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Being a paper presented at the International Conference on Folklore,

National Integration and Development Organized by Bayero

University Kano, Kano State, Nigeria, on 2nd-5th April, 2013.




Hausa people have their own style of manuplating their language as other people around  the world, such as proverbs, idioms, and figure of speech, in order to express their competence to their language. The importance of proverbs can never be over emphasize, it is one of the major aspect of Hausa literature. It covers almost all human endevours such as rights of passage, birth, marriage, death, ceremonies, education, medicine, and world around their environment. In this view, the desire target of this paper is to peep through personification as a style in linguistics devices of Hausa karin magana in order to convey different messages on various aspects of their lives.


            The Hausa proverbs are sayings of wisdom coined in short sentences with high intellectual messages condensed therein. Thus, it teaches morality and peaceful co-existence in human world. It’s one of the necessary ingredient that makes language standard and efficient. Many scholars looks upon the definition of proverbs according to their best understandings.

According to Gidley (1974:76) in Bunza (2006) proverb other wise known as karin magana in Hausa, is:

“The use of words to illustrate a certain action but completely

unrelated to the literal meaning of the words just as metaphor

is the use of the words to indicate something different from the

literal meaning, so is karin magana the use of phrase to indicate

something literally different from the phrase itself”


Further more, Gidley make a literal analysis of karin magana (proverb) where he stated  that:

“Karin magana consist of noun “magana” (speech) proceeded

by verbal noun “kari”  plus genitive link “n”. Kari is a noun derived

from the verb. “Karya” is a metaphor from “fold” or told over”.

Therefore, the proverbs to be analysed are quoted in their original text and followed by their translation which are presented as literarily and technically as possible in order to retain the cultural value therein.


Every one knows what a person is, but do you know what personification is? Personification is the technique of giving a non-human human qualities such as hearing, feeling, talking, or making decisions. ( There are many reasons for using personification. It can be used as a method of describing something so that others can understand. It can be used to emphasize a point on a particular issue. Writers use personification to emphasize something or make it stand out. Personification makes the material more interesting and creates a new way to look at every day things. Examples of personification includes:

The flood waters swallowed the trees in one big gulp  (Mouth)

The printer spit out more copies than I need   (mouth)

The older car died on the side of the road   (death as human)

I could hear the wind whistling through the trees   (tongue)

In Hausa language, personification style are widely spreed in popular proverbs for several purposes, such as to emphasize something the way people can understand, or to make an expression or a lesson that one has to learn in a particular way of life. In trying to deliver all these kind of messages on a particular way of life, personification style is employed in helping proverbial messages to be louder and well expressed. Let us look to the following examples.


            This is a situation or a process where by Hausa people used  personification style in their popular proverbs to personify an animals, that is to give some characters or an attributes or a qualities specifically of human being to popular  animals in Hausaland, such as speaking, greeting, dancing, hawking, and many more. For example:

Akuya ba ta gasa da kura          

                                    A goat shall not compete with a hyena

Traditionally by Hausas, there’s a serious dispute between a goat and a hyena in the sense that a goat can not stay even nearby a hyena let alone to compete with her in either way. To compete, is to try to be more successful or better than somebody else who is trying to do the same as you is among the attributes of human being not an animal. In a nutshell, this Hausa proverb is trying to explain the total difference between two people or things that are not the same or have different status, qualities or position, or one is better than the other in either ways.

                                    Karambanin akuya gai da kura

 Officiousness of a goat to greet a hyena

As stated above, there’s no peace between goat and hyena. Therefore it’s officious for a goat to greet a hyena despite knowing the existing dispute between them. In this proverb, we have two attributes of human being given to animal (a goat) that is “officiousness & greeting”. Greeting is is one of the common attribute or character of human being when they meet each other to entertain themselves. While officiousness is also an attributes of human being where by a person trying to engage in what does not concern him or not ask to do. Therefore, by this personification in the proverb Hausas are trying to emphasize that some one should not engage himself in what does not concern him or what he is not ask to do especially that would cause trouble to him.

Masallacin kura ba a bai wa kare limanci

  Hyena’s mosque dog shall not be assign to lead a devotions

As earlier mentioned, Hausa people beleived with the existence of misunderstand  between goat and hyena, like wise between dog and hyena. So, there’s no way a dog can perform any task in hyena’s environment without  threaten his life. As we all know,  mosque is own by a human (muslims), likewise a lead of devotions is part of the activities of worship by a muslims. Therefore, the personification in the proverb is trying to express on choosing a quality and competent leader that can serve or discharge his responsibilities assign to himby his people.


Ganin gida kare kan zagi kura

Been at home dog abusing hyena

Abusing is inhumanity and is among the characters of human being given to a dog in the proverb. Dog could not come even nearby a hyena let alone to abuse him. He can only do that with the protection been at home. The Hausas applied this human character to animal in the proverb in trying to explain on how some people used to maltreat others when they are in higher position. This is usually happening in this political era in Nigeria where by some people maltreat those that are having existing family or inter-group dispute before taking into one position.

