Metrical Shift and Substitution as a Phonological Processes in Hausa Written Poems

Cite this article as:Fagge, S.I. (2023). Metrical Shift and Substitution as a Phonological Processes in Hausa Written Poems. Tasambo Journal of Language, Literature, and Culture,(2)2, 94-105. www.doi.org/10.36349/tjllc.2023.v02i02.011.

Sabi’u Inuwa Fagge (Ph.D.)

Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages 
Nigeria Police Academy Wudil, Kano. 
+2348065462255, +2348175462255


The paper is concerned with linguistic analysis of the poetic meters used in composing some of the Hausa written poems. Phonological processes were the focus in the analysis, viz. Metrical Shift and Substitution. Basically the Khalilian system of feet and meter will be maintained as a background of study and analysis; hence the poem is composed via the Khalilian system. However, the approach to use in the analysis will involve the theory of Metrical phonology formulated by Libermann and Prince (1975/77). The paper also presents a model for the study, as laid down by the theory, in addition to different phonological processes that are found to exist in the system. It also points out some metrical features of Hausa written poems that are not applicable to Khalilian model, such as the use of two single mora / v v / in place of double mora /– /, use of two or more closed syllables in the same position (foot) / – – – / or / – – – – /etc. The study found that, some moraic (single or double) in the metrical foot tend to change shape and position within or between the foot/feet, although maintaining the number of mora per foot/hemistich, which results in having the Metrical Shift or Substitution within the foot/feet or hemistich. This indicates that, different phonological processes can be accommodated in the analysis via the application of linguistic approach to the study of written poems.

Keywords: Written poems, Phonological process, Metrical Shift, Substitution


The basic system of versification in Hausa is the fundamental pattern of the number of syllables (light and heavy) to the line of the verse and the arrangement of these syllables sequentially forming a foot; hence iambic and trochaic foot, which forms the beats and half beat in a hemistich of a stanza, pronounced repeatedly either with greater or lesser degree of energy (emphasis). In Hausa, the verses are formed from the combination of the same or varying feet, by the varying number of syllables per line and by the constant alternation of varying syllables in definite recurring sequences within each line of stanza. In addition, it was assumed that, Hausa poets uses the structure of Arabic feet and meters as formulated by Khaliil Al – Farahidi 748 Hijra (1326 AD), which was based on the poetic structure of Arabic sound system in composing their poems. However, they use a sequence of two or more same syllable structure(s) in a foot that is not applicable in the Khalilian model. This system in Hausa can bregarded as variance of the same foot structure in the Khalilian system, despite the fact that some features that are similar to Arabic system may found to occur in Hausa systems.

The metrical feet are arranged linearly in a systematic form in individual stanza (i.e. couplet, triplet, quadruplet or quintuplet). These sequences of arrangement are repeated throughout the number of stanza of the poem (cf. Galadanci, 1975, Junaidu, 1981, Schuh, 1988, 1995a).

For this, it shows that the art of composing a written poem is systematic, based on a laid down format. It was on this standard different scholars gave the meaning of written poems as:

According to Sa’id (1983/85) Poetry is;

“an artistic composition of words arranged in a special form by

 the observation of certain rules”.

Other scholars that gave the meaning of poetry are Mukhtar (2005), Ɗangambo (2008b), Junaidu, & ‘Yar’aduwa (2007) and host of others.

For Mukhtar (2005:2) he describes it as:

            “Rubutacciyar waƙa wata hanya ce ta gabatar da wani saƙo

a cikin ƙayyadaddun kalmomi da aka zaɓa waɗanda ake rerawa

a kan kari da ƙafiya a cikin baitoci”

Meaning, “Poetry is a way of presenting some information (message) using selected words which is sung on rhythm and rhyme in line of a stanza.”

In another contribution Ɗangambo (2008b) says:

“Waƙa wani saƙo ne da aka gina shi a kan tsararriyar ƙa’ida ta baiti, ɗango, rerawa, kari (bahari), amsa amo (ƙafiya) da sauran ƙa’idojin da suka shafi daidaita kalmomi, zaɓensu da amfani da su cikin sigogin da ba lalle ne haka suke a maganar baka ba[1]”.

It means “A Poetry is a kind of message composed in an organized system of the stanza, rhythm, metre, rhyme, and other rules in relation to lexical agreement, their selection and usage in a structure that are not necessarily the same as in normal speech”. 

While Junaidu, & ‘Yar’aduwa (2007:123) gave their version as:

“Waƙa magana ce aunanniya kuma abin rerawa.”

