Aspects Of The Phonology Of Kúrámá Language – Complete project material

Chapter One


Kúrámá language is indigenous to Nigeria with a little over 40,000 speakers (2000 estimate). The alternate names to Kúrámá are Akurmi, Akurumi, Azumu, Bagwama, Bukurumi, Tikurami. These alternate names signify one aspect or the other of the Kúrámá term. For example – Tikurami means “the language”, Bikurumi means “a speaker” and Akurumi means “the people”.

Kúrámá is located and widely spoken in Kaduna state in the north-western region of Nigeria.

1.1    Historical Background

Back in the 13th.C in a place called Bikurimi in Kano (the northern part of Nigeria), the Kúrámá people migrated from their settlement alongside with some other ethnic groups, like Beguanda, Kutembe (which is now Kachia, Kaduna state) for north-western region and were allowed in the Fidaro base. From here, they extended to their various locations which they now occupy. We now have places like – Kaduna, Plateau and Bauchi states in which the Kúrámá speakers can be located.

More so, the Kúrámá people are mostly found in the Lere local government area of Kaduna state.

1.2    Socio-Cultural Profile

Under socio-cultural activities, we have marriage ceremony, mode of dressing, religion and culture. These shall be discussed in relation to Kúrámá setting.

1.2.1 Marriage Ceremony

The normal mode of obtaining a wife was and is by agricultural service including cash and payment of other things as requested by the bride’s parents or guardians. A bride’s price of 40,000 – 60,000 cowries, one basket of rice, and one pot of honey. These gifts are given during the concluding rites.

1.2.2 Mode of Dressing

The dressing of the Kúrámá people is almost the same with the Hausas. Therefore, you find it difficult to distinguish a Hausa woman and Kúrámá woman in the area of dressing. The women also cover their heads.

1.2.3 Religion

The Kúrámá people practice two religions basically in which the second one is splitted into two, and these shall be highlighted as we move further.

Firstly, they have what is called – Ancestor worship. This is done when someone dies and after one or two years, the people in the family of the deceased will gather together to celebrate the dead. Another variation under this, is small, and is that the followers of Kúrámá that are called ‘Uchindu’ celebrates their own in a different way.

Secondly, we have the set of people that don’t believe in the ancestor worship and these sets of people are referred to as Christians and Muslims.

1.2.4 Culture

The Kúrámá culture is not different from any other northern group. Just as the language came out from the HH

Hausa region, it also shares similar culture with the Hausa. Due to western interference, there is now variance.

Initially, the younger ones honoured the elderly ones. More so, there was demarcation between the males and females. This happened especially when they came back from farm. The males did not mingle with females. Therefore, they frown at seeing the males and females mingling together.

1.3    Socio-Linguistic Profile

The people of Kúrámá are very patriotic and loyal to their language, as such, a researcher will be unable to locate them if he/she regards them to be Hausa.

The language is used in the following ways as listed below;

  • The language of home, that is, Kúrámá language is used strictly at home as means of communication and instruction between the children and their parents.
  • Commercial activities; the language is used for transacting business in the market place of Kúrámá communities.
  • The language at school; Kúrámá language is used at the lower learning in school which enables the pupil to understand the alphabets that are present in the language.

1.4    Genetic classification

The Kúrámá language is a language within the sub-groupings of the Benue-Congo.


WEST PLATEAU                                                  KAINJI EAST KAINJI




Retrieval from

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1.5    Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework of this study is generative from the work of Chomsky and Halle (1968).

The ‘generative’ model of language which appeared during the 1960s put greater emphasis on the need for a linguistic analysis to have explanatory power, that is, to explain adequately what the native speaker intuitively ‘knows’ about his language (1984).

1.6    Data collection

The method adopted for collecting data for the study is the contact method and is also known as informant method.

The collection of the data was via the Ibadan word list of 400 basic items and tape recorder was used to have the voice of the informant.

