Relationship Between Ígálá and Yorùbá Languages
Posted by John Jibo Idakwoji at September 23rd, 2015
Many people are still in the dark about the relationship between the Ígáláà and the Yorùbá races and are more confounded by the similarities between their two languages. Some, in bewilderment, tend to conclude that, probably, Ígáláà is a dialect of Yoruba. On the contrary, they are two distinct languages spoken by two different peoples who were relatives that came from the same place at some point in antiquity. Professor Gabriel Áúdù Oyìbó, a Mathematical physicist and an indigene of Ídá, believes that the two groups originally belonged to the Khem stock in Egypt and that they came together into the present-day Nigeria during the Great Migrations and were both deposited, along the way, in their existing locations. In an interview he granted the Frontiers Magazine in September, 2004 (p. 6-8), Óyíbō states that Igala elders had passed down the information about one Áláàfin Àtíbà, a famous Yoruba emperor, who was part of the migration from Egypt.
According to Igala oral tradition, the two groups separated in Ìfè ̣ area (see Ábejúkolo Ìfè)̣ . Miles Clifford, in his book, A Nigerian Chiefdom: Notes on the Igala Tribe in Nigeria and Their “Divine Kings,” states that “… it is significant that one of the most important fiefs in Igala is that of the Onu Ifẹ, (compare with Oni of Ifẹ the highest priestly office in Yorubaland), and that the founder of that fief was a half-brother of the first Ata, born of a Yoruba mother.” (p. 398). Dr. (Mrs.) Féṃ i Akínkugbé undertook a research into the similarities between Ígáláà, Yorùbá and Ìtshèḳ írí and came to the conclusion that Ígáláà shares a “common ancestor” with the Yoruba. According to her, “…this common ancestor was neither Yoruba nor Igala but what we have labelled here as Proto-Yoruba- Itshekiri-Igala (PYIG). The evidence suggests further that, presumably, Igala separated from the group before the split of Yoruba into the present-day Yoruba dialects, considering the extent of linguistic divergence found between Igala, on the one hand, and the rest of Yoruba, on the other.” Akínkugbé has classified the three languages in the Yoruboid group within the Kwá phylum in view of their close linguistic commonalities.
Prof. Robert G. Armstrong, in Forde (1955), asserts that “The most authoritative statement that can be made about Igala is that they had a common origin with the Yoruba and that the separation of the two groups (dating back to about 2000 years) is long enough to allow for the fairly considerable linguistic differences.” The similarities between Ígáláà and Yorùbá languages manifest at phonological, lexical, syntactic and morphological levels. At these various levels, some of the words, phrases, clauses and sentences have exactly the same meanings in both languages, even though there may be minor structural differences, as shown in the examples below:
Nearest Common Lexical Items
Shared Words with Minor Alterations
|áféjú||afó ̣jú||a blind person|
|ówé ̣||ọyé ̣||harmattan|
|úkó ̣||ikó ̣||cough|
|òkékété ̣||kétékété ̣||donkey|
|ó ̣jó ̣||ó ̣jó ̣ (ijó)̣||day; day-time|
- Shared Cultural Concepts and Practices
- Common Phrasal Verb Structures
Shared Clauses and Sentences
|Ùwẹ ajòkwúta má m’omi-í||Ìwọ ajòkúta má mu omi.||You eat stone and do not drink water|
|D’ọwó ̣ k’ō.̣||F’ọwó ̣ k’ọ.||Touch him/her/it.|
|Fà mí m’óla||Fà mí m’ára||Bring me close to yourself|
|Du ló; du wá.||Gbé lọ; gbé bò ̣||Carry go; bring come.|
|D’ùjẹñwu wá.||Mú ónjẹ wá||Bring the food.|
|Gbà k’é ̣ jẹ.||Gbà k’ó jẹ||Take it and eat it.|
|Ébi ákpa mí.||Ebiń pa mí||I am hungry|
|Íye mi d’ebi kpa mí||Ìyá mi f’ebi pa mí.||My mother starved me.|
|Ólu fù mí mú.||Oruń mú mi||English Column: I fell asleep (Lit. Sleep arrested me).|
|Éjú k’ì m’ẹnẹ…||Ojú tó m’ẹni||The eyes that recognize someone.|
|Ù lí má kpàí éjú mi méjì||Mo rí wọn kpèḷ ú ójú mi méjì||I saw them with my two eyes.|
|Úná jō mi-í||Ina jó mi||It was fire that burned me.|
|Óla mií yā ṅ||Ara mi ò yá||I am not feeling well|
Common Names for Some Colours and Counting Forms
|fufu (adj.)||fufu||to be white|
|dúdú (adj.)||dúdú||to be black|
|kpikpa||pupa||to be red; light-skinned|
|èlè ̣||èṛ in||four|
|è jọ||è jọ||eight|
|è g̣ wá||èwá||ten|
Shared Verbs and Phrasal Verbs
|fé ̣||fé ̣||to seek; to look for|
|f’újà||fé-̣ íjà||to look for a fight|
|jẹñwu||jẹun||to eat (something)|
|kó||kó||to carry (things)|
|kó lō||kó lọ||to carry away|
|kó ̣||kó ̣||to teach|
|mí k’anè ̣||mí kọnlè ̣||to rest well|
|m’omi (see mọ)||mu-omi||to drink water|
|m’ọté ̣||mu ọtí||to drink wine|
|kpa; kpa kwú||pa; pa kwú||to kill|
|gbà||gbà||to take; to receive|
Shared Names of Parts of the Body
For one to properly understand and appreciate the factors that fostered the evolution of Yorùbá, Ìtshèḳ írí and Ígálá languages, J.W. Spencer explains that “Language is subject to slow change… In other words, if a group of people speaking the same language divides… and there is, for generations, little communication, then,…the language habits of the divergence will only be such as to result in what we call a dialect difference. The two groups will be able to communicate, but with increasing difficulty. If the separation remains over a much longer period, then the result will ultimately be the development of distinct languages.” The commonalities between Ígáláà and Yorùbá languages, a few of which are shown above, did not occur by sheer coincidence; rather, they affirm the common ancestry of the two peoples whose languages are referred to as ‘kindred’ languages. (See Ìfè;̣ Ábejúkolo Ìfè). In the light of the foregoing, it is safe to conclude that the Igala-Yoruba contact in ancient times was not a meeting of two different ethnic groups but, rather, of an erstwhile, homogeneous entity that parted in the present-day Ìfè Ḍistrict area north-east of the Igala Kingdom over two thousand years back. It was a prolonged co-habitation of relatives, kith and kin who lived together and spoke the same language up to the point of their migration and separation. Following the separation, each group has been left with a memento of shared language, residues of which generously abound in their respective tongues till date. The point needs to be stressed that the vocabulary items shared by the Igalaa and Yoruba did not result from linguistic adoption, as is the case with the under-mentioned foreign languages whose loan-words exist in numbers in the Igala vocabulary.
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