Meaning, “Poetry is a systematic structured mode of speech which is sung.”

From the above definitions it is understood that, in Hausa context, Poetry refers to written verse which is called ‘Rubutacciyar Waƙa’, composed by a poet in a systematic structure by observing certain rules, such as syllable structure, foot/feet, matrons, metre, stanza, rhyme etc.

In the course of their performance (i.e. composing in accordance with the standard), Hausa poets adopted the use of this model (Khalil) in composing their written poems, so as to maintain the structural format of written poems. Although the two sound systems vary, this definitely results in some modifications on the based model (i.e. the Arabic sound system) to be in concord with Hausa sound system, due to the fact that the sound systems of Arabic will not be the same with that of Hausa language.

Due to such variations, Hausa written poems presents some features that are not in the adopted model (i.e. Khalilian), though maintaining the number of mora per hemistich, thus; Metrical Substitution and Shift’. 

As the prosodic study of a written poem looks at the structure and the composition of the written poem from the minimal unit of the poem (i.e. syllables) to the larger one (i.e. prosodic phrase) or hemistich, this paper will focus on revealing some variant features of Hausa written poem with that of Arabic, though adopting the Arabic model. Hence new approach i.e. ‘theory of Metrical Phonology’ will lead the analysis in the paper.

The Khalilian Model (Arabic Model)

According to Harakaat (2002:12), in combining the stem and the affixes in forming a poetic foot, there are some rules which need to be considered or complwith, so that the structure of the foot may not deviate from its laid down rules and form. This involves the criterion designed by the system in forming the foot, by combining the stem (watd) with either the light or heavy affixes (sabab). The rules to consider in forming Arabic poetic foot/feet are as follows:

a.       The system does not permit two ‘close (heavy) syllables’ to come together in a poetic foot, i.e. /cvccvc/, although, a close /cvc/ and open heavy /cvv/ syllable may come together in Arabic system which are all referred to as double mora in prosodic system.

b.      ‘Four independant open (light) syllables’ i.e. /cv1cv2cv3cv4/ may not be in the same position in a poetic foot.

c.    It is not possible for the ‘two identical light syllables’ to appear at the initial or medial position of a foot, except for Khalilian foot number three (3) ‘Mufaa’alatun’ / v – v v – /, where ‘asbii’ deviation is found to affect it (i.e. merging the two independant light syllables to become one single heavy syllable), i.e. (v – v v – v ) becomes [v –  –  – ].

d.      The sequence of ‘three or more heavy syllables’ will not appear in the same poetic foot.


The Theory of Defects and Deviation in Khalilian Model

Apart from the thirteen (13) meters mentioned, Galadanci (1975) also maintained that the issues of Deviation (i.e. some adjustment or changes that occur freely in the feet without restrictions) and Defect (i.e. those that occur in the stem of the feet), that exist in Arabic metrical system (Khalilian model) are also found in Hausa poems.

The Deviations are the changes that are found in the affixes of the feet only, and may occur once throughout the poem.  

The Deviations known as Zihafat in Arabic are of two types, i.e. (i) Simple and (ii) Compound deviations. 

The Simple deviation occurs individually in the foot, while the compound one is the combination of two simple deviations that occur in a single foot.

Simple deviations are of nine types, namely: HabniiIlmaariiWaqasiiƊayyiiƘabliiAsbiiAƙaliiKaffii and Ta’aliiƙii.

1. Habnii: This involves deletion of the second mora in the second part of the first long/heavy syllable which becomes short, i.e. 00  00 0  00        0 00 0 00 or (–  – v – becomes v – v – ). This type of deletion occurs in foot 5, 6, 7, 9 and 10 respectively.

2. Ilmaarii: This deviation occurs only in the Khalilian foot number 8. It involves joining the second independent short mora of the short syllable to the first short mora which becomes long/heavy syllable, i.e. v v – v – becomes – – v – (0  0 00 0 00         00 00 0 00).

3. Waqasii: As in (2) above, it occurs in foot number 8 only. Here it involves the deletion of the second independent short mora, which makes it to have only first single short mora (syllable) instead of two, i.e. v v – v – becomes v – v – or  (0 0 00 0 00       0 00 0 00).

4. Ɗayyii: This involves the deletion of the fourth mora of the second part of long/heavy syllable, i.e. – – v – becomes –  v  v  – (00  00 0 00     00 0 0 00),  and this occurs in foot number 6, 8, and 9.

