Nativazation of Hausa Loanwords in Kanuri through Deglottalization and Sonorization

Citation: Grema, M. (2024). Nativazation of Hausa Loanwords in Kanuri through Deglottalization and Sonorization. Tasambo Journal of Language, Literature, and Culture, 3(1), 45-51. www.doi.org/10.36349/tjllc.2024.v03i01.006.

Nativazation of Hausa Loanwords in Kanuri through Deglottalization and Sonorization  

Musa Grema  
Department of Languages and Linguistics,
Yobe State University,
KM7, Gujba Road Damaturu, Yobe State
GSM: +2348067273233


The paper attempts to identify and study those linguistic items borrowed from Hausa to Kanuri language with special attentions to the deglottalization and sonorization processes employed in incorporating the loanwords. Borrowing is a phenomenon which is as old as human social, economic, and administrative contact. When a contact is established between two or more different linguistic communities, there is the tendency for linguistic borrowing to take place. Therefore, despite the fact that Hausa belongs to Chadic family and Kanuri belongs to Nilo-Sahara, there exists linguistic borrowing between them. The paper focuses on the deglottalization and sonorization in nativazation of the borrowed words.  The research sought data from two sources. These sources are primary and secondary. The primary source includes unobtrusive observation when discourse is taking place in Kanuri language. Similarly, the researcher’s intuition plays significant role in identifying the loanwords being a native speaker of the language. On the other hand, the secondary sources include written records, such as journal articles, dissertations, thesis, dictionaries etc.  The paper concludes that Kanuri, a Nilo-Saharan language uses deglottalization and sonorization in nativazation of some Hausa borrowed lexical items. This resulted in making the loanwords to behave like the native words of the target language (Kanuri).

Keywords: Loanwords, Nativization, Deglottalization, Consonant and Sonorization


There is no gainsaying when one asserts that the phenomenon of linguistic borrowing is as old as human existence on the earth. It is also established that in as much as there is contact between two or more different linguistic communities there must be a borrowing from one linguistic group to another. It is also paramount at this juncture to mention that, the work of Bloomfield (1933); Haugen (1950) and Weinreich (1953) are regarded and considered as groundbreakers of language contact as a new research field in the course of the twentieth century. However at that moment the focus was mainly on lexical borrowing, because it is the most frequent phenomenon in the languages of the world.

Despite the fact that it is not easy to find a universally accepted definition of borrowing, the paper makes an attempt to review some definitions put forward by different scholars. Let’s begin with Haugen (1950, p.  212), that views linguistic borrowing as “the attempted reproduction in one language of patterns previously found in another”.  On the other hand, Thomason and Kaufman (1988, p. 37) consider it as the incorporation of foreign features into a group's native language by speakers of that language; the native language is maintained but is changed by the addition of the incorporated features. In the words of Bussmann (1998, p. 139) borrowing is seen as adoption of linguistic expressions (which can be lexical item, phrase or both) from one language into another, usually in a situation when no term exists for the new object, concept or state of affairs. Similarly, Yul-Ifode (2001) cited in Nneji and Uzoigwe (2013, p. 9) maintains that, the concept of borrowing simply means an aspect of lexical change. However, this process involves adding new items to a language or dialect by taking them from another language or dialect. From these, therefore, it can be seen as a one of the linguistic processes that improves the lexicon of the language. It can also be deduce d that there is tendency where a borrowing can take place even within different dialects of the same language.

Turning to the languages under study; both Hausa and Kanuri are African languages which are spoken as mother tongues and second languages by huge number of people. According to Greenberg (1966) Hausa is a member of the Chadic languages which belongs to the Afro-Asiatic phylum, while Kanuri is classified as a member of the Saharan branch which belongs to the Nilo-Saharan phylum. Both Hausa and Kanuri have geographical and social dialects. Despite the fact that Hausa and Kanuri belong to different language phyla, there exist borrowings of linguistic item(s) between them, because there is contact between the speakers of the languages for several decades. Lohr, Ekkehard & Awagana (2009) assert that it is assume that Chadic languages may have had a long history of geographical neighborhood with different languages which belong to different language phyla. They are neighbor to Benue-Congo languages to the south and west, it is also established that they are neighbor to Saharan languages to the east and north.

Therefore, the paper focuses on the deglottalization and sonorization as a means of nativazation of Hausa loanwords in Kanuri. Similarly, it is clear that both Hausa and Kanuri are tonal languages. In view of this, in all the examples used in this research low and fallen tones are marked, while high tones are left unmarked. Similarly, long vowels are indicated by doubling the concern ed vowel.

