaching traditional
course in Linguistics. One constraint they all appear to have is not having
enough teachers, particularly in some areas such as syntax. This is also
related to not having enough students enrolling for postgraduate programmes
in these areas. Most students I see would like to do their research in
phonology or sociolinguists. I keep telling students that the best
sociolinguists in the world also have a sound background in the core areas of
linguistics! Where our various Departments have not done well is in the area
of teaching proficiency course in Nigerian languages. When you hear of
course in Edo, Hausa, Ibibio, Igbo, Kanuri etc., you can be sure that such
course are designed for those who already speak the languages concerned. In
other parts of the world, proficiency courses are money-spinners. They
should also be so in Nigeria, since foreigners (particularly foreign students,
diplomats, and expatriate wives of Nigerians) may wish to learn such
languages. At the University of Ibadan, we actually started teaching such
courses, but the experiment failed because units obtained in the courses were
considered inferior to other units, and, in any case, it was not possible to
major in proficiency courses. Consequently, very few students enrolled for
them, with the result that students’ numbers did not meet NUC student-ratio
requirements. To make matters worse, even the teachers recruited for the
programme left as soon as they found better jobs elsewhere.
I think it is an absolute disgrace that non-Yoruba students wanting to
learn Yoruba should go to Madison or Florida, while the community of

Linguistic Association of Nigeria & the Promotion of Languages & Linguistics 3

speakers is here in Nigeria. Many of those who teach in these institutions are
Nigerians. Some have even been invited to such far-away places as Japan to
teach Yoruba. LAN should look into this problem and proffer solutions. It
took an American initiative for a Yoruba Language Centre to be established
at the University of Ibadan recently, and American students studying Yoruba
can now spend a few months here learning the language and getting
acculturated to the culture of the people. The Director of the Centre,
Professor Kola Owolabi, is one of the Plenary Session speakers at this
In terms of information dissemination, LAN is also doing well, as
there is a vibrant flow and exchange of information through a Yahoo group
dedicated to Nigerian Linguistics. One of the most active contributors to this
group is Professor Eno-Abasi Urua of the University of Uyo. I must say,
though, that I have looked in vain for a LAN website and I have not found
any. If there is none, I think it’s about time that LAN established one.
Another area in which exchange of information will be very useful is to have
titles of projects, dissertations and theses submitted to each Department
circulated among other Departments of Linguistics. We manager to have
some of this information when we go to other universities as External
Examiners, but since external examining does not involve everyone, we still
need a more systematic way of making such information available to the
generality of linguistics in Nigeria.
Nigerian linguistics have been showing the flag internationally. Some
hold responsible positions in Departments abroad and we have been
particularly active in professional associations of linguistics. For example,
Professor Ben Elugbe is the current President of the West African
Linguistics Society (WALS), while Professor Akinbiyi Akinlabi is the
President of the Executive Committee that organizes the World Conference
on African Linguistics (WOCAL). Since 1967, I have been representing
Nigerian linguistics on the General Assembly of the World Body of
Linguistics, the Permanent International Committee of Linguistics (CIPL),
which organizes the World Congress of Linguistics and publishes the
Linguistics Bibliography. I was elected to the Executive Committee in 1977
ndand further elected the 2 Vice-President in 2003 and re-elected in 2008. I
have informed CIPL of my intention to retire when my current term as
VicePresident expires in 2013. I have also mentioned this to both the immediate
past and the current President of LAN, I think it is important that we should
continue to make our presence felt in this organization. Hence, LAN should

4 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

begin to think of nominating someone to succeed me on the General
Assembly of CIPL.
Talking of making our influence felt, I think we should be doing more
of this within the country. When matters concerning language arise, it is
only rarely that our expertise as linguists is sought. Recently, a conference
was held in Abuja on harmonization of orthographies. The Nigerian
organizers of this conference did not deem it fit to invite any established
linguist. It took the collaborator, an expert from South Africa, to call me on
the phone a few days to the conference to ask me to come and give a
Keynote Address! Of course, I had to decline. I feel distressed when is see
people who know next to nothing about language (other than that they speak
one) pontificate on African languages and their role in education. I don’t
have a ready solution to this Nigerian factor, but I believe that we should not
be tired of engaging in advocacy, otherwise the laudable ideas we have will
die at the level of ideas only. In this connection, should we renew the
struggle to make the National Institute for Nigerian Languages (NINLAN) at
Aba independent and functional, according to the Law setting it up? It is the
one institution that could have made a difference in the teaching of Nigerian
languages in our secondary schools, as it is designed to produce language
teachers who are proficient in one other Nigerian language in addition to
their own first language.
Dear colleagues, I wish you a fruitful Conference. Thank you!

2. Using Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable
Development: A Pragmatic Approach

Kola Owolabi
Director, Yorùbá Language Centre, University of Ibadan, Nigeria.

0. Introduction
thIn his keynote address delivered on the occasion of the 20 Annual
Conference of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN) held at the
Nigerian Educational Research and Development Council, Abuja, Nigeria,
on November 14, 2006, Emeritus Professor of Linguistics, Ayo Bamgbose,
discussed at greater length ‘social responsibility (SR) of the linguists’. A few
years before then, however, I had, on my own volition, been engaged in
advocacy of the use of Yorùbá especially for legislative purposes. In this
paper, I intend to further explain to this gathering of eminent linguists,
African language scholars, teachers and educationalists my active
engagement in advocacy of the use of the Yorùbá language as a tool for
sustainable development.
According to Tchindjang et al. (2008: 44):

The current concept of development implies a finality of social and
cultural order that includes the reduction of all forms of misery,
poverty, malnutrition, insecurity, injustice and oppression. It is the
expression, then, of liberty, and as such, can be differentiated from
the concept of growth, which is essentially economic.

It follows from this definition that development process must be
participatory (i.e. iinvolving all stakeholders) while development strategies
must take into account linguistic factors as will be clearly shown in section 1
of this paper.
My presentation has four sections broadly. In the first section, I give
some useful hints on the linguistic dimension of development in Africa as a
preliminary to sections 2 and 3 where I respectively discuss official attitude
to the use of African languages in the development process and efforts that
are geared to the use of the Yorùbá language for sustainable development
and capacity building/skill development. In effect, while in section 2,
problems are identified, in section 3, attempts to find solutions in a
pragmatic/practical manner are reported. In section 4, I conclude with
remarks. In view of the practical nature of the presentation, I utilize copious
6 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

direct, insightful and self-explanatory quotations all of which are numbered
for ease of presentation and convenience.

1. Some Useful Hints on the Linguistic Dimension of Development
I like to set the tone for the subject matter of this paper by stating what I
regard as useful hints on the linguistic dimension of sustainable
development especially with reference to the developing countries of Africa
as follows:

a) Since development (as defined by Tchindjang et al. above) is about
people and for people, the participation of the populace in the
development process of any country, nation or state cannot be
b) In connection with (a) above, effective communication in the local
languages that the grass roots operate in is inevitable.
c) In connection with (b), in so far as resource materials/documents for
societal development are available only in foreign languages,
participation in development would remain a preserve of the elite
speakers of such foreign languages, who are always in the minority.
The grass roots cannot be expected to participate meaningfully in any
development efforts if they do not understand such efforts.
d) In connection with (c), for government's development endeavours to
achieve meaningful results, there is need to create awareness among the
people at the grass roots level through effective communication in their
local languages with a view to increasing their participation in the
development process, empowering them socially and economically,
enhancing their productivity and raising their living standards.
e) In connection with (d), the indigenous languages of the people must be
made to play a big role in various domains such as basic health,
hygiene or sanitary education, HIV/AIDS; agriculture; business
opportunities; market and price information, users' instructions on food
and chemical products, medicine; education, especially adult literacy;
road safety; human rights, gender rights, social rights and obligations;
political awareness and participation in democratic process; legislation,
legal language, judicial processes including proceedings in courts, rural
development and poverty eradication; security; etc.
f) Public documents/resource materials in connection with (e) must be
made available in the indigenous language medium for the benefit of
the ordinary citizens in particular.
Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 7

g) The developing countries of Africa must not only be conscious of the
fact that primacy is vested in the development and use of indigenous
languages in all nations and countries of the world that are able to
advance technologically and scientifically but also take their cue from
such countries (e.g. United States of America, China, Japan, Thailand,
Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the
Netherlands, Belgium, France, England, Portugal, Spain, Russia,
Germany, etc.)
h) The developing countries of Africa must be conscious of and be guided
by the fact that the right to use one's own language is enshrined in
Article 27 of The International Conventions on Civil and Political
Rights (ICCPR), and Article 30 of The Convention on the Rights of the
Child (CRC) (UN, 1990), while the right to take part in public affairs
and public service without discrimination on the grounds of language is
enshrined in Article 25 of ICCPR.

That linguistic factors are critical to the implementation of development
policies has been stressed by various scholars. Witness, for instance, the
following excerpt from Rosi (2008:11-12):

Excerpt I: ... the most recent UNESCO documents on languages specify
that linguistic factors must be taken into account when developing strategies
to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). These documents
emphasize that the ability to plan sustainable development, promote
effective citizen empowerment, combat marginalization through active
participation in social and public life, and encourage dialogue between
peoples is in large measure dependent on language policies. For example,
health education (including HIV/AIDS prevention) is effective only if
delivered in the learner's language.

2. Official Attitude towards the Use of African Languages in the
Development Process
The fact that an overwhelming majority of African countries have not paid
heed to the hints on the linguistic aspect of development as stated in section1
above has been stressed by various people/scholars. Some sample comments
and/or observations will suffice in this section.

Excerpt II: What is even more surprising is that African legislators address
their constituencies in English on the grounds that they would like to reach a
8 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

wider audience! The question has to be asked, 'who is government for?' As
long as democracy is defined as ‘the government of the people by the people
and for the people', the marginalization of the masses which the exclusive
use of an imported language involves, must give way to the use of more
languages that will involve more people in the process of governance
(Bamgbose, 2000:28-29).

Excerpt III: .... This immediately raises the question of language in
development, which is often erroneously likened to a greater use of
thesecalled languages of wider communication, such as English or French. The
fact is that if development is to be meaningful, there is no way in which it
can be carried out in a language, which excludes the majority of the people
in the society. This, then, is one of the most important justifications for
putting greater emphasis on the need for the use and development of a
country's indigenous languages (Bamgbose, op. cit. p. 46).

Excerpt IV: The theme of this paper is better highlighted by the story of
some young agricultural extension officers and their experiences on one of
their first field trips. These young African experts graduated from one of the
universities in Africa and were ready to impart new farming technologies to
rural farmers in various areas of the country. On the very first day of their
jobs they came to terms with one issue which had apparently been neglected
in the course of their training: language, the most important tool of
communication. In spite of all the academic theorizing about sharing new
technologies with the indigenous people, apparently nobody ever thought
that these scholars were going to start working with people, the majority of
whom did not communicate in their language of education, in the language
in which all wonderful theories of agricultural extension were propounded.
This story illustrates quite well the cursory attention that has often been
given the language issue in Africa's development discourse. Too often than
not, theories and issues are discussed without considering linguistic issue. If
development is seen as harnessing the indigenous knowledge and initiatives
of Africans, then the most effective language of development in Africa
cannot be the former colonial languages, languages of the rulers, of the elite,
but the language of the people of Africa, languages in which we expect to
find the most intelligible and intelligent reactions from the African peoples
who are the agents of development (Bodomo, Adams B - date unknown).

Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 9

Excerpt V: In most African countries, English, French or Portuguese are
...the language of the entire court system. When the ordinary man or woman
of Africa is taken to a court of law, he finds that every law is in English, and
he can only access justice through an interpreter. The defence, prosecution
and judges inhabit a linguistic universe inaccessible to the majority, except
through interpretation by a member of the same educated class whose grasp
of African languages is inadequate given the language of his education. It
can be argued that the ordinary man and woman in Africa is ruled by a legal
system that is literally alien to him, confronting him as a hostile force (Ngugi
Wa Thiong'o,The Westerner, November 5 -11, 2006, p. 48).

Excerpt VI: European nations and Asian nations have kept pace with the
national development of these nations on both continents. While these
nations involve their mother tongues in the development enterprise and
succeed, Black nations of Africa rather withdraw their own languages from
this very vital enterprise and it eludes them (Essien, 2005: 20)

A classical example of official indifference to the linguistic aspect of
development is provided by the defunct Nigeria’s National Economic
Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) which is written entirely
in English. Because the document was once officially regarded as a blue
print for the achievement of sustainable development in Nigeria, it is
relevant to the theme of this paper, and I like to echo my views on its
linguistic aspect at this juncture.

An Appraisal of the Language Component of NEEDS in Nigeria
NEEDS has a foreword by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo whose government
relied entirely on the document as the cornerstone of development in
Nigeria. In the foreword, Obasanjo remarks as follows, inter alia:

Excerpt VII: The National Economic Empowerment and Development
Strategy (NEEDS) is the response to the development challenges of
Nigeria... I am particularly happy that if there is anything like a home-grown
reform programme, NEEDS is it... Nigerians have agreed... that the major
thrusts of NEEDS are what Nigeria needs to move forward (p. iii, first

10 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

Below are sample excerpts from some of the major policy thrusts and
strategies contained in the document followed by posers and/or comments
regarding language issues.

On 'Empowering the People'
Excerpt VIII: A poorly educated farmer is less likely to know how to keep
his family healthy and less able to find alternative employment. As a result,
he is more vulnerable to external shocks, such as drought or falling market
prices (p. xv, second column)

Poser: Which language medium will be used to properly educate such a
Farmer, so that he can deal with his problems successfully?

On ‘Empowering People through Education'
Excerpt IX: Involve local craftspeople in the delivery of vocational
education in schools (p. 36, second column). Integrate local craftspeople in
curricular delivery to accelerate the number of craftspeople and improve
access to their products (p. 37, first column).

Poser: In which language medium will local craftspeople deliver vocational
education in schools or communicate if they are to participate in curricular

On ‘Empowering Women'
Excerpt X: Reduce women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and other sexually
transmitted diseases by empowering them through sustained advocacy,
education, and mobilization, (p. 44, second column)

Excerpt XI: Increase the access of women, youth, and children to
information on key national issues (p. 44, second column)

Poser: In which language medium will 'sustained advocacy, education, and
mobilization’ of women be carried out, or 'information on key national
issues' be made available to women, youth, and children at the grass roots

On 'Empowering Youth'
Excerpt XII: Wage a sustained campaign against drug use and abuse,
cultism, prostitution, and trafficking of women (p.44, second column).
Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 11

Excerpt XIII: Increase awareness about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and other
sexually transmitted diseases (p. 46, first column)
Poser: Which is the language medium for effectively waging a sustained
campaign and increasing awareness as stated above, especially among those
youths who cannot speak or understand the English language?

On 'Improving Health Care Services'
Excerpt XIV: A stronger emphasis on health education will help make
Nigerians more aware of their rights and obligations regarding health
services as well as promote disease prevention (p. xvi, first column)

On 'Improving Health'
Excerpt XV: Increase consumers' awareness of their health rights and
obligations (p. 38, second column)

Excerpt XVI: Develop and implement a strategy to increase consumers'
knowledge and awareness of their personal obligations and rights to better
health (p. 39, second column)

Poser: Which language medium will be used to give health education and
increase consumers' knowledge and awareness of health rights and
obligations at the grass roots level?

On 'Projected Impact of HIV/AIDS on Nigeria's Economy and
Among the various strategies to be adopted by NACA are the following:

Excerpt XVII: Increase awareness of and sensitivity about HIV/AIDS
among the general population. Empower people infected and affected by
HIV/AIDS to cope with their circumstances through training, counselling,
and education. Support ... the dissemination of information to ... the general
population Ensure that prevention programmes are developed and targeted at
vulnerable groups such as women and children, adolescents and youth, sex
workers, long-distance commercial vehicle drivers, prison inmates, migrant rs, and others (p. 43, first column)

Poser: Which language medium will be used in order to ensure that the
strategies developed as indicated above achieve the desired results among
the masses and the targeted people who cannot speak or understand English?
12 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

On ‘Strengthening the Skill Base'
Excerpt XVIII: Specifically, NEEDS will ensure that more funds are spent
on: Making French compulsory from primary through secondary schools
(p.xvi, second column).

Comment: On the Local level, skills cannot be meaningfully imparted to the
grass roots in a foreign language which they neither speak nor understand.

On 'Improving Agriculture'
Excerpt XIX: Agriculture is Nigeria's second largest source of national
wealth after oil. NEEDS will promote the cultivation of improved higher
yielding crop varieties and provide extra support to agricultural research and
training (p. xix, second column)

On 'Agriculture and Food Security'
Excerpt XX: Strengthen agricultural research, revitalize agricultural
training, and strengthen the extension delivery system. Involve NGOs and
opinion leaders in extension delivery by building capacity and promoting
improved technologies that meet farmers' needs (p. 69, second column to p.
70, first column).

Poser and Comment: Which is the appropriate language medium for
performing the aforementioned tasks, especially at the grass roots level? The
worst of it is that many of the B.Sc first class honours graduates in
Agriculture/Agricultural Extension from the universities in Nigeria cannot
name, let alone identify, just five types of yams in their local languages (cf.
excerpt IV above) – a very easy task for an illiterate yam seller in a
(community) yam market.

On 'Increasing Access to Justice'
Excerpt XXI: Make the legal system understandable to those who use it. (p.
98, first column).

Poser: In which language medium will the legal system be made
understandable to the people at the grass roots level? (cf. excerpt V).

Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 13

On ‘Promoting and Protecting Human Rights'
Excerpt XXII: ...civil society will be encouraged to set up mechanism for
counseling and the peaceful resolution of disputes, in an effort to create a
more harmonious society (p. 99, first column)

Poser: Which language medium will be used for the purposes of counselling
and resolving disputes peacefully, especially at the grass roots level?

As is clearly evident from excerpts II - XXII as well as the posers and/or
comments above, the use of Africa's indigenous languages as working
languages in the domains of science and technology, health, legislation,
agriculture, etc., and for information dissemination, knowledge transfer and
skill development/capacity building appears not to be the top priority of
governments in African countries. Indeed, this official indifference to the
use of Africa's indigenous languages for sustainable development is more
pungently depicted by Tchindjang et al., op. cit. as follows:

Excerpt XXIII: In Africa, languages and intangible heritage, have long
been ignored or ridiculed by intervention that confuses economic growth
with development, accumulation with equitable sharing, and force with
power, in projects designed by those incapable of speaking the language of
the peoples who are affected yet not even consulted... To a large extent, this
explains the failure of all the development projects and processes not fuelled
by local language and knowledge. These sorts of projects are in effect little
more than pretexts and slogans -declarations of good intentions rather than
real tools for promoting the well being of individuals, be they humble or
well off (pp. 45 - 46)

In effect, a top-down approach that favours exclusive use of foreign
languages, cannot be totally relied upon for the purposes of involving more
people in the development process and achieving sustainable development in
Africa. In the sections that follow, therefore, I shall focus on practical
demonstration of a bottom-up approach, which utilizes Africa's indigenous
languages as an instrument, for actively involving the ordinary citizens in
the development endeavours with reference to the Yorùbá language.

