Baa

Mirjam Möller Nwadigo

Baa (glottocode: kwaa1262) is a minority language of northeastern Nigeria. The speakers refer to their languages as ɲà bâː ‘the Baa language’. There are no recent statistics on the number of speakers, but estimations range between 5000 to 10000. The Baa community is found in two villages, Gyakan and Kwah, in Lamurde LGA of Adamawa state. Smaller communities of Baa speakers are also found elsewhere in Nigeria, not least in Lagos, and Abuja.

The majority of the people in Kwah and Gyakan are farmers and fishermen as the Benue River and other smaller rivers run through their land. Different fishing tools and techniques are used by men and women. In the traditional household women earn their living from making pottery. The Baa hold a number of annual competitions and feasts related to hunting and farming to honour the most courageous hunter and the most diligent farmer. Traditional Baa religion is centred around two main deities, Gbandima and Kassimin, represented by their living successors chosen among the Baa. The last two successors died in the 1980s. A Baa custom that is particularly interesting from the linguistic perspective is the taboo on mentioning a deceased person’s name, especially in the presence of family and relatives. The person’s name is then replaced by a word referring to an event or item associated with the person.

Elisha Yunana Jerry Jakabe Dorcas Omeire Laye Nyalas

I have been working on a grammatical description and building a documentation corpus of the language since 2016, when I did my first field trip to Lagos. Before I started working on Baa in 2016, the only data on the language consisted of unpublished survey fieldnotes and recordings made by Ulrich Kleinewillinghöfer in 1991 and by Dmitry Idiatov in 2011. In Lagos, I conducted elicitation work and was able to train community members in doing video and audio recordings. One community member, Elisha Yunana, then traveled to the Baa speaking region in Adamawa state where he worked with his community to collect data. Besides my elicited data, most recordings were collected by Elisha. He also did recordings with speakers in Lagos. Kaduwe Ornan, a linguistics student from a neighbouring community, Bacama, has also helped in the data collection. The documentation part of my research has enjoyed support from the Hans Rausing Endangered Languages Programme where I obtained a Small Documentation Grant for documentation of Baa (2017–2018). My corpus consists of annotated audio and video recordings with material from a wide range of speakers and different genres, such as, folktales, expository texts, and songs.

Baa has two tone levels, H and L. These can then be combined in HL and LH contours, there is also distinction between L-falling and L non-falling which is followed by a floating (H). Tone is also used to mark grammatical features, such as attributive possession, tense, aspect. Baa has labial-velar stops kp, gb, ŋm. There is a distinction between relational and non-relational nouns, as well as alienable and non-alienable possession. Baa has logophoric pronouns. Transitive verbs take an obligatory object, for non-human objects, and for human objects.

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