Aspects Of Kuturmi Phonology

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

Aspects Of Kuturmi Phonology


This research work examines aspects of Kuturmi phonology, a language spoken in some parts of Kaduna State of Nigeria by a population of about fourteen thousand speakers 14,000. The research was carried out using copious data for illustration. The phonological process evident in the language was assimilation, deletion, insertion, nasalization and vocal harmony. It is pertinent to conclude that this research project is indeed a reliable point of research reference for further linguistic researches into the language by professional linguistic researchers.

Chapter One


General Background

This study examines aspects of Kuturmi phonology, a language spoken in some parts of Kaduna State of Nigeria by a population of about fourteen thousand speakers 14,000. (Vision accessed 19th Jan, 2010). Phonology is a branch of linguistics which investigates the ways in which sounds are used systematically in different languages to form words and utterances. It is the scientific study of arbitrary vocal symbols used in human speech, and patterns in which symbols enter to produce intelligent, meaningful utterances (Oyebade 2004:2).

1.2 Historical Background

The history of Kuturmi people has always been associated with migration. There are two sources of the Kuturmi origin. One traditional source says that the people of Kuturmi formerly called ‘the Kutumbawa’ hailed from Daura province in Kastina State. Burdon (1909) allerged, that Baganda who was the grandson of Bayajidda ‘the snake killer of Daura’ was the one that led the Kutumbawa people to capture Kano Empire in the year A.D 499. The second source says that they migrated from Kano city in 1809 AD as a result of jihad wars and ruled Kano Empire between 14th to 18th centuries.

The Kuturmi people were nicknamed after the occupation of their forefather ‘mortal carving by their neighbors. Kuturmi means motar carving called (Sassakan Turmi in Hausa language) while ‘Turmi’ in their language means ‘mortal’. They can be identified among other tribes through their longitudinal marks on their chicks. It was alleged that when Kano empire was over thrown in 1809 AD, the Kuturmi people who were residing in Kano city under the leadership of Bakutumba of Kutumbawa fled to Sabo village to the west of Kano city from where they migrated southwards in search of refuge. There by passed Zaria to the north and Kauru to South and settled at a village called Kallah Kauru to South and settled at a village called Kallah Kauru District of Kajuru Local Government Areas. On arriving at the place the people attacked and conquered Kajuru kingdom. The Kuturmi still in search of refuge moved further southward and settled at Iburu in Kufana district from where they moved southward and settled at their present site in Kaduna State. After settling down, their forefathers continued with their traditional rulership constitution under the leadership of ‘Ogumo’ meaning ‘king’ in Kuturmi Language.

The headquarters of Kuturmi people was built in Awon village because their speech form has the standard language of the speakers. There are several dialects in the language. They are Anturu, Akama, Ariko, Awon, Asane, Akwando. All these dialects speaks differently from the standard language called Awon,

1.3 Socio-Cultural Profile

Culture is a shared, learned, symbolic system of values, beliefs and attitudes that shapes and influence perception and behavior. The socio – cultural life of the Kuturmi which among others, mode of dressing, belief of system, marriage and festivals are dicussed bellow:


The major occupation of their forefathers is making of mortal but presently then occupation is mostly farming. Others includes fishing, basket weaving. The farming is carried out in sessions starting with yam, cocoyam, hungryrice, guinea corn and local maize. Today, because of their large lands they produce food crops in commercial quantity for sale.


Marriage in Kuturmi in the olden days was the responsibility of the parents. The parents chose would be wife, for their sons right from the day that female child was born. Gifts of foodstuffs were usually presented at the end of every farming season until she attained marriage age. In the contemporary kuturmi society, the females marry between the ages of seventeen and twenty (17-20) and their males between twenty one and twenty five (21-25). Their dowry is usually a hen and a pot of local wine called ‘Burukutu’


The Kuturmi men dressed in animal skins and Agwando. The animal skins were usually worn around the waist with another hung covering only one part of the body. The Agwando dress is made from cotton, worn by the male children and adolescence. The women dressed in ture a piece of cloth of about 1.5 meter long and two inches wide, tied around the waist and covering only the essential parts of the women while young girls use leaves. Today men dress simply using flowing gowns while women wear wrappers and blouses with head ties to church or celebrations.


The people believes in God, spirits, ancestors, magic and medicinal practices. The religion of the speakers before the coming of Christianity just like any other Nigerian community was essentially traditional but presently they belief in God because they believe that God is the creator and controller of the universe. The name ‘God’ in the language is known as ‘Onung’ meaning the ‘supreme being’ Onung is represented by them as being too holy to be approached directly. Hence, they have devised other means of approaching him. These means serve as mediators and one of such means is through the ‘Okwu’ shrine known as ‘Ujenekwu’ to consult the Supreme Being concerning their problems and the chief priest Ete-kwu’ normally leads them in performing the rituals required for them.

The spirit means ‘Ushari’ they are said to constitute a world of their own and live as humans with organized form of life and authority. Some are associated with protection while others with destruction. The protective ones are harmless while destructive ones are called ‘red or black’ depending on the degree of destruction. They cause illness and death to people. The speakers and strangers are not allowed to visit such places especially at noon.

The general name for ancestors is ‘Okwu’, both male and female ancestors. They are believed to be interested in the affairs of the living members of their families. Ancestors are worshipped on sessional basis especially after the harvest and at the start of rainy seasons. Individual families organize generational ceremonies known as ‘Umuroso’ for those that died at very old age.