14 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

3. Using the Yorùbá Language for Sustainable Development
3.1 Advocating the Use of the Yorùbá Language
Renewed efforts are currently being made by various individuals, groups,
associations, organizations and institutions to promote the use of the Yorùbá
language for increased citizen awareness, empowerment and participation in
the development process as I now proceed to describe.

3.1.1 Using Yorùbá for Legislative Discourse
When the Ògùn State House of Assembly in the South Western part of
Nigeria first conducted its legislative business in the Yorùbá medium on the
th 9 of July, 2003, the Honourable Members of the House were reported to
have noted the problem of formulating Yorùbá terms for the various terms in
English relating to matters on which the House has legislative power (e.g.
politics, education, revenue collection and allocation, industrial, commercial
or agricultural development, sports, information, etc.). By virtue of the fact
that such problems are of a linguistic nature, I presented to the House
through its speaker, a position paper entitled Towards Effective Conduct and
Keeping of Records of the House Proceedings in the Yorùbá Medium’ as
well as some resource materials, all of which were acknowledged to be very
helpful. Also, I occasionally travelled from Ìbàdàn, my base in Òyó State, to
Ògùn State to watch the House in session with a view to offering my
services. Advocacy of the use of Yorùbá has also had the desired effect in
the House of Assembly in Òyó State but it has not at all been embraced in
the House of Assembly in Òsun State despite my repeated visits to that
Also, as reported on p.4 of The Nation of Wednesday, December 12,
2007, a letter written by Dr (now Professor) Chinyere Ohiri-Aniche of the
University of Lagos prompted the adoption of Yorùbá for legislative
discourse in the Lagos State House of Assembly.
Altogether, five Houses of Assembly (Ògún, Òyó, Ondó, Èkìtì and
Lagos) in the South Western part of Nigeria now conduct their legislative
discourse in the Yoruba medium, albeit once weekly, and, as can be seen
from Appendices (i) and (ii) (sample pages from official records of Ògùn
State House of Assembly and Ondó State House of Assembly respectively),
legislative discourse in the Yorùbá medium is usually of high quality,
contrary to the following view for instance:

Excerpt XXIV: The widespread perception continues to be that legislators
at the state level are not truly convinced that those languages (i.e. Hausa, ̩

Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 15

Igbo and Yorùbá) can indeed ever be used for serious legislative business.
On the weekly rather than the expected daily occasions that they use them,
going by the Yorùbá example, they seem to do so merely for the
entertainment of the people seated in the visitors' gallery (Awobuluyi, 2010:
It should also be emphasized that the use of Yorùbá for legislative
discourse is embraced by the grass roots. Hence, I once remarked as follows:

Excerpt XXV: I have personally watched the Ògùn State House of
Assembly in session at the time Yorùbá was being used for conducting its
proceedings. The great zeal which the legislators have for using Yorùbá
(contrary to excerpt XXIV above) and the public gallery that was
jampacked with spectators clearly attest to the fact that elected representatives
could easily relate to the ordinary citizen in a formal political setting such as
the House of Assembly of a state, if the language that is spoken natively in
the state in question is used for communication (Owolabi, 2004c:534)
Needless to say, advocacy of the use of Yorùbá in the legislative
domain as described above has not gone unnoticed. Witness, for instance,
the following excerpts:

Excerpt XXVI: ... Nigerian linguists, true to their western orientation of
objectivity and detachment, are content with examining options, without
pushing any particular solutions. It is an aspect of SR (i.e. social
responsibility) in language policy that the Nigerian linguist should discard
pseudo-detachment and false objectivity and engage actively in advocacy. A
good example of this is what Professor Kola Owolabi and his collaborators
are doing with the language of debate in Houses of Assembly in the South
West. Noting that the Constitution provides for the use of a major language
of a state for debates in the House, he goes beyond analytic procedures of
how legislative terms can be evolved to actual advocacy of the use of
Yorùbá in the South Western Houses of Assembly. From limited use of
Yorùbá for general discussion on Wednesday in Ògùn State, much progress
has been recorded in Òyó State where there is a lot of interest on the
implementation of the policy. It is reported that other states in the zone are
already striving hard not to be left behind in this progressive policy. This
success would not have been achieved if Professor Owolabi had limited
himself to writing papers and expounding his ideas only in the classroom.
We all need to take seriously advocacy as an aspect of SR in linguistics.
(Bamgbose, 2006:16-17)
16 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

Excerpt XXVII: I for my part have for some ten years been writing most of
my serious linguistic works... in Yorùbá rather than in English... similarly
for people like Professor Kola Owolabi of the University of Ibadan, with his
very commendable one-man effort at coaxing the various Houses of
Assembly in the Yorùbá speaking states into formally adopting Yorùbá as a
co-official language with English, and then actually using it as such for all
their serious house deliberations. The only possible outcome of doing this in
those Houses of Assembly would be to increase the vitality of that language
and also make it a still more flexible and versatile means of communication
throughout the area concerned (Awobuluyi, 2010:22-23).
At present strenuous efforts are being made to ensure the sustenance
of the use of Yorùbá for legislative discourse in the South Western Houses
of Assembly for the political education and participation of the masses.

3.1.2 Changing the Mindset
In order to stimulate interest in the Yorùbá language and discourage the
language prejudice harboured by those (especially the elite class) who are
ashamed to use the language as a medium (referred to elsewhere by me as
‘native language prejudice syndrome'), I facilitated and coordinated the
celebration of International Mother Language Day (IMLD) in grand style
first, at the Cultural Centre, Ibadan, Oyo State on 21 February, 2007, then at
the Cultural Centre, Kuto, Abeokuta, Ogun State in 2008 and 2009. On each
occasion, attendance at the events, which included several eminent Yorùbá
traditional rulers, prominent community leaders, nursery/primary school
pupils, etc., was very high. The mere fact that, shortly after the IMLD
celebration at Ibadan in 2007, some private kindergarten/nursery schools in
the city advertised for Yorùbá language teachers clearly showed that the
event had a profound impact on people. The Association of Teachers of
Yorùbá Language of Nigeria has been urged to take over, and some branches
of the association have indeed taken over the celebration of IMLD annually.
The full support given to the Ogun State Branch of the Association and the
positive results so far recorded by the Branch in this regard are clearly
evident in Appendices (iii)-(v).
Still on the necessity of making African elite to change their mindset
towards the use of their indigenous languages, the following excerpts from
Owolabi (2006a) and Tchindjang et al. op. cit. respectively are quite

Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 17

Excerpt XXVIII: … the menace of NALPS (i.e. native language prejudice
syndrome) had other forms of negative attitudes towards the use of
indigenous languages… must be combated. To this end, aggressive national
awareness campaigns, using print and electronic media, public meetings,
workshops, seminars, conferences, the theatre and other such means are
needed. It should be emphasized that until all forms of negative attitudes are
corrected and positive attitudes develop towards our indigenous languages,
the more than 80% of Nigerians, whose only means of grass roots
communication are their local languages, would not only remain uninformed
about the various programmes of their governments at all levels, which have
implications for their well-being, but would also be disallowed from
participating meaningfully in such programmes, and in the process of
national development for that matter (pp. 19-20).
I need to emphasize that the programmes and activities of Babs
Fafunwa Centre for Yorùbá Language Engineering (see section 3.3 below)
include all the activities stated in this excerpt.

Excerpt XXIX: If a Frenchman cannot express his identity in English, nor a
Spaniard in French, why should the African say what he is in a language
that’s not his own? It is only in Africa that one speaks in French or English
on television, thus obliging speakers of local languages to understand a
language that’s not their own. Language is a ‘society’s interpretant’
(Benveriste, quoted in Nadjo, 1985) (p. 43).

3.2 Using the YorùbáLanguage for Building Capacity or Developing
Below are some activities and/or programmes that have bearing on the use
of Yorùbá for building capacity or developing skills.

A) The Yorùbá Language Flagship Programme
In 2009, the University of Ibadan (UI) and American Councils for
International Education (ACIE) based in Washington, DC, USA, entered
into a cooperative agreement on the Yorùbá Language Flagship Programme
(YLFP). On the basis of the agreement, the Senate of the University of
Ibadan approved the establishment of a Yorùbá Language Centre (YLC), a
non-degree awarding Centre, in 2010 with the following aims and
objectives: x

18 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

a) to be the leader in designing, supporting and implementing functional
Yorùbá language education with a view to encouraging and promoting
social interaction, integration and development.
b) to produce well-researched materials on Yorùbá language pedagogy
as foreign language acquisition and second language acquisition, and
similarly teach Yorùbá language and culture.
c) to offer professional and/or support services in the Yorùbá medium to
various sectors within and outside academic institutions worldwide.

Needless to say, I played a key role in the Centre's conceptualization and
framework design, and was appointed its Interim Director in May, 2010, and
Director in October, 2011, by the University Council through a competitive
I believe it is appropriate to use this LAN conference as a platform for
further elaborating on the programmes and activities of the YLC by virtue of
their relevance to skill development/capacity building via the instrument of
the Yorùbá language.

Programme Organization and Activities
The YLC has three focus areas of operation. These are:

• the Yorùbá Language Acquisition (YLA) Unit
• the Research and Material Development (RMD) Unit
• the Services (S) Unit

The Yorùbá Language Acquisition Unit
This Unit has two sub-units as follows:

• Yorùbá as a Foreign Language (YFL)
• Yorùbá as a Second LaSL)

The Sub-unit of YFL
This sub-unit runs two programmes whose major difference lies basically in
the mode of operation as well as target group. The two programmes are:

the Yorùbá Language Flagship Programme (YLFP)
the Yorùbá Language Proficiency Programme (YLPP)

Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 19

The YLFP is a specialized summer, semester, and academic year academic
programme of study for undergraduate and postgraduate students from U.S.
colleges and universities in Yorùbá language and culture, and related
field(s), jointly developed and executed by the American Councils for
International Education (ACIE) and the University of Ibadan (UI) for the
purposes of training American students of Yorùbá from the novice level to
the superior level of proficiency.
Activities in connection with the YLFP include:

a) ‘small group work, individual tutorials, lectures, and practices sessions
that will cover grammar, conversation, phonetics, reading, writing
practice, Yorùbá-language media, and possibly other topics'.
b) Internships with appropriate institutions, agents, organization, etc.
c) ‘occasional excursions... to points of cultural and historical significance
for Yorùbá culture and for Nigerians more generally'
d) ‘specific co-curricular activities' including ‘such things as film series,
guest speakers, and club activities designed to maximize the exposure
of Flagship students to Nigerian culture'

The YLPP develops proficiency skills in Yorùbá at the novice, intermediate,
advanced and superior levels, for foreign learners (apart from the American
flagship students) of Yorùbá. Activities in connection with YLPP are, to a
large extent, similar to the YLFP activities stated above.

The Sub-unit of YSL
This sub-unit develops and executes a YSL programme, along the same lines
as the YLPP, for Nigerians whose mother-tongues are not Yorùbá.

The Research and Material Development Unit
This unit performs the following functions:

carries out extensive research on Yorùbá language pedagogy with
reference to the teaching and learning of Yorùbá as a foreign language
and as a second language as well as Yorùbá culture; vocabulary
expansion in Yorùbá; Yorùbá lexicography; translation theory and
practice as well as translation management.
develops appropriate curricula and provides syllabuses, course
materials and all other materials that are relevant to the various needs
of the Centre. x

20 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

The Services Unit
This unit renders professional services and support services as follows:

a) Professional services
mounts proficiency courses in Yorùbá for interested students and
groups (evening classes, and during vacations)
designs and mounts in-service certificate courses for broadcasters and
other categories of workers.
designs and mounts acculturation programmes for second language
learners of Yorùbá from other parts of the country (Colleges of
Education and Universities) and outside the country (heritage children
and others)
designs and mounts short term courses in Translation and
Interpretation (for church, legislative, judicial, State and Local
Government, NGO staff, etc.)
designs and mounts training programmes in the use of technical
terminologies (for legislative, judicial, State and Local Government,
NGO staff, etc.)

b) Support services
This Unit, which draws upon the expertise available in the other Units of the
Centre, renders support services such as:
secretarial services (e.g. communications, computer/ICT)
administrative services
logistical services (fieldwork, accommodation, etc)
documentary services (library and records)
translation and transcription services, etc.

The Centre also provides opportunity for the participants in its programmes
to live with local families as an integral part of their language and culture
learning experience.

A Summary of the Centre's Activities thus Far
As a first step towards achieving the aforementioned aims and objectives, in
September, 2010 the Yorùbá Language Acquisition Unit of YLC
commenced activities relating to Yorùbá as a foreign language with Yorùbá
Flagship Programme for American students focusing on the following:


Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 21

Yorùbá Classes
Yorùbá lessons are offered with emphasis on interpersonal communication,
structured around the four skills (i.e. speaking, reading, listening and
writing), that are geared to the training of American flagship
Students from the novice level to the superior level of proficiency in Yorùbá.
Other efforts include:

provision (where necessary) of 'a required African culture/civilization
course that all American councils-sponsored students are required to
provision (where necessary)of equivalent credit-carrying U.I. courses
for American students that will enable them to meet credit
requirement for the undergraduate certificate when they return to their
universities in the USA as well as U.I. faculty member experts to
organize tutorials and/or discussion groups entirely in the Yorùbá
medium on a weekly basis for such U.I. courses.
provision of peer tutors to assist American Yorùbá flagships students
1'with linguistic and academic adaptation to the community based on
the flagship students' areas of academic focus.
provision of opportunities for the flagship students to engage in social
services in various places e.g., Ibadan community, the host university,
local business and non-profit organizations.

Host Families
All American flagship students live with host families on campus since
living with local families constitutes 'an integral part of their language and
culture learning experience’.

The first batch of American flagship students had their internships at the
Cultural Centre, Mokola, Ibadan and the Broadcasting Corporation of Oyo
State (BCOS) in October, 2010.

Co-curricular Activities
Guest lectures are delivered on monthly basis, for the flagship students. YLC
also has at its temporary site, a state of the art 'study/lounge area with access
to computer facilities, internet, television and regular electric power’ to cater
for the students' other co-curricular activities. The students feature in live
Yorùbá television programmes, attend carefully selected social events and
22 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

go on occasional excursions 'to points of cultural and historical significance
for Yorùbá culture and for Nigerians more generally.'

b) ICT-Based Activities
Below is an overview of ICT-based activities in respect of the Yorùbá
language based on information I solicited and received from two ICT
experts, namely, Dr Tunde Adegbola, Executive Director, African
Languages Technology Initiative, Ibadan, Nigeria (
and Dr Tunji Odejobi, Department of Computer Science and Engineering,
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, for whom Yorùbá is a
working language.
African Languages Technology Initiative (Alt-l) was set up to produce
the necessary resources that will enable the use of modern ICT in African
languages. The organization, therefore, works in various areas of Human
Language Technology (HIT) and Computational Linguistics in developing
research manpower, establishing theories and producing software. In the
recent past and up to the present, it has worked particularly in the areas of
Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) of Yorùbá and Machine Translation
(MT) between Yorùbá and English. The organization is also active in the
area of software localization having localized Windows Vista and Windows
7 as well as Office 2007 and Office 14 in partnership with Microsoft. As a
member of the African Network for Localisation (ANLOC), it has developed
a glossary of computer terms in Yorùbá and also developed as well an
automatic Yorùbá diacritiser that has the capacity to apply the correct
diacritical makes to Yoruba texts automatically. In actual fact, I have
participated in some of the activities of Alt-l as is evident from Appendix
Dr Tunji Odejobi specializes in Computing and Intelligent Systems
Engineering. He has done pioneering work in the areas of Yorùbá
Text-ToSpeech (TTS) synthesis, methodologies in African languages digital
documentation and tutoring systems with focus on Yorùbá and other
Nigerian languages. He has also worked on the modelling of Yorùbá verb
and noun and on aspects of English-Yorùbá machine translation.

c) Other Works
There are several other works which (may) have bearing on the use of
Yorùbá for building capacity or developing skills. However, owing to
constraints of time and space, I will only draw attention to the following: Dr
P.O. Olubode-Sawe's Ph.D Dissertation on Devising a Yorùbá Vocabulary
Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 23

for Building Construction which, incidentally, was examined by me on 1
August, 2010, and a bilingual English-Yorùbá/Yorùbá-English dictionary
project currently in progress. The project, which I am coordinating, is
sponsored by University Press Plc, Ibadan, Nigeria. It is hoped that the
synchronic, non-encyclopedic, general bilingual dictionary, when
completed, will provide the answer that is badly needed, for instance, to the
following problem raised by Atkins (1988) as it relates to the Yorùbá

Excerpt: XXX: The speakers of African languages have not in their
formative years had access to dictionaries of the richness and complexity of
those currently available for European languages. They have not had the
chance to internalize the structure and the objectives of a good dictionary,
monolingual, bilingual or trilingual.

3.3 Using the Yorùbá Language for Increased Citizen Participation in
the Development Process: the Babs Fafunwa Centre for Yorùbá
Language Engineering Approach.
Because of my strong belief in a proactive bottom-up approach to societal
development through the use of indigenous languages as an instrument, and
in order to ensure continuity of activities geared towards the development,
promotion and use of Yorùbá in various domains of national life, in
February, 2008, I prepared a proposal for the establishment of Babs Fafunwa
Centre for Yorùbá Language Engineering copies of which were made
available to several Yorùbá scholars and prominent Yorùbá leaders for
perusal. The same year, the Centre was founded in collaboration with some
colleagues and registered as a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) by
the Corporate Affairs Commission, Abuja, Nigeria.
Briefly, the Centre's mission statements, and programmes and activities
are as follows:

Mission Statements
a) To make the Yorùbá language a major instrument for transmitting
scientific and technological knowledge to the Yorùbá people especially
the grass roots.
b) As a corollary of (a) above, to empower the Yorùbá people at the
grassroots level by allowing them to gain access to information and
participate meaningfully in the domains of science and technology,
legislation, commerce, etc, through the Yorùbá medium.
24 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

Programmes and Activities
a) Terminology Development
This consists of the creation and documentation of Yorùbá technical terms in
various domains to serve the purpose of facilitating knowledge transfer in
the Yorùbá medium especially to the grass roots.

b) Translation
The Centre engages in large scale translation of domain-specific resource
materials/documents into Yorùbá for the purpose of promoting grass roots
awareness, empowerment and participation in the development process. In
connection with this, the Centre establishes a link and forge partnership with
governments at all levels, government agencies, corporations, universities,
semi official Foundations and Trusts, NGOs, etc.

c) Skill Development
The skill development activities of the Centre include designing and
organizing media events, seminars, workshops, conferences, training
courses, etc., in the Yorùbá medium for legislators, professionals, grass
roots, etc.

d) Yorùbá Language Access Advocacy
The Centre vigorously canvasses support for the use of Yorùbá and provides
language services in that regard in the legislative houses, kindergarten/
nursery schools; writing applications to administrative authorities, public
institutions, etc., writing food and drug information, etc.
The Centre also has prominent Yorùbá leaders as Patrons, eminent
scholars (including two Emeritus Professors) as consultants and maintains a
comprehensive list of collaborators who are professionals/experts from
various disciplines so as to effectively carry out its programmes and
activities. The Centre's immediate plans are:

a) To translate into Yorùbá, the state laws including the land use decree,
official gazettes, etc., of the various governments in the Yorùbá-
speaking states
b) To translate into Yorùbá, the various publications/documents prepared
for the information of the public by ICPC, NDLEA, EFCC, FIIRO,
c) To translate into Yorùbá, the amended Constitution of the Federal
Republic of Nigeria
Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 25

d) To translate into Yorùbá, all relevant materials for societal development
in the various domains as stated in section 1 (no. (e)) of this paper.
e) To compile dictionaries and glossaries of Yorùbá terms in the various
domains as stated in section 1 of this paper.

