Words from Bure, Nigeria

The Bure language (ISO code 639-3 [bvh]) is spoken by a few dozen people in the village of Bure (Kirfi LGA, Bauchi State, Nigeria). The language is not exactly in good shape: without being too pessimistic, Bùbbúrè (lit. ‘the mouth of Bure’) is doomed to die within the next 10-20 years. I have been working on Bure since 2011, when I started a description project on this tiny, almost unknown, West Chadic language. After a phase of bilingualism, the Bure people underwent a massive shift to Hausa, the vehicular language of the region: nowadays, Bùbbúrè is a reality just for the elders who can speak – or recall – it. With the break of the intergenerational transmission chain and a general feeling of indifference towards the language loss, Bure is adding its name to the long list of languages that will not survive the next three decades. I don’t mean to be rhetoric: Bùbbúrè is passing away for perfectly natural reasons; if the community doesn’t care (or, in other words, if the resistance to the shift didn’t succeed), then let it go. Revitalization is not an option.

A Bure family (Bure, July 2012)

A Bure family (Bure, July 2012)

Despite being related to each other, Hausa (West Chadic A.1) and Bure (West Chadic A.2), are rather different. This doesn’t sound too surprising: we know that Hausa is a huge, extremely important, atypical Chadic language. Bure, on the other hand, is a Bole-Tangale language sharing many grammatical features with Deno and Kirfi (the neighbouring languages, next in line to be fully replaced by Hausa) or, looking westwards, to Bole, Karekare or Ngamo.

Anyway, here we go with a few Bure words:

Bure English audio
bàngírà storm
bííbè back
bòwó hole
gó'ò armpit
ìwíŋé elephant
kúnú three
lààngà trousers
lèllúwó cotton
mór sóyè red oil
támnà thunder

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Kakakin Kura

Kakakin Kura

Claudio speaking. I'm the co-founder of Freaky Tracks - quite happily, I must say. I taught Italian in New Zealand, undertook fieldwork research in West Africa and tested videogames in Madrid. I am a linguist, a minimalist runner and a travel addict… and nope, I won't stop moving around!

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