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Monday, 31 December 2018

LINGUISTIC BALANCED SHEET OF KYANGA: (Between Endangerment Status and Extinction)

Human languages develop alongside with the life span of their speakers. It’s the speakers that motivated its development and other wise. If they are strong, courageous, and intelligent, their language would be strong enough to be well placed and wide spread beyond their political boundaries. Less privileged languages belong to a very minority group politically marginalized and socially isolated, economically below average and educationally left behind. These are the situations critically observed by the experts to classify languages at various endangerments status. In the assessment of this essay, Kyanganci or the Kyanga language is seen as one of the…

(Between Endangerment Status and Extinction)

Aliyu Muhammad Bunza
Nigerian Languages Department
Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto

Being a paper presented at the first international conference on Endangered Languages in Nigeria in Honour and Memory of Professor M.K.M. Galadanci, organized by the Department of Linguistics, Bayero University, Kano. Theme: Endangered Languages in Nigeria: Structure, Policy and Documentation, 4th – 6th August, 2014 at Bayero University, Kano.

Human languages develop alongside with the life span of their speakers. It’s the speakers that motivated its development and other wise. If they are strong, courageous, and intelligent, their language would be strong enough to be well placed and wide spread beyond their political boundaries. Less privileged languages belong to a very minority group politically marginalized and socially isolated, economically below average and educationally left behind. These are the situations critically observed by the experts to classify languages at various endangerments status. In the assessment of this essay, Kyanganci or the Kyanga language is seen as one of the endangered species critically at the brink of extinction. It belongs to the language family of Niger-Congo branch of languages, and is spoken in the Republics of Niger, Benin and Nigeria. Arguments raised herein are reviews of Dr. Rose Jones declaration which says:
“The Kyanga people are the original inhabitants of the region where Nigeria, Niger Republic and Benin Republic meet and they continue to live in that area although the majority has ceased speaking the Kyanga language having assimilated to Hausa, Zarma, Dendi, Busa, and Boko. There are over 200,000 ethnic Kyanga living today (2011:9)”.
 Who are the Kyanga?
Kyanganci is the name of the language, while Kyangawa are the speakers or ethnic group. The termed “Kyanga” in which Kyanganci and Kyangawa is derived is a Hausanized Kyanga vocabulary which majority of the ethnic-group believed it to be Hausa. The name “Kyanga” is no doubt a Hausa pronounciation as evident in “Ky” groups in the Hausa consonants. Thus, Kyangawa and Kyanganci are the Hausa terms for the ethnic group and the language respectively.
In addition, they are also known as “Kyenga” which I assumed in the name they called themselves, unlike “Kyanga” as proclaimed by Dr. Jones, 2011. They are called Tyenga, Tienga, Changa and Tchanga, by different ethnic groups. Tienga/Tyenga/Tchanga is used in francphone countries. The Busa (Busawa) and Bokobaru called them “Kyanga” as stated by Jones, a term I believed they borrowed from Hausa language.
In my assessment of the vocabularies and the grammar of Kyanganci, it is unique, uncorrupted and never suffered any brutal colonial language policy. It possesses all necessary linguistic ingredients to be an independent language in its own right. They are proud to be Kyangawa and very proud of Kyanganci as their language. Indeed, the title given to the Kyangawa chiefs “Kyanga”, and the historical kingdom in Nigeria is “Kyangakwai”. Kyangawa has their traditional facial marks identified by the four major Clans Saaki, Siba, Kosoko and Misira. The major economic occupations are farming, fishing, salt mining, fishing traps, arms manufacturing. Noted popular hobbies are wrestling, war, spirit possession, and drinking liquor. Traditional religion animism and fetishism control the central administration until the coming of Islam and Christianity in the region.
Historical Origin:
The history is well preserved in their oral tradition and carefully monitored by the elders and ruling class. Their first settlement was said to be in Benin, at Garu then they moved to Mokasa. They were on the Island of Lele (Laata in Kyanga) near Gaya in the Benin Republic for about 1000 years. In the 17th century their Chief Kyanga Umaru converted to Islam and went to Mecca, and on his return founded a new settlement at Yelu. In another report it says Kyanga Daka founded Kyangakwai, Kyanga Umaru founded Yelou while Kyanga Dobi founded Bana.
Kyangawa Territory:
Kyangawa are found in Nigeria in the local governments of Bagudo, Dandi and Shanga in Kebbi state. In Dandi they have over twenty (20) towns/ villages, in Bagudo around eleven (11), while in Shanga only one is noted. They are found in about 19 popular towns/villages in Benin Republic and about 13 towns in Niger Republic. Their estimated population in Kebbi is around 212,500. In Benin Republic around 15,000. In Niger Republic about 70,000 (Jones, 2011) by this assessment Nigeria has the lion share of Kyangawa ethnic group in the West African region. This is the motivating factor to this review to balance the equation in the linguistic balance sheet between endangerment status and extinction.
