Hausa in Fulfulde Literature
By Dr. Aliyu U. Tilde
(An essay presented in Literature and the World group on Facebook on 26 December 2015)
Fulfulde is witnessing a renaissance in Nigeria. Many activities are going on among the elite that live in the towns and cities of the North. Cultural activities are taking place on campuses and songs are composed by many Fulbe singers. Few weeks ago, I had the privilege of watching in Kano what can be called the first Nigerian Fulani film.
This February, the second international conference on Fulfulde is taking place at Bayero University, Kano. The language is taught in many nomadic schools and courses on Fulfulde are offered at the university level in University of Maiduguri, Bayero University, Kano and Usumanu Danfodio University, Sokoto in addition to courses offered at the National Certificate of Education level in various colleges.
Literature is not left behind. A number of books are published, many for learning the language. Poems are also written in the style of early composers of the 19th Century. I have written two so far. Others, like my senior brother, Bashir Sa’ad, have composed dozens before me. Very soon, we may witness publication of Fulfulde novels too.
Influence of Dominant Languages
In the revival effort of every language, the problem of vocabulary must inevitably arise, especially if the language has been out of circulation among majority of its elite who use other languages in their daily life. In Northern Nigeria, Hausa and English seem to dominate the speech of most Fulbe who live in towns and cities. While the nomadic or rural Fulbe have remained the main reservoir of the language with adults and children speaking it fluently, in towns and cities the influence of dominant languages cannot be avoided.
Geography has also played a vital role in making the dialects of the language difficult to harmonise. Fulfulde is spoken from the western shores of the Atlantic to those of the Red Sea to the east, with its people coming under the influence of different languages, cultures and politics. In each clime, the vocabulary of the language is influenced by the dominant language: by Wolof and Jolof in Senegal; by Mellinke and Bambara in Guinea Conakry, Mali and Burkina Faro; by Hausa, Kanuri, Bagarmi and Arabic in Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Sudan; etc.
In Nigeria and Niger, Hausa has the greatest influence on Fulfulde. This influence has been there for centuries, even before the Jihad of Usman Danfodio. So strong was the influence that even as at the beginning of the 19th Century – that is over 200 years ago – the composer of Fulfulde poems could not avoid using Hausa words in them as we shall illustrate later. Today, the influence is greater – with some dialects in Hausaland using a handsome amount of Hausa vocabulary and expressions even where Fulfulde equivalents exist.
Some hardliners who are blessed with a good command of the Fulfulde see the mentioned influence as unnecessary or even laughable. Many moderate Fulbe intelligentsia see it as avoidable. I see it as a necessity.
The influence of other languages on Fulfulde is necessary, in my view, because, languages, like humans, cannot live in isolation. Every language that must survive as a tool of popular speech must interact with other languages. Its survival lies in that interaction. Without it, it will shrink and die inevitably. World languages like English, Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew, Hindi, etc., have survived because of their ability to borrow from other languages that they came into contact with.
Borrowing words and adopting expressions come from two principal sources: Technology and Culture. Technology brings about new things into the world. The Turkish call what we know as nono in Hausa as Yogurt. When it reached the English Island, the English called it Yoghurt. The English introduced cars into Nigeria. They called them motor cars. The Hausa call them mota. The west introduced computer recently. The Hausa call it komputa. A professor in Hausa is called Farfesa. And so on.
That is the trend in every language. A living language does not belabour itself with reinventing the wheel by finding what it should coin in its language for newly introduced things. Exceptions exists though: Aeroplane is called Ta’irah in Arabic, derived from flying or bird (Tair); car is called sayyara, from sair (travel), engine is called muharrik, derived from hark or motion; etc. Where something similar exists, to use the indigenous word of the language is preferred.
The cultural aspect reflects the path followed by the item to reach the people of a particular language. Telefisiyon is the word for television in Arabic because the route it followed to the Arab world is from French, who were the first to dominate the Arab world. In Hausa it is called Telebijin, as in Television, because it followed the English path. Keke is the Yoruba word for bicycle, kobo for penny, etc. The Hausa adopted these names from the Yoruba. Basukur is a direct adoption from English.
