Aspects Of Yiwom Morphology

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

Aspects Of Yiwom Morphology


Chapter One


Yiwom Language And Its Speakers

1.0 General Introduction

This chapter Introduces the language and its speakers, other issues in the chapter includes the historical background, sociocultural profile, geographical location, genetic classification, scope and organization, theoretical framework, data collection, data analysis, brief review of the chose theoretical framework and the literature review.


1.1 General Background

Crystal (2008:283) defines linguistics as “the scientific study of language” .This means that linguistics is the scientific study of natural language as everything concerning language is undertaken in linguistics. This project work is on the aspect of morphology of Yiwom language.

The speakers of the Yiwom language are estimated to be 14,100 in the year 2000. The Yiwom people are also known as Garkawa, Gerkanchi, Gerka and Gurka. The speakers call themselves Yioum instead of Yiwom and they will be referred to as Yiwom in this project.


1.2 Historical Background

Hiel-Yioum is what they call their town, but the Fulani people call them Garkawa. It is a unit in the southeast corner of the present Mikang local government of Plateau states in Nigeria. The unit consists of an undulating county slightly rising from south to the Garkawa hills in the extreme North. The Yiwom people have been in their present home for upwards of two hundred years (200 years). The Pitop came to the area first and provided itself a stockaded town at a place called Hakbap. The Rohta followed second and settled in Kiel-Hiel at Rohta-Hills, north of Hiel-Yioum. Other families arrived in large detachments one after the other, and took refuge at Kiel-Hiel. Rohta rock was fortified and was capable of withstanding siege.

About the middle of nineteenth century, the families came from their hills to live in their present homes. Yiwom was once divided into two distinct sections which are the Hill and Plain, the former which is the Hill at Rohta, the latter which is the plain at Pitop. According to legends preserved by both sections, their ancestors sprang from the grounds. The Rohta maintain that they are from river gulnam in the hills, while the Pitop says that their ancestors emerged from the earth. The word “Yioum” in Yiwom dialect means leave. The analogy being: as trees grow out of the ground, so their ancestors came into being. The name “Garkawa” was given to them by Fulani/Hausa traders owing to their military prowess and stubbornness. The name derived from “gagararru”, which in the occurrence of the time became “Garka and Ba Garko and finally, Garkawa”. History shows the Yiwom people to have been a formidable tribe. Legend points to the fact that all the families mentioned and who call themselves Yiwom are of Jukun stock that migrated after the breakup of Kwararrafa Empire (West of Bukundi) and wandered about until they found their present home. Until now, they kept very much to themselves and are good agriculturalist. Yiwom is regarded by the British as one of the “unconquered tribes” living near or along the trade routes. Source Dabup (2009:67-73)


1.3 Geographical Location

The home of the Yiwom speakers is situated in the southeast of Mikang local government in Plateau state, Nigeria. It is found in coordinates 9000 north, 9035 East and 90 North, 9.5830 easts. It covers an area of approximately 739km2 which is 285.3 square meters, its time zone is WAT (UTC + 1). It is bounded in the North and East by the Lantang section of Yergam, southeast by the way to Dampar, south by Inshar and West by the Lalin section of Montol.


1.4 Sociocultural Profile

Yiwom is a Chadic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family spoken by the Garkawa people of Plateau state, Nigeria. They have several clans such as Rohta, Killah, Balbro, Pitop Talim, Lahl, Pensong, Gwar-Gimjim, Bal’Nlah, Longkrom and Wai. Each clan has its own priest called Bangkrom-Krom and its own traditional religion.

1.4.1 Religion

The Yiwom speakers practice all kind of religion including Christianity, Islam and animism. In the olden days, the speakers of the language were mainly practicing animism but over the years, Christianity has taken over and a few practice Islam.

1.4.2 Ceremonies

A lot of ceremonies go on in the Yiwom culture which includes marriage, burial ceremony.

1.4.2.1 Naming Ceremony

Yiwom speakers do not celebrate naming ceremony. It is the father side that names a child and it is done immediately or at most after three of five days after the child had been given birth to. There is no celebration a lady is not given the chance to name a child even though a mother can name a child, it has to be with the consent of the father but it is usually the father side that gives the child a name.

1.4.2.2 Marriage Ceremony

When a man seeks a wife in the Yiwom customs, he makes his proposals to the girl directly, when the girl is comparatively young. If she accepts him as suitor, he then sends two or three of his friends to her and asks her if she had accepted their friend, as her suitor. If she says yes, the girl in turn informs her mother that she has accepted the man. Her parents will also call her and question her closely as to whether she has really accepted the suitor. Until the parents are satisfied and certain, they will not receive any presents from the suitor. Once they accept presents from the suitor, the girl is considered betrothed and no one else makes advances to her. The gifts begin at an early stage, at a later stage, the boy builds a mud hut and enclosure for the girl’s mother and he also farms every year for the girl’s father. There would not be any sexual relationship with his fiancée until after marriage in Yiwom’s custom, there are three modes of contracting a marriage and these are:

(a) Marriage by system of exchange:

In this case, the wife and her offspring virtually become the property of her husband, but with the passage of time this has died out.