Kyanganci Between Endangerment and extinction:
In the recent discovery of Whalen and Harrison (2000) that, the world’s 6000 distinct languages may fall into the endangerment status, by the year 2100 only half of these languages may be spoken a loss of one language every 12 days. These are the aforeseen linguistic consequences threatening many West African languages. As observed by Obahiagbon (2010:890) an endangered language is one with a weak political status, only a few users and reduced function. In contrast, Agbedo and Omeje (2010:12) assessed the endangerment status by the number of such language speakers. It is likely that Agbedo and Omeje were influenced by some experts’ claim that language is endangered if it has less than 5,000 speakers (Brenzinger, Haine and Sommer cited in Agbedo, (2010:122). Going by the experts observation, Kyanganci might have serious symptoms of endangerment in the 20th century as I observed that:
i)             Kyangawa has no strong political status in Niger and Benin Republics. Very unfortunate, their past political glory of 17th – 19th century is tremendously reduced too within Nigeria. In Dandi, Bagudo, Shanga local governments they exist only by name.
ii)            Their previously or historically occupied territories and towns are no longer under their control. In many of these prominent towns Kyangawa are no where to be found as at the year of this study (2014). Bunza was founded by Magawata Gulma Bakyange, Dakingari by Kyangawa of Fana, and Kyangakwai the political headquarters of Kyangawa. In all these places, Kyanganci as a language has completely gone. Cultural rights of Kyanganci are no where practiced. Kyanganci facial marks have long been abandoned. Kyangawa political institutions diminished in their totality.
iii)          Out of the current population estimate of the Kyangawa (200,000) in Dr. Jones assessment of 2011, as at today 2014 there is hardly ten percent of this estimate with speech capacity in Kyanganci. Kyanga speakers with Kyanga identity may not to be up to ten percent. Thus, users of Kyanganci language are very few and its function is extremely low.
iv)          Though this is still an ongoing research, but I observed that, in Nigeria speakers of Kyanganci are as few as 1,000. This number is decreasing by the day.
These are among other characteristics I observed in the present Kyanganci situation of endangerment. In the other side of the experts opinions on extinction, one may observe critical condition which the language and its cultural values and facing. Some experts/theories view extinction in the language context as follows:
i)             When children are not taught the language of the community and mortality rate among elders is high. This is the very situation of Kyanganci in the Kyangawa political chiefdom, Kyangakwai. During my visit, July, 2014 there is no single speaker in Kyangakwai, Geza, Bunza, Zogirma, Mungadi, Dakingari, Fana, Ona, Gyasharo, Shiko and the rest of villages and settlements of the ancient Kyanga ethnic group.
ii)            In most Kyangawa settlements and villages the language is not chosen as a community based language. The Kyangawa people are very few even in their own locality. Thus, its gradually extinction.
iii)          In some linguistic opinions, people that are forced out of their homes into a new settlement with different languages may fall victims of extinction. Kyangawa of Kyangakwai were forced to flee to Benin and Niger Republic. In the host communities, they met with strong indigenous languages as Hausa, Fula, Zarma, Dendi, Bisa, Busa, Bokobaru, Shanga, Gurma and Tuareg. Thus, Kyanganci in Diaspora was seriously weaken by the forces of these communities.
iv)          Social status of Kyanganci as well as the social class of its environment is another reason. In the Franphone countries, it was dominated by French and in Nigeria by English. At the community level, it was forced into extinct by Hausa. In the field of religious activities Arabic took over. In consequence, end Kyanganci was forced into extinct.
The UNESCO’S Status of Endangerment
In the UNESCO’S framework for the assessment of language vitality, 2013, the intergenerational status of languages are identified under six stages, and grouped into three sub-divisions. The stages are categorized into:
0)   Extinct
6) Critically endangered
5)   Severely endangered
4) Definitely endangered
3)   Unsafe
2) Stable yet threatened
1)   Safe
UNESCO’S assessment and question of language endangerment is not on the number of the speakers but the prospects of the language to be actively alive from one generation to another without fear of extinction. Kyanganci as a language is between the last three stages of UNESCO’S assessment (2-0). The stage is “severely endangered” reads:
“The language is spoken only by grand parents and older generations. While the payments generation may still understand the language, they typically do not speak it to their children”.

