STOP THE PIDGINIZATION OF OUR LANGUAGES

Over the short period of my existence, I have noticed a continuous trend in the intensive pidginization of the various Southern Kaduna languages and their dialects by people who are supposed to be the native speakers of these languages. If it were to be foreigners who are pidginizing these languages, it would be understandable that they have their own languages, hence, should not be expected to speak any of these languages as correctly as the native speakers should.

My big question which seems to bounce back to me in form of rhetoric is “…if people who are supposed to be the native speakers cannot speak these languages to an encouraging degree of precision, then what about foreigners and what does the future hold for these languages of Southern Kaduna?

It has become fashionable for most Southern Kaduna language speakers to use in their daily speech, words of Hausa language origin such as: “sai” meaning “until”; “too” meaning “ok”; “sannu” meaning “sorry”, also used as a form of salutation; “tuna” meaning “to remember”; “gane” meaning “to understand”; “ba” – used for negation to mean “not”, and many other countless number of loan terms.

The question I want to ask at this point is this: “does this then mean that these words that our people borrow are actually lacking in all these Southern Kaduna language that Hausa language words have to be borrowed often? or is it that our people just choose to lay off our original terms as substitutes for those Hausa words? If the latter is the in-thing, then I am afraid that we are in trouble. I one generation finds it fashionable to purposely delete words of its language in use of another language’s words, then when the next generation comes to be, they get to speak the language that way, and by the time generation which started this trend passes away, a valuable part of their language also passes away with them due to ignorance. This is what has been bedeviling Southern Kaduna for the past two generations (50 years).

For how long shall we keep on borrowing without returning what we have been borrowing?

Using the case of Tyap language as an example, I often feel like crying when ever I hear someone speak an almost complete Hausa language sentence or phrase using Tyap language tonation. It is saddening.

For example, when someone is supposed to say n mi̱n fi̱k (I don’t understand), you hear n gane ba instead; instead of kyangbwak hu lini (how is the family?), you hear ya iyali ji?; and the most annoying one, instead of n gwai gba̱da̱ndang (thank you so much), you hear “n gode sosai”, and the person would be happy, feeling home and dry that he or she is speaking a Southern Kaduna language, for future’s sake where are we headed?

Tyap language as a cluster consists of a number of dialects such as: Fantswam, Gworok, Sholyia̱, Takat, Tyap proper, Tyia̱cha̱rak, Tyuku, and writing from a linguistics point of view, Jju which has a different SIL Code (Kaj) and which (according to Ethnologue 15th Edition) has the a larger number of speakers than the other Tyap dialects, (which can be attributed to the heavy slave raids across the A̱tyap in the 19th century by the Hausa-Fulanis) with SIL Code (kgc) also falls alongside other Tyap dialects due to its similarities in syntax and morphology with the rest of the Tyap dialects.

Among these Tyap dialects, should a certain word be missing for instance, from the lexicon of any of these dialects, wouldn’t it be wiser to borrow from the neighbouring Tyap dialect? or even from the nearest related Nerzi̱t or Nienzi̱t or Netzi̱t language cluster such as E̱dra (Adara), Hyam, Izere, Aninka amidst others? After after all all, it was such inter loaning of words that begot our numerous Southern Kaduna and Plateau languages today from a single root language which I strongly believe is ancient Njikum (Jukun), due to historical linkages and ethno-culturo-linguistical affinities with the modern-day Jukuns of the Wukari Federation in Taraba State, Middle-Belt Nigeria.

All Nerzi̱t or Nienzi̱t or Netzi̱t (related Southern Kaduna) languages e.g E̱dra, Hyam, Netkun, Ninka, Tyap-Jju, and others all fall under this generic nomenclature, which in turn belongs to the group of languages known as Central Nigeria Plateau Languages, which also houses such languages as: Be̱ro̱m, E̱ggo̱n, Izere, Rigwe, and others spoken in parts of Southern Kaduna, Plateau, Nasarawa, Bauchi, Niger state and the FCT. They all again belong to a larger branch of languages called Benue-Congo languages, the same group where: Ebira-Gade, Edo, Igbo, Jukun, Nupe-Gbagyi, Yoruba-Igala, and many other Middle-Belt and Southern Nigerian languages also belong.

The language which we borrow from does not even belong to the next larger branch or the next or the next, but to a distant group of languages known as Afro-Asiatic languages where Arabic and others belong. Fulfulde is even more related to the Benue-Congo languages than Hausa is. Permit me to say that I do not hate Hausa language, I am only concerned about our minority languages which are in danger of going into extinction in the
nearest future.

Please Southern Kaduna, there is a need for language re-engineering in our land if we do not want to lose our languages and dialects to larger foreign languages, as even the dialect with even the fewest number of speakers is important to us as a people. One thing most of us do not know is that the more the borrowed words in a language, the greater the tendency for the lost of the history of the owners of that language.

Language holds the history of a people, even when it is not written. One thing I discovered about our names or names generally is that they house the story of a person at the time of one’sc birth. It summarizes one’s beginning in a single word.

For example, my name is Kambai. This name was given to me by my parents because I was born very shortly after the demise of my father’s elder brother, whom I, “according to sources” (laugh out loud), look like. The name denotes “reincarnation”, but literally, it means “to depart (and) come (back)”. Even without a story, future generations would have an idea about why I was so named by my parents.

Our literacy or language committees are trying in reducing our languages and their dialects to writing, but then, not all Southern Kaduna languages and/or dialects have a language committee. The private sector can do well to help to organize and fund literacy committees to help record our languages and their dialects on paper and ink, as well as formally ‘invent’ words or borrow accordingly, as part of vocabulary development, words that are non-existent to enrich our tongues.

Most importantly, I will like to vie for the reunification of Southern Kaduna dialects, in order to give our languages a louder voice within the Nigerian polity and beyond.

Written by

Kambai Akau

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