Abin mamaki, kare da tallar tsire

A surprising thing, dog hawking a spit meat

Hawking is a character of human being where by a person is trying to sell things by going from place to place asking people to buy them. Therefore, it’s a surprising thing to see a dog hawking on the road side asking people to buy a spit meat. However, the proverb is expressing that most of the time a strange  incidences used to happen  that could not be  emerging to occur in our daily life. Moreover, some people used to do what they are not expected or emerging to do. So, if these kind of strange incidences happened mostly people used to be made very surprise.


As discussed earlier, birds were among the popular creatures that are found almost every where around the world. In this context, Hausa people used to personify some popular birds around their environment in their regular proverbs, that is giving them some qualities or characters of human being. For example:

Karambanin kaza auren mazuru

Officiousness of hen, marrying a male cat

Two qualities of human being in this proverb were given to a hen, that is officiousness and marriage. The Hausa tradition beleived that a male cat is always in threaten with hen’s life. In most cases a male cat used to engage in raiding hens especially the young ones in the night. Therefore, the technical meaning or interpretation of the personification in the proverb is that, a person  should not delibrately engage himself in any risk or danger despite fully aware of the negetive consequence.

[an kaza na yi wa }wai dariya

                A young hen laughing for an egg

The word Laughing therein is an attribute of human being given to a hen. A young hen is not surpas  to laugh for an egg because they are from the same background. What Hausas are trying to analyse by this personification style in the proverb is that, a person in a key position should not under-rate or disgrace  any less previllage because one day one time they might also be in the same key position with you or even pass your position.

Cin dank'o har da su kaza

Eating gum includes even the hen

This proverb has personify a hen with eating gum which is certainly among the qualities of human being especially women. The personification style therein is trying to interprete that every one can get opportunity in life whether a poor or a less previllage. That is why a hen get an opportunity to eat gum.

Ranar bukin farar kaza, balbela ba gayya ce ba

The ceremonial day of a white hen, heron shall be present

                                                      even without invitation

Ceremony is a situation where by people meet together to share happiness to their love ones. But this character were given to bird in order to express the importance of unity and cordial relationship between Hausa people. They should also bear in mind that whatever happen to your collegues either positive or negetive had touches all of you, thereby uniting together for solution to progress.




In this aspect of personification in the proverb is where by fish were given some attributes or qualities of human being like speaking, ruling, competition, in order to express  a message on a particular way of life.

Kifin fadama ba ya gasa da na gulbi

A fish in the pond shall not compete

           with the one in the river

The two fish stated in the proverb are uncomparable because they live in two different environment. The fish living in the pond is just like it’s living in a jail having boundaries at all angles, therefore should not be compete with the one living in the river having a freedom of going all round without sanction of boundaries like the former. Hausas used this personification style between the two fish in order to express the difference between two person or things that are completely uncomparable, or to show that one is better than the other in either ways.

Zama wuri ]aya tsotsayi, in ji kifi

     To stay in one place is accidental, says fish

            The above proverb shows that a fish make a statement that it’s accidental for staying in one place, which we beleived that only human being can speak or talk on a particular issue. The reason why fish make this statement is that, it can be easily catch when staying in one place, that is why  it’s  always going round looking for food and refreshing. This proverb is telling us that some one should be committed in doing something beneficiary to his progress not to be idle or  dormant in life.

Kifi a ruwa sarki ne

Fish in the river is a king

Fish can be a king in the river since could not be directly catch  without using a clever method to deceive him,  such as by using net, hook, and other fishing methods. This personification of fish in the proverb is just to explain that every one is a leader in his position. A father is a leader to his family, likewise a master is a leader to his subordinate.

Idan kifi ya fito daga ruwa ya ce

idon kada guda ne, wa ke musu?

If a fish comes out from a river and said

                             Crocodile has one eye, who would argue?

To make an explanation on a particular issue is among the attributes of human being. Both fish and crocodile are living in the same environment, therefore they can tell more about one another. If this is so, the personification therein is trying to explain that when two or more people are living together one can testify for others on many issues concerning their lives affairs.



            Insects are any creatures with six legs and a body divided into three parts. In this context, we are going to discuss on how Hausa people used to personify an insects by given them some qualities or characters of human being for the purpose of delivering an information or message on many issues concerning their lives.

                Gyangya]in kunama kowa ya ta~a ya sha kashi

A slumber of a scopion he who touches would feel the pain

As we all know, slumber is an attribute of human being given to a scopion. The personification in the proverb  is  explaining how dangerous and painful of a sting of scopion is. However, the personification in the proverb is trying to explain that there are some  people that are physically simple  but they don’t tolerate any nonsense and disgrace in life.



            In conclusion, it must be stressed that Hausa proverbs are expression of their conception of themselves, of their values and of their attitudes to life through using personification style of various creatures living around their environment. The personification in the proverb cited can also carry other meanings than or different meanings from the ones given when analyse. It is my hope that the study will stimulate further research on the study of Hausa oral literature generally.


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