Below is brief information about my major informant for this work:

Name – Mr. Yohanna Yusuf

Age – 25years

Sex – Male

Occupation – Military officer

Numbers of years lived in the village – 22years

Other languages spoken – Hausa and English

1.7    Brief review of the chosen framework

The 1960s saw increasing discontent with orthodox phonemics in North America. A series of publications by Halle (1959, 1962, 1964), a vigorous attack by Chomsky on phonemics and structuralist linguistics in general (1964), a book by postal (1968) and a large scale treatment of English phonology jointly authored by Chomsky and Halle (1968) marked the emergence of generative phonology as a new theory and framework of description.

In assessing phonological description and particularly in formulating phonological rules, Halle argued that plausible general rules were better expressed in terms of features.

A phonological process whereby all plosives are voiced between vowels is a plausible rule: it is known to operate in some languages and it seems to reflect a probable pattern of voicing assimilation.  It is more likely rule than one which says for example, that [p] is voiced only between [a] and [u], [t] is voiced only between [e] and [o].

Most phoneticians and phonologists readily agree that, there are normal tendencies in speech and that certain processes seem more common or more plausible than others – although their university should not be exaggerated.  Halle’s point, however, concerns description and explanation: when expressed in segment, plausible rules do not necessarily appear simpler.  The two rules suggested above might appear as :

[p]    ®     [b]                            [i]                [i]

First rule,         [t]     ®     [d]        between      [e]    and     [e]

[k]    ®     [g]                            [a]               [a]

[o]               [o]

[u]               [u]

[p]    ®     [b]        between      [a]    and     [u]

Second rule,    [t]     ®     [d]        between      [u]    and     [i]

[k]    ®     [g]        between      [e]    and     [o]

Of course the first rule can be expressed as a general statement, such as any voiceless plosive is voiced between any two vowels.

Argument of this kind led generative phonologists to abandon the concepts of phoning and allophone, and to talk in terms of a relatively abstract or morpho-phonemic underlying level of phonological representation from which the phonetic output could be derived by application of a set of phonological rules.

Underlying Representation [abstract Representation]

Phonological Rules

Phonetic Representation [Surface Representation]

The elaboration of this new conception of phonology was part of the development of a transformational generative theory of language in general, powered by Noam Chomsky.  He is sometimes thought of as grammarian with a particular interest in syntax.  Chomsky himself contributed to the development of generative phonology.  His current issues in linguistic theory (1964) is generally critical of modern linguistics:  The 19th century narrowed ‘the scope of linguistic to the study of the inventory of elements’, and De Saussure and ‘structural linguistics’ were preoccupied with ‘systems’ of elements rather than the systems of rules which were the focus of attention in traditional grammar.  Against the background, he dismisses much of modern phonology as taxonomic phonologist, having refer to ‘acurions and rather extreme contemporary due to the effect that true linguistic science must necessarily be a kind of pre-Darwinien taxonomy concerned solely with the collection and classification of countless of specimen.  He criticizes in detail, the ‘taxonomic’ phonologists’ concerned with segmentation, contrast, distribution and biuniqueness and put forward the view that phonological description is not based on  analytic procedures of segmentation and classification but is rather a matter of constructing the set of rules that constitute the phonological component of a grammar.

1.8    Organization of the Work

In chapter one, the researcher bothers on a brief introduction of language and exposed extensively the socio-cultural background, the theoretical framework and so on.

In chapter two, the study will be focusing basically on the basic phonological concepts in which sound/tonal inventory and sound distributions will be analyzed.

In chapter three, the focus will be on the phonological processes, where the various phonological processes attested in the language of study will be given a close look.

In chapter four, the research will be on the syllable and tonal processes in Kúrámá in relation to the review as seen in chapter two and ample examples will be used to exemplify these syllable and tonal processes in Kúrámá.

In chapter five, the summary and conclusion of the findings of the study will be drawn, to close the entire work.


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