In this chapter, basic information about the language of study (Yeskwa) shall be given. The chapter centres on background information about the language, the historical background of speakers, sociolinguistic profile of the people as well as, the genetic classification of Yeskwa language. We shall later proceed to scope and organization of study, theoretical framework, data analysis, data collection and later to basic syntactic concepts. We shall finally focus on VERB PHRASE in Yeskwa language and application of transformation rules to Yeskwa language.
1.1 General Background
Yeskwa is a language spoken in Kaduna, Nassarawa and Plateau States. The name Yeskwa was originally called ‘Nyankpa’ meaning ‘to know leaf’, but it was later changed to Yéskwá by the missionaries who could not pronounce the name well.
Yeskwa speakers in Kaduna state can be found in Kagoma District of Jema’a Local Government Area. In Nassarawa state, Yeskwa speakers are found in Panda district of Karu Local Government Area while in Plateau state, they do not have a district of their own neither do they have a Local Government Area of their own because they are mere settlers.
Yeskwa speakers in Panda district of Karu Local Government Area are popularly known as Nyankpa people. Yeskwa speakers form 60% of the populace while the other take up the remaining 40%. This clearly indicates that the speakers of the Yeskwa language in Panda district of Nassarawa state are more than any other people in the district.
Since speakers of the Yeskwa language happen to live in a predominantly Hausa speaking community, it then follows that the Hausa language is usually the second language of every Yeskwa native speaker. Hence, the majority of Yeskwa native speakers also speak Hausa fluently.
Yeskwa language is still spoken currently and it is not threatened by Hausa people. However, from a brief visit, there is every evidence that the language continues to flourish and is spoken by the young people in the settlement.
1.2 Historical Background of Yeskwa Speakers
Yeskwa speakers claimed to have originated from Darigo in Kaduna state. From available corpus of oral evidence, the first Nyankpa man who lived during the pre-historical period originated from a place called ‘DARIGO’. The mystical place which is itself name after the founder of the language, is up to date, faithfully behaved with certainly, up to form part of the areas around the hills situated North, East and West of the present Kwoi, now in Kaduna state across the Gitata, Bagagji up to Uke areas of the present Nassarawa state.
A permanent foot mark and other archeological evidence of this pre-historic advent of Nyankpa language can still be found at this orally authentic place of origin called (Darigo). Darigo, the first Nyankpa man had a wife called Obiche with whom they had several children. among these children were Ovurgbe, Ontat, Onok (all males) and Oching (female). Each of them had his or her own children who grew into the various clans we have in Nyankpa land both home and in Diaspora today. The offspring from Ovurgbe became the Ovurgbe clan. Those of Ontat form the Ontat clan while those of Onok are believed to be founders of the old Nok of famous archeological monuments and indeed its surrounding towns up to Kafancha, Kagoro and Zunkwa area in the present Kaduna state.Oching the only female is believed to have married probably to a different language called Zho, then living at the foot of the hills where the present Kwoi town in Kaduna state is situated. She had children with him out of whose lineage the present Mada and Eggun language are believed to have sprung from. The Nyankpa people are thus one of the proud archeological ethnolinguistic clusters of the famous Nok area.
1.3 Sociolinguistic Profile
The people have their own distinct culture and general way of life. The Nyankpa people have been generally known in the literature as Yeskwa, a Hausaised form of their name.
Although there are native speakers of Yeskwa in Kaduna, Nassarawa and Plateau states, they do not form a single speech community across these states because of the phonological and morphological differences. These differences do not interfere with intelligibility. They have a common history and share similar social and cultural ideologies.
Yeskwa is conventionally divided into twenty mutually comprehensible dialects and Titatara is said to be the main dialects.
As par the role of Yeskwa language in education, the research conducted by the researcher revealed the important role play by Yeskwa language in the area of education. It is a language used in elementary and secondary schools. The language used as a language of instruction or taught as a subject within both primary and secondary schools in the language area. However, it has said not to attained a high level of standardization nor has it been studied in the Nigeria Universities.
