09 May 2009

Wolof and Hausa

Something I would never have known B.G. (Before Google):

"The use of a second language is to be found in some Senegalese poetry where poems sometimes have Wolof phrases inserted and in Nigeria where Hausa words serve the same function. . . . An example of the use of Hausa in an Arabic poem is the rhyming word tunkwiyau [influenza] in a poem by al-Hājj Umar b. Abī Bakr al-Şalghawī (c. 1858-1934), a Kano merchant/scholar who emigrated to the Gold Coast."

This passage is from Qasida Poetry in Islamic Asia and Africa: Classical Traditions and Modern Meaning (1996), by Stefan Sperl, C. Shackle, and Nicholas Awde, pp. 88-89.

Those of us in the English-speaking world are often ignorant of what is going on in literary communities that do not write in English. Using Mao Zedong's image of women holding up half of heaven, we could say that we (English writers) see only our small bit of heaven and do not realize that most of heaven is held up by poets not speaking the languages we speak.

Of course, Senegalese poets also write in French (English writers that do not read French or Francophone poetry are even worse, because there is no reason not to learn another great Western literary language); it is Wolof that is marginalized. Similarly, Nigerian poets also write in English, as well as Arabic; it is Hausa that is marginalized. The marginalization of languages is not just a political or a linguistic issue; it is a literary issue.


  1. Is the marginalization of languages a necessary effect of creating a national language at the expense of the less-spoken dialects/languages?

    Is the creation of a national language as a tool for education and commerce stifling the regional languages at the expense of its literary output?

    If the political purpose of a linguistic hegemony is achieved to the detriment of ancillary languages that have developed literature, should not a Government Commission be responsible for preserving disparate ethnic culture and languages?

    How vibrant would a country's culture be with the withering of subservient cultures that find their expression in their peculiar literatures?

    In the Philippines, this function of preserving all facets of culture should not only be assumed by the National Commission of Culture and the Arts, but should also be the responsibility of the entire Government which is sworn to protect all the people and their political, social, and cultural aspirations.

    Certainly, the writer is the primary guardian of culture and language development. Without this orientation, the writer simply cries in the wilderness.--ALBERT B. CASUGA


  2. sirs,

    maybe i still need a lot of discipline for this, my writing endeavor

    as i can see i have lots to tell you sir ganni, and sir albert - on your posts

    but i cant... i have to read more, i know

    only this short message

    truly - literature, languages, culture, arts, dialects must be preserved: but then, how do we achieve oneness? isn't it also learning about the needs of the present time?

    one student from the province talks in bisaya, another one in ilocano, another in bicol, the other in Tagalog. How do we remove the tags?

    just a thought, sirs

    i thank GOD for letting me find your blogs and the knowledge they share to me/us

    i want to catch up with your topics

    its seems... im left behind

    and couldnt even post an entry to my own blog

    couldnt put the exact short comments in yours

    again... and now... im sleepy

    good night sirs...

    though im remembering charles lamb's lying down with the lamb and the writers precious hours

    and also, there are many factors...

    good night again

    GOD bless po