Additional sources of information about the Centre include the Centre's
Handbook, Blueprint and Flyers, its approved Constitution and website

4. Concluding Remarks
In this paper, I have demonstrated that African governments seem indifferent
to the linguistic aspect of development, which goes to show that a top-down
approach, that relies on the use of foreign languages, cannot be adopted for
the purpose of meaningfully involving the grass roots in the development
process but rather, a bottom-up approach, which utilizes indigenous African
languages as an instrument, can do that. A practical support for this latter
approach is then provided by describing various efforts that are geared to
advocacy of the use of Yorùbá in a wider range of domains of national life
and for building capacity or developing skills, especially at the grass roots
At this juncture, I like to draw attention to an aspect of Professor
Oladele Awobuluyi’s lecture delivered at ‘The Professor Emeritus Ayo
Bamgbose’s Personality Lecture’ at the University of Ibadan on 23 June,
2010. The aspect in question concerns the use of Nigeria’s indigenous
languages, especially Hausa, Igbo and Yorùbá, for legislative business. In
connection with this, Awobuluyi remarks as follows:

Excerpt XXXI: Given the situation as it is now, it would seem to me that
the time has come for people who are both culturally and linguistically
enlightened to go on the political offensive for those languages (i.e. Hausa,
Igbo, Yorùbá). It does not appear to be enough anymore for the Kola
Owolabis of this world to be seeking to coax our current reluctant crop of
state legislators into using indigenous languages for legislative business.
What I feel would do the trick now would be for us linguistically trained
individuals to get elected in good numbers into State Houses of Assembly
and there show by our individual performance that it is, indeed, both
possible and easy to use our indigenous languages for serious legislative
business (Awobuluyi op. cit. p. 37). x

26 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

I wholeheartedly endorse this pragmatic approach. Incidentally, LAN
has many culturally and linguistically enlightened people as members.
Indeed, the names of two of such LAN members that come to mind for this
kind of ‘political offensive’, based on their impressive pedigree, are
Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed (mni), a prominent linguist and the
thVice-Chancellor of Bayero University, Kano, in whose honour this 24
Annual Conference of LAN is holding, and Professor Munzali Jibril, FNAL,
FNESA, FNIM, OFR, Coordinator, Police Academy, Wudil, Kano, who is
the keynote speaker at this conference. I also share the view expressed by
Awobuluyi as follows:

Excerpt XXXII: If would-be legislators of this new type conclusively show
the nation that the indigenous languages can indeed be used for serious
legislative business at the state level, it would then be only a matter of time
before Hausa, Igbo and Yorùbá gain acceptance for use in the Federal
legislature (Awobuluyi, op. cit., pp. 37 – 38).
A similar pragmatic approach is reported as follows in the ‘Vanguard’
of July 21, 2011, under the heading ‘Use of indigenous languages:
Politicians, NICO lobby NASS’.

Excerpt: XXXIII: Politicians in the country have intensified lobbying the
National Assembly for the consideration of the National Institute for
Cultural Orientation, NICO, bill, which seeks the inclusion of indigenous
languages in the new education policy. The bill seeks to make it mandatory
for indigenous languages to become official languages in the 36 states of the
federation (p. 9)
I am of the opinion that LAN must also be actively involved in
campaigns like this for the development and use of our indigenous languages
in various domains of national life.

End Note

An earlier version of this paper was presented as an address titled ‘Using
African Languages for Sustainable Development: The Case of Yorùbá in
thNigeria” delivered at a plenary session on the occasion of the 15 Annual
African Language Teachers Association (ALTA) Conference in conjunction
thwith the 14 Annual Conference of the National Council for Less Commonly
Taught Languages (NCOLCTL) held at the Madison Concourse Hotel and ̩

Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 27

Governor’s Club in Madison, WI, USA, April 7 – 10, 2011. I thank all the
participants at that plenary session for their great enthusiasm and interest in
the address. The feeling that such a conference should also be held in Africa,
the spontaneous invitations to me to give such an address in other African
countries, and Professor Eyamba Georges Bokamba’s Autograph
(reproduced below) on a book on Lingála (co-authored with his wife) which
he presented to me as a gift after I had delivered my address, captured the
mood of the plenary session.

To: my colleague and brother, Professor Kola
Owolabi, with warmest support for the work
you are doing on behalf of all of us. May this
book find a useful place in your library of
African languages.

A good part of the aforementioned address is repeated in the present address.

28 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society


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Africa's Indigenous Languages as Tools for Sustainable Development 31

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32 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

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Vanguard, (2011), July 21

3. Variations in Transmission of Message of Proverb between Hausa
and Swahili Cultures

Xahiru Muhammad Argungu
Department of Modern European Languages & Linguistics
Usmanu Xanfodiyo University Sokoto
Email: Phone: +2340865589054

Apart from their often over-blown literary value, African proverbs have a
tremendous social significance on the continent, and there are recognized
ways to know this. Even though proverbs are in all African languages, there
are variations in the ways these proverbs are used socially. Such variations
exist among various African users of proverbs. In other words, transmission
of messages of proverbs differs from one culture or society to another, yet
there are some common trends of such modes of transmission. In the present
paper an attempt is made to show the variations that exist in the transmission
of proverb’s messages within Hausa and Swahili cultures focusing on the
similarities and differences between them for a better understanding of the
impact of such practices in African societies.

The proverb has been described as the most important expression of human
wisdom and knowledge of the peoples of Africa (Knappert 1989). Nearly all
dialogues, conversations or discussions in Africa, whether in rural or urban
settings, are replete with proverbs almost confirming the oft-quoted Igbo
saying that the proverb is the palm oil with which words are eaten. In Africa
the proverb is transmitted in the sense in which news or information is
broadcast in society. A proverb is said to be transmitted when its message,
emanating from a sender (the speaker or writer), is destined to a receiver (the
listener or reader). However, owing to low literacy rates of majority of
speakers, and, possibly, familiarity with and ‘simplicity’ of oral speech, the
proverb is mostly transmitted by word of mouth in many parts of Africa
rather than through the written mode of communication. In addition, the way
in which the proverb message is transmitted varies from one African culture
or society to another. Indeed the variations cut across even communities,
groups and individuals. Whether at individual or community level the
transmission of proverb is done largely orally. Yet in spite of the preferred
oral channel of transmitting it, in some African cultures, specific techniques
are employed for effective delivery of the proverb’s message. This is
achieved largely through the written mode of communication where the
34 Language, Culture and Literature in a Multilingual Society

proverb not only gets broadcast, but it becomes a means of advertising
goods. This rare technique of the use of written proverb for commercial
purposes is unique in Africa, and it forms the basis for the comparison
between the way Hausawa (Hausa-speaking) and Waswahili
(Swahilispeaking) peoples transmit proverb messages in their cultures which is the
focus of the present paper.

The Proverb as Message
Every standard or regular proverb contains a message within its usually one
sentence structure. According to Pearson et al. (2003), a message is the
verbal and nonverbal form of the idea, thought, or feeling that one person
(the source) wishes to communicate to another person or group of people
(the receiver/s). The authors add that ‘the message is the content of the
interaction which includes the symbols (words and phrases) you use to
communicate your ideas…’ (p. 17). Thus, as an utterance that is composed
of words and phrases, the proverb contains within it a message (or, as is
often the case, messages) that interlocutors exchange, when they interact
with each other. Very often, a common feature which makes the message of
proverb to be elusive is metaphor. Halliday (1975) describes metaphor as
‘variation in the expression of meaning’ or, as he further defines it,
‘variation in the use of words’; but he concludes that the key question is not
to ask how a word or phrase is used, but how its meaning is expressed (p.
320). Thus to be able to decode a proverb’s message one has to consistently
keep asking oneself, what meaning does the proverb express or convey?
Therefore, the difficulty with the proverb’s message is that it almost
always is interpreted in multiple ways in an attempt to extract its meaning.
In other words, the meaning of many a proverb cannot easily be understood
because of its ambiguity. This is largely because, as Gouran et al, (1994)
rightly observe, meaning generally is dependent on both the language used
and the context in which the language was used. Thus, to be able to fully
comprehend a proverb’s message, we must understand both its language as
well as the context in which it is used. For instance, what meaning does the
Hausa proverb Sauri ya haifi nawa express? Or the Kiswahili proverb
sentence Haraka haraka haina baraka? Only when the language used in the
above proverbs is understood and the contexts in which they were used
identified could their meanings be comprehended. Therefore it is in the
nature of the message of proverb to vary since the metaphor in the proverb’s
sentence and the context in which it is expressed vary and this inevitably
causes its meaning to vary.
Variations in Transmission of Message of Proverb 35

Besides the inherent features of metaphor and context of situation,
cultural differences, could mar, blur, or alter the comprehension of a
proverb’s message. For instance, in Kiswahili, the proverb Jifya mmoja
haliinjiki chungu (One stone cannot support a cooking pot) and its Hausa
‘cognate’ Hannu d’aya ba ya d’aukar jinka, can hardly be decoded without
some knowledge of Africa’s rural life or indigenous material culture. Hence,
knowledge of the culture of a people invariably plays a key role in trying to
decode the messages of many proverbs.

Channels of Transmitting Proverb’s Message
As is generally known, every message is transmitted via a channel. The
channel is the means by which a message moves from the source to the
receiver of the message (Pearson et al 2003:18) In other words, the channel
is the carrier or conveyor of the message to its destination. The two
mostwidely used channels of delivering any verbal message is either through oral
or written modes of communication. In Africa, largely owing to problems of
literacy we earlier cited above, the proverb seems to be transmitted mostly
through oral channel of communication. No doubt, the oral means of
transmission of African proverb is synonymous with the way speech or
information generally has been conveyed in society from time immemorial.
This means, the African proverb began to be transmitted as a text, only after
writing became an entrenched culture among Africans. Since then readers
have been enjoying African proverbs mostly in books of literature and
similar works where the proverb is used to embellish written communication
as well as entertain readers, among other reasons.

Transmission of Proverb’s Message in Hausa Culture
In Hausa culture as in many other cultures, the proverb or its message is
commonly transmitted by word of mouth. This is not without genuine
reasons. Firstly, even with current technological advancements in
communication and other areas of life, oral speech remains the main channel
of human interaction in many parts of the world. It is not a surprise,
therefore, that the message of proverb continues to be primarily transmitted
in the oral mode in many parts of Africa. Secondly, one of the
characteristics of oral communication is that it provides instant results or
feedback. Because of this reason many speakers prefer to transmit proverbs
orally when compared to writing which is associated with delayed feedback.
Thirdly, many people who use proverbs orally can only transfer such skills
in writing, when they have acquired sufficient literacy and education.
36 Language, Culture and Literature in a Multilingual Society

Unfortunately, the majority within Hausa society belong to the category of
those who can neither read nor write.
In addition, there is the problem of standardising Hausa orthography
when it comes to putting down in writing numerous proverbs particularly
their dialect versions. Moreover, in trying to standardize certain (dialect)
proverbs one might lose their linguistic flavor or fail to fathom their
meaning. For instance, how many Hausa speakers can decode,
orthographically and semantically, the (Sokoto) dialect proverb Kowa am
mutum mutane asshi? Written in another orthographic style, this proverb can
be rendered as Kowane mutum mutane ne shi, the meaning of which could
be traced in another variant proverb, Wani rai ba ya yi sai da wani. Because
of the reasons cited above, only a handful of Hausa authors currently venture
to employ proverbs in their written works. In many such works, the rules of
orthography are flagrantly violated, sometimes making quoted proverbs
difficult to read or understand.
In Hausa culture, the proverb’s message is not necessarily and
immediately responded to by taking turns, as in formal conversations or
dialogues, rather the proverb’s message that is transmitted by the sender is
mostly meant to be acted upon by its apparently ‘passive’ receiver. One can
conclude that, in many respects, Hausa culture perceives the message of
proverb as the ultimate truth, almost a quasi-religious belief, whose feedback
is mostly required to be acted upon or complied with and not to be engaged
in continuous verbal exchanges between interlocutors. Numerous Hausa
cultural settings provide a good basis to observe how the proverb’s message
is transmitted or broadcast in that society with little or no regard for the
receiver of the message to indulge in verbal exchanges with the sender.
One instance within Hausa cultural settings where proverbs serve as
transmitted messages can be observed during child-naming, marriage/
wedding or similar ceremonies where the jester (Babambad’e or ‘Dan
Ma’abba/Dan Mu’abba in Hausa) controls the stage. Owing to religious
reasons, male-dominated ceremonial functions often are conducted separate
from feminist ones where only jesters from the two gender camps take
advantage of the cultural gatherings. On such occasions, the jester (male or
female) freely and unceasingly quotes proverbs (and other forms of verbal
formulae like praise-epithets or Kirari in Hausa) as messages targeting and,
at the same time, urging the audiences at the ceremonies to donate some
money to him/her.
Many guests feel uncomfortable at the jester’s impersonal criticism
through the use of proverbs. Though to some people this is a disturbing
Variations in Transmission of Message of Proverb 37

feature of Hausa culture, nonetheless, the invitees attending the function
naturally accept the practice as the norm. The discomfort arises from the
kind of proverbs which the jester carefully chooses from his well-stocked
memory and broadcasts them in form of criticisms of those guests who fail
to give him some money. By cultural standards, these guests can only smile
away and not verbally respond at the jester’s harmless but very often hurting
jokes, indeed innuendoes. The jokes certainly entertain but, at the same time,
they make those who aren’t ready to part with their money uncomfortable
during such functions.
An interesting aspect of this cultural scenario is that those being
criticized or stand accused before the jester’s court often cannot give any
feedback or enjoy right of reply, but merely listen and smile away at the
expensive jokes. This is simply because the jester’s criticisms which
indirectly come through the use of proverbs are always presented by him/her
in an impersonal way, hence nobody could claim being victim of the jester’s
innuendoes. This is one of the wisdoms of the proverb which allows its
message to be transmitted in public without any legal or other implications.
Another stage at which the message of proverb is transmitted as a
weapon of correction of public morality is during religious (Islamic)
preaching sessions. Many Hausa scholars retain a sizeable number of
proverbs in their memory which they extensively exploit when they preach
Islam alongside verses of the Qur’an and Sayings of the Prophet (SAW).
Owing to similarities in structure and content of numerous such religious
verses and sayings, many ordinary people often hold the messages in
proverb as sacred. Hence proverbs are held in high esteem and shape
people’s lives to the extent they are seen as quasi-religious texts. Often the
distinction between certain verses of the Qur’an or Sayings of the Prophet
(SAW), are not easy to draw. No doubt, some proverbial sayings are direct
and simple translations of the verses of the Qur’an, for instance, Bayan wuya
sai dad’i appears to be a translation of the Qur’an (verse 94:5/6). Numerous
such examples abound in Hausa proverb collections both old and new. The
point here is religion had since become a vehicle through which Hausa
proverbs are transmitted in society.
It is also important to note that the proverb in Hausa culture is a
wellguarded message that is meant to be released largely for the benefit of one’s
close associates or loved ones. If, for instance, a student or someone spent
all their money in buying a mobile phone leaving nothing for their upkeep,
then a close friend of theirs could draw their attention to this apparently
foolish act simply by saying Kowa ya k’ona rumbunsa, ya san inda toka take
38 Language, Culture and Literature in a Multilingual Society

kud’i. Ordinarily, and unless there is a good reason to counter the argument,
the receiver of this proverb’s message doesn’t need to reply its sender, either
by quoting another proverb or saying something else. Rather, they should
merely reflect on the message, try to digest it and finally apply it in real-life
Thus, in Hausa culture, the fact that a friend or relation has used a
proverb to admonish, rebuke or reprimand another friend or relation means,
he loves and cares about him. Therefore, in a Hausa person’s daily life
different types of proverbs’ transmitted messages are used to gauge an
individual’s behaviour. This is realized at several levels of interactions or
interpersonal relationships. Some of these relationships can be reciprocal in
the use of proverb’s message, such as between friends or brothers, or
married couples, etc. However, at some levels of the relationship, this use of
proverb is uni-directional hence the message can only be transmitted in one
direction and not necessarily the other way round, for example, from father
to son or from mother to daughter, and, in some cases, from husband to wife.
Much, of course, depends on the levels of intimacy and other variables, such
as education, economic status, age, etc.
The chains of relationships we cited above clearly show that, in Hausa
culture, the messages in proverbs are not necessarily addressed to each and
every person in society, rather, it is the degree of intimacy or relationship
that very often determines the frequency with which an individual quotes a
proverb in order to advise or correct certain (wrong or unwanted) ills or
behavior in society. Thus, to communicate a proverb’s message to an
individual in a community not only displays one’s linguistic resources and
skills or sense of humour, but it’s, at the same time, a marker of social
distance, that is, it portrays how close or intimate you’re to that person.
Transmission of proverb’s message in Swahili culture
In Swahili culture as it is in Hausa society, the primary value of the
message of proverb lies in its ability to sanction public morality or correct
individual behavior. And as earlier explained with regard to the Hausa
people, in Swahili society too, sanctioning public morality or correcting
individual behavior via proverb’s message is achieved at various levels of
interpersonal relationships. In short, except for the Dan Mu’abba-type of
personality, which the present author isn’t in a position to verify, many of
the cultural practices associated with use of proverb existing among the
Hausa, are equally found among the Waswahili, in spite of numerous other
differences between them.
Variations in Transmission of Message of Proverb 39

It is not a surprise that there are similarities in various areas of life,
including proverb-making or its use in society, between Swahili and Hausa
cultures. This stems from the fact that both the Hausa-speaking and
Kiswahili-speaking peoples have had long ties with Islamic culture and
through it strong links with Arabic as a language, besides their common
African descent. But it is the impact of Islam on them that has accounted for
the many similarities between the two cultures and societies more than any
other thing. Part of this development includes the practice of borrowing an
uncountable number of Arabic loan words in both Hausa and Kiswahili, in
addition to religious practices. The practices also included the age-long
system of translating Qur’anic verses and Sayings of the Prophet (SAW)
which, with passage of time, has given rise to the emergence of various
quasi-Islamic proverbs in the two cultures and languages, such as the
example already cited Bayan wuya sai dad’i whose cognate in Kiswahili is
Baada ya dhiki faraja, apparently both echoing Surah 94, verses 5/6 of the
However, the differences between the two cultures can easily be in
terms of several factors, among which are historical, geographical or
environmental, linguistic, etc. Each of these factors helps in shaping the
culture of a people. For instance, while the Hausa people predominantly live
in the sub-Saharan, semi-arid, hot and temperate climatic zones with
different fauna and flora, many of the Waswahili (sg., f/m: Mswahili) dwell
in coastal areas of East Africa surrounded by lush vegetation, rivers, lakes
and mountains hosting another set of fauna and flora. These numerous
differences are reflected in the proverb corpora from the two regions,
cultures, and societies, should any inquisitive researcher wish to take a quick
glance at them on a comparative basis.
However, one important difference which attracted this author’s
attention in respect of the Waswahili was the use of written proverb’s
message as a means of advertising goods, a point I earlier mentioned in the
introduction to this paper. The remaining part of this paper will therefore
dwell on this point.
In the first place, the Waswahili appear to be the only people in the
world that have moved the proverb in general and the African proverb in
particular from its traditional status of being an oral means of sustaining
interpersonal relationships to making it a ready tool for advertising goods
while still retaining its primary role of sanctioning public morality or
gauging individual behaviour. And they do this by displaying the Swahili
woman’s colourful traditional dress called the Kanga which has on it an
40 Language, Culture and Literature in a Multilingual Society

inscribed proverb that helps to advertise it. They differ therefore in the sense
that, in place of employing the more familiar oral method of transmitting
proverb’s message, such as those used by the Dan Mu’abba in Hausa
society, the Waswahili have adopted a style of transmission of proverb’
message that is unique to them.

