Morphology Of Bura Language – Complete project material



1.0   Introduction

This project is on the morphology of Bura language. Morphology is the study of word formation in language. In this chapter, we shall discuss the geographical location, historical background and socio-cultural profile of Bura (Pabir) language and its speakers. Other areas covered in this chapter are the genetic classification of Bura language, method of data collection and analysis, the scope and organization of study and also the theoretical framework used in analyzing our data.

1.1   Geographical Location of Bura People and Language

Bura people which are the second largest ethnic group in Borno state inhabit Biu emirate, which is in the southern part of the state. They are known as Bura or Pabir. The language is called Bura or Pabir by the native speakers.

The Bura people are found in the Lower Benue Basin of the Borno Maidguri. The area stretches from Imusika in the north to Lake Adau in the South; from Sambisa Gome Reserve in the east. The language is spoken in Borno state in Hawul, Bia, Damaltura, Shafa and Shani local government areas and also in Garkida Local government in Adamawa state. It is spoken in four villages, which are Imusika, Parakusa, Garu and Pabur.

1.2   Historical Background of Bura People

History has it that the Bura people migrated from Saudi Arabia from a town called Badr, as a result of religious conflict between Mecca and Medina. They arrived at Garkida, which is now in Adamawa state. They settled among the Shiba, for about nine years. From there, in search of a more suitable place, they moved to a location around lake Tilla, which borders Yemyem in Shani local government area in Borno state.

Having left lake Tilla area, the Bura people moved to a place known as Wasunsu, the present Imusika town and settled near the famous Biu emirate. They became intimate with the Kanuri people. They fought their enemies together. They stayed at the North of Biu before being attacked by Yamta-ra-Wala around the 16th century. The few people Yamta brought with him intermarried with the Bura and built up the dynasty into a kingdom.

Those who descended from Yamta’s group were called Pabir (Babur). This is why the Pabir and Bura differ considerably in culture and appearance. Although they speak the same language they saw themselves as different ethnic groups. Up till today, the Pabir are the ruling class among the Bura and all the Bura villages pay tribute to the Emir of Biu. The Bura still resent the Pabir.

The Bura people for many years suffered so much from their Moslem neighbours who are in control of the town. In a bid to keep their culture intact, the Bura people moved to Imusika, a few kilometers from the Biu emirate and founded the present Imusika village and some other villages like Parakasa and Garu. The Bura people up till today are still answerable to the Emir of Biu Emirate.

1.3   The Socio-Cultural Profile of Bura People

Aderibigbe (1997: 34) defines culture as the aggregate lifestyle of a group of inhabitants occupying a geographical unit of land.

The culture of the Bura people could be seen in their occupational activities, religion, food, marriage, burial ceremonies, education and in their administration.

The Bura did not circumcise their boys until the practice was introduced around the 1920’s. Boys are circumcised around the age of 7.

1.3.1        Occupation

Farming is the main occupation of Bura people. They produce both cash and food crops, such as guinea corn, cassava, cocoyam, rice, maize and groundnut. The women weave baskets. The educated ones work in offices and schools. The educated ones are the main work force of Borno state.

1.3.2        Trade

Since they are basically farmers, they trade with their farm produce. The basket weavers also sell their baskets in the market. The languages used for their trading activities are basically Bura and Hausa languages. Since they are close to Hausa people most of Bura speakers speak Hausa language. Hausa is used because Hausa people buy things from Bura people. English language is also used when a visitor does not understand Bura and Hausa languages. Since there is basically no village that you will not find an educated fellow, the educated fellow will serve as an interpreter between the visitor and the seller.

1.3.3        Food

The major food of the Bura people is Tuwo made with guinea corn and maize. They also eat rice and cocoyam.

1.3.4        Religion

The Bura had their traditional religion before Islam came around in 1920 and Christianity later in the 1920’s. The traditional religion cannot be found among the Bura people in this present century. Nobody boasts that he/she is a traditional worshipper even if he still believers in it. Hyel is the word for God in Bura language.

