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The Role of Hausa in the Endangerment of Fulfulde: A Case Study of Tsaure Fulani of Kano State

Being a paper presented at the 29th Annual Conference of Linguistic Association of Nigeria (LAN) on Language and Linguistic Diversity: Documentation and Revitalization of Minority Languages for Sustainable Development, at the University of Jos, Plateau State, from 5th to 9th December, 2016

Muhammad Badamasi TSAURE


Abu-Ubaida SANI


Since time immemorial, majority languages have been responsible for the endangerment of minority languages. This phenomenon occurs whenever two or more speakers of different languages (mostly from major and minor language respectively) come into contact. Usually, the outcome of this contact gives rise to several linguistic consequences. Thus, borrowing, interference, colloguing, code mixing, code switching and relexicalization, which the result brings about language death (endangerment). The endangerment of Fulfulde language spoken by the Fulani situated in the outskirts of Tsaure town of Kano state is apparent. These wrought from the incessant contact of both speakers of the two languages i.e. Hausa and Fulfulde. It is very pathetic that young Fulani child could not speak Fulfulde for three minutes without switching to Hausa completely. This paper casts a vivid glance at the role of Hausa language in the endangerment of Fulfulde language as one of the minority languages in Northern Nigeria. The area of the study chosen is divided into two linguistic units, namely Hausa (having the population of about 70%) and Fulfulde (with 30% speakers) respectively. It finally concludes with carrot and stick measures to be taken in reviving and revitalizing Fulfulde language in Tsaure town area of Kano state.

 1.1  Introduction

The phenomenon of language endangerment has for long occupied the front burner in the world of sociolinguistic and education circles of the three decades (Anicie, 2008). This situation (i. e. of language endangerment) has reached every pathetic level that very many numbers of languages all over the world, having endangered up to 90% of all the worlds 6000 - 65000 existing languages, are likely not to survive to the next century (Geary, 1997; Hafe, 1992; Krauss, 1992; Hill, 1978; Anichie, 2008).

The dead worrisome part of this problem is that, African continent has a lion share of the endangered languages (Brenzeinger, 1998). In Nigerian context for example, about half of the Nigeria’s 500 languages are endangered, with some, already extinct or near extinction (Anichie, 2008; Grimes, 2010). A research conducted by Ugwuoke in 1992 reveals that, about 152 Nigerian languages have already been endangered. However, eight out of them (Nigerian languages), extinct including: Bassa-Kontagora, which had only 10 surviving speakers as was in 1987 (Crozier & Blench 1992). More so, Emai language spoken by a very small community in Edo state together with other 30 different languages would probably cease to exist by the year 2050 “as none could serve as a lingua franca and were therefore, being supplanted by the English language” (Shaeffer in Anichie, 2008).

In the northern part of Nigeria, however according to Haruna (2007), about 20 language are either extinct or almost extinct as in the case of Bubbure language of Bauchi state which has only one (1) person speaking it and Holma language of Anambera state with only (4) four aged speakers as in 1987.

However, language endangerment occur when minority language mixed up with majority languages. That is, major language in an area tends to endanger the minor languages spoken. But what is this language enlargement? Language endangerment is defined as language with less than 5000 speaker (Brenzinger et al, 1991). Going by the aforementioned definition, Emenanlo (2007) examined Nigerian languages with the following evaluative factors on the UNESCO’s (2003) language vitality index:

i.                    Intergenerational transmission

ii.                  Absolute number of fluent and committed speakers

iii.                 Proportion of speaker within the total population

iv.                Shifts in domain of actual use

v.                   Material for language and literacy

vi.                Government, institutional and languages attitude and policies including official status and use

vii.              Interaction and social effect between  language attitude and polices

viii.             Nature, type and quality of language documentation (UNESCO, 2003)

After the analysis of the above evaluative factors, Emenanjo (2007) conclude that, no Nigerian language is safe from endangerment in the near future, not even the three major languages (Hausa, Yoruba, Igbo). This research therefore sets out to investigate the roles played by Hausa language in the endangerment of the Fulfulde language in Tsaure town.  

1.2 Statement of the Problem

Nigeria has the large number of Fulanis beyond any other country (Diallo, 2013). One shows that Fulfulde is spoken across nineteen African countries but the one spoken in Nigeria  would be the first to extinct in the near future. For at the moment, Nigeria has the highest number of indigenous Fulani that cannot speak Fulfulde at all (Ibid).