There is no doubt that a lot of research has been conducted on phonological behaviour of Hausa loanwords in Kanuri which include Lang (1923–1924), Baldi (1992, 1995), Bulakarima (1999), Shettima & Abdullahi (2000), Lohr, Ekkehard & Awagana (2009), Grema (2017) among others. However, to the best of my knowledge none of the works mentioned dwelt so much on deglottalization and sonorization as device of nativazation of Hausa loanwords in Kanuri. This pave s a way to the present research in order to breach the academic gap left.

Brief Account of Contact between Hausa and Kanuri

The relationship between Hausas and Kanuris began well before the fifteenth century during the reign of Mai Ibrahim B. Uthman, as a result of military encounter. At that time Hausa must have played some role as a commercial lingua franca in the Hausa states which are geographically adjacent to the west of Borno. Similarly , intermarriage might also play a little role couple with the situation where both speakers of the languages share the same common impact of Arabo-Islamic culture and urban medieval civilization on the other hand. Bilingualism also played a major role which becomes more widespread in the recent contact which began during the colonial period and Hausa became the dominant lingua franca of northern Nigeria. Apart from the military encounter between Hausa States and Kanem Borno, there were also other forms of relationship that existed between them. One of such relationships was the arrival of a very powerful Bornoan immigrant to the city of Kano during the reign of Sarkin Kano Dauda ɗ an Kanajeji in the fifteenth century (Usman, 1983 and Lohr, Ekkehard & Awagana 2009 ).

Similarly, during the reign of Sarkin Kano Muhammadu Kisauki, another group of immigrants from Borno came to Kano under the leadership of ‘Goron Duma’. This group of immigrants settled near ‘Kurmi’ market. The migrations of learned men from Borno were also witnessed in Zazzau and Katsina (Usman, 1983 ) .

Amongst the factors that encourage travels and relationships between Hausa States and Borno were environment and economy. They buy and sell commodities from one another. Potash, salt, hides and skin were among the items of trade between them. Usman (1983) also adds that Borno was regarded as a major source of horses supply to Hausa states.

In view of these, one would understand that there has been a relationship between the Hausa and Kanuri speakers for many centuries. To further buttress this point, Brann (1998) states that it is likely that some Hausa pilgrims, traders and scholars came to Ngazargamu and later to Kukawa on their way to the Holy city of Mecca, and some of them subsequently settled there.

This indicates that, there was much contact between the Hausas and the Kanuris and eventually the Kanuris adopted the Hausa language and much of their culture. This has contributed immensely to the considerable regional homogeneity found in the northern states of Nigeria today. It is also worth mentioning that after independence of Nigeria and Niger, which are considered as dominant areas of Hausa and Kanuri speakers, Hausa gained considerable dominance in the spheres of commercial activities, politics and administration, education, and the media.

Methodology and Model of Approach

Going by the nature of this research it is regarded as qualitative and synchronic since it focuses on the study of nativazation of Hausa loanwords in Kanuri through deglottalization and sonorization. The research work sourced its data through two different sources; namely primary and secondary. The primary source involved unobtrusive observation by the researcher. The researcher’s intuition is also of great importance in gathering the data from the field. Written records such as journal articles, thesis, dissertations and dictionaries are used as secondary sources of data. Similarly, in the process of gathering the data many Hausa loanwords in Kanuri are identified but only those that are relevant to the present research are used as examples. More so, the paper adopts Yalwa (1992) as a model of approach. Having said that, let’s briefly look at how he approach the issue phonologically. Therefore, Yalwa (1992) reveals that, Hausa people borrowed a lot of Arabic words from Arabs through trade and the religion of Islam. He succeeded in discussing the phonological evidence of Arabic loans in Hausa. He observed that in some of the Arabic loans in Hausa there are cases where Arabic /f/ is sometimes realized as /b/ intervocalically, word finally or after semi vowel followed by another vowel in Hausa. But this change does not apply to the most recently Arabic loans in Hausa. The following examples are provided:   











He also presented the following general rule to account for this change.