The population is fairly evenly distributed between Christians and Muslims. There is a version of the Bible written in Bura language.

1.3.5        Marriage

In the olden days when a female is born, a suitor may propose by throwing a leafy branch of a certain tree into her mother’s  hut. If he is accepted, he gives gifts as the girl grows up. He works on her father’s farm and makes malting for them. When she reaches marriageable age, he organizes his friends to capture her and bring her to his house. Then the remaining part of the bride price is settled and arrangements for the marriage ceremony are concluded.

Another form of courtship is for a boy to look over the girls while they are our collecting firewood of fetching water. When he sees one he likes, he asks her to marry him, and if she agrees, he gets 8 or 10 strong fellows to capture her and bring her to his house. Then the marriage ceremony is arranged. The bride is usually expected to produce a white cloth stained with the proof of her virginity, and it may be displayed with pride. Her parents will be ashamed if she is not a virgin.

In the present age when a man and a woman have consented that they want to marry each other they both tell their parents. A day will be fixed by the bride’s family for the groom’s family to come and see them. The groom’s family will go there to make a personal introduction of themselves. Nothing is taken to the bride’s family for this introduction. When there is agreement by both families that the marriage should go on, the groom’s family sends kolanut, a white linen traditionally called ‘Berian’ cloth, shem and dowry (no fixed amount) to the bride’s family. A day will then be fixed for the marriage proper according to the religion of both families. There is no particular cloth worn by the couple during marriage ceremonies.

1.3.6        Burial Ceremonies

When an old person dies, he or she is buried on the second day when everyone has gathered, in the evening. The grave is a wide circular shaft at the top, about knee deep. Then a smaller round shaft is dug from the bottom of this into a flask-shaped cavity below. The corpse of a chief is buried seated, but other people are laid flat on the floor of the cavity. There is traditional dancing for seven days after the burial, and if the deceased was an important person, it lasts 14 days. During these days, rituals are performed.

There is dancing with beating of drums, and things belonging to the deceased that show who he was, are displayed, such as his tools and weapons. On one of the mourning days, the “fulnchambwi” dance is done. The male dancers jump from the ground to the roof of the hut of the deceased and back again until the roof is destroyed. After this the date is fixed for the last mourning or Sadaka, which is held about 6 months later, but usually during the dry season.

1.3.7        Education

Education was brought into the Bura community as a result of early contact with the church of the Brethren (CBM) missionaries. Quite a number of Bura people are educated. They are the main educated people in Borno state and so they are the main work force in the state. About 60-70% of Bura people are educated.

1.3.8        Administration

Originally the Bura had no central government. The Pabir people serve as the ruling class. The Emir of Biu (Pabir) appoints the district heads (Ajia) who then approve the appointments of the village heads (Lawans). Today, both these titles belong to certain families. The village heads appoint the ward heads (Bulamas) over small villages and wards of larger ones. Anyone who has leadership ability can be chosen as a Bulama.

1.4   Population of the Bura People

The Bura people had a population of about 250,000 in 1987. At the time of this research the Bura people number over 700,000. Some of the Bura speakers now speak Hausa language as a result of their contact with Islam and the Hausa people. They are the most highly populated ethnic group in Borno State.

1.5    Genetic Classification of Bura (Pabir)


Niger-Kurdofania                       Afro Asiatic                               Nilo Sahara                      Khoisan

Egyptian                         Semitic                  Cushitic                 Omotic         Berber          Chadic

West-Chadic          Buimandara                    East Chadic                                                  Masa

Tera Group  Koto Group  Bura Group  Higi Group   Mandara Group      Sukur Group   Buta Group

Chbak          Kiba             Bura (Pabir)        Kaba                     Margi           Putas

Source: Comrie, B. (ed.) (1987).

