Language is the string that holds members of the society together and it also serves as an object used by men for specific purposes. This project focuses on a branch of language and it also focuses on an aspect of the language which is phonology of Yeskwa language.
Yeskwa is spoken in Panda and in the surrounding districts in the northwestern of Nassarawa State, Kefi Local Government and Kaduna. It is spoken by over 12,000 people. It is known as Nyankpa and Yasgua by the Speakers and the surrounding communities but the generally acceptable name by the speakers in Yeskwa.
This Chapter introduces the language and its speakers. Also, we discussed the historical and geographical background of the area. The Sociocultural background and the genetic classification of the language are included. Scope and organization of the Study, theoretical framework, data collection and data analysis alongside with the brief review of the chosen framework also formed part of the study in this chapter.
1.2 Historical Background
Yeskwa people were said to have migrated from Maiduguri. According to Oral tradition, they are today settled in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State and parts of Keffi Local Government in Nassarawa State. They are known as Nyankpa by the Hausa people, the people themselves are known as Angampa while the language is known as Nyakpa. Nyakpa is a conjunction of two native words which are string together to form a name. ‘Ny’ means ‘We branch’ and ‘Anpa’ ‘leaf’ the two formed Nyankpa which means ‘we branch to settle in this bush’. The official name of the language is Yeskwa therefore throughout this work it shall be referred to as Yeskwa.
According to ethnologue record of Nigerian languages, this language had 13,000 speakers in 1973 and 32,000 speakers as at 2008. The dialects of the language according to ethnologue are Buzi, Bede, Panda, Tattara and Nyenkpa., alternative names are Ayankpa and Yasgua. Tattara is said to be the standard version and Bede is the most divergent dialect.
1.3 Sociocultural Background.
The way of life of the Yeskwa people is not different from that of the neighboring communities. Some of the fascinating aspects of their life are: Occupation, Religion, Festival, Mode of dressing, Naming and Marriage Ceremonies.
The major occupation of Yeskwa people is farming. They are known for planting crops like cassava, yam, okro, millet (Acha) among others. Farming is done by men and women.
The Yeskwa people are mostly Christians. Before the advent of missionaries in Nigeria, the people are known to be traditional worshippers but when missionaries came Islam and Christianity became the religion of the people. Although Christianity is the dominant religion with about 80% but there are still few Muslims and Traditional Worshipper in the Community.
Remembering the dead is one of the elaborate festivals of the Yeskwa people. This is usually done after several years of the death of the person and it is believed that once that remembrance is done it will give the dead a smooth journey to heaven. During the remembrance, they usually have a dancing masquerade which is said to be the spirit of the dead person. After the dancing of the masquerade, all the people that are present will eat, drink and merry. The masquerade must be somebody from the family of the dead person.
The method of marriage in Yeskwa is different from other communities because they usually betroth their children to one another. Two friends when their wives are pregnant would inform each other that if the child of one is a male and the other is female would marry each other in future but if other wise they would be friends. If the children are of opposite sex the dowry of the female child would be paid at birth. The dowry is usually paid with dried locust beans (because Yeskwa people do not eat fresh locust beans) which would be taken to the girls house and it would serve as soup ingredient in which they would use to cook for the mother of the girl for a number of years. From tender age, the girl would be taken to the grooms house till she is ripe for marriage so as to know and learn the ways of life of the groom’s family. A man can marry up to twelve wives depending on the capability of the husband.
Before now, the mode of dressing of the people was covering the body with leaves, later they used animal skin to cover their body. Presently the Yeskwa are known for a modernized and civilized dressing because their dressing is not different from that of others in the society.
The Yeskwa people bury their corpse immediately such death is confirmed. However, relevant members of the family will be contacted before final burial takes place.
The burial takes processes; first it starts from bathing the dead body with a white cloth before burning the deceased. Yeskwa people believe that the body of the dead must not come in close contact with sand. So, after digging the grave they will cover the ground with some leaves and sticks before the body is buried.
Yeskwa people usually use chicken and millet (Acha) for their naming ceremony. When a child is born, after seven days name will be given to the child after which everybody will eat and drink. The naming ceremony in Yeskwa is always a lively one filled with merriment.
1.4 Genetic Classification
According to Greenberg (1966:8), African languages belong to various families and there are four main groups namely Niger Kordofanian, Nilo-Sahara, Afro-Asiantic and Khoisan. Genetic classification of a language can come in form of tree diagram showing the origin of the language and how it is genetically related to other languages.