Ar: b > H: f/ [v – v]; [v -   #]; [G – V] or [G – C]

He further raises the issues of neutralization, voicing, glottalization, vowel lengthening and shortening processes in the process of nativization of Arabic loans in Hausa. He clearly states that velar consonants are palatalized before front vowels and labialized before back vowels. In some Arabic loans in Hausa the vowel /o/ changes to schwa / ə / which is regarded as morphophonemic. He provides this example:    





kwâllii [kw ə llii]

antimony chloride


There is also what he terms as split process where a single sound in Arabic changes to other sounds in Hausa in the process of borrowing, he cites many instances of such phenomenon. For instance,

Arabic /s/  -  Hausa s, š/ [#.....] or [V] #



The following examples are also provided:








nafs (soul)


breath, breathing, soul


Finally Yalwa (1992) states that among the Arabic laryngeals and pharyngeals Hausa has only /h/. Therefore, where Arabic /h/ or /x/ occurs it is only realized as /h/ in Hausa. The Arabic / ʕ / is changed to glottal stop / ʔ / in Hausa even though it is believed to have been borrowed from Arabic. But according to him there are some instances where the sound / ʕ / or / ʔ / is replaced with /w/ consider this example ʔ allaf > wallàfaa (to compose/publish a book/paper/poem). Thus, this paper will adopt the model of approach of Yalwa (1992) as mentioned earlier.

Data Presentation and Analysis

In this section of the paper, the data collected for the research is presented and analyzed. Thus, an explanation is going to be presented on how Kanuri language deglottalized and sonorized some segments in the process of incorporation of Hausa loanwords.


The phenomenon of replacing a segment of the source language with another segment in the target language is highly productive in linguistic borrowing. When a borrowed word contains a phoneme which is absent in the target language, it is usually replaced with a close correspondence.  This act paves way to various phonological processes to take place, among which is Deglottalization. Hausa has nine (9) glottalized consonantal sounds out of which only one (1) is found to be existing in Kanuri language; namely glottal, stop (/ ʔ /).  Glottalized phonemes in the Hausa words loaned into Kanuri are deglottalized in order to suit into the phonological system of the target language. As a result [ ɓ ] > [ b ] , [ ƙ ] > [k], [ ƙ w] > [kw]/, [ ɗ ] > [d], [’y] > [y] and [s’] > [s]. Let us consider the following examples:

Example 1:







ɓ àrnaa        

/bànna/        [bànna]


  Let us formulate rules for the above examples, as follows:

Rule 1: Deglottalization Rule


Rule 1a converts glottalized bilabial implosive /v/ into nonglottalized bilabial stop [b] before a vowel in the borrowed word, as in example (1a). In this case the phenomenon takes place word initially. However, base d on the data collected for the research , this is the only example found, there are also other instances where only one example is found, which can be seen later. Apart from the deglottalization there is also a case of consonant substituiton where a consonant / r / in Hausa is subtituted with /n/ in Kanuri and vowel laxing as can be seen in the example above .  

Example 2:







ƙ oosai

/kosai/ [kwosai]

bean cake


ƙ uusàa

/kusà/ [kwusà]



dan ƙ òo




ƙ òo ƙ oo

/kòko/ [kwòkwo]

type of small calabash


ƙ òo ƙ arii


effort, try


ƙ àn ƙ araa


ice block

  Consider the below phonological rule for the above examples.


Turning to rule 1b, it accounts for the conversion of the glottalized velar ejective / ƙ / into nonglottalized velar stop [k], as in examples (2a – f) respectively. However, in examples (2a and b) the conversion takes place word initially while in example (2c) it takes place word medially. More so, in examples (2d – f) the deglottalization takes place word initially and medially. Thus, the phenomenon of deglottalization in Hausa loanwords in Kanuri occur word initially and word medially as justified by example 2 above.

E x ample 3:







ɗ an ciki

/dankiki/ [dankjikji]

inner wear

Let us formulate a phonological rule to capture the above deglottalization process.


Rule 1c above, say s voiced glottalized implosive / ɗ / is realise as nonglottalized voiced alveolar stop [d] in word initial position before a vowel as seen in example (3a).

Example 4:







‘y ar ciki

/ j arkiki/ [ j arkjikji]

inner wear

This situation of deglottalization can be represented through the below phonological rule.


Rule 1d on the other hand converts palatalized-glottal stop /’y/ into nonglottalized palatal approximant [j] word initially before a vowel as in example (4a).

E x ample 5:







ts àngayàa

/sàngayà/ [sàngayà]

qur’anic school


ts aamiyaa

/samiya/      [samiya]

a type of Hausa royal gown


Let us formulate rules for the above examples, as follows:


Rule 1e accounts for the conversion of voiceless alveolar ejective /s’/ into voiceless alveolar fricative [s] word initially before a vowel which is also a form of deglottalization, as in examples, (5a and b).