Fig. 1: Genetic Classification of Bura Language

1.6   Scope and Organization of the Study

The scope of this research work is the morphology of Bura language. This study is therefore limited to the morphology of Bura language. The study relies on data from Bura language spoken in Imusika town in Hawul local government area of Borno state. Bura is spoken in Biu, Parakusa, Garu, Damatura, Shafa and Shani Local Governments Areas in Borno State. It is also spoken in Garkida local government in Adamawa state. The data for this study are limited to only one village as mentioned earlier.

This research work has five chapters. Chapter one is the introduction, it discusses the history of Bura language speakers, the geographical location of Bura people and language, genetic classification of the language, population of the speakers and also the socio-linguistic profile of the people.

Chapter two is on the phonology of Bura language and some morphological concepts. In chapter three, we shall be looking at the morphology and the types of morpheme we have in Bura language.

In chapter four, we shall discuss the various morphological processes attested in the language. Chapter five will summarize and conclude the work.

1.7   Theoretical Framework

As introduced earlier, I have probed into the morphological aspects of Bura language. The theory adopted in this work is the morpheme-based morphology. This theory has been decisively used in this research work owing to its indispensable relevance to morphological analysis of Bura language. In this approach, word forms are analyzed as arrangements of morphemes.

1.8   Data Collection

For the purpose of this research, the Ibadan 400 word-list of Basic items was used. The word-list is a tool for collecting linguistic data. Frame technique was used to get the morphological structure of the language. Sampling technique was adopted. The method of research adopted in this work involves the collection of data using structured and unstructured interview from informants i.e. the native speakers of Bura language which is considered competent and is able to give grammaticality judgment of his language in both content and context. This will enable us to make important linguistically significant generalization about the morphological structure of the language under study. Data on the informants used for this work are shown in the table below.

Name of Informant Age Number of years spent in Imusika Languages spoken Ezekiel Sagya 39 26 Bura, Hausa English, Chibok Thomas Lebram 60 50 Bura, Hausa

1.9   Data Analysis

About 100 items were collected 15 free morphemes, 5 bound morphemes, which are derivational and inflectional. 5 borrowed words, 5 words each on the part of speech, 5 sentences to know the morphological typology of the language. The other items collected are used to know the morphological processes that the language uses in forming new words. All the data collected are for the purpose of identifying and describing types of morphemes in the language and also to determine and discuss the morphological processes in the language.

1.10 Brief Review of the Chosen Framework

The chosen framework for this research work is the morpheme-based morphology. The two American structuralists who happened to be the leading proponents in the development of the morpheme-based theory were Leonard Bloomfield and Hockett.

The morphological theory known as the morpheme based morphology “was developed in structuralist theories of language” in which “word formation came to be viewed as the disposition of morphemes in a word” (Spencer, 1991: 49).

According to Spencer, 1991: 49, “morphology (i.e. the morpheme based approach) came to be dominated by the metaphor of word analysis rather than word formation as linguistic theory sought to provide techniques for decomposing words into their component morphemes”.

Thus the approach of the morpheme based was referred to as item and arrangement (IA) theory by Hockett (1958).

In item and arrangement model otherwise known as morpheme-based morphology, morphological elements express the categories as being in one-one correspondence. Word forms are analyzed as arrangements of morphemes. This model treats both roots and affixes as morphemes. A morpheme is defined as the minimal meaningful unit of a language. For example in a word like ‘independently’, it is assumed that the morphemes in this word are in, depend, -ent, and -ly; ‘depend’ is the root and the other morphemes are, in this case, derivational affixes. In a word like ‘dogs’, we say that ‘dog’ is the root and that ‘–s’, is an inflectional morpheme.

In its simplest form, this way of analyzing word forms treats words as if they were made of morphemes put after each other like beads on a string; is called item and arrangement model. Morpheme-based morphology comes in two flavours, one Bloomfieldian and one Hockethan. (cf. Bloomfield 1933 and Charles F. Hockett 1947). For Bloomfield, the morpheme was the minimal form with meaning, but it was not meaning itself. For Hockett, morphemes are meaning elements, not form elements. For him, there is a morpheme plural, with the allomorphs –s, -en, -ren, etc.


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