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Observations On SMS Test Messages In Hausa

Muhammad Mustapha Umar
Department of Nigerian Languages Usmanu [anfodiyo University, Sokoto Email: mustaphahausa@yahoo.com GSM: 08065466400


The style of shortening of a word or phrase to be used to represent the full form is fast growing in all parts of the world including Nigeria. This research reports on some common abbreviations and other texting formats used in making sms messages in Hausa. It was noticed that Hausa and English text messages undergo almost the same linguistic adjustments such as symbols, letters and numbers or number homophones, contraction, clipping and shortening, acronyms and initialism, nonconventional spelling, accent stylization and other domented text language.


Abbreviation has been used as long as phonetic script existed, and many current abbreviations come from English language. People today use domented text language and other linguistic adjustment to send SMS text messaging. The style of shortening of a word or phrase is universally accepted and certain kinds of short forms have become standard. The purpose of this paper is to report justification for abbreviations in SMS text messages on Hausa mobile phone.


Abbreviation as used in this context may refer to:
a) Abbreviation means a shortened form of a word or phrase to be used to represent the full form.
b) Abbreviation is a letter or group of letters used in writing and speech to represent a word or phrase in shortened form.
c) Abbreviation is a shortened form of a word or phrase. Usually, but not always, it consists of a letter or group of letters taken from the word or phrase.
d) Abbreviation means to make a word or phrase or name shorter by leaving out letters or using only the first letter of each word or using the first syllable of a word.
However, according to (Wehmeier, 2006:2): Abbreviation is a short form of a word or the process of abbreviating something.


Hausa SMS composers use different kinds of abbreviations on their mobile phones in order to communicate with their family and friends. The following are the most common linguistic adjustment used in SMS text messages.

2.1.1 Symbols

A symbol is a sign, number, letter, etc, that has a fixed meaning, especially in science, mathematics and music. (Wehmeier, 2006:1500) A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, Numerals are symbols for numbers. Personal names are symbols representing individuals. A red rose symbolizes love and compassion.
Humans gain this type of learning that helps us create symbols used in SMS by seeing various print sources, our life experiences, and symbols about the past. In addition, written languages are composed of a variety of different symbols that create words. Through these written words, humans communicate with each other.
Symbols are not just relevant to the theory of dreams, but also to normal symbol systems. They are related through substitution where one word, phrase, or symbol is substituted for another in order to change the meaning in writing SMS text message. In other words, if a person does not understand a certain word or phrase, another person may substitute a synonym or symbol in order to get the meaning of the original word or phrase across.

2.1.2 Letters

Letter is a written or printed sign representing a sound used in speech. (Wehmeier, 2006:848) Letter (alphabet) is a written element of an alphabet that represents a single phoneme. In other words, Alphabet is a set of letters or other symbols, each representing a distinctive sound of a language. These letters can be combined to write all the words of a language. The letters of an alphabet typically have names and a fixed order. Alphabets are the most common type of writing in the world today. In SMS, people use a particular alphabet to represent a morpheme, syllable, a word or even simple sentence. This written element is one or more than one digit long.

2.1.3 Numbers or Homophone Number

A number is a word or symbol that represents an amount or a quantity. (Wehmeier, 2006:1001) A number is a mathematical object used to count and measure. In common use, the word number can mean the abstract object, the symbol, or the word for the number. Number is a word or symbol used to designate quantities or entities that behave like quantities. In SMS text messages, numbers in figure are used to represent words, and sometimes we use numbers for words that have the same pronunciation as one or more other words but is different in meaning and spelling. For example, one-won, two-too-to, four-for and eight-ate.

2.1.4 Contraction

A contraction is a short form of a word. (Wehmeier, 2006:317) A contraction is a shortened version of the written and spoken forms of a word, syllable, or word group, created by omission of internal letters. In some cases, contraction can be used to form a new word from one word or a group of words. Mobile phone SMS adopts a shortened form or shortening of a word or phrase. In English and other languages, the omitted letter or letters are usually marked with an apostrophe or a period, depending on the type of contraction.

2.1.5 Clipping/Shortening

Clipping is the word formation process which consists in the reduction of a word to one of its parts. Shortening is an abbreviated form of a word consisting of its first few letters, often ending with final period. SMS adjust or shorten some words by cutting off or removing a letter, or syllable that is part of a word.

