Borrowing as mark of strenght of a language


By Furera Bagel, PhD

A language that does not borrow is a dead language.

A language survives and becomes a strong language when it’s able to create or borrow new words to keep up with modernization.

I decided to write this because it’s our responsibility as linguists to educate people when they are in the dark about some linguistic issues.

First of all, even before any contact between Hausa and Arabs, Hausa had a very close relationship with the Arabic language, because they both belong to the Afro-Asiatic language family.

Therefore there are some grammatical features that both Hausa and Arabic share which are not a result of borrowing but due to them being genetically related.

Secondly, Hausa is one of the most spoken languages in Africa and the most spoken language in Nigeria, and what made it great was the fact that the language has been able to reinvent itself through borrowing.

Because Sometimes, a language does not possess all the words necessary for it to capture all its experiences. At such times, it has to borrow words and expressions from other languages that come in contact with it. Such borrowed items help in enriching, expand, and develop the language.

It was due to such reasons that Hausa Borrowed extensively from languages like Yoruba: Alabo, Adire, Agushi, Akawu, Adabo, Ikko.
Nupe: Angulu, agwagwa, akwati, gwagwani, ayaba, ayoyo.
Kanuri: Ingo, kuttu, lale, soro, barema,, manda, kasuwa, karuwa, ingarma, dabba, barawo, lafiya, laima, lalle, lardi, mako, lokaci etc
Fulani: yallabai, wofi, tagiya, sharo, kindirmo, Baffa. Etc

The language also borrowed from other African languages it came into contact with through trade For example, from the Tuareg: Talaka, taska, tawada, takarda, tantabara, kaza, cokali.
From Dazaga of Chad: Baure. Mande- Barkono. From Songhai: Bukka, Teku, lambu, fitila. Saharan languages- kibiya. Tamasheq- Taubashi, Tayert- Atari, Tuareg- ragama, mushe, aru-aru, cuku, tozali, tantakwashi, Talifi. Takunkumi, takobi, akushi, asabari..

Hausa language also borrowed extensively from the two main languages that colonized Africa which are English (Bokiti, kofi, tebur, fanka, siket, mota, kotu, etc) and French (fantalo, mushe, akasidan, jandarma, pasaje).

Therefore it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Arabic has the highest number of loanwords in Hausa, because that serves as evidence of the apparent influence of Islam on the people. Religious and scholarship words that did not exist in Hausa were borrowed from Arabic.

A very interesting thing is that Hausa did not just borrow those words and used them as they were, they were first made to adapt to the rules of Hausa grammar. For example, in Hausa,

Other words were borrowed because the Hausa felt the need to add more Arabic vocabulary to their language due to it being considered a language of prestige.

About neologism. Whenever Hausa comes into contact with new concepts and words that are totally nonexistent in the language, they try to create the Hausa version of the word. This happens mainly in science, technology, and globalization, eg computer- na’ura mai kwakwalwa, terrorist- Dan ta’adda, suicide bomber- Dan kunan bakin wake, internet- yanan gizo, science and technology- kimiyya da fasaha, etc.

But all this does not mean that Hausa does not have original words belonging to the language, because no matter the amount of borrowing done there are words that always remain the original language of the people, and some of those are numbers and parts of the body.

Just like the English language had to drop many words of Old English like jargogle, vormitarium, Easgang, etc, replacing them with others that are easier to use, Hausa also did the same to many old Hausa words which were replaced with other words that are easier to pronounce. For more examples of such words, one should consult the poetry of Usman Danfodiyo and his children and even that of Sarkin Zazzau Aliyu Dansidi.

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