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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Naming powers: Hausa 'tsafi' and Tiv 'tsav'
Authors:Boyd, RaymondISNI
Fardon, RichardISNI
Periodical:Journal of African Cultural Studies (ISSN 1369-6815)
Geographic term:West Africa
Subjects:Hausa language
Tiv language
loan words
External link:https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13696815.2013.811068
Abstract:Hausa and Tiv words for occult power, 'tsafi' and 'tsav', look very similar; is this coincidental, or is there a historical reason? If there is some historical connection, then did one people borrow the root from the other directly, or has something more complex occurred for which a resemblance between 'tsav' and 'tsafi' provides only part of the evidence? Reasoning from wide comparisons and from the grammatical and phonological structures of Hausa and Tiv, the authors suggest that while 'tsafi' can be added to previously recognized early loans - notably 'fire', 'meat' and 'two' - from Benue-Congo languages to an ancestor of Hausa, the loan was not necessarily from an ancestor of Tiv, and could have been made from another language that had undergone erosion of its noun classes in the same way as Tiv. Hausa and Tiv reportedly conceptualize the powers they call 'tsafi' or 'tsav' differently: as inherent in things and the practices associated with them, in the Hausa case, and as embodied in people, in the Tiv case. Tiv 'tsav' is an intensification of practices local to the region from which Tiv migrated; while the Hausa 'tsafi' has reported senses consistent with the overt disapproval of occult channels in Muslim societies. Any cognates of the term still in use in other central Nigerian languages, which have not expanded like Hausa and Tiv, might both contribute to the reconstruction of a broad original Benue-Congo meaning and show a current range of meaning variation, but not provide the authors with direct insight into the precise senses of the term in the contact situation. A large-scale sampling would be needed to demonstrate whether such terms indeed were borrowed more frequently than hitherto assumed. The authors speculate that one reason for borrowing of terms for occult powers may be that the distinction between powers based in persons and powers based in things is contentious, unstable and variable in African experience and, hence, has always been the subject of discourses and practices into which terms are drawn to guide argument. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. [Journal abstract]