It was also discovered that, in the northern Nigeria (i.e. where first dwelled in as far Nigeria is concerned) more importantly, Kano state, Fulani having been denying their language, as such they prefer using Hausa in their daily interactions.

Moreover, in Tsaure particularly, almost every Fulani prefers Hausa to Fulfulde. That, out of 30 Falani, only 10 have the chances of speaking fluent Fulfulde. And in some areas such as Jagal, this research shows that, 30 out of 30 could not speak fluent Fulfulde without code mixing. It’s discovered that Hausa as the dominant language in the casa study area is endangering Fulfulde language.

1.3 Objectives of the Study

The research was set out to find out the role of Hausa in the endangerment of Fulfulde language in Tsaure town, Kano state. Categorically however, the research aims at finding out whether the Fulani in Tsaure:

i.                    speak their language fluently without code mixed,

ii.                  use Fulfulde at home for communication with their children,

iii.                prefer to speak Hausa to Fulfulde,

iv.                understand that Hausa language endangers their language,

v.                  would the regret if Fulfulde ceased to exist in that area?

1.4 Research Questions

The study was guide by the following research questions:

vi.                Do the Fulani in Tsaure speak their language fluently without code mixed?

vii.              Do they use Fulfulde at home for communication with their children?

viii.            Do they prefer to speak Hausa to Fulfulde?

ix.                Do they understand that Hausa language endangers their language?

x.                  Would they regret if Fulfulde ceased to exist in that area?

1.5 Scope of the Study

This study investigated the role of Hausa language in the endangerment of Fulfulde in Tsaure town. In the study, the sample size was 30 people, of which 20 males and 10 females were selected. However, this does not mean that, the population of the Fulani living in the research area is restricted to that number. Rather, the research only limited the number of the respondents so as to complete the research within the stipulated time. It hopes that, the results obtained would suffice to see the kind of roles Hausa language plays in the endangerment of Fulfulde.

2.1 Literature Review

Language endangerment received ample scholarships. Several authors conducted series of researches on language endangerment, endangered language, language death etc. Very recent Oshodi (2013) wrote on “An assessment of indigenous Nigerian languages and factors of language endangerment: Can the indigenous languages survive? In the work, he examined the degree of the endangerment of a group of some related  speech  forms from Arigidi cluster spoken in small communities in south west Nigeria. Similarly, Odinye & Odunye (ND) conducted a research on “Preventing the extinction of Igbo language” in their research, they x-rayed the gradual death of Igbo language due to the negative attitude of Igbo toward their language. Brenzinger, (1998) wrote “Endangered language in Africa.” He summarizes the possible endangered language in Africa. UNESCO, (2003) gives expert advice on how to revive the endangered languages in their press-release entitled “Language vitality and endangerment”.

Similarly, Ohiri Anichie, (2008), also conducted an empirical study on “A survey of awareness of language endangerment in Nigeria”. The research discusses the possible extinction of some minority languages. Equally, Sallabank, (2003) revealed that Nigerian languages are at the part of endangerment. The present research differ from the others in the following ways

i.        It focuses on the role played by Hausa language in the endangerment of Fulfulde language.

ii.      The research area is first of its kind, for such no such research has ever been carried out.

3.1 Language Endangerment

Language endangerment is defined as a condition where by the socio-economic, political, technological, cultural and religious ecologies have altered to a point where some language species cannot survive or thrive on them (Odunye & Odunye). Language death has certainly taken place in this century. Evidence from the word list of Growes (1907) suggests the, disappearance of a number of small languages around Bauchi as a result of domination of Hausa speakers (Brenzinger, 1998). Micheal in Brenzinger (1998) discovered that Butu -Ningi group has witnessed the death of languages still spoken in the 1970s.

According to UNESCO, (2003) languages can be ranked on a continuum from stability of extinction. Six degrees of endangerment may be distinguished with regard to intergenerational language transition as we are going to see:                                   

Degree of Endangerment

Intergenerational Language Transmission

1-      Safe

Language is spoken by all generations: intergenerational transmission is interrupt.

2-      Vulnerable

Most children speak the language but it may be restricted to certain domain.

3-       Definitely Endangered

Children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home.

4-      Severe Endangered

Grandparents and older generation speak language: while the parents’ generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves.

5-      Critical Endangered

The youngest speakers are grandparents and older and they speak the language partially and infrequently.

6-      Extinct

There are no speakers left.

Source: UNESCO (2003) language vitality and endangerment framework.