Agricultural Resources

The vegetation of the area falls under the guinea savannah type with prominent feature of tall grasses called ‘elephant grasses’. Among the natural resources of the people are timber, palm produce, agricultural products such as ginger, maize, millet, yam, and cassava.

1.4 Geographical Location

Kuturmi land is located on latitude 9.5 degree north and 10 degrees south and on longitude 7.5 degrees east and 8.0 degree west. The region lies to the western part of Kachia district headquarters. The region is bounded by the river Gwarara to the east and south where hippopotamus are found and to the north and west by Kadara tribe. In the northern part of the region is a range of hills called ‘Apan-okung and at the central location is another range of mountains called Kankan hills. The kilometers between Kachia Local Government to Awon village where the standard language of the speakers is spoken, is about 20 kilometers (20kms).

1.5 Genetic Classification of Kuturmi Language

A genetic classification is a sub-group of all relevant languages into genetic nodes, meaning group of languages in each of which one language is more closely related to the other than to any language inside the group. Therefore, genetic classification is based on the assumption that languages have diverged from common ancestors and the method used in classifying them is based on the resemblances found in elements of languages.

According to Ruhlen (1987: 1) ‘the idea that groups of languages that share certain systematic resemblance have inherited those similarities from a common origin, is the basis for ‘genetic classification’. Therefore, Kuturmi language can be classified under Kada sub-group of Benue Congo.

Source: Ruhein (1987: 1).

1.6 Scope and Organization of Study

This research work describes the aspects of Kuturmi phonology. It examines the sound system and patterns of Kuturmi language and the phonological process that are found in the language.

Chapter one focuses on the historical background, geographical location, socio-cultural profile, genetic classification as well as the theoretical framework for the study. The research methodology used is also included in this chapter. Chapter two presents the sounds, types of syllable and syllable processes of Kuturmi language. It also deals with the charts of both consonant and vowel sounds. Chapter three examines the phonological processes like assimilation, deletion, insertion, nasalization and vowel harmony that are attested in the language. Chapter four presents the tone and tonological processes of the language. It also gives detailed information on the types of tone attested in Kuturmi language. Chapter five concludes and summarizes the work. Further findings and recommendations are also included in this chapter.

Chapter one continues in the complete material…

Chapter Five

Summary, Recommendations and Conclusion

5.1 Introduction

This chapter gives the summary, recommendation and conclusion of the research which has been carried out on the phonology of Kuturmi Language.

5.2 Summary

This research work was carried out in order to examine the aspects of Kuturmi phonology. Kuturmi is spoken by the Awon tribe in Kaduna state. The Ibadan four hundred wordlist was used as a basis for phonological analysis.
The research work was divided into chapters to enhance organized and systematic analysis. Chapter one served as the introduction. It introduced the speakers of Kuturmi, by discussing their historical background, sociolinguistic background, geographical location, genetic classification and the method of data collection.

Chapter two examined the phonological concept in Kuturmi Language. The consonant sound system was analyzed according to their environment of occurrence. Kuturmi Language has twenty six consonants and twelve vowels. The analysis of the vowel sound system revealed that Kuturmi has seven oral and five nasal vowels. The justification of the features used in describing both the consonants and vowel sounds was written. Lastly, we discussed syllable structure of Kuturmi and a conclusion was drawn.

The third chapter of this research work examined the phonological process evident in Kuturmi using copious data for illustration. The phonological processes discussed were; Assimilation, Deletion, Insertion, Nasalization and Vowel Harmony.

Chapter four dealt predominantly with the tone system of Kuturmi language. Kuturmi attests three level tones mainly; the high tone, mid tone, and low tone. The lexical function of tone and phonological processes were discussed.

The concluding chapter, chapter five, summarized the research and gave a conclusion to the work.

5.3 Recommendations

That this long essay has only addressed the phonological aspect of Kuturmi Language is an eloquent testimony to the fact that other aspects such as morphology, syntax e.t.c. are craving for vigorous study in the language. On this premise, it would be recommended that language teachers, linguistic researchers and students alike should consider it s a great academic responsibility to carry out further vigorous researches into these aspects yet to be scrutinized. In other words, it will make a sense if researchers can go on to examine the morphology and syntax of more language as a mean for language teachers to use Kuturmi as a medium of linguistic exemplification for language students in language classes.

In addition to the above, that this long essay has only analyzed Kuturmi with regard to phonology does not necessarily imply that the language has been fully exhausted phonologically. Therefore, it will be laudable if other phonologist can further their research more into the phonological component of the language most especially the supra-segmental aspect.

Finally, language planners should complement the vigorous academic efforts of linguists towards the structural development of Kuturmi by considering it a point of duty to promote the language in such a way that it will serve a functional role of mass media communication in the country. Also, It should be promoted as a language of instruction in schools at least in secondary education as an emblem of language development.

5.4 Conclusion

Like other human languages, Kuturmi has a phonological structure. It is on this note that a thorough linguistic investigation has been done on the phonology of Kuturmi Language, spoken in Kaduna State, Nigeria. It has been observed that the phonological structure of the language is quite phenomenal in the way phonological processes such as assimilation, deletion e.t.c. are operated on underlying structures in other to convert them to surface structures as it is in line with the frame work of generative phonology.

Thus, it is pertinent to conclude that this research project is indeed a reliable point of research reference for further linguistic researches into the language by professional linguistic researchers.

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