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Book: Word Phonology in a Systemic Functional Linguistic Framework

Chapter: Word Phonology in Tera

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.44120


Tera is one of the 500 indigenous languages of Nigeria. It is a minority language spoken by over 100,000 people in the north east of the country, in the northern part of Gombe State and the eastern part of Borno. Most of the people acquire Hausa as their trade language and a smaller proportion acquire English as their language of education. Their own name for themselves and their language is Nyimatli /ɲimáɬi/. The language is classified as Afro-Asiatic, Chadic, Biu-Mandara, A, A.1, Western (Eberhard et al. 2019). Linguistic work on Tera has principally been associated with Newman (1964; 1968; 1970; 1980). However, an orthographical version of the language was established much earlier with the publication by the British and Foreign Bible Society of Labar Mbarkandu nu Yohanna Bula Ki, a first translation of the Gospel of John, attributed to Gordon Beacham, a Canadian missionary, in 1930. This was accompanied by a catechism and a hymn book, but the use of Tera in Christian worship gradually gave way to the dominance of Hausa. A revival of interest in a written form of the language occurred in the 1990s with Ayuba Nyagham’s Ye Chituku ɓu Me Nyimatli, and used quite extensively by the Tera writer and broadcaster Jauro Maila. In 2004, Isioma A Jideonwo, published her Let’s Develop Nyimatli Language, and Maimuna Magaji, her Tera-English-Hausa Dictionary in 2018. In the meantime, the Nyimatli Language Project conducted a series of workshops from 2004 that included the creation of a new orthography, which resulted in the publication of Reading & Writing Nyimatli in a definitive edition (NLP 2015), along with a set of reading books, Lagarkati Shogar Me Nyimatli, and the Nigerian Bible Translation Trust published the complete New Testament, Mewar Alqawarang, in 2016. A more recent treatment of Tera pronunciation appeared in Tench (2007).

Chapter Contributors

  • Paul Tench ([email protected] - ptench) 'Centre for Language and Communication Research, Cardiff University.'