5. ƙablii: Here it is the fifth mora of the second part of the long/heavy syllable that is deleted which becomes short, i.e.  – v – – becomes – v v –  (00 0 00 00      00 0 0 00)It appears only in foot number 1, 2, and 4.

6. Asbii: This is a situation where the fifth independent mora is joined to the fourth mora to change two short syllables to long/heavy syllable, i.e. v  –  v  v  –  becomes v  –  –  –  (0  00  0  0  00        0  00  00  00) and this occurs only in foot 3.

7. Aƙalii: Here it is the fifth independent mora that is deleted, i.e. v – v v – becomes v – v – (0 00 0 0 00        0 00 0 00)It also occurs only in foot 3.

8. Kaffii: It is the second part of the long syllable of the seventh mora that is deleted becoming short, i.e. – v  –  –  becomes –  v  –  v (00 0 00 00       00 0 00 0). It appears in foot number 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10 respectively.

9. Ta’aliiƙii: For Ta’aliƙi, it involves adding one independent mora at the beginning of the foot irrespective of the position of its stem. For this, as in foot number 9, / – – – v becomes [v – – – v (00 00 00 0       0  00  00  00 0).

Although these deviations according to Al - Hashimy (1997) in his book title “Mizanul Zahabi fi Sina’atul Shi’ril Arabi” are eight (8) not nine (9), i.e. all the first eight, without the Ta’aliqi as indicated by Galadanci (1975).

The Compound deviations are: HabliiHazliiShakalii and Naƙasii, which are described below:

1. Hablii: Is the co – occurrence of Habnii and Ɗayyi in the same foot.

2. Hazlii: It is the Ilmaarii and Ɗayyi that occur in the same foot.

3. Shakalii: Here Habnii and Kaffi co-occur in the same foot.

4. Naƙasii: It involves the co-occurrence of Asbii and Kaffi in the same foot.

Therefore, from Galadanci’s study, it was clearly indicated that out of the nine (9) different deviations only five (5) are found to partake in the formation of compound deviation, i.e. the Ilmaari, ƊayyiHabniiKaffi and Asbii respectively. The remaining four (4) are restricted to simple deviations, thus; WaƙasiiƘabliiAƙalii and the Ta’aliiƙi respectively.

            As for the Defect (Illa in Arabic), Galadanci indicates that, its equivalence is also found in Hausa poems. These defects involves changes in the foot, which if found in one position of the foot, it appears in the same position in the entire poem, not like the deviation which may not be repeated elsewhere in the poem. Also the defects are of two types; namely Defects of Addition and that of Omission.

(a) Defects of addition that are found to exist in Hausa written poems are:

i. Tarfiilii: This involves adding long/heavy syllable at the end of the foot.

ii. Tazyiilii: It involves extending/adding to the last short syllable of foot 9 to become long/heavy syllable.

(b) Defects of Omissions that are found to exist in Hausa written poems are:

i. HazfiiIt is the deletion of the last two mora (long/heavy syllable) that is not part of the stem of the foot. This can affect foot 1, 2, 3, 4, 7 and 10. 

ii. Ƙaɗafii: It is the combination of Hazfii (i above) and the Asbii in the same foot. It affects foot 3.

iii. Ƙaɗa’ii: It is the deletion of third mora of the stem of the foot and joined the second to the first becoming long/heavy syllable. It may affect feet 5, 6, 7 and 8.

iv. Batarii: This is the combination of Ƙaɗa’ii and Hazfii in the same foot, as it may affect foot 7.

v. Kashafii: It is the deletion of the seventh short independent mora which affect only foot 9.

However, one of the conflicting issues with Khalilian Defect and Deviation system is that; for the defect, it says that ‘once it occurs in a foot in a position, it must occur in the same position throughout the poem. Example, is the ‘Kaɗafii’ defect. Hence this will make it difficult to identify the original foot/metre of a poem, as it changes the entire structure of the foot/metre into another one.

Hausa Metric System

Schuh (1995a:1) has this to say; “Studies on Hausa metrics have generally consisted of cataloging poems as being in one metre or another on canonical recurrent syllable patterns.

A number of scholars have conducted several studies and analyses on Hausa written poems (thus; metrical system). A considerable number of these scholars based their analysis on Khalilian theory (Arabic model), which they regard as a predominant feature of the 19th century Hausa poems, such as Greenberg (1949), Hiskett (1975), Galadanci (1975), Sani (1978), Sa’id (1983/85) etc. While few amongst them take another perspective in their analyses by applying some linguistic theories in their attempt to analyse Hausa written poem such as Junaidu (1981), Schuh (1988/89, 1988, 1995a&b) Zulyadaini (2003), Bello (2013) and Fagge (2016) respectively.

