Chadic Newsletter Online

ISSN 1618-7369

Review of: Búun Saba

Posted by hausaonline on Monday, June 11, 2007

Búun Saba. Proverbs, Sayings and Maxims in Eastern Tangale (Northern Nigeria) by Herrmann Jungraithmayr. Illustrated by Ishaku H. Osman, In collaboration with Stephen Njeno Yoblis, Njeno Andirya Galadima. (Westafrikanische Studien, Vol. 31). Cologne: Köppe-Verlag. 2006. XXII + 131 pages, 5 b/w photographs, 64 drawings, Index Tangale-English, English-Tangale, Euro 24,80. ISBN 978-3-89645-467-6.

Reviewed by: Uwe Seibert

It is a well-known fact that most African languages are rich in proverbs. In Africa, morals and lessons are passed on in the form of proverbs, and they reflect the traditional values of the people who use them. Thus we can learn a great deal about a people by studying its proverbs. The volume under review is a collection of “Proverbs, Sayings and Maxims in Eastern Tangale (Northern Nigeria)”. Herrmann Jungraithmayr has been studying the language and culture of the Tangale people for more than fifty years. The author of this review wasn’t even born when he wrote his PhD thesis on Tangale (Untersuchungen zur Sprache der Tangale in Nordost-Nigerien. Hamburg 1956). Over this period, and especially in the past two decades, Jungraithmayr has published a number of articles and books on Tangale culture and language, including:

The volume under review is another outcome of Jungraithmayr’s long years of research on Tangale. Following an introduction on the meaning and language of proverbs, the book presents 391 Eastern Tangale proverbs, which were contributed by men and women of different age, mostly from Kaltungo LGA in Northeastern Nigeria. Each proverb is followed by three lines of English translation (gloss, literal and free translation). Some explanatory notes can be found in the back of the book. Drawings by Ishaku H. Osman are added to further illustrate the meaning of the proverbs.

According to Jungraithmayr, the proverbs “have not been classified according to any formal semantic category nor are they ordered alphabetically. They are listed in the order they were presented by the informants” (XVIII). A Tangale-English and English-Tangale index in the back of the book helps to locate proverbs that deal with a similar topic.

Jungraithmayr’s collection of Tangale proverbs can be used as a good starting point for further studies. One area that will be interesting to study is the formal structure of the proverbs. A first glance shows that some recurring stylistic patterns can be found in the proverbs, e.g.

  • contrasts (“X is X and Y is Y”), e.g. proverbs # 118, 178, 179, 187, 196, 209, 211, 220
  • comparisons (“X is like Y”, “Is X like Y ?”), e.g. proverbs # 112, 115, 120, 121, 143, 144
  • rhyme-like patterns, e.g. proverb # 92

Another interesting research area would be comparing Tangale proverbs with Hausa proverbs or with the proverbs of other neighboring ethnic groups. With this book — and with his other publications on Tangale — Herrmann Jungraithmayr has laid a solid foundation. Younger scholars — preferably some learned Tangale speakers — can and should build on it.

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