As at year 2014, the Kyanga language is said to have existed in the twelve (12) towns of Bagudo local government, only two or three villages are evidently true to declaration. The remaining ten (10) towns may be either in (1 or 0) group. The stage one of the verdict of critically endangered reads:
“The youngest speakers are in the great grand parental generation and the language is not used for everyday interactions. These older people often remember only part of the language but not to speak it since there may not be anyone to speak with”.

Kyanga ethnic group of Shanga local government and part of Niger Republic are in this category. The speakers are very few, very old and can hardly remember the relevant vocabularies with true Kyanga cultural values. To be frank, half of the vocabularies are borrowed either from Hausa, Zarma, Dendi, French or Fula. Kyanga of Niger and Benin Republic are in the stage of critical endangerment.
Zero stage reads:
“There is no one who can speak or remember the language”.

The population of Kyanga as estimated by (Jones, 2011) stated the percentage of Kyanga ethnic group in various local governments and selected villages in the following:
1)   Bunza LGA, Bunza 10%, Zogirma 5%, Raha 5%                500
2)   Suru LGA, D/gari 10%, Giro 3%, Tinifei 15%                       250
3)   Maiyama LGa, Mungadi 25%                                               150
4)   Birnin Kebbi LGA                                                                   500
5)   Niger stage, Pisa, Konkweso 5%                                         100
The estimated figures of 1000 Kyanga speakers as cited above by 2011, is at today 2014 at zero stage. After a very thorough investigation in the month of July, 2014, I discovered that, there is no a single Kyanga ethnic group who can remember any thing in the name of his languages in all the study area above.
Forces Behind The Kyanganci Endangerment:
During the first week of the research under review, I was able to visit the first ancient city of Gyangawa “Kyangakwai”. In addition, I was opportuned to contact their elders and chiefs. In the ancient city there is no person who can remember a single “Kyanga” word, let alone to construct a sentence. In the course of our discussion, I lauds my dismay for the total extinction of Kyanganci in the world most ancient city of Kyangawa as far back as the eleven century. The respondents addressed my enquires neatly as it entails:
Religious Factor:
Famous Kyanga ancestors were animist. The 19th century Jihad has very little impact (if any) on the Kyanga geopolitical zones. In addition, the decendants were very proud of their history and culture. Thus, they resisted all external aggressions by the Fulani, Askiya, Arabs and colonial forces. Their Kingdom refused to succumb to any tribal over lordship under any guise. In this view, the area was given many sort of names by the enemies and unpleasant slave dealers and merchants. It is named “Dandi” a no man’s land of ungodly people. It is sometimes called “Kufuru” the land of infidels. Muslims were advised not to learn the language because it is the language of the people in the hell fire. The Muslim Kyangawa were forced to abandon the language in the name of religion. This fabricated tale in the name of God endangered the language severely in the following context:
i)                  Muslim community (which are the majority) desist from marrying Kyangawa and Kyangawa ladies were not accepted by the Muslim community.
ii)                 Kyangawa who embraced Islam were forced to ignore their language and move to either Hausa, Zarma, Dendi or Busa.
iii)               Kyanganci became seriously restricted to the ancient Kyangawa animist land and very few Dendi and Busa who are yet to abandon their traditional religion.
iv)               Islam was in Kyanga land at least a century before its arrival in Hausaland. Kyanga Umaru was converted to Islam in the 17th century. With all these remarkable records, Kyanga converts believed in the misled statement of abandoning their language in the name of Islam. Therefore, the Muslim Kyangawa who are versed in Islam did not attempt to reduce their language into writing, for the fact that you cannot use ungodly language in writing words of God. Consequently, Kyanganci was not in the picture of Ajami writing style.
