Aspects Of The Phonology Of Kofyar Language

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

Aspects Of The Phonology Of Kofyar Language


Chapter One


General Introduction

1.0 Introduction

This research work focuses on the phonology of Kofyar Language. Kofyar language is spoken in Plateau State of Nigeria. It is spoken in fairly sizeable area of Qua’an pan local government area of plateau state. In this chapter, we shall discuss the historical, socio-cultural profile, socio-linguistic profile and the genetic classification of the Kofyar Language. We shall also discuss the scope and organization of study, aims and objectives of study, the theoretical framework we intend to use, method of data collection and analysis.


1.1 Historical Background of the Kofyar of people.

Kofyar is Afro Asiatic and it is spoken in the Qua’an pan local government area of plateau state, Nigeria. The estimated population of the Kofyar speakers is about 109,943 (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, P.3). Kofyar is a good illustration of how colonial authorities become unwittingly enmeshed in local politics, in sustainable subsistence agricultural production in crowded areas; in successful self directed development of market oriented agriculture and the use of “traditional” cultural resources to prosper modern Nigeria.

The migration of a large group of people believed to be of the same stock has been ascribed to oral tradition as taking its root from the North East at or around Kanem Borno. Dafyar, from whom the Kofyar and other groups owe their descent is said to have procreated with his sister Nade as they were the only survivors of a cataclysm they viewed as the collapse of the sky attended by fire and brimstone. It is believed that all mankind perished due to sins committed which attracted the wrath of God. Dafyar and Nade migrated for years and latter hide themselves in a cave on a promontory called chor in Kofubum near present day Kofyar. A casual study shows that one of the may chains of volcanoes in the area of Kanem Borno may have activated, causing the cataclysm the viewed as the sky collapsing with fire and brimstone.

The offspring’s of Dafyar had fanned out into many other sub –groups and sojourned or inter married thereby producing a much wider cultural mix. The colonial expedition visit on Latok following the demise of Her Majesty’s Administration officer Mr. Christopher Matthew Barlow in the early 1930s sent many descendants of Dafyar away from home into communities thereby further widening the cultural mix within the sub region and there about.

1.1.1 Colonial History

The population known as the Kofyar actually comprises three different “tribes” as designated by British colonial officers; the Doemak [or Dimmuk], Kwalla’s and Mernyang. However, the three groups have a common language, economic pattern and origin myth. In the 1940s, they came together in a union called the “Koffyer Federation”. Anthropologists, see them as a single group or groups.

When first encountered by early British colonial authorities, they lived in the rugged hills in the south eastern corner of the Jos Plateau and in settlements around the Plateau base. Their subjugation by the British was largely non-violent until 1930, when a young Assistant District officer named Barlow was killed in the hill village of Latok by a rock thrown at his head. After this the residents of Latok and neighboring villages were forced out of the hills and made to live on the plains below for nine years. In an award winning study, anthropologist Robert Netting explained how Barlow had been unknowingly used in a local political dispute.


1.2 Socio Cultural profile

1.2.1 Religion:

Majority of the Kofyar speaker are Christians, with few Islamic and Traditional followers. Christianity which is the predominant religion of the Kofyar people, in which about 50% of the population are Christians, and mostly Catholic, reason being that, the catholic missionaries were the first to pay a visit to the Kofyar area with the aim of Christianizing the people in the early 20th century. 30% are traditional worshippers while 20% are Muslims of Ahamadiya. The existence of Islam among the people was as a result of uthman dan fodio’s jihad crusade.

1.2.2 Occupation

Except for the educated Kofyars, who occupy various positions in administration, politics and the educational sector or academic intellectuals employed in multi –national companies and the likes, most Kofyars are farmers and local hunters. You can hardly look around without seeing millet, guinea corn plants, yam and cassava which are their main plants in the land.

1.2.3 Cultural festivals:

The Kofyar people observe two major festivals the shikaam and Kwa Kwa festival. The annual festival which is traditionally called “SHIKAAM” festival comprises all the speakers of Kofyar home and abroad, far and near, present at the ceremony. These festivals are done once in a year, usually in the first quarter of the year. During this occasion, a lot of activities are usually lined up. The entire Kofyar people as well as their supporters and neighbors participate in the activities lined up. Such activities include “Sual” a social dance which men engage in which the women dance around them chanting songs along. “Koem” a social dance with its music derived from dry corn stalks and a lot more activities. The second festival which is traditionally called the “KWA KWA” festival is observed by districts and each district has its peculiar way of observing its festival ceremony. Also a lot of activities are usually show cased for the entertainment of the audience that grace the occasion.