Kanga – the proverb-talking cloth

The Kanga (or Khanga) is a two-piece cloth predominantly worn by the
Waswahili Muslim women but which is generally adopted by other
(nonMuslim) women in Eastern Africa particularly in Tanzania (along with
Zanzibar), Kenya and parts of Uganda. In many respects the Kanga is
similar to Atamfa, the Hausa Muslim women’s dress both in terms of its use
and significance as well as territorial spread in Northern Nigeria.
The importance of the Kanga lies in its sociolinguistic significance
within the Waswahili feminist culture where proverbs become central to its
sale. This clearly portrays not only the role of proverb in society but its
sociolinguistic dimensions. Therefore, to the Mswahili (pl. Waswahili)
woman, the value and relevance of the Kanga lies in the type of proverb it
carries since it provides her with a voice of her own in her daily social
interactions with family members and others. Amory (1985), who carried
out a research on the role of the Kanga in Waswahili society, describes the
process as well as significance of the proverb-inscribed piece of cloth below,

Each Kanga carries a central design or motif, surrounded on all four
sides by a border. Designs vary from geometric patterns to floral
prints, and the colors of the cloth are always striking… rich and
subtle browns and golds, brilliant reds, pinks, yellows and greens, or
an understated combination of blue or purple and black. Centred just
above the bottom border is a Swahili saying, typically drawn from
the extensive oral tradition of Swahili society. These sayings include
proverbs, phrases from traditional or contemporary songs, and
political or popular slogans. The Kanga’s saying, or name (jina,
sing., majina, pl.) is what distinguishes the Kanga from other types
of African print cloth… The Kanga is unusual in the way in which
this is used. (Amory, 1985:1)

All over Eastern Africa, but predominantly among the Waswahili women,
the proverb-bearing Kanga is visible providing free advert and promoting
Variations in Transmission of Message of Proverb 41

sales of the cloth on behalf of the textile manufacturers. In Mombasa (circa
2001), this present writer witnessed the Kanga cloth being advertised in a
public place, a strategic road junction busy with vibrant traffic. The textiles
manufacturers (some Indians) had parked their pick-up van at the location.
On the two sides of the pick-up van were displayed a Kanga cloth each
bearing some common Swahili proverbs meant to be read by passers-by,
particularly women, who were the main target of the advert.
This practice of transmission of proverb’s message in writing for
commercial purpose was in contrast to the way Hausa traditional male
medicine seller, Mai magani, goes about town endlessly talking, and,
occasionally, playing local music, or the ‘Yar-mai-ganye, his female
counterpart (a rare gem in urban centres these days), who aimlessly and
noiselessly wanders in the vicinity with a basket on her head full of local
herbs seeking for buyers of their products, the Kanga’s voice is its inscribed
proverb. Even though the Mai magani and ‘Yar-mai-ganye both employ
Hausa proverbs in their advertisements, the practice is done mostly orally.
Therefore, like every other manufacturer of a product, all the textile
manufacturers and dealers of Kanga needed to do, was to display the cloth in
public so that the value of its inscribed proverb could promote its sale.
A part from using the proverb’s message for commercial or
advertisement reasons, the Kanga-inscribed proverb has additional
sociolinguistic dimensions. Again, Amory (1985:2) summarises the crux of
the matter,

… people use the Kanga cloth to send messages to other people. If
you are having a fight with your friend, lover, or husband, you might
wear a Kanga with the message, raha tele tabu ya nini – with so
much happiness what’s the trouble?” There are recognized ways of
doing this within the society, so that others do realize which
messages are intended for them. In this way the printed words of the
Kanga often substitute for verbal messages as an important means of
communication. Further, because the Kanga is a woman’s cloth, it
may be seen as a societal mechanism which provides a “voice” for
women, the universal silent majority. (p. 2)

No doubt, the social significance of the proverb via the Kanga, as described
above, is a practice without parallel in Africa. Its distinguishing feature is in
its written words, in contrast to the oral method of transmitting proverb,
which apparently is still the universal norm, not just in Africa. And one can
42 Language, Culture and Literature in a Multilingual Society

list a number of advantages associated with this practice, among which is the
use of (written) proverbs to promote literacy in society. Besides, such a
practice has brought to the fore the role and function of the message of
proverb in commercial advertisements. What’s more, the proverb is a free
language as it has no copyright; therefore everyone can employ it in any type
of advertisement just as its use can be directed to individuals free of legal or
other implications.
It is said that advertisers probe into the inner minds and attitudes of
buyers to enhance the success of their effort. They combine words and
pictures including choice of colour to evoke desired responses to products
(Jimoh in Fakuade 1998). It is not surprising that in both Hausa and Swahili
cultures the proverb has for long been employed as an instrument of
advertisement, especially using the oral channel of communication, as the
Hausa-speaking people predominantly do.
Within Swahili society, however, poetry in general and proverb-making
in particular hold a special place of their own because of the deep-rooted
traditions in verbal arts of the people, the Waswahili. In many coastal homes
of the Swahili-speaking people, generations after generations of family
members, both men and women, have been engaged in reciting and writing
poetry for a very long time, probably since the emergence of Kiswahili as a
language itself. In these types of organized family homes, which still
actively exist even today, an enormous amount of didactic poems which are
designed to instruct the public particularly in religious matters are released.
These genres of verbal arts include numerous proverbs that are transmitted
mostly orally in society.
Although both poetry- and proverb-making are associated with the
Hausa-speaking people, just like it is with the Waswahili, these practices
seem to be left to individuals – malamai (Muslim scholars), almajirai (both
learned students, adult- and child-beggars), women and a host of other
unorganized groups within Hausa society. In other words, there are hardly
any publicly recognized and organised family homes, similar to the ones
today existing in Swahili culture, which have been out there reciting poetry
transcending generations that are still known to be committed to such
practices among the Hausa people. Even if such poetry-based homes existed
within Hausa culture, they currently might be a dying tradition or are so few
thus, not as ubiquitous as they’ve permeated Swahili society, where they are
not only publicly acknowledge, but are known by their
sha’irimanufacturing family names.

Variations in Transmission of Message of Proverb 43

It is clear from the above discussions that there are a number of similarities
in the use of proverb’s message to influence public morality and sanction
behaviour, both collectively and individually in Hausa and Swahili cultures.
However, while in Hausa society the method of transmission of the message
of proverb is predominantly oral, the Swahili-speaking people, in addition to
the oral method, have introduced the use of written proverb as a means of
advertising goods, in this case, in particular, the method of writing proverbs
on the Kanga, which is a Swahili woman’s dress, in order to promote its
sale. This practice has no parallel among Africans in other cultures and
societies, not just the Hausa-speaking people hence it the practice is unique
to the Swahili-speaking people. Equally enough are numerous oral practices
of the Hausa people which are not found among the Waswahili. These
include, for example, the Babambad’e as one of the pillars of transmission of
proverb’s message in society. Hence, while there are common trends in the
practices between the two cultures, there are also differences which show
that, just like no two human beings are alike, every society or culture stands
distinct from others in spite of numerous other similarities with other
cultures of the world.

44 Language, Culture and Literature in a Multilingual Society


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4. The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission and
Globalisation: The Language Perspective

Sadiya Sani Daura
Department of English & Literary Studies, Bayero University, Kano

This paper examines a fundamental function of the human language,
namely, cultural transmission. It focuses on the home video and how the
mass media uses it to educate, entertain and inform different categories of
the audience. The Hausa film industry is examined and two films,
“WULAYA” and “IYA RUWA” are analysed. In each of the films, the
theme and how it is linguistically expressed and culturally reflected is
considered. The analysis reveals the binary function of cultural transmission
and importation which the films perform, and which by implication,
perpetuates the current trend in globalisation.

The Mass Media educates, entertains and informs different categories of
audience. It uses different strategies such as dramatisation to achieve its aim.
It is the mirror of the society, for example, any time a film is produced, the
audience watches it to see a reflection of itself or to see the life style of some
other community. Hausa drama and theatre are called “wasan kwaikwayo”,
in the Hausa Language, which literally means “game of imitation”. Furniss
(1996) adds that, theatricality is also a feature of festivals and court life, as
well as a wide variety of cultural events both state sponsored and locally
organised. Messages in films are transmitted through a wide range of literary
styles; in fact, the whole sophisticated spectrum of communication is
engaged. The paper first traces the progressive development of the Hausa
drama, and then considers the instances of borrowed words, figurative
expressions, paralanguage and songs used in the two films. In the course of
this, it establishes the role language plays in achieving certain aims,
showcasing some aspects of its social function and identifying it as an agent
of globalisation through the media.

The Development of Hausa Drama
Many attempts have been made to establish the history of Hausa drama.
Danjuma (2004) in Furniss (1996) traces Hausa drama (which has now
metamorphosed to Hausa Home Video) to the pre-colonial era where the
Hausa traditional rulers had various entertainment troupes such as ‘yan
46 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

kama’. ‘yan gambara’, and the ‘wawan sarki’ (note that all three mentioned
portray comedy types) which aimed at creating humour. And then the
famous film, Baban Larai, which was produced in 1987 and “the target
audience was mainly farmers, and the primary purpose of the film was to
educate the farmers about farming groundnut, cotton as well as on cattle
Subsequently, other films were produced: “Mama Learnt A Lesson”,
“Back to Land”, “Child Bride”, “Shehu Umar”, “Musa Ya Zo Birni”, “Kanta
of Kebbi”, “Idon Matambayi”, “Tambari”, “Kuliya Manta Sabo”, “Ga Fili
Ga Doki”. All these pioneer Hausa dramas play specific societal functions.

As a form of art, the main function of any drama performance is
entertainment. However, the entertainment cannot be achieved in
isolation from the focus of the content of the plays. Each
performance is usually targeted to achieve a specific objective…
social criticism: exposing the follies of stereotype individuals,
lifestyles, malpractices among public officials, injustice, and violation of
social norms. (Yahaya, 1991:24)

Each of the films mentioned above was purposely produced to entertain,
educate and/or inform, for example, while “Baban Larai” was designed to
promote family health and hygiene, “Child Bride” aimed at exposing the
effects of early marriage etc. In another study, Furniss (1996:84) claims that:

Radio drama dates back to the 1950s when FRCN (Federal Radio
Corporation of Nigeria) Kaduna put on Dagurasa produced by
Adamu Gumel and a series aimed at farmers, Basafce, produced by
Bashir Isma’ila Ahmed, (Yahaya, 1985), while a series called Sarkin
Karfi was aimed at children (Nafada, Sadauki and Kabir 1987:5).
Among the most long-running series that date from the 1960s was
Zaman Duniya Iyawa Ne, written and produced by Yusufu Ladan, in
which one of the most famous Hausa actors/comedians, Usman Baba
Fategi, made his debut. Fategi went on, in 1973, to star in his own
show Samanja Mazan Fama on radio and TV with NTA Kaduna,
and to write and direct other series including Duniya Budurwar
Wawa, which is still going. Samanja ‘sergeant-major’ is built around
the character played by Fategi and illustrates, in a variety of domestic
and local circumstances around a barracks, the antics and escapades
of an irresponsible soldier with clipped speech and direct manner.
The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission & Globalisation 47

His verbal style is ‘soldier speak’ and draws upon the experience of
ordinary Nigerians of the mixed English and Hausa of the Nigerian
army (Kallamu, 1992).

Two other popular shows are built around well-known actors. Kasimu Yero
acts in a number of shows, but his most regular appearances have been in
“Karambana” ‘the busy-body’ described:

The court jester in the traditional social setting. He behaves in all
sorts of ways, satirising men of various statuses in the society in
order to purge them of their moral laxity, anti-social practices,
misuse and abuse of office or privilege. (Kofoworola and Lateef,
1987:172, in Furniss, 1996).

Quite a number of the transition indices which affected the then form and
status of the Hausa drama, causing it to transform into what it is today,
turned out to be the forces of globalisation. Technological development gave
rise to the proliferation of transmitting channels and this made the drama
both available and accessible to the public. From entertainment troupes
which performed on stage, to radio, cinema and TV series and then home
video on cassettes and now, films on satellite networks. Kallamu (1992)
claims that at some time in 1992, “practically all local radio and TV stations
had Hausa drama shows of great popularity’’. In so doing, the film makers
are challenged with the negotiations in combining the kinesics of the actors
and the lexical representation of the messages contained in the films. This
has to be done without compromising the principal attributes of style
reflected in e.g. suitability, precision and poise. Language is the main tool in
this instance, be it vocal or para-lingual. Scholars such as Furniss (1996)
argue that globalisation as it affects language is causing it a gradual attrition
because of certain factors which are seen as crippling the target language.

Analytical Framework
The framework of analysis of the data is the feature of the human language
as the agent for cultural transmission and also the Sapir Whorf hypothesis
regarding language determinism. Discussing the human language, Yule
(2007) identifies certain features both in its form and its function. In sending
signals, some distinction could be made between communicative signals
such as are done intentionally when we speak from the informative signals
which are done unintentionally such as when we yawn. Furthermore, the
48 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

defining properties of the human language on which is based the framework
of the analysis of the data for this paper includes: arbitrariness,
displacement, productivity, discreteness, duality and cultural transmission.
These are the core features.
Although the existence of speech organs in the human body is
physiologically universal, the utterances made do not receive universal
interpretation. This is because language is culturally transmitted. Salami et al
(2008) claim that the human language is not genetically transmitted; rather,
it is passed on through the interaction of the human child with other
members of the community. A human child would grow up speaking and
using no language if isolated from the human community. We could thus
deduce from this that language is restricted to what its users have been
exposed to and merge also, with what is relevant to them. The question of
exposure mentioned above suggests that language accepts new words and
utterances hence the versatility of the open class system of words in any
dynamic language. Any interpretation in this context of borrowing is done
according to the speech community’s world view sometimes extended
through interaction among speech communities. Such confinement of world
view is captured in the concept of linguistic determinism, “which in its
strongest version, holds that ‘language determines thought’. In short, you
can only think in the categories which your language allows you to think in”
(Yule 2007:247). The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis of the 1930s underscores this
claim which could be supported now by observing the existence of certain
concepts in some cultures and their non-existence in others, and the way
different people import and perceive concepts foreign to them.

The dictionary description of culture is that it is the set of ideas, beliefs and
ways of behaving of a particular society. A culture is therefore, one complex
whole which includes knowledge, beliefs, art, morals, law, custom and any
other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of a society.
This implies the sum total of the way of living of a group of people
which is transmitted from one generation to another. The aspects of culture
include: dressing, manners, perception, skills, ideas, art, literature,
civilisation, music, agriculture and building. The culture of a people
generally manifests in their communal and individual codes of conduct. This
is why the culture of a people could be better understood by associating and
interacting with them. Language is thus the core, considering how it
concerns all these aspects of culture mentioned. It either sends signals
The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission & Globalisation 49

voluntarily or automatically or else it is used to receive and interpret the sent

Globalisation involves sets of processes filtering into all domains of human
experiences: linguistic, social, cultural or economic (Friday-Olin, J.O.
2007:219 in Adeyanju 2007)
The concept of globalisation centres around the ideas of the world
operating on interdependence among nations. The world becomes globalised
through international exchange or extension of cultures, and is called the
“global village.” Distances among societies are perceived as closing as a
result of the impact of improved, modern technology and communication
The indices of globalisation are mainly captured in the upsurge of the
massive development of high-speed information technology reflected e.g. in
the internet revolution, the facilities of the mobile phone etc. These make
provision for discoveries, up-dating of existing knowledge, increasing
knowledge and the exchange and extension of knowledge.
The following is an analysis of two Hausa films, WULAYA and IYA
RUWA in order to showcase their role in cultural transmission and also their
contribution to the process of globalisation.

The word, “wulaya”, which is the name of the film, is an Arabic word and it
means “the state’, in political terms.
The film is set on a city location with attendant amenities expected of
urban areas, ranging from beautiful buildings, modern transport system and
communication gadgets to other indices of a relatively developed civilization
such as modern way of dressing, a particular manner of speaking with a lot
of code mixing, code switching and affectation, a sophisticated structure of
governance etc. The following is an analysis of some variables which
function in the film as instruments of the cultural transmission and
globalisation which role the film primarily plays:

The Governor
The “Governor”, is a position which is not indigenous to the Hausa
administrative system, but adapted from the British colonial administrative
system as far back as the pre-independence era. The theme of justice and fair
play unfolds when a credible and highly principled Governor is surrounded
50 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

by corrupt cabinet members most of whom have no conscience. Life at home
for the Governor, Dr Bilal, is not much different. His mother, wife and
sonin-law prove to be difficult. Initially, when Dr. Bilal’s victory in the
elections is announced, his wife jumps up in joy and begins to jubilate,
expressing certain expectations of what would become of her considering
her new status as the “First Lady”.
Members of the Governor’s cabinet later conspire with his wife to kill
him. This is done through a series of meetings with everyone in attendance
including the First Lady herself. As the attempt on the Governor’s life is
carried out, he escapes and disappears without any trace. This is unusual.
The plot and the strategy for the Governor’s assassination are foreign to
Hausa culture.

