YESKWA LANGUAGE AND ITS SPEAKERS
1.0 General Introduction
Language is a major means of communication, interaction and relation in the human society. Language is the network that connects human society together in a lively mood making it a lively place to stay.
Language is “human vocal sound, or it is the graphic representation of signs and symbol, gesticulations and signals for the purpose of communication.” Language is simultaneously a physical process and a way of sharing meaning among people, a language in this sense is a system of signs for encoding and decoding information. In another words, language is “an instrument of thought, that is, a psycho social interactive measure which binds human society together in communities and linguistic groups.” The use of language has become deeply entrenched in human culture and, apart from being used to communicate and share information, it also has social and cultural uses, such as signifying group identity, social stratification and for social grooming and entertainment.
This work serves as a channel to show case Yeskwa language and also to bring it into the lime light of the real world of the academician.
Yeskwa language is spoken in the north- west of Nasarawa state, in Karu local government area and Kaduna state in Jema’a local government area, all in the Northern region of Nigeria. Yeskwa language is spoken by about thirty-two thousand speakers [32,000] as at 2008 [from Ethnologue.com]. Most of the speakers are multilingual, that is, they are able to speak more than their native language [Yeskwa].
This work will concentrate on the morphological aspects of Yeskwa language, that is, the organization of words and formation of words, studying to bring out the morphological beauty of the language by identifying, analyzing and describing forms of words, the morphemes; free and bound morphemes; Derivational versus inflectional, morphological processes and many more in Yeskwa language.
1.1 Historical Background of Yeskwa People.
The first Nyankpa man who lived during the pre-historic era came from a place called “Darigo”. This place was named after the founder of the language, till now this mystical place form parts of the areas around the hills located North East and West of the present Kwoi, in Kaduna state across to Gitata, Bagaji up to Uke areas of the Nasarawa state. Darigo, was married to Obiche, with whom they had many children, some of the children are named, Ovurgbe, Onat, Onok (all males) and Oching (female). The grand children to Darigo produced by his biological children grew up to different clans present in Nyankpa land both at home and in diasporas. Ovurgbe’s children later became the Ovurgbe clan, Onatat’s offspring was shaped into Ontat clan and those of Onok are believed to have been the pioneer of the old Nok of famous archeological monuments and indeed environs like Kafanchan, Kagoro and Zonkwa area in the present Kaduna state. It is believed that, Mada and Eggon language sprung Oching’s lineage today. The Nyankpa people are thus one of the proud archaeological ethno-linguistic clusters of the famous Nok area. A permanent foot mark and other archaeological evidence of this pre-historic advent of Nyankpa language is present at the orally authentic place of origin called ‘Darigo’. From the other hand, Yeskwa language speakers migrated from Maiduguri, a part in the northern Nigeria. In the bush they migrated to then, which is now their present permanent location of habitation, the name of the language was derived from the situation of their immigrants fore-father, meaning ‘we deviate or leave from Maiduguri to this bush then what are we to call ourselves’ i.e. Nyankpa is formed from two words, leaves “ankpa” and deviation.
The people are called Yeskwa both in literature and by the Hausas, but they call themselves “Nyankpa” and their language “Nyankpa”. The language is having Panda, Bede, Gitata (Buzi) and Tattara as the main dialects of Yeskwa language, while Tattara is the standard form of the language and Bede the most divergent dialects of Yeskwa language. The alternative names are Anyankpa and Yasgua (according to ethnologue). The population of the people have graciously increased year after year because in 1973(Summer Institute of Linguistics) they are about 13,000 but as at 2008 they are about 32,000 in number. The language is not threatened by any neighboring language or prestigious language like Hausa language.
1.2 The Administrative Circle of Yeskwa Speakers
Prior to the advent of colonial rule in Nigeria and before the 19th century, Nyankpa people had an advanced functional system of governance, with their well shaped clans that stayed independent of each other. Each clan had a head that gives justice and also makes sure that each clan is well administered to.
These heads who are called ‘odyongutep’ as the title also preside over meeting in their clans in all matters, and they have the house or compound heads and elders of the clans as their assistance in performing their duties right.
In addition odyongutep were juju priest odyong nyanpka in each clan who perform purely ritual rites. Their functions are mainly based on general issues of discipline, and these are usually done in the juju shrine ‘ofu’. Also these priests have selected elders called ‘Asa cisa’ to give a helping hand. The present odyong nyankpa is Joel Sabo Awinge.
1.3 Geographical Location and Map
The language speakers of Yeskwa language are located in the Northern part of Nigeria. About seven hundred kilometers or more away from Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria. The speakers of Yeskwa language are founded in Karu Local Government Area also formerly known as Keffi LGA in Nasarawa State, and Jema’a Local Government Area in Kaduna State.
1.4 Socio-Cultural Profile
Yule (2007:239) describes “sociolinguistics as the interrelationship between two language and society”. Socio-cultural is formed from three word or terms; language, society and cultural. (2007:239):
“It is important not to overlook this social aspect of language because, in many ways, speech is a form of social identity and is used consciously or unconsciously to indicate membership of different social groups or different speech communities. A speech communities is a group of people who share a set of norms, rules and expectations regarding the use language. Investigating from this perspective is known as “SOCIOLINGUISTICS”.