2.1.6 Acronyms And Initialisms

Acronym is a word formed from the first letters of the words that make up the name of something. (Wehmeier, 2006:13) The term acronym is the name for a word from the first letters of each word in a series of words. Initialism refers to an abbreviation formed simply from, and used simply as, a string of initials. In SMS words are made of initials pronounced separately. This SMS initialism is an abbreviation made up of initial letters that are all pronounced separately. In other words, SMS abbreviations are formed from the initial components in a phrase or a word. These components may be individual letters or parts of words.

2.1.7 Nonconventional Spelling

Nonconventional spelling is the act of forming words from individual letters in a way that does not follow the accepted standards or rules of particular language. Inventive spelling, or invented spelling, is the non-conventional spelling of a word created by a novice reader or writer. This spelling is used in SMS as a way a particular word is written in an unacceptable order to convey information.

2.1.8 Accent Stylization

Accent stylization is a style of pronouncing or writing the words of a language that shows which area, social class or country a person comes from. All writing has some style, even if the author is not thinking about the style. It is important to understand that one’s accent or dialect reflects his message.


There are many people out there who in order to save time and energy makes use of various texting symbols. Be it on Face book or the simple phone message, the use of these text abbreviations are becoming quite popular specially with the younger generation. When they want to plan out something and they want to keep it a secret either from their parents or from others, then these most common text message abbreviations come into great use.
People don't mean to confuse others with this lingo but it saves time and money for a lot of people to use abbreviations; and if you think about it, most of them are pretty easy to understand and make perfect sense in the context of the message. Therefore abbreviations are used to save space and time in order to avoid wasting or using them unnecessarily and to maintain the new SMS language (style of writing on mobile phone page)

3.1 Space

Space in writing or printing means the part of a line, page or document that is empty. (Wehmeier, 2006:1411) Space is an amount of gap that is empty or that is not available for use in writing. Space is an act of leaving space after an individual word in writing system. In writing, a space ( ) is a blank area devoid of content, serving to separate words, letters, numbers, and punctuations. Conventions for inter-word and inter-sentence spaces vary among languages, and in some cases the spacing rules are quite complex. The objective of SMS is to use the least number of characters needed to convey a comprehensible message, also many telecommunication companies have an SMS character limit. In general, the available mobile phone page for writing messages is not enough to contain more than 160 characters. The page has also fails to reach the standard of single page of a book or a computer. This led to the birth of new style of writing known as mobile phone SMS text message.

For these reasons SMS communication allows for a reasonable use of syntactic and lexical short forms, which save character space, or touches of the handset keys, as compared with using the full forms of words. (Rafi, 2009:3).

3.2 Time

Time means to do something in a given amount of time, the amount of time available to work, rest, etc. (Wehmeier, 2006: 1549) Time refers to a conscious experience of duration, the period during which an action or event occurs. Our lives are fully occupied in a particular activity, especially work. That’s why we must utilize anything that takes up time or energy. In SMS text message, short forms are designed to reduce the length of time taken when sending messages through mobile phones. In addition to this, Rafi (2009) posited that:

Other reasons for short messages include the often difficult to manage interface and the fact that communications with close friends, partners and family members allows one to organize messages pragmatically as a common background exists. The messages serve to tie the group together through the development of a common history. (Rafi, 2009:3)

3.3 Money

Money is what you earn by working or selling things, and use to buy things. (Wehmeier, 2006:948) Money, is any medium of exchange that is widely accepted in payment for goods and services and in settlement of debts. When sending a text message. One cannot be verbose. It costs money to send one text message. This cost differs from one telecommunications company to another. These telecommunications companies have put a ceiling on the number of characters that can appear in one message. So in order to save money, long messages are shortened, and texters tend to keep to one text per message. The shorter the message is, the better for the sender. The use of abbreviations in SMS text message save our recharge cards, and make us communicate satisfactorily with less charges by reducing the characters of a message. With this method of text production, one saves money as well as effort and users are then more likely to use the service for subsequent messages.

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3.4 Style of Writing

SMS composers today use particular ways in which writing is done or embrace modern methods used in writing language. A given style reveals both the SMS writer's personality and voice, but it also shows how she or he perceives the receiver, and chooses conceptual writing style which reveal those choices by which the writer may change the conceptual world of the overall character of the message. This might be done by a simple change of words; syntactical structure, truncation and adding of misspelling, typos and hybrids.
The SMS writer needs to tailor his style to the situation. For example, the same person writing a message to the same reader would use a different style depending on whether it is a message of complaint, a message of condolence, or a business message.
The writer needs to decide whether the goal of the writing is to inform, persuade, or entertain. The style of a piece of message is the way in which features of the language are used to convey meaning, typically but not always within the constraints of more widely accepted conventions of usage, grammar, and spelling.