Greenberg (1949) being the first to conduct study on Hausa metric discovered that Hausa poets borrowed a quantitative feature of Arabic poems to compose theirs. This he find out that three meters were adopted by Hausa poet, i.e. Waafir, Kamiil and Mustatil. This was due to the use of short and long vowels features in Hausa.

Hiskett (1975) in addition to what has been discovered by Greenberg, observed that, the poems written by Jihadist in their effort to propagate Islam in Hausa land were written in ten out of the sixteen Arabic meters, these are; Basid, Kamiil, Hafiif, Mutadaarak, Mutaqaarab, Rajaz, Ramal, Sarii, Ɗawiil and Waafir respectively. This shows that Hiskett (1975) discovers additional eight meters.

Galadanci (1975) In his paper titled, “The Poetic Marriage between Arabic and Hausa”. Galadanci (1975) showed that Hausa poems have similarity with Arabic poems in terms of; The ten (10) foot structure (i.e. the combination of various long and short syllables) which both Hausa and Arabic poets use in their poetry. The ten feet are:

1.       Fa’uulun                                     –    (o  oo  oo)

2.       Mafaa’iilun                             v –  –  –  (o  oo  oo  oo)

3.       Mafaa’alatun                          v – v v – (o  oo  o  o  oo)

4.       Faa’ilaatun                             –  v –  –  (oo  o  oo  oo)

5.       Faa’ilun                                   –        (oo  o  oo)

6.       Mustaf’ilun                             –  –    (oo  oo  o  oo)

7.       Faa’ilaatun                             –     – (oo  o  oo  oo)

8.       Mutafaa’ilun                          v v – v – (o o  oo  o  oo)

9.       Maf’uulaatu                           –  –  –  v (oo  oo  oo  o)

10.   Mustaf’ilun                             –  –  v  – (oo  oo  o oo)[2]

            These ten (10) feet are repeated several times or combined together with another foot to form a particular metre of a poem. This brings the formation of sixteen (16) different Arabic meters, out of which some were found to be similar to that of Hausa poems.


He further observed that, there are thirteen (13) combinations of these feet making up the thirteen Arabic Meters that are applicable to Hausa poems, i.e. these thirteen Arabic meters can be adopted in the analysis of Hausa poems. This include among others two out of the three meters already discovered by Greenberg (1949), thus, WaafirKaamil and Mustaɗil, and nine out of the ten discovered by Hiskett (1975), thus; WaafirKaamilBasiiɗHafiifMutadaarakMutaƙaarabRajazRamalƊawiil, and Sarii. Galadanci (1975) also discovered additional four which are, MadiidHajazMunsarih and Muƙtalib.


With this additional metres discovered by Galadanci (1975), makes the number of Arabic meters that are applicable to analysis of Hausa poetry to thirteen which are; WaafirKaamilBasiiɗHafiifMutadaarakMutaƙaarabRajazRamalƊawiilMadiidHajazMunsarih, and Muƙtalib.

Each of the above thirteen meters consists of the repetition of the same or different foot of the ten feet for their formation.

Conclusively, Galadanci (1975) indicated that, the similarity found between Hausa and Arabic poems may be by chance or by design, hence; a ‘poetic marriage’.

However, there are some issues relating to meters and the constraints (i.e. defects and deviation) which the author could not be able to indicate whether a similar case is found in Hausa poetic metre. These are the SariiMudarii and Mujtath meters, and as well as QasarTash’iisiHazaz and Waqaf defects respectively.


The Theory of Metrical Phonology

Hammond (1995), in his paper titled “Metrical Phonology,” stated that:

“Metrical theory is a branch of phonology that posits a hierarchical structure to represent stress patterns in the mind of speakers (Hammond 1995: 313).


Liberman & Prince (1975/1977: 249 – 336) on ‘Metrical phonology’ –stated that:

“the properties of stress are not to be referred primarily to the properties of individual segments (or syllables), but rather reflect a hierarchical rhythmic structuring that organizes the syllables, words and syntactic phrases of a sentence.”

In each linguistic expression, there are two types of hierarchical organization involved, taking segment as the starting point. These hierarchical organizations are the (a) Morpho – syntactic hierarchy and (b) phonological hierarchy. The former involves a situation where segments are organized into morphemes, morphemes into words, words into phrases etc., while the latter involves a situation where segments are grouped into syllables, syllables into foot and feet into (phonological) words.

