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The Nigerian languages of special interest to this project are those spoken in Southern Kaduna, particularly those listed near the top of this page. Being that these languages and their speakers are not widely known or easily identified, even by Nigerians, some background information is in order.

More common knowledge is that the West African nation of Nigeria was carved into existence during the infamous European "scramble for Africa", adding her diverse and unwilling peoples to the British Empire. It also set the stage for the dominance of the three largest ethnic groups (and their languages) within the borders of the new country - the Hausa-Fulani in the north, Yoruba in the south-west and the Igbo in the south-east, that oft-referred to tripod. Such a triangular vision does not adequately describe the ethnolinguisitic landscape any better than the well-known north-south dichotomy, hence the evolution of six zones: north-east, north-central, north-west, south-east, south-south, and south-west, albeit for more political reasons. The country is further subdivided into 36 states, each divided into local government areas (L.G.A.s) and a federal capital territory (Abuja F.C.T.) in the geographical center of the country. It is by looking at these smaller, administrative subdivisions that one sees a clearer picture of Nigeria's ethnolinguistic composition.

This is because nearly eighty percent of Nigeria's over 500 languages are spoken in the "Middle Belt", an area roughly sandwiched in between larger ethnic groups in the country such as the Hausa, Igbo, Kanuri and Yoruba. So while it makes sense to talk of Yoruba-speaking states or one state that is majority Edo or Efik, in the Middle Belt it does not, since it is a region where it is not uncommon to find a language spoken only in a few villages. The reasons why this is so are not fully enumerated, but slave-raiding by the Hausa, displacement for sometimes unspecified reasons, as well as battling against (in many cases) Hausa and Fulani domination for centuries prior to the start of the colonial period, surely helped rearrange many peoples in Northern Nigeria.

However when one thinks of the Middle Belt, one should not only think of it as that part of Northern Nigeria that is more Christian and Traditional in its religious persuasions and non-Hausa speaking, but also has home to Nigeria's oldest known civilization called Nok, after the village in Southern Kaduna near where a terracotta head was found in 1943 and brought to the attention of archaeologist Bernard Fagg and eventually, the world. Although not definitively proven, Nok may well have influenced later Nigerian civilizations.

Kaduna State is located just to the north of Abuja F.C.T. The state shares the same name with its capital, a city established by the British along the Kaduna River and from which the former Northern Region was governed. The map below shows the 23 LGAs Kaduna State is subdivided into, with northern Kaduna in red, Southern Kaduna in yellow (and labeled), as well as the two LGAs containing the capital city in green (Kaduna North and Kaduna South).

The area now referred to as Southern Kaduna was formerly called Southrn Zaria. The concept of a Southern Zaria did not originate with the British, as it was similarly referred to well before the Emirate System swept in by Usman dan Fodio.

Today, the peoples of Southern Kaduna may be referred to as such, or as Nerzit. While they speak many different languages and see themselves as separate peoples, their unity as a group is also quite apparent to them, there being many of the tell-tale signs (that abound all around Nigeria) that let neighbors know they are both the same and different all at once. Indeed, Southern Kaduna is a culture area.

Hausa, an Afro-Asiatic, Chadic language is the lingua franca of Northern Nigeria, and this holds true all over Kaduna State where over 50 languages are spoken. However in the southern areas, Benue-Congo languages, particularly those of the Plateau variety, are the mother tongues spoken by the indigenes. Of these, the languages to be localized into at this time are: Fantsuam (Kafanchan), Gong (Kagoma), Gworok (Kagoro), Hyam (Jaba), Jju (Kaje), Koro, Tsam (Chawai) and Tyap (Kataf).

Below is a bit of information for some languages of Southern Kaduna. (This section is being constantly added to or updated, so eventually, a separate page will be devoted to each language instead.) Take note of the fact that all population figures are estimates due to a lack of, or inadequate, data. (This stems from the social and economic import of census data within the Nigerian polity.) Even though Nigeria conducted a census in 2006, ethnolinguistic data was deliberately not collected, so all that can be said is Nigerians are estimated to be over 140 million strong, with Kaduna State having over 6 million people.