These abbreviations are simply the text messaging short forms that Hausa people use each and every day to make sending SMS messages so much quicker and easier. Some of the short forms below are only used for emergency or at the end of a text message to convey the mood of the person sending the text message. Some of the text message short forms are good examples of how Hausa people shorten words when they send text messages. Hence, punctuation, grammar, and capitalization are largely ignored.
Table 1: Shows SMS abbreviations by Hausa mobile phones users
S/NO Hausa Short Form English
1. Abinci Abnc Food
2. Abokiya Abokia Friend
3. Alhaji Alh. Male who has made pilgrimage to Mecca
4. Aminiya Aminia Trusted or reliable friend
5. Ashirin Ashrn Twenty
6. Assalamu Alaikum Salam, A.A Peace be upon you
7. Ba B Agreement element
8. Baba Bb Father
9. Baturiya Ba2ria, Turai European
10. Biyu Biu Two
11. BuƘata BƘt Need
12. Da D Agreement element
13. Daga Dg From
14. Dariya Daria Laugh
15. Duka Duk All
16. Dan’Adam D/Adam Human being
17. Danfodiyo Dan4dio Son of a teacher in Fulfulde
18. Eriya Eria Antenna
19. Fodiyo Fodio, 4diyo Teacher in Fulfulde Language
20. Goma sha ďaya Gm sh ďy Eleven
21. Gyatuma Gy2ma An old woman
22. Hajiya Hajia, Haj. Female who has made pilgrimage to Mecca
23. Hausa Hau Hausa language
24. Hausawa Hausw Hausa People
25. Insha Allahu ISA By Allah’s grace
26. Jiniya Jinia Siren
27. Kasuwa Kasua Market
28. Kwana huďu Kwn 4 Four days
29. K'arin bayani K'arbayn Details
30. Laraba Larba Wednesday
31. Mai gadi M/gadi Watch man
32. Malami Mal. Teacher
33. Mutuwa Mutua Death
34. Na N Agreement element
35. Na gode N gd Thank you
36. Rana Ran Day, Sun
37. Rediyo Redio Radio
38. Ruwan sha Rwn sh Drinking water
39. Sai an jima An jima Later in the day
40. Sallallahu alaihi wasallam SAW Peace be upon him
41. Sarkin gida S/gida House’s principal counselor
42. Shi Sh He
43. Subhanahu wa ta’allah SWA Glory to Him, the exalted
44. Tiyata Tiata Operating theatre of hospital
45. Tsoho Tsh Old
46. Tugo 2go 2go
47. Tumatur 2matur Suspicion
48. Tura 2ra Send
49. Turai 2rai Europe
50. Wanzami 1zami Barber
51. Wassalamu Alaikum Wassalam Goodbye, formular for closing a letter
52. Ya Y Agreement element
53. Za Z Agreement element
54. Za ni Zan I will
55. Zuwa Zw To

These were some of the most common text message abbreviations which Hausa people use nowadays. In fact these abbreviations are used not only while texting but also in schools and colleges. Besides this, Hausa people also use lots of smiley face symbols and various other texting symbols for Face book and various other social networking sites. Sometimes, some people who are not up to date or smart, get confused as to what the sender actually means using a number of brackets and commas and full stops and various other punctuations. SMS uses single letters, numbers and pictures to represent words and phrases.
For words that have no common abbreviation, users most commonly remove the vowels from a word, and the reader is required to interpret a string of consonants by re-adding the vowels. The reader must interpret the abbreviated words depending on the context in which it is used, as there are many examples of words or phrases that use the same abbreviations. SMS language does not always obey or follow standard grammar, and additionally the words used are not usually found in standard dictionaries or recognized by language academies.

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The extensive use of abbreviations in SMS text messaging may impair our writing abilities, negatively affect our personal interactions, brings about a major change in how we use Hausa language, and will gradually kill our grammar and spelling skills.


Bargery, G.P. 1934. A Hausa-English Dictionary And English-Hausa. London: Oxford University Press.
Newman, P. and Newman, R.M. 1977. A Modern Hausa-English Dictionary. Ibadan: Oxford University Press.
Rafi, M.S. 2009. SMS Analysis: Language, Gender and Current Practices. Lahore: Department Of English Language And Literature, University Of Management & Technology.
Umar, M.M. 2012. Nazarin SaƘon GSM a Wayar Salular Hausawa. Unpublished M.A Dissertation. Sokoto: Usmanu [anfodiyo University.
Wehmeier, S. 2006. Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary. New York: Oxford University Press.

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