(b) The second mode of marriage is by payment of small customary bride-price. Under the small bride-price system, it was easy for a woman to change her husband, but that hardly happened.

(c) Cousin Marriage:

This is considered the best form of marriage on the ground that they keep wealth within the family. The second and most important reason is that divorce is not permissible and, therefore, was permanent.

1.4.2.3 Burial Ceremony

Mourning and burial rites were done in yester-years by making cylindrical shaft with niche, in which the body was wrapped in a cloth. Nowadays, burial is in a rectangular grave with a niche, reclining on a mat facing east, if a man or west, if a woman. This type of grave is of recent adoption, being easier to make than the cylindrical shaft with niche.

1.4.3 Festivals

Festivals in the Yiwom custom include circumcision, initiation, hunting etc.

1.4.3.1 Circumcision

Circumcision rites among male children are carried out every year. Circumcision was regarded as a rebirth, the actual operation of circumcision was performed in order of seniority, and it was not possible for a younger brother to be circumcised at the same time as an elder brother. This is done in the spring, dry season of the initiation year. Circumcision is a necessary antecedent to marriage, as among some other tribes. A boy’s initiation is often held-up by the rule that two brothers by the same mother may not be simultaneously. The younger, even though he has passed the age of puberty, must wait for the succeeding batch. All persons initiated together are regarded as being on the same social footing, and it would improper that a younger brother should be given social equality with an elder. The custom and tradition of Yiwom disallowed female circumcision.

1.4.3.2 Initiation

After healing and a year of the circumcision, if the boy reached the age of puberty, the head of the family took him to an isolated enclosure for initiation. The account and method of initiation are unknown to those who have not been initiated. After the initiation, the boy was considered to be a responsible member of the community and was no longer required to conceal himself with the women and children. They are warned to show respect their seniors and if they fail to in any of their duties towards your elders, they will be prostrated with sickness.

Hunting festivals takes place after the harvest, in bush, bordering the River Wase to the East. Most types of animals like elephants were found there. Weapons such as spears, hunting-knives, bows and poisoned arrows were some of the weapons used. The spears and arrow heads were dipped in poison before use in the hunt.

Masquerades is kept by each clan and appears from time to time, armed with a whip and chastising recalcitrant boys or any woman who has the effrontery to remain within his reach. Masquerades are kept secret from the women and boys who have not been initiated.

1.4.4 Dressing

In the olden days, the young girls wear “pàtàrí” and it is like a short skirt and the married women wears something like the ìró and bùbá which the Yoruba women wears, the men wears ‘bìndé’ like the Ibos, a short knickers called ‘gúd’ and a long trouser called ‘mùrdú’ or ‘wòrdó’. The modern dressing is like the normal dressing which is the modernized way of dressing and they mostly sew ìró and bùbá and not skirts.

1.4.5 Traditional Administration

The overall head of the Yiwom is called ‘Migher Yiwom’ which means “Head of Yiwom”. The chiefs are recognized by putting on a red cap and holding a staff. The selection of the chiefs is done in a democratic way and through the clan rotation; each clan presents two or three people who are then elected into position. There is also the leader of each clan which is called ‘Migher Pitop’ or any name of the clan which can be ‘Migher Rohta’ which means ‘head of the Pitop’; this is like a subordinate to the ‘Migher Yiwom’ who has the power to choose who he wants as his head of the clan. If a clan is chosen as the ‘Migher Yíwóm’ this year, it will be another clan next time. The war chief is called ‘Migher Klàng’ which means ‘head or leader of war’ and a local chief is called ‘Bangkrum krom’.

1.4.6 Economic

The Yiwom speakers are good farmers. All the usual crops and cereals are grown by them, with the exception of the onion, cassava was only recently introduced and yams were not grown to any commercial quantity. They did not significantly practice crafts except simple mat making. Blacksmiths were few in number as iron was imported from the Burumawa tribe and some by the Fulani/Hausa traders from Ibi. The market is held everyday but Tuesday of every week continues to be the market day. Trade-by-barter was customary among tribes, cowries were never used. Taxes were and still paid in money but not plentiful.

Children are first taught their mother tongue, Yiwom and then Goemai and Jukun languages. A great number are able to speak Hausa as well. They do not have tribal marks, except for personal adornment. “The tribe is immensely proud of itself, in former days the people were feared by all and conquered by none”, writes Mr. Hale Middleton, Resident of Plateau Province in 1931. Dabup (2009:74-95)


1.5 Genetic Classification Of Yiwom

Genetic classification is a sub-grouping of all related languages into a genetic node. It is the way we classify all languages that are related into one group, domain or node. It is sometimes called phylo-genetic classification. The relationship between languages is sometimes close as evident with Yiwom and Montol and sometimes more distant as with Shona and Fulani.

Yiwom language is part of the Chadic family which is in turn part of Afro-Asiatic family. Afro-Asiatic consists of some 353 languages and Chadic is made up of 200 languages. (Ethnologue website), Yiwom is one of 200 Chadic languages.

The diagram of the Genetic Classification of Yiwom language is drawn below.


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