From the above explanation of what Metrical phonology is all about in relation to the phonological hierarchy; one can deduce that the theory deals with the following issues:



(a)    Syllable structure and its metrical interpretation,

(b)   Word-tree formation and the stress assignment and,

(c)    The structure of the foot/feet in the phonological domain.


Furthermore, we can deduce that Metrical phonology as a theory is mainly concerned with organizing segments into groups of relative prominence. Segments are organized into syllables, syllables into metrical feet, feet into phonological words and words into larger unit.


The prominence relations between syllables are defined by a (binary branching) tree, where the two branches from a node are labeled as dominant (S = strong) and recessive (W = weak) in their relation to each other. Illustratively is indicated as follows: [aiki] (work) = (CVV/CV)


Foot:                            F

MP:                    S                W

                        ?ai                 ki (work)


Four (quasi – independent) choices (are assumed to) determine the stress patterns that (appear to) to exist in natural languages: -


1.       Right dominant foot vs. Left dominant foot languages.

2.       Bounded vs. Unbounded – stress.

3.       Left to right vs. Right to left stress assignment.

4.       Quantity sensitive vs. Quantity insensitive languages (Hulst: 1995).


The Analysis

The metrical structure of the poems to be treated in the analysis were composed via the Khalilian model, which comprises of the sequence of heavy (CVV/CVC) and light (CV) syllables system in either iambic or trochaic foot. The ‘__’  or ‘VV’ is used to indicate heavy syllable as double mora while ‘V’ is indicating light syllable as single mora. This is in line with the beat and measure system. (see Fagge 2016: 50)

‘Beats = long syllables, half beat = short syllables, i.e. beats = – , ½beats = v.’

‘Measure = Khalilian foot, i.e. Fa’uulun, Mafaa’iilun e.t.c, = v –  – , v –  –  –.’

In contrast to Khalilian system which describes “metre” as a sequence of foot types, ‘Beat and Measure” system, defines the metre by the number of beats per measure”. For example, as cited by Schuh (1988):  

                        (5)        a. Gar – ga – ɗii mai baa da tsoo roo,

                   –      v       –    –  /  –    v     –     –

b. Nai nu fii da ha nii da hoo roo.

       –     v   –    v/  –   v     –     –

A warning that firghtened,

I intend to forbid and command.

With the application of the beats and measure system, this will indicate that in (5a) there are seven half beats (v = half beat), while in (5b) after maintaining this (7 ½beats), vv substitute – as in (5a), which is not allowed in Khalilian system.

Therefore, in our analysis, the beats and measure system will be maintained so as to indentify the number of beats and half beat per foot/hemistich. This will clearly indicate where the phonological process of metrical shift/substitution occurs.

Metrical Shift in written poems

Metrical shift as the name implies, is a movement or exchange of a prosodic unit(s) (i.e. mora) between the adjacent feet in the hemistich of a metre. This is achieved on condition that, the number of mora per hemistich (OMP[3]) is maintained, although reduced by the number of moving unit in the foot concerned. Furthermore, it is referred to as ‘metrical shift’, due to the fact that it involves the movement of a prosodic unit(s) between adjacent feet in a sequence. However, where the movement is within the same foot, this is referred as “substitution” (cf. substitution in Fagge (2016:148).

Similarly, the movement (shift) could either be:

(1) Forward Metrical Shift: This involves moving a prosodic unit (mora) to a position of a preceding foot in the sequence.

(2) Backward Metrical ShiftThis involves moving a prosodic unit (mora) from a preceding foot to a position of a preceded foot in the sequence.

(3) Closed Metrical Shift: (i.e. between neighboring feet)This is a movement in between two neighboring feet.

(4) Distant Metrical Shift: (i.e. it overlaps with a foot in between): Here the movement is between the overlapping feet in the sequence of hemistich.

This process of metrical shift can be exemplified in the poem of Shehu Usmanu Xan Fodiyo titled: “Gargaɗi da Tsoratarwa”.

The poem is composed in ‘Mutadarak’ metre, which comprises Khalilian foot no. 5 (Faa’ilun = –  v – /) repeated three to four times per hemistich (i.e. 5 + 5 + 5 (+ 5) - is optional). This shows that the foot has five mora in its constituents.

(6).      1. A mu goodee Allah ‘yan uwaa,

     v    v     – / –    –  – /   –    v    –      

    Mun saamoo babbas saamuwaa.

