Igala language and Linguistic Adoption
John Jibo Idakwoji at September 23rd, 2015
Linguistic adoption (or language borrowing) results when a speaker imports a foreign word or expression and incorporates it into his own language. The word or expression so incorporated becomes a loan-word in the vocabulary of the first language. Loan-words in Igala speech are ‘borrowed’ from a number of languages, including Háúsá, Ìgbò, Núpé, Ìdọmà, Bassà Ngéẹ̀ ,̣ Èbìrà and English. Anywhere loan-words are treated in the lexicon, their origins are indicated.
- English Loan-words
English loan-words present in the Igala vocabulary are words used in reference to objects, concepts or nomenclatures that have European origins, for which Igala language had no equivalent or indigenous names. However, in pronouncing these European names, the Igala speaker tends to apply the involuntary rules that guide his own speech pattern. Some of these rules include: (i) All Igala nouns start and end with vowels; never with consonants. (ii) Where a foreign word begins with or ends with a consonant, or where there are consonant clusters, the Ígáláà introduces a vowel or a number of vowels to ease their pronunciation. Examples are: ‘Teacher,’ pronounced ‘Ítíchà’; ‘chair,’ pronounced ‘íché yà’or ‘íchíyà.’ The English letter, ‘v,’ is approximated as ‘b,’ as in ‘ìbèḷ ìbèṭ ì’ (velvet) or ‘Íbólibò’ for ‘Volvo.’ Similarly, ‘r’ is, sometimes, replaced with ‘l,’ as in ‘Íkéléchìmáchì’ (Christmas). Sibilant sounds, ‘c,’ ‘s’ and ‘z,’ do not exist in Igala speech. The first two, ‘c,’ and ‘s’ are substituted with ‘ch’ and the last one with ‘j’. Letter ‘r’ is sometimes replaced with ‘l,’ as in Ìchèḳ ílí (see úlóko), instead of Ìtshèḳ írí; Ìjékéḷ íì, instead of Zákárì.
In introducing vowels as initial and terminal morphemes, the Ígáláà prefer to use the high-pitched vowel letter ‘í,’ or its low-pitched equivalent, ‘ì,’ as shown in the table below. In the English personal names shown in the table, the same letter is also introduced as the initial vowel. The names asterisked are some of the foreign names that have experienced minimum ‘corruption’ in Igala speech.
|Names of Things
||Èlíjābẹtì or Èlíjā
||Àlè j̣ ádà
||Ìchàmíēḷ ù or Ìchàámí
||ìdìlóc̣ hì or àdìlóc̣ hì
||Ódú Ámonè ̣
||Èṃ ánēḷ ù or Èṃ á
||Ímáíkēḷ ù or Ímáí
Igala contact with the Hausa dates back to several centuries and pre-dates the arrival of the ruling dynasty which started in the twilight of the 17th Century. Hausa traders and Islamic preachers who spoke Hausa, taking advantage of the location of Igalaland in the high-traffic Niger-Benue confluence area, have, since then, lived in amity with the Igalas in sub-urban areas of Igalaland. The Hausa settlements are called ‘Àngwa,’ derived from Hausa, ‘Ungwar’. In the Àtá-Igala’s Court of the early 19th Century, a good number of Hausa staff performed secretarial and administrative duties. This probably explains the adoption of the Hausa title salutation, Zákì, (Jááchíì) used for the Àtá-Igáláà until the accession of Àtá Ákwù Òdíbā to the throne in 1856, when he changed it to ‘Ágábáìdù.’ It will also be recalled that a detachment of the colonial army (the West African Frontier Force, WAFF), which later metamorphosed into the Nigerian Army, had been stationed at Ánkpa for thirty (30) years, from 1900 to 1933, before it was moved to Enugu. That duration was a long enough period for Igalas to have borrowed Hausa words into their vocabulary in numbers. However, since the focus of the lexicon is not loan-words but core, indigenous Igala words and phrases, only a handful of Hausa loan-words – those that have fossilized in the native Igala speaker’s sub-conscious – that have been highlighted.
In the pronunciation of these foreign words, the rules guiding the Igala speech, particularly with regard to sibilant sounds (s, c and z) stated above are usually strictly adhered to by native Igala speakers. For example, for the Hausa casual greeting, Sànú, the Igala native would say Àkéchi chènú (Hausa man/woman, hello). The Arabic compliment, Assalam alaikum is pronounced Àchàlámà lékwù; Alhassan is called Àlàácháà; while Hùssáínì is pronounced Òchèéníì; Súlè is Èchúléè; Yúsùf ’ is Íchífúù; while Hássàna’ is pronounced Áchána. Apart from personal nouns, other nouns denoting articles, concepts or values are also seen as loan-words in the Igala vocabulary. Examples are presented in the table below:
|àlúlà (see ọ́líéẹ̀ )̣
The typical native speakers who incorporated these loan-words into Igala vocabulary did not seem to have the patience to study their phonemes first, before going ahead to introduce random vowels here and there to suit their peculiar speech pattern in the process of articulation. For instance, ‘Bíndígà,’ means ‘gun’ in Hausa; but the Ígáláà calls it ‘Òbóchīgāà’ (see ólí; ólí-óbōchigaà). Some personal Hausa names pronounced in line with Igala speech pattern are as follows:
||Àchéṭ úù; Àché ̣
||Ìchàlíméṭ úù; Ìchàlímé ̣
||Ìbèḷ ìkichù; Ìbèlì
||Ìlàméṭ úù; Ìlàmé ̣
- Ìgbò Loan-words
The Ígáláà and Ìgbò have, from time immemorial, been bound together by the realities of their common geographic terrains, trade relationships and exogamy. Their shared common boundary (to the east and south of the Igala Kingdom) has, for centuries, brought the two groups together as good neighbours. For instance, some former Àtá-Igáláà (Igala Kings) are of Igbo mothers, as indicated in the lyrics of an old, indigenous song: ‘Ìgbọ̀ bíọ́ ma k’ì j’Àtá igbélé’ (An Ìgbò (woman) gave birth to a son who became Àtá-Igáláà in the past. There is also the Ọ́nó ̣jáà Òbòní factor, which had brought the people in the northern Nsukka areas under the suzerainty of the Àtá-Igáláà in ancient times and to whom chieftaincy titles and Igala wives were given. Therefore, the basis of Igala-Igbo oneness goes beyond trade and exogamy but, rather, permeates other realms of their socio-cultural co-existence. Some shared vocabulary items and Ìgbò loan-words are shown in the table below.