1.2.4 Food Items:

The Kofyar people have several forms of food oils other than those derived from animal fats. They are muorbang [palm oil], muorkom [groundnut oil], muorpaat [oil from pie], muorteem [oil from mahogany], muorlem [oil from benni seed], muorseer [melon oil] and several others.

1.2.5 Tourist Attraction

Kofyar federation can be said to be a tourism centre because people from different part of the country come to kofyar to look at the rugged hills and a lot of ancient things of interest.


1.3 Socio linguistics profile:

The Kofyar speakers, also known as Kofyar people are speakers of a very unique and dynamic indigenous Nigerian Language in the North Central of Plateau State with the slogan “Home of peace and tourism”. Kofyar speakers are known by those in the neighboring communities around Doemak, Kwalla and Mernyang as Kofyar speakers even officially.

Kofyar are mostly bi -lingual, using Kofyar Language as their native language and Hausa Language as their target language. Hausa language is usually use as a means of communication when trading with other towns, in short, Hausa language is the language use in commerce. Kofyar language is use in the kindergarten, pre- nursery, nursery and primary section along with Hausa language. While, Hausa and English language is used at the secondary level. Kofyar language is use for religious purpose and as a means of communication in homes and public places. The older generations are not as fluent in English language as the younger ones, who through western education are able to speak it well than the older generations.

The Kofyar people live in the rugged hills in the South eastern corner of the Jos Plateau, and in settlements around the plateau base. Kofyar actually means “the settlement is big”. Although, most Kofyars now live in the Benue Valley [or in cities] the Jos Plateau homeland is still inhabited largely because of the Kofyars efforts to maintain it as a cultural and economic resources. Many Kofyar who live elsewhere still keep secondary homes in the homeland.


1.5 Statement of Research Problems

The focus of this research work is to identify the phonemes and phonological processes in Kofyar Language. This study will discuss the various phonological rules that may be attested in Kofyar language and attempt a significant generalization of such rule


1.6 Aims and Objective of Study

The following are the aims and objectives of the study:

Through the use of the principles of phonemic identification

  1. To critically examine the phonological processes such as: assimilation, dissimilation, insertion, deletion, nasalization, metatheses among others.
  2. To show evidence of relationship between the phonological form through phonological rules.
  3. To show a detailed study of supra segmental features such as: tone and syllable structure in Kofyar.

1.7 Scope and organization of study

This research work shall extensively discuss the phonology of Kofyar language. First, the phonemic and the phonetic sounds of the language shall be unveiled. It will examine the phonological processes attested in Kofyar language. Thus, the analysis and the exemplification of the sound system of Kofyar language will form the focus of this research work. Chapter one will take a cursory look at the general background of the study, the historical background, socio cultural profile: religion, occupation, cultural festival, food items and tourist attraction. We shall also examine the socio linguistic profile, genetic classification, statement of research problem, method of data collection and analysis, aims and objective of the study of Kofyar language. It shall also include a review of the chosen theoretical framework [generative phonology].

The subsequent chapter two will focus on the basic phonological concept. Definitions of phonology, concept of phoneme and allophone, phonemic identification etc.

Chapter three shall look at the sound inventory of Kofyar language [the consonants and vowels] alongside their distribution. A diagrammatic chart showing the phonetic position of these sounds shall also be schematized. The distinctive features and the binary principles shall also be looked at, alongside the tones and syllable patterns of Kofyar language.

Chapter four shall attempt a phonological processes attested in the language with the phonologically significant generalizations that are pertinent to Kofyar language.

Chapter five shall house the summary and the concluding part of the research work, after making recommendations based on our findings.


1.8 Data collection

The technique employed in collecting data for this research work is direct data elicitation. The direct data for this research were collected with the assistance of language informants through the use of the” Ibadan 400 word list of basic items”. The information concerning the informants used for this research work is given below:


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