        –     –     – /  –    – /  –     v    –


11.   Da tuwoo da miyaa naamaa furaa,

       v   v    –    v /v   –     – /   –   v   

     Noonoo ingarmaa don hawaa.

         –   –    – / –    – /  –     v    –




43     Ƙoofar zaalummai koo masau,                

                     –   –    – / –      – /  –     v   

     Bigiren saaɓaanii bar zuwaa.

                    v v –      –/ –    –/ –    v     –


51.    Allaahu Shi baa mu shigaa nasa, 

     –    –    v/ v    –      v    v/–    v  v

     Da ganii nasa aamin muu kawaa.

        v  v   –  v/v   –   –  /    –     v    

(Sa’id 1978a: 29 – 32)

1. We should thank Allah oh you brothers,               We’ve reaped a great benefit.

11. With Porridge and Soup, Meat and Gruel,                      Milk and giant Horse for riding.

43. Avoid visiting the door of tyrants,                                   Or site of who opt for conflicts.

51. May Allah grant us entrance into it,                                And seeing Him, all of us, amen.

By observing this poem, we can see movements of some metrical positions in between feet in the sequence. The first hemistich of line (1) experiences close forward metrical shift, where a prosodic unit is shifted from the initial position of the first foot in the sequence, to the medial position of the second foot, i.e. / vv v – / – v – / – v – / changed to /vv – / –  – / – v – /. In this movement, it is the single mora /v/ of the initial position (½beats) that is moved and attached to the medial single mora of the preceding foot in the sequence, forming a double mora / – /. However, even with the movement, the number of mora per hemistich is still maintained, i.e. (15).

Furthermore, the second hemistich of line (1) experiences a ‘close backward metrical shift’ between 1st and 2nd foot of the sequence, where the movement is from the 2nd foot to the 1st in the sequence (backward) in which it was the single mora ‘v’ of the node that is being shifted and attached to that of the preceding node of the first foot.

For line 11 in the 2nd hemistich and 1st hemistich of line 43 of the example, it is a ‘close backward metrical shift’ between 1st and 2nd foot of the sequence.

Another example of the Metrical Shift can be seen from the poem of Isan Kware Ɗan Shehu titled: “Tuna Mutuwa”The metre of the Poem is Mutadaarak5 + 5 + 5(+5 optional), i.e.( – v – / – v – / – v – /(– v –)) and reads as follws:

(7).   2. A mu zam ka yaboo bisa Mai samaa,            

      v          v/       v v/   –        

Yaa aikoo Baaban Faaɗimaa,

   –       –  /    –  /  –      

Addiinin Allah an gamaa,                             

 –        /   – / –       

A mu zam ka salaatii sallamaa,

    v         /v  –   /–      

            Ga Fiyayyee Ahmadu Ɗaahirii.

               v  v   –      /–      v / –    v  


8.       Don Allah mu bar aikin haram,

    –      – /         /     

Mutuwaa in taa zoo sai nadam,

     v    /–    –   –  /      v    


In jaa kake in dangin ajam,                            

 –   –   v/ v  –   – / –    v  –   

Lotton zakuwatta ga ‘yan adam,

   –  –    v/ v   –   v   v /  –   v   –

Aka iskee dut daɗa sun karii.

 v  v           v v / –     –              (Sa’id 1978a: 327 – 8)


1.    We should praise the Almighty Allah,                 He sent the Father of Faxima,

Allah’s religion is complete,                      We should seek for Allah’a peace and blessings,

On the exalted Ahmad an immaculate.

8.    For Allah’s sake we abstain from an ilicit act,                   For a demise when it comes then a rue.

An Arab you are or non – Arabs,                           For when it reach every human,

Is to find everyone has finished.       

When we look at the structure of ‘Mutadaarak’ metre (which is the metre of the poem) and the structure displayed by the poem, it reveals movements of some units (metrical positions) in between feet in the sequence. The second and third hemistich of line (2experience close backward metrical shift, where a single prosodic unit /v/ is shifted from the medial position of the second foot in the sequence to the medial position of the first foot, i.e. / – v – / – v – / – v – / becomes /–    – / – – / – v – /. In this movement it is the single mora /v/ of the medial position that is moved and attached to the single mora of the preceding foot in the sequence forming a double mora / – /. However, even with the movement, the number of mora per hemistich is still maintained, i.e. (15).

However, in the fifth hemistich of line 2 and 8, the movement here is from the last double mora of the second foot, where a single mora is shifted to the position of the substituted single mora of the first foot in the hemistich, i.e. / – v – / – v – / – v – / changed to / v   /  v  /  v  / (meaning there is substitution in the first foot), and then, / v   /  v  /  v  / changed to / v v   /  v v/  v  /.