Chomsky and Halle (1968, p. 302) define sonorant as “Sounds produced with a vocal tract cavity configuration in which spontaneous voicing is possible.” In other words , Crystal (2008, p. 442) describes the word sonorant as one of the major class features  of sounds produced distinctive feature theory, in order to handle the variations in manner of articulation. Thus, sonorants are sounds produced with a relatively free air-flow, and a vocal fold position such that spontaneous voicing is possible as in vowels, liquids and laterals. Based on the foregoing discussion one can describe sonorization as a form of consonant weakening (lenition) where an obstruent is replaced with a sonorant sound in a certain phonological environment. Abubakar (2008, p. 1) observes that weakening in Kanuri language affects intervocalic non-nasal obstruent automatically without any restriction and it is realized either through assimilation or deletion process. Interestingly, in the case of Hausa loanwords in Kanuri the phenomenon takes place inter-vocalically and the affected sounds are either voiced stop or voiceless stop. This phonological observable fact is considered as a regular and productive process in Kanuri. This phenomenon is noticed as one of the processes involved in incorporating Hausa words loaned into Kanuri, where /b/ and /k/ in the Hausa words are replaced with /w/ word medially. In case of the former it can be seen in example 6a  -   i while the latter is evident in example 6j. Consider the examples below:

Example 6:







/àyàwà/       [àyàwà]




/duwu/        [duwu]

one thousand



/lawule/       [lawule]




/riwà/           [riwà]




/tàwa/           [tàwa]




/kawùrì/       [kawùrì]




/kallawi/       [kallawi]

head tie



/tàttawàr/     [tàttawàr]




/kolwà/         [kwolwà]




/bàrwùno/    [bàrwùno]

chili pepper

Let us formulate rules for the above example:

Rule 2: Sonorization Rule

Nativazation of Hausa Loanwords in Kanuri through Deglottalization and Sonorization

Rule 2a converts voiced, bilabial, stop /b/ into bilabial resonant [w] between two vowels in a word medial position as seen in examples (6a, b, c, d, f, g and h). It also converts voiced, bilabial, stop /b/ into bilabial resonant [w] between a consonant and vowel in a word medial position as seen in examples (6i). Rule 2b converts voiceless velar stop /k/ into a semi vowel with feature specification [+ lab] in between consonant and a vowel word medially as in example (6j). Despite the fact that in the previous examples (6a – h) it is [b] > [w] but in example (6i) one can notice that it is [k] > [w], this phenomena is also form of consonant weakening. The weakening of bilabials and velars intervocalically and post-liquid consonant environments is an automatic phenomenon in Kanuri, consider example (6i and j). Thus, it is mandatory for the loanwords to behave like the native Kanuri words before they are fully integrated in the target language.


Based on the foregoing discussion, it is noticed and established that Kanuri, a Saharan language and one of the African languages borrowed some le x ical items from Hausa, which is a Chadic Language and also one of the widely spoken languages in Africa.  An attempt is made to show that, the borrowed words were absorbed into the phonological system of the target language (Kanuri). In the process of incorporating the Hausa loanwords phonologically, it is established that deglottalization and sonorization processes are involved. In all the examples cited glottalized phonemes are deglottalized. Voiced, bilabial implosive [ ɓ ] becomes voiced bilabial stop [b] and also voiceless, velar ejective [ ƙ ] becomes voiceless, velar stop [k] among others. In the same vein, a case of consonant weakening which is considered as form of sonorization is also evident in incorporating Hausa loanwords in Kanuri. In this situation a voiced, bilabial stop [b] becomes voiceless, velar approximant [w] and also voiceless, velar stop [k] becomes voiceless, velar approximant [w] .


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Abbreviations, Sings and Symbols

Signs, Symbols and Abbreviations Used

+ →  Positive sign

→ →  Becomes

[  ] →  Square brackets enclose phonetic features or symbol

/  / →  Oblique strokes enclose base form or  underlying representation of an element

## →  Word boundary

/ →  in the environment of

> →  Becomes

___ →  Position/location of input

{   } →  Braces indicate choice

´ →  High tone

` →  Low tone

- →  Negative sign

ant →  Anterior

C →  Consonant

cons →  Consonantal segment

cont →  Continuant

del.rel →  Delayed Release

glot →  Glottality

lab →  Labiality

pal →  Palatality

syll →  Syllabic

V →  Vowel

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