The role of Yeskwa as a language in the field of commerce cannot be overemphasized. Its role is as old as the existence of the Anyankpas. Yeskwa language is used by the majority of people to transact business between each other or among one another.
Above all, Christian broadcasts scriptures in Yeskwa language. Hence, the majority of Yeskwa native speakers also speak Hausa fluently.
1.4 Socio-Cultural Background of the Speakers
This section centres on the socio cultural background of Yeskwa speakers in term of their occupation, religion, administration, population, festivals marriage, burial rites, culture.
The major occupation of Yeskwa speakers is farming and rearing of animals. They produce both cash and food crops, among which are; cocoa, bananas, cotton, oranges, yam, millet, maize, guinea corn, beni seed, rice and eshun. Eshun is said to be good for stomach upset patients. Some who have the means and resources rear cows.
The Yeskwa people practice three types of religion Christianity, Islam and Traditional religion. The traditional worshipers worship a main god called NAN and some worship other gods like Ofu, Juju, sticks, stone, tree, earthen pots etc. The priest in charge of the worshipping is Odyong-Utep. In those days, a kind of initiation was done for male adults in the community, for seven days. There is no circumcision. The priest is usually assisted by a selected few elders called “Asacisa”.
Christianity was introduced when the Christian missionaries came to the area in 1912. The indigenes were converted and they have helped in spreading the gospel of Christ.
Islam was introduced during the Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio.
The system of government in Yeskwa community is monarchical, with the king as the head. The king is known as Odyong Nyankpa.
The first Odyong Nyankpa who ruled the entire Nyankpa chiefdom was probably Ovurgbe and oral tradition put the period as well before 12th century. His kingdom was said to extend as far as present Suleja to the North.
Odyong Nyankpa who is presently Joel Sabo Awinge is the name of the ruler in Yeskwa community. Odyong Nyankpa is the representative of the whole Odyong Nyankpa community. He is a first-class chief. He is said to be the district head. There are also family heads called Doinyankpa, who are in charge of the small villages around.
The youth are always engaged with the community labour. Eighteen years and above pay tax in Odyong Nyankpa community.
Yeskwa speakers form 80% of the population in Kagoma district of Kaduna while they are the leading 40% of the populace in Panda district of Nassarawa state. Though they do not have a local government area or district in Plateau state, they do not exist.
The confirmed total number of speakers was that given in the SIL website ethnologue which puts the total number of speakers at 52,000 (2009, UBS).
In addition to popular Christian and Islamic festivals, the native speakers of Odyong Nyankpa have their own traditioned festivals. For instance, the ‘Nyanpa day’ festival which brings speakers together once a year. On this day, different masquerades like Ofuleng, Gbato, Awuya, Odagba, Ochekpai, Furunze, Pasagari, Osaku, Terefu, Kakayawa, Anuwabe join the people to celebrate the festival. Another popular festival among the Odyong Nyankpa people is ‘Ekokop”. It is a festival that held when you have four grandsons. During the Ekokop festival, Odyong Nyankpa speakers go around blowing cow horns, zithers, made from split guinea-corn stalks and trumpets. This “Ekokop” festival is however not as prestigious as the Nyankpa day festival.
In Yeskwa community, when wooing a lady, both the lady and her family must give their consent to the proposal. After that, a big he-goat would be taken to the in-laws’ house along with other things culture demands, such as a jar of wine known as Obam, two sheep and this such of introduction may last for a good three months.
On the era of the wedding known as Lagyale Ezam, the youth from the groom and some women will go to the wife’s family. People engaged in fight and beatings so as to get the lady away from the house, because her family would be very reluctant in releasing her to the groom’s family. Further still, she can be snatched by the groom’s friend on her way away from the house. If they succeeded, the wife would be taken to the groom’s house. During this send forth, bride price known as “Amfibi Ezam” would be paid together with three bags of salt. A day after the bachelor’s eve, the lady will then be taken to the church for the wedding. Pre-marital and extra-marital sex are forbidden.