|The particle, sọ́ò,̣ as ‘Dàálú sóọ̀ .’
||chọ́ò,̣ as in Náagò chọ́ò.̣
||Thanks a lot.
||a powdery, bright-blue hard-stone used as make-up for the eyes or as a cure for eye infection.
||a little dog
||day of the week
||òbànàdégwù (Armed robber)
||Armed night-robber, nick-named ‘Night is dangerous’
||A type of beetle
||a young, teenage man
||Showing off; bragging
|ùtó ̣ E.g. Ọ́ nà tọ́ mu ùtó:̣ It appeals very much to me.
||ùtó ̣ E.g. Ì ách’ùmí útọ̄ : I admire/like it very much.
||(Superlative liking of a person, thing, attitude or quality).
Shared or Borrowed Personal Names
||Ìgbò ̣ (Name given to Igala male children)
|Chúkwúmà (Igbo personal name)
||Òkóló (Ígáláà: Salutation for teenage bachelors)
|Ásó g̣ wá
||Áchó g̣ bá (Means elder
brother in Ígáláà)
||Ùgbàmáká (Name of a village in Ágọjéejú-Éjulè area of Igalaland)
It has been observed that the Igala-speaking, borderline communities located along the eastern boundary –Ákpányá, Òdóḷ ú and Ìbàjí areas – are 100% bilingual, as they speak both languages fluently.
5. Núpé Loan-words
Ígáláà and Núpé (Ónúgbá) have enjoyed a long-standing inter-ethnic relationship dating back to the reign of Àtá Ayè g̣ bà Ìdoko or even before. Historians are wont to mention the name, Tsoede, the founder of Nupeland as having come from the Àtá’s Court at Ìdá. It is also said that Áyé g̣ bà betrothed his daughter, Òdó, to Mallam Èdégí, the Nupe Muslim whose services he had utilized to win the Igala-Jukun War at the close of the 17th Century. These two instances indicate a long period of Igala-Núpé relationship. (See Èdégí). It is, therefore, not surprising that some Nupe loan-words have found their way into the Igala vocabulary. For example, the goodwill compliment, ‘Éjiboo,’ is Nupe, ‘Wózhiboo,’ meaning ‘Are you there?’ The Ígáláà interpret it as meaning, ‘Is anyone at home?’ (when he is indicating his presence at somebody’s house, especially, when he/she is out of sight); and its response, ‘Jaaní’ is Nupe, ‘Wozháaní,’ meaning ‘Are you back?’ which the Ígáláà interpret as ‘Someone is home.’ In the table below are personal names borrowed from Núpé and their meanings.
||Grand-father (Given to a child who is a re-incarnation of its father’s grand-father).
||Young uncle; an uncle who is younger than one’s father
||Death has spared this one
||Land-lord or Leader
||His grandfather/mother had done great things
- Ìdọmà Loan-words
Borderline Ìdọmàs share many Igala personal names, such as Ìdákwó, Àbùtù, Ògwùché,̣
Àáméẹ̀ ,̣ Ọ́ nọ́ já. However, Ìdọmà lexical items existing in the Igala vocabulary are not so many. The Ìdọmà casual greeting, ‘àhínyá,’ is preferred to ‘awa, agba, náagò’ by some of the Igala communities around the eastern Ígálá- Ìdọmà boundary. Some of the loan-words borrowed from Ìdọmà are discussed below:
- The Igala word, òkólóbíáà (young man), is pronounced ‘òkólóbíà’ by the Ìdọmà and the Ìgbò.
- Ìdọmà also shares the Igala word, ‘èlélèlè’ (usually shortened ‘èlé’).
- The negative adverbial particle, ‘gè’̣ (again) and its negative form, ‘gè ̣ ṅ’ (not again) are also prevalent in Ìdọmà
(iv) Many Igala personal names are borne by many Ìdọmà, particularly those
who occupy different sectors of the Igala-Idoma boundary. Some border- dwelling Igalas also take such Ìdọmà names as Ẹ̀néṇ chè,̣ Ọ̀ nyilọ̀, Ọ̀ ché,̣ Ọ̀ gbọlé,̣ Ìgọ́chè,̣ Ẹ̀màìkwu, Òpégà, etc. The Ìdọmà word, ‘è p̣ à,’ meaning two; 2, sometimes, forms part of some Igala personal names. E.g. Ùmè p̣ à; Òkwùtẹpà.