THE KAREKARE LANGUAGE

Karekare is spoken in Yobe State, Nigeria, in the area to the north and west of Potiskum, the largest city in Yobe State. It is one of seven languages of the Chadic family indigenous to Yobe State, the others being Bade, Bole, Duwai, Maka, Ngamo, and Ngizim. Karekare is a member of the West Branch of Chadic and is hence related to Hausa, the dominant language throughout northern Nigeria. Karekare's closest linguistic relatives are, however, its neighbors, Ngamo and Bole.

The Ethnologue gives the number of Karekare speakers as 150,000-200,000, which seems a bit high, but something over 100,000 would be a reasonable figure. The pre-eminent traditional ruler of the Karekare people is Mai Tikau, HRH Muhammadu ibn Abubakar Shuwa, whose court is located in Nangere, about 20 kilometers north of Potiskum, though the traditional place of origin of the Karekare's is Jalam, now in Bauchi State, west of Potiskum, and Jalam is still the site of the most important annual Karekare ritual, Bara ma Jalam 'festival of Jalam'. Like all the traditional rulers of northern Nigeria, Mai Tikau is the prime Islamic figure for the Karekare people. Probably a majority of Karekares are Muslims, but Christians comprise a larger proportion of the Karekare population than of any of the other Yobe State ethnicities..

The Karekare people pronounce the name as "Karaikarai". The origin of the name is uncertain. It resembles the Kanuri word kare 'goods, things, load', which has been borrowed into virtually every language in northeastern Nigeria, including all the languages of Yobe State. It has been suggested that the ethnic term Karekare is somehow related to this word. The table below shows the current autonyms for the people and language as well as the terms in Hausa and in Kanuri, which for many centuries was the dominant linguistic and cultural force in northeastern Nigeria. The terms for Karekare man and Karekare woman are clearly taken from Hausa--the Ba- prefix and feminine -iya suffix are specific to Hausa. Karekare, more than the other languages of Yobe State, readily absorbs elements from neighboring languages, including Hausa, which is now the unversal lingua franca for all of northern Nigeria, including Yobe State.

    KAREKARE HAUSA KANURI
People Bakarkarai (m), Bakarkariya (f)
Karaikarai (pl)
Bakarkare (m), Bakarkariya (f)
Karaikarai (pl)
Karekare
Language bo Karaikarai
'mouth/language [of] Karekare'
Karkaranci Karekare

Research on Karekare

Essentially all the material on this website derives from the Yobe Languages Research Project. This project has been supported by two awards from the US National Science Foundation. The first, "The Chadic Languages of Yobe State, Nigeria" (award #BCS-0111289, Russell G. Schuh, Principal Investigator), ran from 2001-2004. The second, "Lexicon, Linguistic Structure, and Verbal Arts in Chadic Languages of Northeastern Nigeria" (award #BCS-0553222, Russell G. Schuh, Principal Investigator), runs from 2006-2009. Directors of the project under both grants are Russell G. Schuh, the Principal Investigator, and Alhaji Maina Gimba, the In-Country Director. Several people participated in the Karekare team since the beginning of the project. The late Malam Kariya Gambo was with the project from 2001-2004. Others over that period were the late Dauda Mamu in 2002, Rifkatu I. Bumi in 2003, and Umaru Manu Karofi in 2004. Since 2007, the Karekare team has comprised Abubakar Idris Tikau and Ibrahim Yusuf. Thanks go also to HRH Alhaji Muhammadu ibn Abubakar Shuwa, Mai Tikau for his support and to Madu Liman and his family for indispensable logistic support.

The KareKare Research Team, 2003

L to R: Russell Schuh, Rifkatu I. Bumi, Malam Kariya Gambo, Alhaji Maina Gimba

Abubakar Idris Tikau, 2009 Ibrahim Yusuf, 2009
Abubakar, Schuh, Ibrahim, 2009 Abubakar, Gimba, Ibrahim, 2009 Gimba, Schuh, Abubakar, Ibrahim 2009