Yeskwa language speakers have so many social plus cultural activities and lifestyles that distinguish them from their neighbouring communities. They treat these social-cultural ways of life with great reverence. Some of these social-cultural activities will be exposed. Occupation: Yeskwa people engage mainly in farming, they plant millet (Acha) , cassava (Logo), maize (Vuza), rice (Siyapa), okra (Anvwago), sweet potato (Juma), sugar cane (Oleke), guava (Nkpocho), cotton (Aluru), locust seeds (Emi), monkey-guava (Onkpwat), cowpea (Enep), sorghum (Avu ), guinea-yam (Ocit) and so on. They are involved both in annual and perennial farming. This is the major reason the men are polygamous, because both wives and children help the man in farming processes. After the harvest the women take their product to the market for sale. And in cases when the products are in large quantity they export them to other communities and also outside the state which is known as “dam” in Yeskwa language.
Dressing: There is also something special about the way they dress. The ancestors of Yeskwa people covered their nakedness with leaves, the women cover both breast and private part only with leaves. Later on, they improved on their dressing changing from the use of leaves to what they call “bente” which is made from animal skin (this animals like leopard, cow, ram, etc.) This improved way of dressing was in the 17th century and it went into extinction in the 70s. The ‘bente’ way of dressing is majorly used by the men in order to hold their male organ (penis) tightly. The women on the other hand made use of animal skin to cover their breast with small piece of the animal skin to cover their private part, which is made in form of short wrapper that wrapped their waist to cover their private part. As the world become more civilized in dressing, the modern way of dressing among the Yeskwa speakers is to cover their nakedness with sewed underwear like pants for both women and men alike, and brassiere for the women especially those in their youth age. Then the outer covering with sowed materials, for men, shirts and trousers, and women, skirts, wrappers and blouses.
In ages past, the ancient fathers of Yeskwa people (Anyankpa) engage in traditional religion. They worship ‘Nan’ as their main god and some masquerades to be specific they worship, namely; ‘terefu’, ‘jaku’, ‘dagba’, ‘awiya’, ‘ambabe’, ‘donko’, ‘yaka’, ‘gbarato’, ‘ofu’, ‘ogbeke’ and so on. The story changed when the white missionaries came for mission in the land in 1912, through this Christianity was introduced in the land and community. Later on Islam was brought into Yeskwa through the influence of Usman Danfodio’s jihads. As at present, the population of the Christians among the people has greatly increased and has risen high above other religions with the percentage 70% and the ratio seventy to thirty (70:30) to both traditional religion and Islam.
Marriage is the formal union of a man and a woman as husband and wife. Marriage is a means by which reproduction can take place by further multiplying and increase in the population of a community.
This aspect of life is not taken by levity at all by yeskwa people, but with much seriousness. Bosom friends (men) marry off their daughters to each other right from the time their wives are pregnant (even as at the time they haven’t known the sex of the unborn baby). After their wives put to bed, the father of the baby boy present large quantity of dried locust bean powder to the mother of the baby girl with which her meal is prepared till she is about seven years old (7yrs) when the baby is seven years old her parent will bring her to her husband’s house, although, she will be under the care of her mother-in-law. From that age, it is a must that she pays her husband respect till when she is old. When she is old enough i.e. when she reaches her puberty stage she will leave the mother-in-law to settle down with her husband. The process is called ‘zam’ by the people meaning traditional marriage. Through this method ladies virtue and dignity and is preserved and treated with high regards and reverence. Among the yeskwa people, polygamous is rampart and a normal way of life. A man can have up to twelve wives and even more, depending on the capacity. Polygamous is a way of helping the man in his farming occupation, that is both the wives and their children helps the father in farming on his farm. Apart from the father’s (husband’s) farmland, the wives have each or different farmlands to themselves also each child is entitled to have a farmland to his/herself. After working with their father, they retire to work on theirs.
Festival is a day or period of celebration, and this is the time people from different homes comes together in the universal lively mood in the town to celebrate in yeskwa. This is a time, when numerous socio cultural belt of harmony fastened more tightly among the people. The Yeskwa’s have numerous festivals, in this research work only two will be show cased.
Yeskwa people celebrate a festival called ‘ekokop’ by them when a grandfather has four grandsons. This festival came to life because of their belief that the sons are strong and gift from their gods. This festival is a way of showing appreciation to the gods for blessing them with special gift. The grandfather provides meals to all the invitees during the ceremony.
The second festival that the Yeskwa’s will never treat with levity even though their religion (Christianity or Islam) is not in support of which they still celebrate is ‘turning of the dead’. This is done after some years a person has died, during the celebration a masquerade will represent the dead person, then horns called ‘ezo ezo’ a long wooden horn will be played with what they call ‘ontom’ during the ceremony. The people also call the masquerades voice ‘ekpaciri’.
Their believe about this, is that it is a way of making the journey of the dead safe to heaven, they also believe that any family who refuses to perform this tradition can lead to a dead trap to the other living members of the family. It is one of the family members who is a matured man that usually put on the masquerade cloth, and this masquerades represent the dead person on earth. During all these festivals, there is usually merry all over the community because they are wishing one of them who is dead a safe and smooth trip to heaven.
The points that has been discussed under the broad topic socio-cultural using Yeskwa language, has proved and showed that the Yeskwas are rich and wealthy when it comes to culture and tradition.
1.5 Genetic Classification
Ruhlen (1994:1) states that; “the idea that groups of languages that share certain systematic resemblance have inherited those similarities from a common origin is the basis for genetic classification”. Also Greenberg (1966:8) explained that African languages belong to various families, and there are four main groups namely; Niger-kordofian, Nilo-sahara, Afro-asiatic and Khoisan.
Yeskwa language is related to other African languages through the diagram of genetic classification. This means or portrays that all languages grouped under African languages relates in one way or the other, this is the usefulness of genetic classification.