Hausa has a similar influence on Fulfulde in Northern Nigeria. The Fulani, mostly rural dwellers, derived the names of modern items from the Hausa because these items reach them through the Hausa that are living in the towns. Thus, they call them what the Hausa’s call it. And so it is with most things found in the town, including architecture. So we have names like Kanti and Zaureru because these items are not there in Fulani architecture (Kanti – meaning shop – is itself an English name, Canteen). Abstract things like ma’ana, nasiha and tarihi; names of animals like alfadari, and of actions like tsafi, and so on, are adopted from Hausa even if some of them are originally Arabic words.
For Fulfulde to be dynamic, it cannot help but adopt the same strategy as other languages. I do not see adoption as a defect in Fulfulde, but as a sign of its vigour, except in cases where it is absolutely unnecessary.
Academics seem to be more worried with the adaptation trends. A book, a film or a poem is expected by some scholars to be purely made of Fulfulde words. However, a casual look at Fulfulde classical literature shows that the contrary is the case. Even the scholars who the Fulbe hold at high esteem were very liberal in their literature. Below, I have produced portions of poety from the classical poems of Shehu Usumanu Danfodio and Muhammad Tukur Danbinta to illustrate this point. I have also brought examples from some words of the Qur’an that were recently translated into Fulfulde. In the illustrations, I have underlined the adopted Hausa word and showed the root word at the end of the line.
1. In his Bushra’u, Danbinta is seen using Hausa words like:
Fa ya yimɓe keetidoye gaɗee shiw kadii nane (Hau: shiru)
Na non yimɓe jewewɓe ɓe gi’ata Muhammada
Thalatha fa yimɓe waɗooɓe tsaafi koo budaa (Hau: Tsafi, ko)
Hakiika ɓe heeferɓe ɓe yi’ataa Muhammada
Fa reuɓe yahaiɓe gariije gooso wanaa daruu (Hau: Gari)
Ɓe goosooma ton nder hiite ɓe gi’ataa Muhammada
Fa reuɓe yehaiɓe bukiiji gam daara duuniya (Hau: Buki, Duniya)
Ɓe daareema ton nder hiite ɓe gi’ataa Muhammada
Mimma mi walliimo mi walli Muhammadu
Mi walli fari Danbinta mantoowo Ahamda (Hau: Fari, Ɗan-Binta)
2. Shehu Danfodio in his song Inde Jooman was equally liberal with his language as shown in the following versicles:
Annabiijo mantoyaimi (Hau: Annabi)
Lesdi maaɗa beegeyii men (Hau: Bege)
Tun Badar heeferɓe kiirsa (Hau: Tun)
Yende dargal nder zufooje (Hau: Zufa)
Yerda Jooman ɗaɓɓitaimi (Hau: Yarda)
Kanko haƙƙan beegetiimi (Hau: Bege)
3. Translation of the Qur’an:
A Fulfulde translation of the meaning of the Qur’an, Wannginoore Ma’anaaji Qur’anu Nder Fulfulde, was recently published by the Adamawa Emirate Council. Here also, Hausa words have featured in many places thought the translators have done their best, it seems, to avoid them. Yet, hardly a page will end without a word of Hausa. For example:
In the title, Ma’anaaji is a direct derivative of ma’ana in hausa, with the ‘ji’ added to indicate plural as we saw in ‘gariije’ above.
“Wallahi hakiika kongol tabitii dow ɓurɗum…” Hau: Hakika, and tabbata
“Sey ɓe mbi’i…” Hau: sai
“Sey ɓe piɗii mo haa o maayi” (Sai)
“Malaa’ika’en ngam halkuki gooto fuu” Hau: Mala’iku
“Min ngaɗi haa maari gese iɓgo e dabiinooje e inabooje..” Hau: Dabbino, Inabi
“(Bana dukkunaaji, kanji ngonii kantiiji..)” Hau: Kanti
“(O tagii) pucci e alfadariije e bamɗe..” Hau: Alfadari
I think, where convenient or necessary, writers and speakers of modern Fulfulde, especially the beginners, should be free to adopt words and expressions from Hausa without viewing so as defective to the language. As they become more proficient, they can upgrade their vocabulary to attain a better degree of purity where possible. Where words are completely foreign to the language, however, straight adoption is not a sin, but the convention.
As we see the renaissance of Fulfulde gaining ground in Nigeria and beyond, Hausa expressions and words will continue to be adopted. As the dominant language here, we do not expect the influence of Hausa to diminish. And since in social life, separating the Fulani and the Hausa is increasingly becoming difficult, so will forever remain the marriage between the two languages.
26 December 2015