Despite a lack of sufficient data, the languages of Southern Kaduna are undoubtedly minority languages (and as such, understudied.) Minority because they are each estimated to have fewer than one million native speakers. They are also considered to be endangered because of pressure from Hausa, long the lingua franca in the north of the country. However locally, these languages remain in use. For example, KSBC or Kaduna State Broadcasting Corporation, Kafanchan allocates a daily slot to languages of the area, i.e. Jju, Tyap, Gworok, Ham, Sholio, etc.

 

FANTSUAM:

Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Plateau, Central, South-Central (Ethnologue)
Alternate names: Kafanchan
 

GONG:

Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Plateau, Western, Northwestern, Hyamic (Ethnologue)
Alternate names: Kagoma, Gwong

Gong is spoken by the Gong people of Southern Kaduna. Specifically, Gong is spoken in Jema'a LGA, Kaduna State.

Ethnologue provides a figure of over 25,000 speakers in 2000 for Gong. Using an annual growth rate figure of 3% for Kaduna State (Nigeria 2006 Census), then the Gong can be estimated to be over 30,000 in number.

GWOROK:

Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Plateau, Central, South-Central (Ethnologue)
Alternate names: Gwolok, Kagoro

Gworok is spoken by the Gworok (or Agworok) people of Southern Kaduna. Specifically, Gworok is spoken in Kaura LGA, Kaduna State.

Gworok is one of the broadcast languages of KSBC, Kafanchan.

HYAM:

Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Plateau, Western, Northwestern, Hyamic (Ethnologue)
Alternate names: Jaba

Hyam is spoken by the Hyam people of Southern Kaduna. Specifically, Hyam is spoken in Jaba LGA, Kaduna State. In fact, the village of Nok of wide fame is located in Hyamland within Jaba LGA.According to the Ethnologue, the Hyam were estimated to number 100,000 in 1994. If one were to use an annual growth rate figure of 3% for Kaduna State (Nigeria 2006 Census), then the Hyam can be estimated to be well over 140,000 in number.

It is one of the broadcast languages of KSBC, Kafanchan.

JJU:

Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Plateau, Central, South-Central (Ethnologue)
Alternate names: Kaje, Kajji, Kache

Jju is spoken by the Bajju people of Southern Kaduna. Specifically, Jju is spoken in Zangon Kataf LGA, Kaduna State. Locally, it is one of the larger languages. According to the Ethnologue, the Bajju were estimated to number 300,000 in 1988. If one were to use an annual growth rate figure of 3% for Kaduna State (Nigeria 2006 Census), then the Bajju can be estimated to be well over 400,000 in number.

It is one of the broadcast languages of KSBC, Kafanchan.

KORO:

Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Plateau, Western, Northwestern, Koro (Ethnologue)
Alternate names:  
 

TSAM:

Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Kainji, Eastern, Piti-Atsam (Ethnologue)
Alternate names: Chawai, Atsam

Tsam is spoken by the Atsam people of Southern Kaduna. Specifically, it is spoken in Kauru LGA, Kaduna State.

Ethnologue gives a population of 30,000 in 1972.

TYAP:

Linguistic lineage: Niger-Congo, Atlantic-Congo, Volta-Congo, Benue-Congo, Plateau, Central, South-Central
Alternate names: Kataf, Katab

Tyap (or Nerzitt) is a language cluster comprising the following languages:

Atakar (Atakat), Gworok (Kagoro), Fantsuam (Kafanchan), Kachichere (Aticherak), Sholio (Moroa) and Tyap (Kataf, Katab).

Intelligibility levels between speakers of the languages of the Nerzitt cluster are varied. For example, a Tyap speaker can understand Sholio, but not Kachichere or Atakar.

Tyap is spoken by the Atyap people of Southern Kaduna. Specifically, Tyap is spoken in Zangon Kataf LGA, Kaduna State. Locally, it is one of the larger languages of Southern Kaduna, coming after Jju (which is incidentally, is intelligible to Tyap speakers.) Roger Blench provides the figure of 130,000 for the Tyap language in 1990. Using a growth rate of 3% for Kaduna State (Nigeria 2006 Census), then native Tyap speakers are now over 200,000 in number.

Tyap is one of the broadcast languages of KSBC, Kafanchan.

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Notes: coming soon.

References: coming soon.

 

 
 
   
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