Furthermore, in the second hemistich of line (8), the shifting is a close forward metrical shift between 1st and 2nd foot of the sequence, where the movement is from the 1st to the 2nd foot in the sequence (forward). That is,

(8)                              Mutuwaa in taa zoo sai nadam,

        v  v    /–    –   –   /     v  

This can be illustrated as;/    v   /  v  /  v  / becoming / v v  /      /  v  / as a result of metrical shift between adjacent foot, i.e. from first to second foot in the sequence, thus;  Forward Closed Metrical Shift’.

Metrical Substitution in written poems

Substitution involves a replacement of one unit or sequence of units by another in the process of using the language. According to Matthews (1997:361), ‘Substitution’ is defined as a “replacement” of one unit or sequences of units by another”.

In prosodic context, it involves substitution of a prosodic unit (mora) with another unit at different intervals within a particular metrical foot. However in substitution, the number of mora per foot is maintained even if the substituted form differs from its original feature. Substitution of a unit or sequence of units in poetic foot/feet can be exemplified in the following Hausa written poems:

We can have an example of Substitution from the poem of Shehu Usmanu titled: “Gargaɗi da Tsoratarwa”.

The poem is in ‘Mutadaarak’ metre, which involves a sequence of foot no. 5 (Faa’ilun = / – v – /) repeated three to four times per hemistich (i.e. 5 + 5 + 5 (+ 5) - is optional) (see Sa’id 1978a:29- ).

(9).      1. A mu goodee Allah ‘yan uwaa,

     v    v     – / –    –  – /   –    v    –      

    Mun saamoo babbas saamuwaa.

        –     –     – /  –    – /  –     v    –


11.   Da tuwoo da miyaa naamaa furaa,

       v   v    –    v /v   –     – /   –   v   

     Noonoo ingarmaa don hawaa.

         –   –    – / –    – /  –     v    –


43     Ƙoofar zaalummai koo masau,                

                     –   –    – / –      – /  –     v   

     Bigiren saaɓaanii bar zuwaa.

                    v v –      –/ –    –/ –    v     –


51.    Allaahu Shi baa mu shigaa nasa, 

     –    –    v/ v    –      v    v/–    v  v

     Da ganii nasa aamin muu kawaa.

        v  v   –  v/v   –   –  /    –     v    


1. We should thank Allah oh you brothers,   We’ve reaped a great benefit.

11. Porridge and Soup, meat and gruel,                    Milk and uncastrated horse for riding.

43. Avoid visiting the door of tyrants,                       Or site of who opt for conflicts.

51. May Allah grant us entrance into it,                    And sighting Him, all of us, amen

By examining the individual foot in the sequence, it is observed that, in line 11 and 51 of the example, there are substitutions in different positions within the foot.

For easy identification of the process (substitution) and the positions affected, we assign numbers to a corresponding positions (MP[4]) of the foot as 1, 2, 3, (i.e. – = 1, v = 2, and – = 3).

Therefore, in line 11 and 51, the 1st and 2nd foot of the sequence were all affected by substitution in between positions within the foot. That is to say, in line 11 of the poem, the 1st foot in the sequence experienced substitution between the metrical positions within the foot as: / -1 v2 -3 / substituted to /-1 -3 v2/, (i.e. 1,2,3 to 1,3,2) which is metrically represented as / – v – / substituted with  / – – v /. However, in the 2nd foot it is / -1 v2 -3 / to /v2 -1 -3/ (i.e. 1 2 3 to 2 1 3) represented metrically as / – v – / substituted with / v –  – /. Furthermore, in the first hemistich of line 51, the 1st foot is / –1 v2 –3 / substituted to / –1 –3 v2 / (i.e. 1 2 3 replaced with 1 3 2), and the 2nd foot is / –1 v2 –3 / substituted with / v2 –1 –3 / (i.e. 1 2 3 to 2 1 3). In addition, similar process also affect the 1st and 2nd foot of the second hemistich of the line 51 also.

