THE NGIZIM

LANGUAGE

Ngizim is spoken in Yobe State, Nigeria, in the area to the east and south of Potiskum, the largest city in Yobe State, as well as in Potiskum, which was originally an Ngizim town. It is one of seven languages of the Chadic family indigenous to Yobe State, the others being Bade, Bole, Duwai, Karekare, Maka, and Ngamo. Ngizim is a member of the West Branch of Chadic and is hence related to Hausa, the dominant language throughout northern Nigeria. Ngizim's closest linguistic relatives are, however, Bade, spoken north of Potiskum in Bade (Bedde) Emirate, whose capital is Gashua, and Duwai, spoken east and south of Gashua.

The Ethnologue gives a 1993 population figure of 80,000 for Ngizim speakers, which seems not unreasonable. The pre-eminent traditional ruler of the Ngizim people is Mai Potiskum, HRH Alhaji Umaru Bubaram, whose court is located in Yarimaram, near Potiskum. Like all the traditional rulers of northern Nigeria, Mai Potiskum is the prime Islamic figure for the Ngizim people. Most Ngizims are Muslims, but a significant number are Christian, and there may be some who continue to adhere to the traditional religion.

Unlike some of the other languages in Yobe State, Ngizim has very little dialect variation. The Ngizim people pronounce the name as "Ng@z@m" (@ = a high central vowel, a "barred i" in the International Phonetic Alphabet). The origin of the name is uncertain. The same root is used in Bade to refer to various ethnic or regional variations of closely related languages, not just the people currently referred to as "Ngizim". The table below shows the current autonyms for the people and language as well as the terms in Hausa and also in Kanuri, for many centuries the dominant linguistic and cultural force in northeastern Nigeria.

    NGIZIM HAUSA KANURI
People Ng@z@m (singular)
Ng@zamcin (plural)
Bangizme (m), Bangizmiya (f)
Ngizimawa (pl)
Ng@z@m
Language miya Ng@z@m
'mouth/language [of] Ngizim'
Ngizimanci Ng@z@m

Research on Ngizim

Most previous published work on Ngizim, including a Dictionary of Ngizim published in 1981, derives from research done by Russell Schuh in 1969-70, when he was a Research Assistant on a comparative Chadic project (funded by the US National Science Foundation, grant #2279, Paul Newman, Principal Investigator). Schuh also worked on Ngizim for brief periods in the 1970's and 1980's, but the main new initiative to make documentation in and on Ngizim available to the Ngizim people and a larger public is 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. Members of the Ngizim team during the first funding period were Muhammad Adamu, Ahmed M. Baidu, Joseph Ya'u Yakubu, and Usman Garba Potiskum. For the the second funding period, the Ngizim team has been Muhammad Adamu and Usman Babayo Garba Potiskum. Thanks go also to HRH Alhaji Umaru Bubaram, Mai Potiskum for his support and to Madu Liman and his family for indispensable logistic support.

The Ngizim Research Team, 2001-2004

L to R: Alhaji Maina Gimba, Muhammad Adamu, Russell Schuh, Joseph Ya'u, Usman Garba, Ahmed Baidu

Muhammad Adamu, 2009 Usman Babayo Garba, 2009
Muhammad, Usman, 2009 Muhammad, Usman, Gimba 200
Usman, Muhammad, Schuh 2009 Usman, Gimba, Schuh, Muhammad 2009
Usman, Schuh, HRH Alhaji Umar Bubaram, Gimba, Muhammad 2008