The First Lady
Dr Bilal’s wife was discussing with her daughter, the hard times their family
was facing when they heard the announcement on the radio of Dr Bilal’s
election as the Governor. This automatically makes her the First Lady. She
pronounces her new position as the First Lady with a heavy accent ‘Fes
Ledii’. She continues to enumerate the attendant entitlements.

eskot (escort), sikuriti (security).

This is a foreign concept to Hausa and is therefore, prone to multiple
pronunciation and interpretation. The ‘First Lady’ is adapted from the
English culture. It is a system where the wife of a chief executive holds an
office, performs some official functions and even controls some percentage
of the state funds. Dr Bilal’s wife begins to plan how to relate with her
subjects on assumption of office as the “First Lady”.

The Police
The Police Force and its function in the society is foreign to Hausa whose
native law enforcement agency is primarily the Emir and the Emirate
A widow reports to Inspector Bashir instead of to a King or an Emir.
This is the effect of the cosmopolitan set up of the communities in and an
index of globalisation.
When Police Inspector Bashir attempts to intervene in the land dispute
between the widow and her orphan children on the one hand, and some
highly placed persons in the society on the other, the Inspector speaks the
The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission & Globalisation 51

English language with impeccable grammar when he says, “With due
respect, Sir, I am highly disappointed…..
As some of the actors speak, there is a lot of code-mixing of English
and Hausa and this reflects their exposure to Nigeria’s official language
(English) and by extension, to the modern form of communication.

The Mallam
The etymology of the word is Arabic “Mu’allim”, which means a
knowledgeable man, the feminine gender of which is “Mallama. It is a loan
word in Hausa language and has undergone both phonological and
morphological changes and is used freely.
The meaning of “Mallam” in the Hausa society has been extended. First
of all, it is a title equivalent to “Mr” of the English society.
Bargery (1993:763) explains the term as “used in addressing a person,
or in conjunction with the name of a person. It is applied to anyone as a title
of respect, especially to one who can read and write, but is not necessarily
able to translate any Arabic.” It is a term of address for the head of a Hausa
In this context however, it refers to a person who is learned in mystical
issues, a fortune teller who has supernatural powers and who is commonly
consulted by some members of the Hausa society for their problems.
The Deputy Governor, who is among the plotters, suddenly, by default,
becomes the Governor on the disappearance of Dr. Bilal, the Governor. The
plotters consult a fortune teller in order to learn about the situation of Dr.
Bilal, the missing Governor.
When however, the Mallam in Wulaya did not tell the plotters what
they wanted to hear, they beat him up and go to another who promises them
what they requested for but asked for them to supply him with a bottle of the
human blood of a baby girl whose mother must have died while giving birth
to her. They were also to provide him with the scarf of a mad woman.

Human Blood for Rituals
The issue of human blood being used for ritual purposes is imported into the
Hausa culture. It is demonstrated in Wulaya and the corrupt government
officials employ it to achieve their goals. Although the repercussions of
using the human blood for rituals are also portrayed, the episode is
nevertheless marked as an illustration of the extension of culture across
societies and is an indicator of globalisation.

52 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

Alhaji Dauda, one of the corrupt cabinet members has a stroke and
eventually dies. This is meant to portray the consequences of corruption,
wickedness and selfishness. The wealth he amassed is inherited by his
children and his wife marries a younger man.
Towards the end of the film when Governor Bilal resurfaces, he is shown
going round town inspecting places and fishing out corrupt officers. The
Deputy Governor is seen dressed in women’s attire in order to escape the
wrath of those whose toes he had stepped upon. This symbolises one of the
Hausa culture’s lowest form of cowardice and degradation. The Deputy
Governor is apprehended by the law enforcement agents and taken round
town in chains – another symbol of disgrace.
Mallam Inuwa, also another member of the cabinet who was in charge
of religious affairs, is dismissed from office because the new Governor,
claims he was using language that was capable of instigating people against
the government.
The Hausa culture strongly upholds the issue of nemesis; therefore, the
occurrences of repercussion in many instances in the film are a form of
transmission of culture. This was done in fairy tales told usually by elder
members of the society to young children just like the bed time stories in the
English culture.

Obedience to Parents
When the missing Governor resurfaces, he is seen reluctant to resume office
until his mother had given her consent. When she first refuses to permit him
to go back to the office as Governor, he accepts her decision. This is a
manifestation of the concept of obedience to parents in the Hausa culture.

Justice and Fair Play
As the Governor comes back to the office, he is still steadfast in his beliefs.
This, he expresses in words and in his actions. He is fearless of being
blackmailed by the press or attacked by his political opponents. He
demonstrates this in his visitations to strategic places, and acting on
defaulters. He orders the demolition of a “Katafaran asibiti” located at
Sawarwara township.Katafare = is an adjective modifying the noun asibiti.
Katafaran takes the morphological change and the inflection through the
suffix but still remains an adjective denoting a gigantic, imposing building,
in this context, showing the magnificent nature of the hospital. This portrays
The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission & Globalisation 53

the Governor’s fearlessness and impartiality in handling cases. He gives the
order that:
“In the next two hours, in ga wurin yayi flat”, meaning, the demolition
must be done within two hours from the time he gave the order.
The language used by the Governor, contains a lot of quotations from
religious texts which he uses as the bases of his actions. This connotes his
uprightness and moral disposition and is in line with the title of the film
(which is also in Arabic and suggestive of a religious inclination).
The doctor in charge of the hospital is instantly arrested for many
unethical practices, and to this, the Governor says, “… and this is a criminal
issue. In the next two hours, take him to court.”
The Governor cautions the Commissioner of Justice about the injustice
done to a certain category of people detained. He makes reference to the
English Justice System which is the basis on which the law of the land
operated by saying:

“Ko yahudu da nasara da kuke kwaikwaya basa rufe ‘yanuwansu ba
gaira. Har ku rika zancen ‘‘yancin dan Adam”,


“Even the Jews and the Europeans whom you copy, do not unjustly
detain their own. And you (ironically) talk about human rights” he
said the last sentence with an obvious sarcastic tone.

The film ends with the villains vanquished and the just, triumphant. This
conclusion is thematically highly relevant to the typical Hausa society
setting. It represents cultural transmission whereby the value of crime and
punishment is inculcated from the elder generation to the younger one. So
instead of the traditional method of tales-by-moonlight, the concept is
demonstrated in a movie, in line with the contemporary times of
technological advancement, and this is an aspect of globalisation.

Iya Ruwa Fidda Kai
This is the second Hausa Home Video analysed in this paper. The title of the
film is a Hausa proverb which Kirk-Greene (1966) translates as “knowing
how to swim is saving life.”
This translation, however, is inclined more to the surface meaning than
to the metaphorical content of the expression. Proverbs, claims Kirk-Greene
54 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

(1966:ix) “enshrine much of the cultural heritage of a people, their
traditions, their history, their wisdom and their ethics”.
The manner in which the proverb is written suggests the elliptical
construction which it often assumes. It is a play on words which challenges
the listener to retrieve the unuttered words from his or her imagination as
certain contexts of situation expectedly arouse the curiosity of the listener.
The English proverb which may be likened to IYA RUWA Fidda Kai is
“Survival of the Fittest”. The expectation of the audience in this context is to
see some critical situations in which certain individuals find their way out.
The film is about how nemesis eventually catches up with whoever is
unfair to others in the pursuit of his own interest. There also are, quite a
number of sub-themes. The interpretation of the title connects to the plot in
instances of certain people surviving crisis situations in the film.
As in Wulaya, the following variables are identified and discussed in
line with the title of the paper:

Kuxin Ruwa
Literally, ‘kudi’ means ‘money’, while ‘ruwa’ means ‘water’. However, it is
a figurative expression which is used for its deep meaning rather than the
surface, literal meaning. It refers to interest on loan.
The story opens with an old, village, business tycoon, Alhaji Mudi,
who has proven to be a Shylock incarnate, discussing some critical issues
with a childhood friend. In their discussion, there is an introduction of the
word ‘’al gus’’, which is of Arabic origin and means ‘cheating’, and also the
word, ‘’riba’’, which in this context refers to interest on any loan facility.
This discussion between Alhaji Mudi and his friend reveals how loathsome
interest is to the Hausa people. The Hausas are predominantly Muslims and
this value (of extreme repugnance for interest) is tied to the Islamic religion.

The Bosom Friend
The friend of Alhaji Mudi is seen reprimanding him for his dubious
activities. This exposes a custom of the Hausa people whereby a person’s
intimate friend could compel him to behave in a certain way.

Dillaliya (door-to-door saleswoman)
Dilalliya is the stereotype local door-to-door saleswoman (the masculine
form is ‘’dillali’’, which generally means the “sales agent”, but in this
context, is the door-to-door salesman).
The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission & Globalisation 55

The conventional Dillaliya is reputed to poke-nose into and cause trouble in
the domestic affairs of the houses she visits. She is seen here taking sides
with the second wife, amarya, and plotting against the first wife.

At the initial stage of their conspiracy against the first wife, Dillaliya and
Amarya shout out ululation, that shrilling sound women make to signify the
peak of a joyous excitement. It is here done in mischief and signifies the
conspiracy and negative effects of intruders in polygamous homes.

This is a term used to address the wife of a king and it connotes royalty or
leadership. It is used here to address the first wife, but it is used sarcastically,
implying that she is not in charge of the affairs of the house as the case
should be.

The dressing mode of Alhaji Mudi is rather deviant as it is unconventional.
He claims to be dressing like a lawyer friend of his. This is a testimony of
copying as a method of attitude change in people. The dressing of the guests
from the city is also fascinatingly strange. They appear wearing covered
shoes, with unshaved hair. Therefore, in this film, there is an illustration of
how one culture penetrates another.

Dillaliya mentions ‘’tun tale-tale in ji Yarabawa.’’ The expression
“taletale” is of Yoruba origin and it means ‘’since time immemorial.’’ This
Yoruba expression has been incorporated into the Hausa language. It is used
as a signifier of a level of exposure by the Hausa user.

Dandali (Village Square)
The youth gather at the village square to sing and dance and make merry. It
is a cultural event which takes place regularly after sunset. Children come
together to rejoice under the moonlight. This is a forum in which young men
and women seek and get attracted to prospective spouses. Through this
regular event, the culture of wooing spouses is upheld.

56 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

Coca Cola
The rich old man, Alhaji Mudi takes a sip of coca cola and instantly spits it
on the floor, claiming it was a living thing, because,
“yana min mutsu mutsu a baki’’ meaning it was making some uneasy
movements in his mouth.
The reaction of Alhaji Mudi is an indicator of the strangeness of the
drink. Alhaji Mudi is an old man, therefore, it could be deduced that the
drink is neither an indigenous one nor popular among people of his age

The word “kissa” means covetousness and in this context refers to women’s
manipulative tendencies to obtain favours from their men. Kissa could also
mean taking advantage of a situation.
Dillaliya reflects the stereotype woman with the feature of kissa. She
influences the second wife and together, through kissa, they plot and succeed
in making the second wife the husband’s favourite. In their strategy, the
second wife goes out of her way to feign being humble, uses very loving
words and indirectly takes every opportunity to discredit the first wife.
This situation of intrusion into matrimonial homes is typical of a lot of
Hausa homes and the consequences as portrayed in this film, is a marriage
Another instance of Kissa is shown when after the divorce of Alhaji
Mudi’s first wife, Dillaliya uses it to make Alhaji Mudi marry her and how
she succeeds in becoming his business partner, outsmarting and swindling
him despite his remarkably cunning disposition.

419 is a reference criminal code in the Nigeria Police Act which names a
particular kind of fraud but whose meaning has locally been extended to
capture all sorts of dishonesty and it is widely used by Nigerians.
The audience is introduced to the concept of 419, when Alhaji Mudi is
swindled by his new wife, Dillaliya, in whom he had so much confidence
and belief in her ability to make his business grow and in whom he entrusted
a huge sum of money. 419 is also shown at a higher level when Dillaliya is
duped in the city by some smarter people who also purported to be her
business partners.

The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission & Globalisation 57

Singing and Dancing
Songs in the Hausa society make up a strong organ of communication which
plays a significant social role. Different songs are sung for different
occasions and serve different functions, therefore, every song has a strong
purposive element peculiar to it either aimed to instruct, to inform, to
persuade, to entertain, etc.
Songs in general, pervade the whole spectrum of African traditional
life. In most societies, there are songs for every stage and occasion of a
person’s life, from the cradle to the grave. Bukenya & Nandwa (1983:85).
Songs form part of the lives and thinking of the people. The songs are about
the people’s political, socio-economic condition of life and environment.
The songs embody the history, philosophy, beliefs and wisdom of the
people, Akivaga & Odaga, 1982:70.

The Song of Dandali
This song is sung at Dandali and it is used throughout the film as the
background music. The lyric in this creates a mood of amorous and carefree
atmosphere. The youth come and dance before the village drummer, and the
theme of the song lacks any seriousness. The diction is a mixture of
nonsensical and meaningful words. The function of this song is to create
relaxation. It portrays the typical Hausa setting of how the youth pass their
leisure time.

Duba duba kauna
Zani matsa da bazar kauna
Gunka kaine angona
Auren soyayya a cikin raina
Shine burin a
Marmaza gani aza gaki

The figure of speech here is assonance, in line with the theme of the song.

The Song of Alhaji Mudi and his Second Wife
This is another song which signifies a joyous moment. It shows
lightheartedness. Alhaji Mudi sings and dances while his wife claps her hands in
happy excitement. x

58 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

The Song of Dillaliya and Amarya
Dillaliya sings and amarya sings with her as the chorus refrain.

Proverbs and other Figurative Expressions
Figurative expressions, especially proverbs play a number of roles in this
film. Proverbs are language canons with a fixed and rigid structure that
defines human situations in a precise and poignant style. Proverbs also
express truths and give moral lessons. They also add colour to language,
educate and serve as riddles to be solved. Proverbs generally portray the
stereotype interventions of language in life engagements, for example:

“Dan uwa ba rabin jiki ba ne”, literally means “a (blood) relation is
half one’s body.” This means that one’s relation is a must on one, is
indispensable and has certain rights over one.
“Samun wuri, bawa da barcin rana” literally means it is privilege for a
slave to have a siesta, but by implication, means that a slave works
round the clock so will only be found sleeping during the day only as
an opportunity.

Dillaliya says to Amarya: “Amarya ba kya laifi ko kin kar xan masu gida”,
meaning that a bride is always right even if she kills the groom’s son. This
shows the intensity of how much a bride’s excesses are condoned.

“Sai ka yi ta surutu kamar ka haxiyi rediyo”, meaning, “You talk
nonstop as if you have swallowed a radio.” The proverb is an indirect
reference to every talkative. It is supposed to check all who talk too
much as the tendency is they say everything just like a radio does.
“Mai kwarmin ido da wuri yake fara kuka” “he whose eyes lie sunken
in the skull starts their cry early.” This means the weak should start
preparations early.
“Ango an goge amarya an amarmare”

There is no meaningful literal translation for this, but it is meant to praise
Alhaji Mudi and his bride.

“Wuce makaxi da rawa”, is like the English saying, “crying more than
the bereaved.”
“Ku mata ne, zuma sai da wuta.” Literally means, “You are women,
like bees, can only be handled with fire.” This shows the perception of x

The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission & Globalisation 59

the Hausa of women. It implies that women are very difficult to
handle and could only be enjoyed if treated with high handedness.
“Maza tabarmar kashi, in aka shimfixa sai ka zo kwanciya su sossoke
ka” meaning “Men are like a mat made of bones, it is only when you
come to lie on it that it pricks you.” This suggests that men are wicked
and deceitful. They lure you until you succumb then they turn and
thrash you.

All the above figurative expressions interpret the Hausa world view and are
intended to be enjoyed, preserve the oral tradition and transmit Hausa

The instances of paralanguage are also observed as playing certain functions
in the film, for example, dancing is an expression of happiness.
Another example is when Alhaji Mudi and his friend almost had a row,
they are shown to pat and shake hands, portraying reconciliation and
indicating that there are no hard feelings.
The dressing of everyone in the film is a reflection and is suggestive of
the person’s character, from poverty to affluence, joy to sadness, etc.

Putting one’s hand to support the chin is used as a para-lingual
expression of surprise.
Putting a hand on the chest is used as an expression of shock and
The only car in the film was the one that took Dillaliya Tabawa from
the city to the village. The car symbolises civilisation and guarantees
Dillaliya’s business partners’ credibility.

This paper has shown how the Hausa home video has metamorphosed to its
present state both in form and in function. It is indeed an agent of cultural
transmission and globalisation. Language as socially dynamic is the
nervecentre of all personal, interpersonal and trans-national communication. The
two films, Wulaya and Iya Ruwa have showcased language playing a very
dynamic facilitating role and making one culture penetrate other cultures and
also immortalising and transmitting from one generation to the next, cultural
artefacts e.g. through figurative expressions.
60 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society


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The Mass Media as an Agent of Cultural Transmission & Globalisation 61

Tomlinson, J. (1999). Globalization and Culture. Cambridge UK, Polity
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Yule, G. (2007). The Study of Language. Cambridge, CUP.

5. Investigating Perceived Endangerment Status of the Igala Language

Joseph Abuh
Department of English, Kogi State College of Education, Ankpa

Going by Professor Stephen Wurm’s categories of language endangerment,
the UNESCO framework for the assessment of language vitality, and
popular observations about the Igala language by elderly native speakers,
there seem to be strong indications that the language is an endangered one.
This study, therefore, sought to find out if the above conjecture holds true,
namely that the Igala language is endangered. Three research questions were
raised to guide the study. A test designated as Igala Language Competence
Test (ILACOT) was constructed and validated by two independent linguists
of Igala extraction: one at Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Humboldt
University, Berlin, Western Germany and the other at Nasarawa State
University, Keffi, Nigeria. These instruments were trial-tested on a sample
of the target population, yielding a reliability estimate of 0.8. It was then
administered on Igala speakers. Purposive sampling was used to compose
the sampled population based on the variables of age brackets, urban and
rural speech communities, and socio-economic status. The data were
obtained orally using a recording device, and 50% was adopted as the pass
mark in the competence test (ILACOT). Simple percentage was used to
calculate the cumulative results of group performances. Results of the study
showed, among others, that 42.3% of the respondents are competent
speakers of the Igala language. It was concluded that, the Igala language, in
spite of the population of its users, is endangered. The paper recommends,
among others, that the study of Igala be made compulsory throughout
primary education and up to junior secondary class three in all primary and
secondary schools within Igalaland and that, governmental and
nongovernmental agencies should undertake projects on Igala meta-language
development, textual translations and literary productions.

