THE BADE LANGUAGE

Bade is spoken in the northern part of Yobe State, Nigeria, in an area fanning out east and south of Gashua, the current location of the court of the Emir of Bade (Bedde). It is one of seven languages of the Chadic family indigenous to Yobe State, the others being Bole, Duwai, Karekare, Maka, Ngamo, and Ngizim. Bade is a member of the West Branch of Chadic and is hence related to Hausa, the dominant language throughout northern Nigeria. Bade's closest linguistic relatives are, however, Ngizim, spoken to the south, around Potiskum, and Duwai, spoken east of Gashua. Bade is dialectally very diverse, to the extent that one could really speak of several "Bade languages". There are three main dialect varieties: Western Bade, the variety with the largest number of speakers, spoken over the western half to two-thirds of the Bade area, some of the larger Western Bade speaking towns being Amshi, Dagona, Tagali, and, Madamuwa; Southern Bade, spoken to the southeast of the Western area and south of Gashua, with some of the main Southern Bade-speaking towns being Katamma, Katangana, and Gorgoram; and Gashua Bade, spoken in the city of Gashua, by far the largest town in the Bade-speaking area, and villages fanning out around Gashua. There is, moreover, considerable variation within each of these three dialect varieties, with virtually every village having its distinct features. Particulary notable is the town of Karege, more or less at the boundary between the Western and Gashua areas, where the dialect has a unique mix of features from the two dialect varieties. See Schuh (1981) for a description of Bade dialectology.

The Ethnologue gives a population figure of 250,000, which seems not unreasonable, since it probably includes all Bade dialects as well as Duwai. The pre-eminent traditional ruler of the Bade people is Mai Bade, whose court is located in now located in Gashua, at the northeastern corner of the Bade region. The traditional capital of Bade Emirate was Gorgoram (go-karam 'without-chopping' in Bade, referring to the fact that it was surrounded by dense bush), where is was built as a defense against Kanuri and Fulani predations. The capital moved to the more convenient location of Gashua, on a main road, in the 1920's. The picture to the left shows the traditional palace in Gorgoram as it appeared in the mid-1970's. Like all the traditional rulers of northern Nigeria, Mai Bade, in addition to being the political leader, is the premier Islamic authority for the region, the vast majority of whose people are Muslim.

A commonly seen spelling for "Bade" dating from the colonial period is "Bedde", an attempt in English orthography to reflect the vowel pronounced like "uh" in the first syllable. The Bade people pronounce the ethnonym as "Bade" or "Badai", according to dialect. The origin of the name is uncertain. The table below shows the current autonyms for the people and language in the Western dialect as well as the terms in Hausa and Kanuri, for many centuries the dominant linguistic and cultural force in northeastern Nigeria. (The symbol "@" in the Bade words is a high, central, unrounded vowel, "barred i" in the International Phonetic Alphabet.)

    BADE (Western) HAUSA KANURI
People Baden (m), Badayakon (f)
Badewat@n@n (pl)
Babade (m), Babadiya (f)
Badawa (pl)
Bade
Language Gabaden Badanci Bade

Research on Bade

Several people have published work on the Bade language. Wordlists of Bade date to the mid-19th century in Sigismund Koelle's Polyglotta Africana. The first work on Bade informed by modern linguistic standards was that of Johannes Lukas, done in the 1950's and 1960's. Both Lukas and his daughter, Renate, published descriptive works and collections of texts. Russell G. Schuh did extensive work on Bade in the mid-1970's, resulting in several descriptive publications and collections of texts in Bade. Click the link "Papers on Bade" at the left to access downloadable versions of mose of these papers.

Most of the material on this website derives from the Yobe Language Research project, funded by two grants from the US National Science Foundation: "The Chadic Languages of Yobe State, Nigeria", 2001-2004 (award #BCS-0111289, Russell G. Schuh, Principal Investigator), and "Lexicon, Linguistic Structure, and Verbal Arts in Chadic Languages of Northeastern Nigeria", 2006-2009 (award #BCS-0553222, Russell G. Schuh, Principal Investigator). Directors of both projects have been Russell G. Schuh and Alhaji Maina Gimba. Members of the Bade team are Bala Wakili Dagona, a speaker of the Western dialect, and Mukhtar Musa Tarbutu, a speaker of Gashua Bade. Work during the first NSF grant period included both Western and Gashua varieties of Bade, but because of limited time and resources, the second project is focusing on the Western variety. Thanks go to the late Mai Bade, HRH Alhaji Saleh ibn Suleiman, and the current Mai Bade, HRH Abubakar Umar Sulaiman for their support. Madu Liman and his family provided indispensable logistic support.

Mukhtar Musa Tarbutu, 2004 Bala Wakili Dagona, 2009 Bala and Schuh, 2009 Bala and Gimba, 2009