3.2 Why Languages Die?

Language dies as a result of one or more of the following reasons as stated by Brnzinger, (1998):

1-      Assimilation into larger, more powerful groups nearby.

2-      Assimilation into smaller but culturally dominant groups.

3-      Assimilation into English, the national language.

4-      Demographic crises caused by labor migration/urbanism.

3.3 Factors Leading to the Endangerment of Fulfulde in Tsaure

Several factors led to the endangerment of Fulfulde in Tsaure area of Kano state. Notwithstanding, this research strive to find out the following factors:

i.        Domination by Hausa Speakers: The disproportionate percentage of the people are Hausas, approximately making about 70% of the total population. This, actually marked as the madus-operandi for the meager number of the Fulani there to at times resort to Hausa.

ii.      Inter-tribal Marriages: This is another determinant that wrought about near extinction of Fulfulde in the area. Many Fulani marry from Hausa (known as Hausa) and vise-versa. The Hausa women are Fulfulde language barren, which may also applied to their children.

iii.    Some Fulani Feel Ashamed to Speak their Language Even Among themselves: It has been discovered that, some of the Fulani living there (i.e. Tsaure) are ashamed to speak Fulfulde, thinking that their Hausa counter-part may look down upon them as barbaric. This research however finds that, some of the Fulani could not even speak it at home i.e. to the children and to the spouses.

iv.    Hausa Language as a Language of Business Transaction: In the market place, Fulani in Tsaure find it necessary to speak Hausa; otherwise, they would not be understood.

3.4 Research Methodology

The research methodology adopt for this work is the descriptive Survey. Descriptive survey is concern with person, place and time (Araoye, 2004). It also represents a probability to describe a given state of affairs that exist in a given population at a time. The research however, considered descriptive survey method suitable for the study, for we are interested in finding out the role of Hausa language in the endangerment Fulfulde in Tsaure town of Kano.

The population for the study consists of all the Fulani (male and female) within the study area, while the target population comprises the Fulani living in Jagal, located at the extreme northward of Tsaure. The research adopts purposive sampling procedure to select Jagal village. The choice of this village was base on the assumption that this village is large enough to represent the entire Fulani living in Tsaure area. According to Doramola in Olayinka; Adeola; Omotosho & Meshach, (2015), purposive sampling is a technique through which the researcher intentionally selects certain group as sample, because of their relevance to the investigation under consideration.

Self-structure questionnaires entitle; “Role of Hausa language in killing Fulfulde language” was used to collect data. The questionnaire consist of two sections A & B. Section (A) deals with personal data of the respondents. While section (B) has 20 items, which contain general reasons, Fulfulde is becoming extinct in Tsaure. More so, in section B, respondents are asked to respond to the items using the following;

“Yes” “No” “Undecided”

The researcher with the help of some assistants administers the questionnaire. Respective respondents filled it and it was collected instantly to avoid missing of the questionnaires. The result is presented here;

Table 2: Role of Hausa Language in Killing Fulfulde in Tsaure Town.







Those who speak Fulfulde at home





Those  who are ashamed to speak it





Those who prefer Hausa language





Those who married Hausa women





Those who speak it without code-mixed





Who regret if the language extinct





4.1 Discussion

This research investigated the role of Hausa in the endangerment of Fulfulde language in Tsaure town. The result in table 2 indicates that 70% of the total of the respondent do not speak Fulfulde regularly at home while only 30% use it. However, none of the respondents was ashamed to speak their language everywhere. However, they prefer in most cases. Moreover, 50% of the respondents are married to Hausa women. While 80% of them would regret their languages goes to extinction.

The research discovered that there is the possibility, because of the manner the respondents responded to the questionnaire, that Fulani children of the next generation in Tsaure may find it very difficult learning their native language.

4.2 Conclusion

Language endangerment has for long been the order 21st century. Very many languages cannot escape the danger of extinction. However, throughout this discussion, we cast vivid glance into how Hausa language contributed drastically in the endangering Fulfulde in Tsaure. The study indicates that it is already a culture of majority language to dominate the minority languages in proximity, which consequently lead to language extinction. The study discovers that Fulfulde in Tsaure is close to extinction if adequate and proper care is not taken. Fulfulde all over Nigerian languages is categorized as part of 118 minority languages, which are too late to save them from extinction. It was recorded that the desecrated nature of Fulani contributes immensely in the endangerment of their language. Moreover, nothing is being done to discover it from extinction.

The responsibility of the documentation and preservation this language (Fulfulde) lies upon the shoulder of the government as well as the community. 


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