Igala is the name of the ethnic group who occupy the eastern part of Kogi
State, Nigeria. It is as well the name of the language which the people speak.
Igala belongs to the Kwa group of languages and it is classified as Yoruboid
together with Yoruba and Itsekiri. By the 2006 National Census, the
population of native Igala people stood at 1.5 million (Federal Government
of Nigeria gazette 2007). Furthermore, Omachonu (2001) gives a population
estimate of Igala users as “over two million speakers (if we include natives
64 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

and non-natives).” The focus of this paper is to find out if this language
spoken by over two million people is endangered, against the background of
the claim by some linguists that a language is endangered if it has less than
5, 000 speakers (see Brenzinger, Heine and Sommer cited in Agbedo,
Whalen and Harrison (2000) report that, of the world’s 6,000 distinct
languages, “…many linguists predict that by the year 2100, only half of
these will still be spoken – a loss of one language every 12 days.” This
gruesome, almost alarmist, prediction of the death of languages draws
attention to the implications of language extinction. It goes without mention
that the loss of a language translates into the loss of an indigenous people’s
cultural identity, oral history, their world view, and above all the unique
features of the language which would include its sounds, rhythms and
poetry. The world would have a cause to bemoan such a loss because that
particular people’s knowledge of their environment including knowledge of
herbs and traditional cures that would have been potential subject matter of
orthodox medical research would be lost, perhaps forever(Whalen and
Harrison, 2000).
The implications outlined above (and even more) underline the
attention that linguists and other researchers have been paying to endangered
languages. As far back as 1822, Jacob Grimm published the second edition
of his book, Deutshe Grammatik (1819) (German Grammar) in which he
offers an aid to the reconstruction of dead languages (Grimm’s law of sound
shift) (see Whalen and Harrison 2000). More recently, the Western world
has various foundations dedicated to the revitalization of sick languages. The
Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Berlin, Western Germany,
UNESCO, the Foundation for Endangered Languages in England, and
Linguistic Organization are some of the examples of foundations and grants
for endangered languages.
Back here in Nigeria, quite a number of indigenous groups have been
concerned about the revitalization of their obsolescing mother tongues.
There have been conscious efforts by various bodies and individuals in the
areas of orthography and meta-language development, translation and
creative works in indigenous language (Okwudishu, 2009). Furthermore,
there have been fusillades of scholarly papers devoted to the resuscitation of
dying languages and minority languages (see ANLAT, 2002 issue, and the
Nigerian Linguists Festschrift Series No. 8, Ed. Ndimele, to mention only
Endangerment Status of the Igala Language 65

In some of those works, scholars have undertaken investigations
aimed at establishing whether or not particular languages are safe. Blench
(1992) and Grimes (2000) had done that for the Igbo language for instance,
(quoted in Okwudishu, 2009). Idudhe (2002) has a similar work for the
Isoko language, just as Onoyovwi (2002) has done for various languages of
Delta state.

What is Language Endangerment?
In the view of Obahiagbon (2010:89), “An endangered language is one with
a weak political status, only a few users and reduced function.” Agbedo and
Omeje (2010:122), however, write that “… a language is said to be either
endangered or not depending on the number of such language users.” To
buttress their point, these scholars quote Brenzinger, Heine and Sommer
(1991:25) as claiming that “… an endangered language is one which has less
than 5,000 speakers.” This paper, however, does not share the view of the
five writers cited above, namely, that language endangerment depends on
the number of users of a particular language at a point in time. The position
of this paper is that, a language is said to be endangered when there are
indications that its transmission from generation to generation is going to be
truncated because there will not be subsequent generation of its speakers or
users. This condition tends to a gradual but sure death of the language in
question. This threat of extinction is irrespective of whether there are over a
million or 5, 000 speakers. Two, illustrations will hopefully suffice. The first
illustration is hypothetical: If a language comprises as few as 4,000 native
speakers and all of them are competent in the use of that language, perhaps
because they are isolated from other languages, that language is not
threatened at all; rather it enjoys a robust life. If on the other hand, to cite the
second illustration, a language is spoken and used by over 1.5 million
people, yet, the younger generation of its speakers are clearly losing their
grips on it, the continued transmission of the language from one generation
to another can be said to be threatened. This is the case of the Igbo language
of Nigeria. Writing about the impending loss of identity of the Igbo people
Maduka (2005:3) draws attention to the fact that, “…the language (Igbo)
occupies the second position among those that will go into extinction in 50
years time.” And what is the population of the users of this language that is
endangered? Okwudishu (2004:47) quoting Crozier and Blench (1992) and
Grimes (2000), estimates that, “… 18 to 20 million Nigerians speak the Igbo
language… A threat to Igbo language means a threat to the identity of this
population of Nigerians.” The point being made here is that if a language of x

66 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

over 18 million people is endangered, then, we may not be right in
delineating a boundary line of 5,000 speakers as the definitive line for
language endangerment.
It seems more plausible than that border line definition to adopt
categories stipulated variously by professor Wurm, and the UNESCO model.
It bears repetition to cite them here because they seem to agree totally with
the major finding of this paper, which is that, the Igala language despite the
population of its speakers is endangered.
Professor Stephen Wurm (cited in Agbedo and Omeje, 2010:122)
stipulates various categories of language endangerment. According to him, a
language is:

Potentially endangered if the children start preferring the
dominant language and learn the obsolescing language
Endangered if the youngest speakers are young adults and there
are no or few child speakers,
Seriously endangered if the youngest speakers are middle aged or
past middle age,
Terminally endangered or moribund if there are only a few
elderly speakers left,
Dead/extinct when there are no speakers left at all.

On its own part, UNESCO offers the following six degrees in the
intergenerational status of language as cited in Okwudishu (2009:48). The
UNESCO framework collaborates Professor Wurm’s categories.

The UNESCO Framework for Intergenerational Status of Languages

Stags Language Characteristics
6 Safe The language is spoken by all generations. There
is no sign of linguistic threat from any other
language and intergenerational transmission of the
language seems uninterrupted.
5 Stable yet The language is spoken in most contexts by all
threatened generations with unbroken intergenerational
transmission. Yet, multilingualism in the native
language and one or more documented language(s)
has usurped certain important contexts.
Endangerment Status of the Igala Language 67

4 Unsafe Most, but not all children or families of a
particular community speak the language as their
first language but it may be restricted to specific
social domains such as at home where children
interact with their parents and grandparents.
3 Definitely The language is no longer being learned as the
endangered mother tongue by children in the home. The
youngest speakers are thus of the parental
generation. At this stage, parents may still speak
the language to their children, but their children do
not typically respond in the language.
2 Severely The language is spoken only by grand parents and
endangered older generations. While the parent generation
may still understand the language, they typically
do not speak it to their children.
1 Critically The youngest speakers are in the great
endangered grandparental generation and the language is not
used for everyday interactions. These older people
often remember only part of the language but do
not speak it since there may not be anyone to
speak it with.
0 Extinct There is no one who can speak or remember the

Source: UNESCO framework for the assessment of language vitality, 2003,
cited in Okwudishu, 2009.

It seems clear, therefore, that the question of language endangerment is not
absolutely that of the number of people. Rather, it is a matter of the
prospects of the language to keep being passed on from one generation to
another without fear of extinction. Even though the number of speakers is
implicated, it is relative to the population of native speakers and the various
generations of that population.

Causes of Language Endangerment
The major condition for language endangerment is when that language falls
into disuse. A language may not fall into disuse if it is the only one available
to a speech community. However, competition for prominence sets in where
the community is bilingual or multilingual. The situation becomes hopeless
68 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

for some languages in a multilingual setting where the intruding language
(the target language) enjoys some social, economic, political, educational
and religious advantage over native languages. The tendency is for people to
prefer the language of “prestige” to the native, encourage their children to
speak the target language and use less of or drop altogether their first
language. With time, such a language falls into disuse, becomes endangered
and eventually goes into extinction if nothing is done to revive it.

Statement of the Problem
In all the works cited above and more, it has not been empirically
established that the Igala language is safe from the threat of extinction. This
study is, therefore, aimed at investigating the status of the Igala language in
relation to the prevalent endangerment of languages globally.

Research questions
The following research questions were formulated to guide the study:

i. Does competence in the use of the Igala language vary according to
age brackets?
ii. Is there variance between rural and urban speech communities in the
competence level of their use of the Igala language?
iii. Is socio-economic background a factor in linguistic competence
among speakers of the Igala language?

The Igala Language Competence Test (ILACOT) was constructed for three
age groups designated as Test 01, 02 and 03 to be administered on children 5
– 10 years old, teenagers 11 – 17 years old, and adults and the elderly (aged
18 and above) respectively. These test items were designed to elicit oral data
captured by using a recording device. The tests were validated by two
linguists who worked independently, one at Alexander von Humboldt
foundation Berlin, Western Germany; the other at Nasarawa State
University, Keffi, Nigeria. These instruments were trial-tested on a sample
of fifty drawn from the target population, yielding a reliability estimate of
0.80. This considered high enough for use and it was then administered on
the target population of 1,800 who were purposively sampled based on the
variables of age brackets, urban and rural speech communities and
socioeconomic status. 50% was chosen as the pass mark for ILACOT. Grand
mean was used to calculate the cumulative results of group performances.
Endangerment Status of the Igala Language 69

Table 1:
Research Question 1 Does competence in the use of the Igala language
vary according to age brackets?

Group Number of Test Frequency of Scores
Respondents Type
0 – 49% % Fail 50% + % Pass

5 – 10 years 600 01 450 75 150 25
11 – 17 years 02 365 60.8 235 39.2
18 years + 600 03 230 38.3 370 61.7
Total 1,800 - 1045 58 755 42

Table 2:
Research Question 2: Is there variance between rural and urban speech
communities in the competence level of their use of the Igala language?

Group Number of Frequency of Scores
Respondents 0 – 49% % Fail 50% + % Pass
Rural 800 367 45.8 433 54.1
Urban 1,000 700 70 300 30
Total 1,800 1,017 55.4 783 42.5

Table 3
Research Question 3: Is socio-economic background a factor in linguistic
competence among speakers of the Igala language?

Group Number of Frequency of Scores
0 – 49% % Fail 50% + % Pass
Low income/uneducated 1,050 409 39.9 641 61.1
Highe/educated 750 570 76 180 24

Total 1,800 979 58 821 42.6

70 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

Discussion of Findings
From table 1, the age bracket of 5 – 10 years scored a grand mean of 25%
pass, 11 – 17 years scored a grand mean of 39.2% pass, while the 18 years
and above age bracket scored a grand mean of 61.7% pass. Therefore, the
research question 1 seeking to know if competence in the use of the Igala
language varies according to age brackets was answered in the affirmative.
The children (5 – 10 years) scored lowest (25%), followed by teenagers (11
– 17 years) who scored 39.2%. Both failed. The adults (18 years and above)
scoring 61.7% shows that the language is still vibrant with them but is
gradually dying out with subsequent generations of the users of Igala.
From table 2, the rural dwellers scored 54.1% pass above the urban
dwellers that scored 30%. Thus, the research question which seeks to know
if there is variance between rural and urban speech communities in the
competence level of their use of the Igala language received an affirmative
From table 3, the low income and uneducated Igala speakers scored
61.1% pass above their high income and educated counterparts who scored
24% pass. The research question seeking to know if socio-economic
background is a factor in linguistic competence among speakers of the Igala
language received yes as the answer.

Conclusion and Recommendations
The death of a language begins from the children, the greatest factor being
the socio-linguistic reality of the speech community. Much as Maduka
(2005), Okwudishu (2009) and Alhassan (2011) decry the attitude of the
older members of their respective communities towards the use and
transmission of native tongues, in a bilingual or a multilingual society, those
whom globalization deprives of their mother tongue, foremost, are the
children. Whalen and Harrison (2000) capture this fact succinctly when they
asserts that,

... children are efficient language learners, but they also learn quickly
which language tools get them ahead and which do not. They will
not learn a language simply because their parents or grandparents
wish them to; they learn a language to use it.

Language remains the most important tool in human advancement, whether
for an individual or a nation. As long as the tool for social, educational,
economic, political and technological advancement is anything but the i

Endangerment Status of the Igala Language 71

child’s mother tongue, he or she will select that language that will give
him/her a head start advantage. In that situation, the child’s first language
suffers a declining fortune.
This study has established that:

Among the speakers of the Igala language, the elders and adults are
those who are relatively competent users of various patterns and
onamastics (the study of proper names), figurations and oral literary
Progressively downwards from the oldest to the youngest, the native
Igala child demonstrates gross incompetence in the speaking of the
Igala language.
The incompetent use of the language is more obvious in urban
settlements than the rural ones; just as it is more pronounced among
high income and educated families than the low income and uneducated
It seems safe to predict that in the year 2091, if ILACOT is
administered on native speakers of the Igala language, no age bracket
might pass the test at all, that is if the trend is not halted. In fact, if that
condition persists, the language will at least become moribund in that
year (2091 – 80 years from now).

The following recommendations are proffered for the revitalization of the
Igala language.

The Kogi State Government should revive adult literacy programmes
where literacy in the Igala language and literature is encouraged.
Igala Cultural Development Association (ICDA) should encourage
young parents to speak Igala to their children.
ICDA should promote cultural pride among the Igala people
wherever they may be found.
The Kogi State Government should revive the teaching of the Igala
language in primary schools within Igalaland.
The Kogi State Government should make Igala a compulsory subject
throughout primary education and up to junior secondary three in
The Kogi State University, Anyigba should run a degree programme
in Igala language and culture to complement the NCE in Igala
language and culture at the Kogi State College of Education, Ankpa. i

72 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

The Federal College of Education, Okene should be encouraged to
follow suit.
The Kogi State Government should absorb the graduates of these
programmes into the Kogi State civil service to facilitate the mes in the primary and secondary schools within Igalaland.
The Kogi State Ministry of Education should derecognize all private
primary and secondary schools in Igalaland which fail to teach Igala
as a subject.
Government and non-governmental agencies should undertake
projects on Igala meta-language development, translation and literary
The government, corporate bodies and individuals should institute
annual awards with cash backings as incentives for scholars who
work for the development of the Igala language. Such scholarly
works would include meta-language development initiatives,
translations of especially literary texts, writing of Igala primers,
collection of Igala oral literary forms, (bilingual or monolingual),
Igala lexicography, literary productions in Igala, and publication of
articles that focus on Igala language development and problems,
Igala orthography, etc.

Endangerment Status of the Igala Language 73


Agbedo, C.U. & Omeje G.O. (2010). “Linguistic strategies for Safeguarding
and reviving endangered languages in Nigeria”. In O. Ndimele (ed.)
Language policy, planning and management in Nigeria: A festschrift
for Ben O. Elugbe. Port Harcourt: M and J Communication Ltd. PP.
121 – 128.
Alhassan, A.K. (2011). “Issues of fulture in Igalaland”. In A.K Alhassan
(Ed.) Ancient landmark and the future. Zaria: Tamaza Publishing
Company Limited. PP. 31 – 36.
thFederal Republic of Nigeria official gazette, No. 24 vol. 94, Lagos, 15
May, 2007.
“Foundation for endangered languages” (2011, February 23). In Wikipedia,
the Free Encyclopedia.
Retrieved 17.50, November 21, 2011 from
Idudhe, P.A. (2002). “Threat of extinction to minority Languages: An
overview of the Isoko language”. In O. Arohunmolase (ed.)
Development of the minority languages in Nigeria. Ondo: Complete
Computers and Educational Services. PP. 60 – 67.
Maduka, C.T. (2005). ‘‘The Igbo in world culture: Goodbye to identity”. A
lead paper presented at the annual congress and conference of the Igbo
Studies Association held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka,
September 21 – 24.
Obahiagbon, G.A (2010). “Usen as an endangered language.” In E. Nolue
Emenanjo (Ed.
Endangered languages in Nigeria. Port Harcourt: M & J Grand Orbit
Communications Ltd. PP. 84 – 92
Okwudishu, A.U. (2009). “Revitalization of Igbo language as revival of Igbo
values”. In B.A. Okolo (ed.) Proceedings of the National Seminar on
Revival of Igbo Values.
Omachonu, G.S. (2001). Fundamentals of phonology and the study of Igala
language. Nsukka: AP Express Publishers.
Oyonovwi, D. “Indigenous languages as endangered species: Delta State in
focus.” In O. Arohunmolase (ed.) The developmemt of the minority
languages in Nigeria. Ondo: Complete Computers and Educational
services. pp. 124 – 134.
Whalen, D. and Harrison, K.D (February, 2000). Encarta Yearbook.

6. Body Language as a Social Dialect in Hausa Culture
Aliyu Mu’azu
Department of Nigerian Languages, Bayero University, Kano

This paper investigates the role of body mannerism or gesture in conveying
several types of information among the Hausas. Such information includes
reverence/respect, ownership of material possessions, salutation and various
forms of attitude. The paper also highlights the social stratification that
exists in Hausa society. Thus several methods are used in determining one’s
social class such as socio-economic status, modern education and
occupation. It is in this context that various forms of body language in Hausa
culture are examined.

1.0 Introduction
Language pervades social life of human being. It is the principal vehicle for
the transmission of cultural knowledge, and the primary means by which we
gain access to the contents of others minds. This paper would focus on the
role that body gestures play in disseminating information among different
social groups in Hausa culture. However, in the course of analysis the paper
would look at two classes of people, i.e. the upper and the lower class since
the middle class has been submerged or wiped out due to economic
downturn. In the upper class I have chosen the sarakuna’s and the elite who
are apparently fortunate to occupy some of the sensitive positions in Hausa
society while the lower class represent the Talakawa, I have also chosen
class of people who are engaged in trades and or some special occupations.
As we are all aware, a lot of works have been done notably, Pease (1981),
Whiteside (1975), Effron (1972), Yahaya (1970), Gumel (1986), among
Based on the previous literatures cited above one can say that body
language refers to sending or responding to an information using one’s
In Hausa Society there are some yard-sticks used in order to come up
with social stratification, one of it is the socio-economic factor and modern
education which perhaps plays an important role in determining upper and
lower classes. Upper class in Hausa society consists of the ruling class
(Sarakuna), people with higher qualification through western education, and
those with high office in the political class and wealth, we also have the
76 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

lords and the sirs, unlike the social stratification in Europe in which they
have upper middle class and the lower middle class which constitute the
working class.
Going by this one can say in Hausa society there are two basic classes
the “Sarakuna” and the “Talakawa” but as, said earlier on there are two
things that can change one’s class of belonging i.e. (Education and Wealth).
So all the examples I will analyze revolve around these two classes.
Hausa culture have signs and gestures to express and send information
to express one’s desires or messages some of them may look universal, but
here I choose to call them Hausa culture specific, and not only Hausa culture
specific but socially indicative of a person’s class example:

1.1 In Hausa Royal Court
Royal counties sit in special postures and throughout the court session
different postures for different communications are employed, and seats are
meant for quest and august visitors, and when a complainer comes he would
be ushered in. The Emir sits on a chair, the counties and the complainers
would prostrate or be half seated or sit with one leg folded. The setting in
this kind of court clearly indicates the supremacy of the Emir as he is the
only person who sits on a chair while all the Countenances on his face and
the movement of his body show the utmost power that he wields. He not
only measures his movements in such a manner that he captures the attention
of all the people around him but also ensures that such body movements
serve as instructions to his courtiers and other people around.
The Emir in this kind of situation, for example, uses his eyes to indicate
approval or disapproval in the same way that most of the gestures that he
makes with his head serve as a means of communication with the courtiers.
Emirs in a Hausa royal court, in fact, carry over a lot of communication with
the people around them through the use of body language.
On their part, the courtiers demonstrate their utmost loyalty and
compliance with the directives of the Emirs in such a situation by using body
language. By prostrating, squatting or folding one leg while sitting, the
people around the Emir in a Hausa royal court are not only clearly indicating
their acceptance of the Superiority of the Emir but also readiness to carry out
his orders.