v)                The very few Kyanga children who were able to benefit from early Western education, embraced Hausa, Zarma and Dendi in writing Boko scripts. This is a second big blow to the endangerment status of Kyanganci language in the post-colonial era.
vi)               Social entertainments which are believed to be a strong antidote to the endangerment symptoms were harassed. Poetry and songs of Kyanga language are considered as abomination. Throughout the research period I was not able to get a single name of any Kyanga poet or an orator. The absence of such an important instruments of linguistic relevance is no doubt a severer endangerment status.
Political Factors:
Kyanga history is well balanced and very preserved in Kyanga oral tradition. However, Kyanga geopolitical boundaries are not as stable as the history of Kyanga. The ancient city of Kyangakwai had been alone with no supporting Kyanga villages and town around. This contributes to the extinction of Kyanganci in the city to date. The Kyanga old settlement of Bunza, was put under the territory of Gwandu in the defunct Sokoto caliphate. The moment, the language is in total extinction in Bunza, Zogirma, Dakingari, Mungadi, Birnin Kabi and Tindifai. These are all in Gwandu emirate. The Shanga in Yawuri, Shanga LGA is a sub-dialect of Kyanga of Illo district, this group is also in Pisa and Konkweso in Niger State. They were brutally colonized by the indigenous languages which lead to its extinction. In Nigerian, only in Dandi and Bagudo LGA is very little Kyanga spoken (if any). The very insignificant percentage of its speakers in Nigeria failed to get them special attention by the authority to develop the language in writing or to provide any assistance that can save the language from its critical state.
In Benin Republic, Kyanga were dominated by Busa and Dendi. In the republic of Niger, Zarma, Hausa, Adar and French posed a problem. The KYANGAWA OF Niger were treated more Kabawa of Kebbi because of the closeness and similarities in their culture and political set up. The Kyanga of Benin and Niger Republics were assimilated into the leading tribes, their language and culture partially abandoned and hence Hausanized or Zarmanized.
From the aforementioned study, we can see that the subject under review is at a severer stage of endangerment bound for extinction. The critical period encountered by Kyanga language necessitates Kyanga to assimilate with Kabawa, Zarma, Dendi, Hausa, Busa to survive the status of endangerment or else become extinct. We can read this carefully from the following points:
a)   The Kyangawa dominated towns and villages in Dandi LGA, Kebbi state are (20) none is bearing Kyanga name. 18 are Hausa names, 1 Lelna and 1 Zarma-Kyanga name.
b)   In Bagudo local government, the Kyanga twelve towns and villages are not bearing Kyanga names, 5 are Hausa names, 4 Zarma, and the remaining 3 are either Dendi or Busa.
c)   Kyangawa in existence attributed the assimilation due to the lack of strong Kyanga central administration system. Their elders and able-bodied men were pushed out of their ancestral settlements.
Kabi kingdom refused to recognize their political position. Sokoto caliphate was also hostile and they stand at the defence. The British and French colonial administration did not pay any heed to the Kyanga language and culture. Throughout the colonial epoch, Kyanga were without any written literature or documentary records of their norms and culture. They were either treated as Hausawa or Kabawa or Zarma or Dendi and sometime Busa even by the Busa chiefs.
The Result:
Certainly Dr. Ross Jones, 2011 research of Kyanga is unprecedented and perfectly conducted as cultural anthropological survey of Kyanga History, people and culture. Alas, the status of Kyanga language and its state of affairs were not given very much heed. In the review of the documents, my findings are evidently the converse to those of Dr. Ross Jones, 2011. Kyangawa were the early settlers of Dendi area, Zarma, Busa, Dendi, Kabawa, Fulani, Gobir, Lelna, and the rest were their honourable gues. The Kyanga tribal marks are the early tribal marks in the region. In Kyanga Oral tradition it was during the reign of Kyanga Manu that Kabawa borrowed the marks and adapted it as Kabanci marks with some modifications. As per the case of endangerment or extinction it is safer to accept the “endangerment” hence, very few are still bearing the name and can speak the corrupted version with extreme difficulties. It is yet to extinct.
The Kyanga language was in Dendi land since, 15th century during the region of Kyanga Daka 1526-1562, the son of Muhammadu Askiya of Shonghai empire. The records of 24 Kyangas (Chiefs) were well preserved with dates. The original record must either be in French, English or Arabic and in which ever case, Kyanga language must be used to reduce their names in writing, their histories and contributions. Barajen Yelu Zarummai Kyangakwai and Idris Alhaji Mairiga, reactivate Kyanga in ajami and Romans scripts. Kyanga Islamic scholars are reviving Kyanga in preaching and sermons. Commentary of the Holy Qur’an in Kyanga language in Ajami style is at advanced stage. If this is done through the level of endangerment might be reduced to a minimal. And the hope for its survival will therefore become very high.
·        African Union must come out with special endowment funds to address issues in African endangered languages.
·        It is evident that Kyanga does not exist but the features are very clear.
·        There is need to have a special technical committee from the state ministry of education to develop teaching aids for Kyanga language.
·        The West African Association of Kyangawa must utilize all its might to rescue the present situation of the language in a more scientific methods for the experts to get where to start.
·        Dandi, Yawuri, Shanga and Bagudo local governments should create an adult training centers of teaching native speakers of Kyanga the art of writing in roman and Arabic scripts (ajami) for the language to be saved.
·        Federal Universities in the catchment areas, tertiary institutions, research centres of cultural heritage must give the immediate first aid helping hand through workshop or in house conference on the subject.
I really appreciate Dr. Ross Jones effort in preparing Kyanga wordlist of about 428 with equivalent English meaning. This is a pointer to the real academic handling of Kyanga language. As I observed, Kyanga ceremonies, festivals, jokes, and rites of passages are gradually Hausanized and Islam is the predominant religion across the community. Kyangas are not Hausawa in culture and socialization. The little survived vocabularies need competent handling and the language is in dire need of writing system. The ancient cities of Kyanga must not ignore their ancestors and treasury of their cultures and histories in the language of their fore fathers. The very few that can speak the language must be supported and protected in the game, it is not the question of number of speakers but how well it is preserved and how best it can perform. The fewer the speakers, the better in its originality. In the UNESCO’S balance sheet, if a single speaker of a given language remains in his active speech capacity out of the millions of the native speakers, the language is still and yet to be extinct, alive active and in control of Nigeria, Niger and Benin republics borders. Kyanganci is still active on the borders of Nigeria, Niger and Benin Republics
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Jones, R. 2011. Who are the Kyanga? Website-Ross-Jones.

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overview of Isoko language”. In O. Arohunmolase (ed) Development of the minority languages in Nigeria. Ondo complete computers and educational services, pp. 60-67.

Maduka, C.T. 2005. “The Igbo in World Culture; Goodbye to
identity”. A lead paper presented at annual Congress and Conference of the Igbo studies Association held at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, September 21-24.

UNESCO Framework for the Assessment of language Vitality, 2003.
Cited in Okwudishu, 2009.

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