It is important to note that in substitution, the number of the prosodic unit (mora) within a foot must be maintained. Furthermore, if the number of metrical positions within the foot is equal to its usual structure, but the positions were changed within the same foot, it is regarded as a substitution. In addition, as commonly used in Hausa practice, two individual mora /vv/ may be used in the position of a double mora /  /, (a variant of Khalilian double mora /–/). This indeed is another form of substitution, as we can see from the above example in line11 and 51(1st and 2nd hemistich).      (cf. Schuh 1999:1- 4)

In another example we have the poem of Isan Kware Ɗan Shehu titled: “Tuna Mutuwa”  we have the following:

The metre of the Poem is Mutadaarak:5 + 5 + 5 (+5) = – v –/– v –/ – v –/(– v –):

(10).  3. a. Zancen Allah shii an na jii,                      

         –    –    – /–      – /–    v   –

  b. In anka faɗai koowaƙ ƙi jii,

       –  –   v/ v   –     –  / –    v  –

  c. Yaa yoo ruɓushii ga Ubangijii,     

         –     –    v/ v    –  v   v/–   v –

  d. Daɗa zaa ni fa wa’azu zumai ku jii,

         v  v   –    v/v   v  v v  v/   –    v  –

  e. A ku karɓaa zucci da zaahirii.

       v   v     –     / –    v/ –     


12.    a. A ku duuboo Annabi Siidi nau,                

      v   v     –    /   –    v/–    

 b. Yaa bar duniyaa koowaa shi kau,

        –         v/v  –     – /  –      v    –

c. Koowaa nana baa shi zamaa barau,          

         –    –    v/ v   –     v  v/    –    v  –

d. A ku duubi daɗaa Sheehunmu kau,

     v   v     –   v /v    –      – /–     v    –

e. Da ɗiyaa nai caana ga haaɗirii.

                   v  v   /      –   v/ v       

(Sa’is 1978a: 327 - 8)

3. The word of Allah is what i heard,              If it was said whoever refuse to hear,

    He disobeys the Almighty,                          I want to caution you O my friends,

                                    You the accept wholeheartedly.

12. Look at our Master the Prophet,              He leave the world, everybody should go,

Nobody will be left behind,                           And you also look at our  leader (Sheik),

And his descendant all leave to there.

The substitution here is of two forms, one which involve positional substitution and the other that involve structural substitution.

a.    The positional substitution here involves (i) / 1 v2 3 / substituted to /1 3 v2/, (i.e. 1,2,3 to 1,3,2) which is metrically represented as / – v – / substituted with  / – – v/. This form of substitution appears in the first foot of hemistich (b, c, d) of line 3 and 12, and last foot of hemistich (e) of line 12 also.


b.    Another positional substitution is (ii) /1 v2 3 / substituted to / v2 1 3 /, (i.e. 1,2,3 to 2,1,3,) which is metrically represented as / – v – / substituted with  / – – /. This form of substitution appears in the second foot of hemistich (b, c, d) of line 3 and 12, and the last foot of hemistich (e) of line 12.

c.     However, the structural substitution is where the double mora () is substituted with two single mora ( vv ) in the same position. This can be seen at different positions from the above citation. Such can be seen in hemistich (c, d) of line 3 and 12 respectively, i.e. /  v  / becomes / vv – v/ as in /   v / or / v – vv/ as in / v   /, while we find in the second foot of hemistich (d) of line 3 that single mora is used thoughout the foot at both positions of double mora, i.e. / v  v v  v v / instead of  / – v – /.



From the above analyses, it reveals that, Hausa written poems can successfully be studied and analyzed using a new theory, thus; “Theory of Metrical Phonology”. In addition, the issue of identifying the poetic foot/feet and the number of individual mora per foot in the hemistich (beats and measure), whether iambic or trochaic is of great importance. Indeed, this will enormously eliminate so many constraints in the analysis of Hausa written poems associated with Khalilian Model. Even with the theory of Defects and Deviation by the model, the phonological system of metrical shift and substitution were found to exist in the meter which was not captured in the theory.

Furthermore, different linguistic (phonological) processes can be suitably studied and analyzed with the application of this theory where different issues (i.e. phonological issues) that have not been addressed by Arabic model can be addressed. It is sincerely hoped that the findings in this paper will provide further direction for future research amongst present and potential prosodists.


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[1] Here the author did not differentiate between oral and written poetry, the meaning is general.

[2] The conventional method used for identifying the foot are: (i) v or 0 is used to indicate a short/light syllable in the foot, which is made up of one prosodic unit or mora. (ii)  or 00 is used to indicate long/heavy syllable in the foot. It is made up of two prosodic unit or moras joined together as 0 – 0 or 00. (iii) A line is placed under the moras to indicate the position of the stem of a particular foot.

[3] OMP: Obligatory Metrical Position. (see Fagge 2016 for details)

[4] MP: Metrical Positions

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