1.2 Body Lowering in the Court of an Emir
Historically, lowering the height of one’s body in front of another person in
Hausa culture has been used as a means of establishing superior/subordinate
Body Language as Social Dialect in Hausa Culture 77

relationship. We refer to a member of royalty as your highness. 2 those who
leave on a (higher) platform command more authority than those who leave
on the floor (Karaga). The emir, who is the superior, always complements
all kinds of greetings or salutations by raising one of his arms with at about
45 degree angle with fingers folded like a fist. The Emir is a kind of person
to whom by virtue of his position a lot of greetings are always respectfully
extended. Either in the court of outside it, a lot of people are always
struggling to greet the Emir as a mark of respect. Acknowledgement of such
greetings by the Emir comes through the use of body language. He loosely
folds his fingers and raises his hand a little to acknowledge or respond to
such greetings.

1.3 Possessive Gesture
Elite and some people of upper class in Hausa Society are particularly in the
habit of continually using the following: it has been noted that Elite who
have been newly appointed into higher public offices suddenly begin to use
them, or this despite the fact that they don’t normally used them prior to
their appointment.
The leg-over-chair gesture not only signifies the man’s ownership of
that particular chair or space but also signals that customary etiquettes may
be relaxed.
It is common to see two close friends seated like this, laughing and
joking with each other, but let’s consider the impact of meaning of this
gesture in different circumstances. Take this typical situation.
A student has a problem in his studies, and he goes to the office of his
lecturer to ask or seek his advice on a possible solution. As the student
explains, the lecturer leans forward in the chair, his hands on his knees, and
his face down, listens carelessly while sitting motionlessly. In this
circumstance the lecturer’s attitude has changed to lack of concern because
of his carefree gesture. In other words he has little concern for the student or
his problem or he may even feel that his time is being wasted.
If the lecturer’s chair has no arms he may be seen with one or both feet
on the desk (claiming ownership of the desk). This gesture can be quite
annoying if they occur during negotiation, and it is good that the person
should change to a different position because the longer he stays in the
legover-chair or feet on desk, the longer he will exhibit indifferent or hostile
attitude. Possessive gesture is made by highly placed members of the society
in order to show their power or influence over the rest of the people. The
leg-over-chair though a terrible unethical attitude, is one of the gestures that
78 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

people who are appointed into influential or key positions in government
normally make to indicate their total power over all that are in one way or
another, subordinated to them.
Moreover, the leg-over-chair manner of sitting is indicative of
relaxation on the part of the officer. Whenever occupants of public offices
want to stretch their body as a way of relaxation they put on their leg’s over
the chairs.
Another common gesture among public office holders in the habit of
sitting on any of the visitors chairs directly in front of their tables or they sit
on the settees that are situated at the extreme end of their office. That is
usually provided in their offices for visitors.
Whenever they are in this kind of situation they exhibit tremendous
care free attitude and readiness to engage in discussions that are either semi
– official or even completely personal in nature with relatives, friends or
some other associates who may have visited them. It is in fact, a kind of
body language that indicates unwillingness of the officer to satisfactorily
treat or discuss any matter that is strictly official.

1.4 Car/House ownership gesture
Mannerism or gesture in Hausa culture showing complete ownership for the
upper class will inevitably find that he leans against his newly acquired
property, putting foot on it or his arm around it. When he touches the
property it becomes an extension of his body and it is in this way he shown
others that it belongs to him. Even when there are some other people around,
the particular attitude or body language of the owner of any valuable
property will expose him or her as the genuine possessor of such a property.
It is quite easy for even the least curious person to infer from the body
language or gestures of the property owners that the ownership is real.
In any given situation, owners of Houses, cars, and any other valuable
property in Hausa culture can demonstrate the ownership through the use of
some forms of body language. Their absolute confidence and the immense
unmistakable of their possessive tendencies are clear enough to indicate

1.5 Arms and Wrists Gripping
Several prominent members of the upper class in Hausa land most especially
elite are noted for their habit of walking with this gesture (Hand on the
back). The gesture is used very commonly by senior military and
paramilitary officers or people in a position of authority, lecturers in lecture
Body Language as Social Dialect in Hausa Culture 79

halls, Headmasters of the local school, especially they are walking through
the school yards. This is therefore a superiority/confidence gesture position.
It allows the person to expose his heart to others in an unconscious act of
fearlessness. The particular act of putting and gripping one hand with the
other as well as positioning them on the lower part of the back above the
wrist, is a classical display of power and authority. Either as high – ranking
military officers or heads of some Organizations or scholars, many people
speak to the other people around them through the hand-on-the-back
It is a gesture that indicates easiness with which such highly – placed
individuals interact with the other people, most or even all whom are their
junior, subordinates or even students. Most often supervisors of project or
heads of Institutions or even some community leaders are seen going round
with their hands on their backs trying to see things for themselves as part of
the discharge of their respective responsibilities in Hausa culture.
However, the lower class as I said earlier on consists of people at the
bottom of the social stratum who in one way or the other have acquired very
little or no western education and have fall on below the poverty line.
Taxi and commercial drivers form part of the lower class in Hausa
community. They also have their particular body language, for example if he
brings his left hand out he communicates a traffic rule meaning he is taking
left turn, when he lifts it up across the roof of the car he his alerting some
passengers ahead of him if they want to board his car to the next bus stop. If
he keeps on shaking his hand with fingers down, meaning there is traffic law
enforcer on the road informing the incoming drivers, and when he waves it
means the road is clear, no any traffic law enforcer which the commercial
drivers fear most.
Similarly, shaking hand by the commercial drivers on higher ways who
are into inter-state transport means literary shaking a bag of money and
‘bag’ monetarily in Hausa culture means 200 naira and that money shift
from 200 naira/shilling to 200km/hr. this is how taxi or mass transit drivers
translate high speak.
They also use the hands to call or beckon any passenger who indicate
interest to board the vehicle in the same way that the passengers use their
hands to make such indication of interest. This means that communication
between taxi or bus drivers and potential passengers are carried out mainly
through the use of body language in Hausa culture.
Salutation among drivers of commercial vehicles is also carried out
through the use of hands. Drivers of two separate opposing directions will
80 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

bring out their hands and shake them either relatively gently or speedily
after, sometimes, folding fingers to greet each other.
Also taxi drivers not only through their hands out and lift them up to
draw the attention of potential passengers but they also use the hands to
indicate the direction they are going, even without saying it, the taxi or bus
drivers have a way of communicating to the passengers the particular
direction they intend to take, which is easily under stood.
Motorcyclist and Tricyclist are very essential in the transport sector
particularly in major Hausa cities. They carry passengers from morning till
dawn, one can find them plying the road, and they too have body language.
Example, the motorcyclists communicate by using their legs.

1.6 Conclusion
Understanding how something works makes living with it easier, whereas
lack of understanding and ignorance promote fear and superstition and
makes us more critical of others. Thus, the acquisition of knowledge and
skills in non-verbal communication serves to make every encounter with
another person an exciting experience.
It will not be an exaggeration or an over statement to point out that
nonverbal communication of which body language is a major Instrument is as
old as the verbal communication. Members of the various societies in
different part of the world have their respective ways of communication with
one another non-verbally.
What is particularly interesting is the fact that those ways or means of
non-verbal communication, one of which is body language, have been
continuously undergoing transformation. As the old trades, calling and
professors are being perfected to meet the demands of the modern times and
new ones are daily emerging thereby making today’s world much more
complex, body language or gesture as means of communication are
correspondingly growing thereby making the conduct of interaction and
resultant businesses easy.
It is in this context therefore that the recognition of body language as
part of the Hausa culture becomes quite understandable. A continuous study
of the various forms of body language within the Hausa – speaking
communities with a view to understanding the dynamics of the Hausa
language and culture and at the same time widening the scope of the existing
areas of research and learning is evidently worthwhile.

Body Language as Social Dialect in Hausa Culture 81


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University Press.
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7. A Semantic Study of Obscenity and Verbal Abuse in Jukun

Butari Nahum Upah
Department of English and Drama, Kaduna State University
Email: Phone: 08027474733

This work entitled “A Semantic Study of Obscenity and Verbal Abuses in Jukun”
is an examination of some expressions considered abusive in Jukun land intended
to hurt another person’s feelings or dignity. These words, express an insult not
because of the intrinsic value of the attribute itself but importantly because the
culture sees it in a particular way as taboos or undesirable in some ways. Such
abusive expressions include: reference to sex and excretion, uttering offensive
personal reference to debased animal characteristic to the person addressed,
irrelevant reference to the addressee’s parents as well as an invocation of the wrath
of God on the addressee. Although the uttering of these expressions are primarily
geared towards hurting another person’s feelings and dignity capable of causing
violence, parting of ways between people who are hitherto friends or even
physical fight, they can equally be employed as corrective measures for
undesirable behaviours as well as banter among friends that are of the same age.

Language is a form of communication in the human society through which the
people are able to convey their needs, ideas and emotions to one another. This is
reflected in Sapir (1921)’s definition of Language as man’s “non-instinctive means
of communicating his feelings, ideas and emotions through the employment of the
vocal cords”. The expression of man’s feelings could be either positive or
negative. Whichever way one expresses his feeling, it is bound to attract a
response from others. Besides serving communicative purpose, language is also
context bound. This is because the effect and importance of whatever is said is
better appreciated and understood according to the context of situation.
Linguists over the years have focused on areas of language use such as the
conveying of information in the classroom, courtroom discourse, and organized
rituals. The need for an investigation of the obscene and abusive expressions is
bound out of the fact that although they constitute a relatively important area of
linguistic investigation, they are often neglected probably because of the negative
connotation they conjure in the people’s minds. Although at the surface, Obscene
and Abusive expressions appear trivial and simple, they are actually semantically
loaded with social functions which are worth studying. In practical terms, this
study investigates the meaning of expressions which are considered obscene and
abusive in the Jukun language, what is it that makes them obscene and capable of
been interpreted as insulting and offensive.
84 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

Jukun is a linguistic group widely spoken in the Middle Belt states of
Plateau, Taraba and Benue. The language occupies in scattered groups the part of
Benue basin which bounded by Abise in Benue state towards the west, Kona in
Jalingo the capital of Taraba state to the east, Pindiga in Gombe state to the north
as well as Donga in Taraba state to the south. These areas represent the formal
thJukun kingdom of Kwararafa as it existed at the end of the 18 century, (Meek,
1931). According to Shimizu (1980), the language belongs to the Niger Congo
family of African languages, which are widely spoken from Senegal to Kenya.
More information on the language are contained in Meek (1931), Welmer (1968),
Butari (1995).

What is an insult?
According to Funtua (1988:8), an insult can be seen as “any speech or action that
can or is even intended to hurt another person’s feelings or dignity”. This shows
therefore that insult is one of the ways in which people make their feelings known
to others in the society hence, one of the ways of interacting in the society.
According to Awolalu nad Dopam (1979), the term is “an insolent or
contemptuously rude action or speech having the effect of an affront”. Based on
this, we can say that an insult implies an act which is capable of causing injuries to
another person’s honour, self-respect. It also implies such insolence of speech or
manner as deeply humiliates, or wounds someone’s feelings or arouses to anger.
The effects of an insult could be grievous. Based on this, people react to insults in
different negative ways. For instance, Funtua states that it is capable of causing the
following reactions: “… violence, physical fights and / or parting of the ways
between people who were hitherto brought together by a strong social or
blood relationship.” Insults can also be in form of a curse. According to Finnegan
(1970: 457) in Hornby (1995:287), a curse or imprecation is among stylized forms
of expression such as:

a. A rude or offensive word or phrase used to express violent anger or
b. A magical word or phrase spoken with the aim of punishing, injuring or
destroying something or someone.

In the Illustrated Oxford Dictionary, a curse is defined as either (a) a solemn
utterance intended to invoke the wrath of a supernatural power or (b) a violent
exclamation of anger or profane oath.
Based on Hornby (2000), a curse which is otherwise known as imprecation may
possess all or some of the following ingredients: a word or phrase; rude and
offensive; expression of violent anger; Magical; Aimed at punishing, injuring or

According to Alabi in Adeyanju (2007), curses are:

Known to be widespread, pervasive and indiscriminate involving many
persons in Ijesa land (a town in Osun state)… Ijesas find imprecations
Obscenity & Verbal Abuse in Jukun 85

handy for: retrieving debts, cursing their bad luck, correcting and
controlling children, redressing wrong doings and for friendly remarks and

Ijesa land is not the only place where insults serve communicative purposes as
mentioned above. For instance, in the Hausa society, Funtua (1988) enumerates
the functions of abuses to include the provision of regulatory checks and balances
in relation to deviant members of the society in their habits or why they exhibit
some inappropriate behavior in a specific context.
The study of verbal insults brings to bear the interrelatedness of language and
context. This is because for an utterance to be taken as insulting, it must be
properly situated within the context of its utterance. For instance, to utter the
expression ‘your father’ to someone could be taken as an abuse depending on the
context. This is a clear demonstration that insult is a linguistic phenomenon.

Verbal Insults in Jukun land
In the society, certain utterances which are considered verbal insults carry
meanings which are over and above their content and denotative meanings and
also cut across virtually all sectors of the society. They are heavily loaded so much
that what is referred to or said in order to insult is not the ultimate but the
emotional force of mentioning the thing for instance, penis, clitoris, anus on the
person and the linguistic context.
To mention a negative attribute usually expresses an insult not only because
of the intrinsic value of the attribute itself but importantly, because the culture sees
it in a particular way, as a taboo or undesirable in some ways. Considering its
importance as an aspect of communication in the Jukun society, the concept of
insult has been given value in the semantic inventory and the word “Shi” has been
coined to describe it. The verbal insult in Jukun possesses semantic information
which is extended beyond the denotative or literary meaning of the items in the
utterance. It is nearly always obscene as dirty words referring to sex and excretion
or debased animal are attributed to the addressee. In some instances, the wrath of
supernatural powers especially is invoked on the addressee.
In this work, we shall adopt Leach (1964) as explicated in Funtua (1988)’s
theory of what constitute an insult. This work will take a step further in exploring
other aspects that constitute abusive expressions beyond Leech’s work which
centres mainly on the use of animal names in verbal abuse. This therefore makes
his article applicable to the Jukun situation under review. His hypothesis and
theory of taboo is what we will follow in this study.
Leech sees the language of obscenity as falling into three categories:

a. Dirty words usually referring to sex and excretion
b. Blasphemy and profanity
c. Animal abuse in which an animal is equated with an animal of another species.

86 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

The animal categories which are employed in expressing obscenity and abuse or in
metaphorical associations or the intrusion of euphemism are those that are
specially loaded with taboo values, for instance, dog, horse, pig, goat, hare etc. this
is why expressions such as “you son of a bitch” or “you swine” carry abusive
message that they do while “you polar bear” do not, (Funtua, 1988:22). We find a
similar situation in Jukun where animals such as: béè (dog), ìgò (pig), kérém
(antelope) etc are heavily loaded with taboo values.
In Jukun society, reference to sex and excretion are usually obscene and
such, are usually secretive. To utter them in the public or before an unequal
partner constitutes an offence. However, in order to express anger, disappointment
or one’s disgust, one can utter such malicious talk which involves dirty words
referring to sex and excretion on the part of the person addressed. For instance:

1. Tìnyin bú (your anus)
2. Ù nghán nyin (you defecate)
3. Ù jì nyin bú (you consume your excreta)
4. Yiri ikyé bú shi gbànshì (your clitoris is reddish)
5. Pyánà bú shí yuà númá (your scrotal sack is shapeless and dangling)

Utterances numbers 1, 2 and 4 are obviously the truth because while 1 describes
the true colour of one’s anus, 4 describes the colour of the clitoris and number 2 is
a statement of the fact because as a human being, the addressee must defecate.
Utterance number 3 on the other hand is a lie which is known to both the speaker
and the addressee. Although the utterance is highly comprehensible, it is not
possible because human beings do not consume their excreta. Dogs and pigs are
the only living things that feed on human faeces so to utter this to an addressee
therefore amounts to equating him or her to a dog or pig. 5 above is semantically
empty because it does not carry any sensible denotative or propositional meaning.
1-5 above constitute abuses because they are obscene expressions which when
uttered on someone in course of conversation will arouse anger because certain
non-conventional effects are brought to bear on him. This is in respect to his
feelings, thoughts and actions. Since his feelings are hurt, his psychological state
may become that of vengeance, either in words or in violent action.
Abusive expressions in Jukun also come in form of uttering offensive
personal reference to debased animal characteristics to the person addressed. For
instance, to address one as any of the following constitute and abuse:

6. Béè (dog) 9. Bínà (goat) 12. Tàmì (hyena)
7. Dàgbóòn (baboon) 10. Dùnwàn (sheep)
8. ìgò (pig) 11. àgyé (hare)

By associating any of these animals to an addresser in a conversation, he or she
feels to have been brought down to the level of such animal. Such association
could either be metaphorical for instance: U shi béè (you are a dog) or simile ù shi
Obscenity & Verbal Abuse in Jukun 87

ira béè (you are like a dog). In whichever way, there is a deliberate association of
the animal béè (dog) to the addressee as one who does not hide his sexual act. So
the equation here is an indirect way of drawing attention to what the addressee has
in common with the dog.
Such comparison of an addressee with an animal is abusive because in the
end, it relates the bodily function men have in common with animals and deny the
addressee specifically human qualities. The mere mention of the animal aspect of
a person is insulting in the way that nakedness is a shameful act as it brings to the
fore the visual image of the person’s private parts, or whatever it is to be formed
by the addressee since humanity and civilization go with clothing.
Each animal used on an addressee has its own psychological effect because
of the type of picture it conjured in the mind of the speakers according to the
general cosmology as dictated by the society. To this, utterance number 6 (bee)
conjures the mental picture of someone who is of easy virtue, greedy and
shameless. In the same vein, number 7 above (dagboon) portrays the addressee as
uncivilized, uncultured, careless and useless. This is borne out of the belief that the
baboon as a wild animal lives in the jungle, feeds on raw food and in caves and
tree branches. The natural habitats as well as the feeding habits of the animal are
indications of life at its simple and rustic stage.
Number 8 (igo) connotes dirt, greed and destructive while number 9 (bina)
suggests stubbornness and destructive tendency. To address someone as either
goat or pig amounts to ascribing to him or her the negative attributes enumerated
above. Number 10 (dunwan) has the emotive meaning of foolishness, dullness or
sluggishness. These attributes of the goat and the sheep have universal application
because the bible also presents them in the same light as good Christians are
admonished to be like the sheep and not the goat. Although 11 (agye ) originally
connotes wisdom and swiftness, if the context has a conflicting setting, addressing
someone like that will attribute to him or her the attribute of a schemer and an
untrustworthy person. Since they are unacceptable attributes in the society, the
addressee’s feelings is likely to be hurt. Number 12 (tami) presents the picture of
someone who is fearful and weak. These are attributes that are unacceptable by the
society. In order to defend the society, one needs to be fearless and strong, to
addressee one as tami therefore shows disappointment and lack of confidence in
such a person especially if that person is a man.
The attributes of these animals have as their source popular stories that
describe events in a world where the main characters are animals such as those
cited above who can talk to one another and act anthropomorphic dramas. With
these stories, it is possible to convey great deal about human experiences and
cultural values so that it will be possible for stories to be told only about real life
people in the society. Usually, in the narration of the tale, the folk narrator
expresses in the tale the cardinal point or philosophy of such tale. It is therefore
88 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

usually such philosophy that could be translated as: advice, admonition, caution or
abuse in form of proverbs.
There are some abusive expressions that come in form of irrelevant reference
to an addressee’s parents through alleging the commitment of incest or referring to
them as debased animals. Here, a speaker may go further to mention the sex
organs or alleging to have taken liberty with the addressee’s mother, sister, or any
of his or her female relatives. For instance:

13. Yè suru bú (your mother is a bastard)
14. Yìrì ìkyé bi nàán bú (your mother’s clitoris)
15. Ù ná nààn bú (you copulate with your mother)
16. M ná nààn bú (I copulate with your )
17. Tinyin bi titabu gbanshi (your father’s anus is reddish)
18. Tita bu shi a bee (your father is a dog)
19. Nààn bú shí irá jéè kú zàpè (your mother is like fish inside the water)

In the Jukun society, any child that is born out of wedlock is perceived as bastard
and is usually treated with contempt by his peers. This contempt is extended to the
legitimacy of such child because he has no portion in the heritance of the property
of any of the mother’s relatives. To therefore refer to your cointeractant’s mother
as a bastard is obscene and a very high form of abuse. This translates that all the
products of your mother are illegal, including the addressee. This utterance
therefore brings contempt to the entire household members who could be viewed
as people of easy virtue.
Nos 14-17 all centre on sexual acts and excretion with regard to the
addressee’s parents. Such obscene expressions attribute to the addressee’s parents
the act of nakedness. Such ‘exposure’ of the addressee’s parents’ nakedness in the
public portrays them as people who are careless and sexually indiscipline. While
number 18 extends the carelessness, nakedness and greediness of the dog as earlier
seen on to the addressee’s parents, utterance number 19 describes the addressee’s
mother as a poor and wandering woman. The scenario created here is that of the
fish seen moving aimlessly in the water naked with nothing to show for it. The
mother is not only portraying as a poor woman but a vagabond which has the
message of prostitution underlying it. To therefore associate one’s parents with
utterances 13-19 constitute a serious abuse.
One can abuse another person through the invocation of the wrath of God or
any of the deities abound in Jukun land on him or her directly or any of his
relatives, especially the parents. To invoke a superior power into action against
someone is an age long tradition. Alabi (2007) observes that it is through the
power of the spoken words that “formlessness and the void became a concrete
space” in the biblical creation account. The power in the spoken word may also be
captured in incantation in “a verse or formula believed to be magically effective in
manipulating people or things, (Finnegan 1970: 182)
Obscenity & Verbal Abuse in Jukun 89

Just as stated by Awolalu and Dopama (1979), Alabi (1999) and Idowu
(1996) of the Ijesa people’s worshipping of gods such as Orisa, Ifa, Ogun and a
host of others, in Jukun land, numerous gods abound and people sometimes call
upon them to intervene on their behalf by punishing evil-doers. For instance, Meek
(1931) states that:

If a Jukun loses some property by theft he will, every morning, hold out
his hands to the rising sun saying ‘Chido (God), who comest forth here, if
the thing that I have lost was formally stolen by me from someone else,
then let him who has now stolen it survive to sleep this night in peace, but
if the thing was obtain by me through honest toil, then do thou look upon
the thief’ (that is, bringing misfortune upon him).

Ama, like Chido stated above is a moral deity, a female who is retributive. A man
who works evil in his life time will receive punishment in the underworld known
as ‘kindo’ over which Ama presides. While ‘Akhi’ is the spirit of death, ‘Akwa’,
‘Kenjo’, ‘Kpata’ are all gods of dead. Their spirits are usually invoked on an
addressee who is expected to die or suffer one form of ailment or the other. Some
of such invocations aimed at cursing the addressee are in the following forms:

20. Akhi ngàn à kú gban ù (death should have taken you)
21. Akwá kú pàn ù (the deity Akwa should attack you)
22. Sùnyandè kú nyan ù (thunder should strike you dead)
23. Ù shi á Kpántán (you are the deity kpantan)
24. Ù shi ìrá Gbèké (you are like the deity gbeke)

Utterances number 20, 21 and 22 are invocations to the gods ‘Akhi’, ‘Akwa’ and
‘Sunyande’ to punish the addressee by either killing, attacking with a disease or
striking. The three actions have negative repercussion on the life of the addressee.
On uttering them, the listener is made to have the mental pain of either been
attacked by a deadly disease, sustaining a serious injury as a result of the strike of
the thunder or dead. The summary of the addressee’s perception of the speaker is
that of an enemy who does not wish him well. Based on this, his emotion would be
hurt and this could be followed by either verbal revenge in form of rejection,
denunciation or even physical attack.
23 and 24 above are a simile and metaphor respectively where an addressee
is compared to the deities ‘Kpantan’ and; Gbeke’ rey. These are lesser
gods in the rating of the deities in the society because while kpatan a talking god,
mainly goes about being guided by an attendant begging for alms from people,
gbeke on the other hand is a rabble rouser who goes about chasing and beating
onlookers who converge at the dancing arena to watch other masquerades
entertaining them. While associating one with kpata portrays one as a beggar,
gbeke shows such a person as stubborn, disorganized, troublesome and uncultured.
To therefore associate one with these gods constitute a gross abuse.
90 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

To mention an addressee’s personal defects such as physical appearance or
his level of intellect constitute a gross abuse. This could take any of the following

25. Fúna kwàkì (extra large tummy) 28. Kyàrá (a fool)
26. Kúnlé gúngún (elongated back side 29. Zàrá (lazy)
of the head)
27. Mbèrè mbufu (white buttocks)

Utterances 25, 26 and 27 centre on personal defects on the part of the addressee.
Such utterances are usually made in the public to propel people around to laugh at
the addressee. By this action, he feels ridiculed even though may not possess such
defect. The mental picture created in the minds of the people around makes him to
appear as one with a protruding tummy, elongated disproportional head which
cannot accommodate a cap due to the shape and size or one whose buttocks are
dirty due to carelessness.
Utterances 28 and 29 attribute the qualities of foolishness and laziness to an
addressee. No matter one’s age, if he behaves like a fool his opinions do not count
during serious discussions. This is because he is believed to be of unsound mind,
unserious and unproductive, unworthy of anybody’s respect. Laziness on the other
hand is perceived as a vice which is condemned in its entire ramification. As an
unproductive member of the society, the lazy person who is an idle loafer goes
about begging from other people. To address one as either a fool or lazy person is
to under mind his intellect.
It is not every time that the identified expressions could hurt the feelings of
an addressee thereby attracting anger, vengeance, retaliation setting the stage for
conflict or capable of causing a violent action. This is because there are times and
instances that they could be employed for other purposes. For instance, they could
be employed as a control mechanism to curtail children’s excesses. Since the child
is not in position to retaliate when abused by the adult as forbidden by the culture,
he tends to behave himself to avoid been ridiculed through abuse. Here, an abuse
becomes a controlling mechanism on the child. An abuse can also be employed to
frighten the child from wrong doing or to create a fear in him. For instance, to
make the child to run an errand with dispatch, the adult could spit on the dust and
employed any of the following abusive expressions as a threat:

28. Sháàn ni má nghem áfunu ùma bi, wa zè uwa/wunu yàkú (before my spit dries up,
you must have come back else you will marry an old man or woman depending on
the sex of the child)
29. Kùkú ká pàn ù in ùmá nyanú (a wild beast will devour you if you are
30. Wá mì nyin bú im ùma da gbàrà (you will see your excreta if you fight)

Obscenity & Verbal Abuse in Jukun 91

In order to correct a wrong doing, an abusive expression could be handy for use.
By condemning a bad habit such as stealing or fighting, the addressee is made to
go through a psychological trauma and so have a sober reflection by taking stocks
of his behaviour with the aim of repenting in order to avoid future humiliations.
There are situations where obscene expressions can be employed as banter
among friends who are of the same age grade as an exchange of jokes. Under this
circumstance, the addressee’s feelings are not hurt. Instead of responding in anger
or violence or physical fight, he is expected to retaliate with other forms of abuses
as each one tries to outwit the other therefore making their utterances entertaining.
Some of such expressions could be:

31. Nyin kú mbèrè (excreta in the anus)
32. Fúnà kwátuá (corrugated tummy)
33. Tá kebà bú (your father’s bones)

It is worth noting that abusive expressions employed as banter among friends
usually stop with the addressee. However, if the speaker decides to extend it
beyond to the parents of the addressee, he must make sure there are no older
people around.

From the foregoing discussion, it has been established that the expressions usually
termed as abusive in the Jukun language include: those malicious talks that
involve alleging the commitment of incest on the part of the person addressed,
offensive personal reference like debased animal characteristics to him or her,
uttering malicious words involving dirty words referring to sex and excretion on
his/her part or his/her parents or the mentioning of his/her personal defect such as
his/her physical appearance or his/her level of intellect. Because these utterances
are aimed at hurting an addressee’s feelings, the reactions could be either verbal
retaliation, parting of ways between people who were hitherto in good terms,
violent or in some cases degenerate in to a physical fight. However, it is not every
instance that they could attract negative reactions as they can also be employed to
reprimand undesirable and unacceptable attitudes, a corrective measure by parents
on the children or by friends for jokes and entertainment.

92 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society


Alabi, V. (1999). “The World and the Word: Sinsigns in the Apartheid South
African Literature”. Inquiry in African Languages and Literatures. No. 3.
Alabi, V. (2007). “Imprecations in Ijesaland: Blessings in Disguise? In Adeyanju,
D (ed.) Sociolinguistics in the Nigerian Context Vol.1. Ife: Obafemi
Awolowo University Press Ltd.
Awolalu, J. and Dopama, P. (1979). West African Traditional Religion. Ibadan:
Onibonoje Press.
Butari, N. (1995). “A Morphological Study of the Jukun Language”. Unpublished
B. A. Project, A. B. U. Zaria.
Butari, N. (2006). “A Pragmatic Study of Jukun Proverbs”. Unpublished M. A.
Thesis, A. B. U. Zaria.
Butari, N. (2010). “lexico-Semantic Contrasts Across Languages: a Case Study of
Some Jukun and English Semantic Fields. Unpublished Ph. D Thesis, A. B.
U Zaria.
Finnegan, R. (1970). Oral Literature in Africa. Oxford: Clarendon press.
Funtua, A. (1988). “Culture and Linguistic Behaviour: a Semantic Study of Hausa
Insult Words.” M. A. Thesis, A. B. U. Zaria.
Hornby, A. (1995). Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary of Current English.
Oxford: OAUP.
Idowu, E. (1996). Oladumare. God in Yoruba Belief. Ibadan: Longman. Illustrated
Oxford Dictionary.(1998). Oxford: OAUP.
Leach, E. (1964). “Anthropological Aspects of Language: Animal Categories and
Verbal Abuse” in Lennenberg, E. (ed.). New Directions in the Study of
Language. Cambridge: M.I.T.
Meek, C. (1931). Sudanese Kingdom. London: Stephen Austen and Sons Ltd.
Sapr, E. (1921). Language: An Introduction to the Study of Speech. Oxford: OUP.
Shimizu, K. (1980). A Jukun Grammar. Tokyo: afro-Publication.
Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. (1989).
New Delhi: Dilithium Press, Ltd.
Welmer, F. (1968). Jukun of Wukari and Jukun of Takum. Ibadan: Occasional

8. Honorifics in Igala

Abdullahi Ahmad
Department of English and Literary Studies, Ahmadu Bello University,

One interesting aspect of language use in human interaction is the
employment of respect terms by interactants to show deference to each
other. The Igala, like all other users of language, have polite terms that are
used to show respect to one’s interactant in the course of interaction. The
paper discusses factors that determine choice of honorifics among the Igala.
It adds that beyond verbal honorifics, interactants could show respect to each
other, or attempt to earn same, through nonverbal means. The paper
concludes that in spite of the influence of modernism, the Igala, especially at
the family level; still employ the appropriate honorifics in their day-to-day

1.0 Introduction
In using language we have special terms or behavioural patterns that are
employed to prepare the ground for a smooth relationship in the process of
interaction. In the case of vocatives (or address forms), we observe that in
most languages, difference in the choice of address forms correlates to the
degree of the speaker’s deference toward the addressee (Harada
1976:499500). For example, a name preceded by a title (e.g. Enegbani Otulukpe, ‘Dr.
Otulukpe’) is a more polite address form than mentioning the mere name
(Otulukpe). Even in some instances, the title Onu ‘chief’ accompanied with
the greeting formula Annu are mentioned without calling the first name,
especially in face-to-face contact with the bearer. In greeting the chiefs and
in-laws, one should, as a mark of respect, remove one’s foot wears and
danyeku (Squat) properly before uttering the awa or agba formula to the
addressee (Etu, 1999).

1.1Definition of Term
Honorifics refer to ‘special linguistic forms that are used as signs of
deference toward the nominal referents or the addressee’ (Asher and
Simpson, 1994:1600). Honorifics are also used to refer to specially selected
forms that are employed to depict the high social status of individuals
(Crystal, 1983:176; Grundy, 2008:185) and Jibir-Daura, 2008:185). We will
define honorifics as verbal mode of address that depicts deference and
94 Language, Culture & Literature in a Multilingual Society

politeness towards the addressee. They also refer to the enactment of
nonverbal behaviours that show high regards or respect for one’s
conversational partner.

2.0 Factors that Determine Choice of Honorifics
The major factors that determine the choice of terms to use in addressing
one’s conservational partner include: Kinship, traditional (political)
leadership, religion and context.

2.1 Kinship
The human family starts with a boy or a man going into courtship
relationship with a lady. During courtship – a relationship that is mostly
characterised, by shyness – parties to the marital bond are very careful
regarding which honorifics to adopt in calling each other’s attention to kick
start a conversation. The man, especially if he is far older than his
prospective wife, could call her by her first name. If the age gap between
them is not too wide, the boy could call the lady Oma Oja ‘mothers-in-law’s
daughter’. At this point, the lady will not adopt any particular honorific term
in referring to the Suitor: She could say Uwe na ka i, I am addressing you, to
start a conservational exchange with the man.
Immediately the marital relationship is established, the couple would
choose what names to call each other. The wife will normally address the
husband as Iya ‘my elder brother’, or call, him Baba ‘father’, if the man is
old enough to father her. The man may wait for his wife to have a baby after
which she will be addressed as Mama Ochol, ‘Ocholi’s mother’, henceforth.
In a polygamous setting, wives are mostly named after the places they were
married from to differentiate which of them is being referred to in family
discussions or which is being invited. As a result, we could have Yawo
Ankpa (for the wife married from Ankpa), Yawo Abocho (for the one
married form Abocho) or Yawo Idah (for the one married from Idah), etc.
Simply put, the husband-wife (ves) relationship in Igala is characterized by
multiple naming (MN) (Robinson 1972:125). In other words, Igala couples
have a range of honorifics from which they could chose to call each other.
As children and their parents’ relationship grow older, they find
themselves coming into closer contacts with other members of the extended
family. Hence, they learn and imbibe newer modes of addressing and
behaving toward older members of the family. Kinship terminologies that
are common in the Igala extended family are given in the table below:

Honorifics in Igala 95

Table I:

Igala Kinship Terminologies

Reference Address Category Of Relationship
Ata Baba/Ubaba Father
Omaye Ata Baba/Ubaba Father’s Brother
Iye Oja, Mama Mother
Omaye Iye Oja, Mama Mother’s Sister
Achogba enekele Enegbani One’s elder brother
Okekele du un: They are One’s younger brother
or sister addressed by their first personal names
Achogba Onobule Iya, Oja One’s elder sister
Omehi Omehi Father’s elder or younger sister
Omenyi Baba Mother’s elder or younger
Oma (Pl.:Amoma) They are all addressed by their
personal names

(Apeh 1989:44; with slight modifications by the writer).

The table above shows that Igala children, even in modern times, do not call
their parents and other elders, who may not be close relations, by names.
Parents and other elders could call the younger ones by their names. But in a
situation where children are named after a dead and highly respected person
or deceased parents, they are not called by their (inherited) personal names;
they are addressed as Baba (Father) or Ukpodubaba (Father’s namesake),
Mama (Mother) or Ukpoduoja (Mother’s namesake) as a mark of honour to
the departed.
Igala Kinship terminology is characterized by bifurcate merging
(Murdock 1949:104 in Apeh 1989:44-45) in the parent’s generation. In other
words, mother’s sisters are regarded as one’s mothers. Father’s brothers are
also taken as one’s fathers. In this case, the children have a lot of parents
who will discipline them when they misbehave or enjoy some care from
others beyond their biological parents.

2.2 Traditional Leadership
Another source from which honorifics are got is the traditional political
institution. The Igala traditional political institution is headed by the Ata
Igala, father of the Igala, who resides at Idah.
The Ata has a number of Odu Ukpahiu, names of power, which he
bears as a mark of his power and authority. (Boston, 1968:233-234; Etu

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