Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Reprinted Nigerian Newspaper Column: "Nigerian and African Muslim Personal Names Among the Gullah of Georgia and South Carolina" By Farooq Kperogi

Edited by Azizi Powell

This pancocojams post reprints the complete column entitled "Nigerian and African Muslim Personal Names Among the Gullah of Georgia and South Carolina". This column was written by Farooq Kperogi and published on February 2016 on the website of the Nigerian "Daily Trust" newspaper.

Prior to presenting the reprint of that column, I've provided information about Dr. Lorenzo Turner, information about the Gullah people of Georgia and South Carolina, and information about Dr. Farooq Kperogi.

I'm reprinting this complete article for historical, onomastics, and cultural purposes.

I usually quote portions of hard to find books and lesser known articles to raise awareness of those materials and to encourage people to read the complete works. However, in this case I have chosen to quote this entire online article with the hope that this is acceptable to that article's writer.

I don't have prior permission to quote this entire column. If I'm contacted, I will revise this post and quote only excerpts.

I just happened upon this article while using Google search to look up material about African given names.

I hope that my reprinting this column on this pancocojams blog will help raise awareness among people in the United States and elsewhere about the retention of traditional African names by Black people in the United States. I also hope that this blog post will help raise awareness about the online Nigerian "Daily Trust" website.

All copyrights remain with their owners.

Thanks to African American linguist Dr. Lorenzo D. Turner for his research and writing and thanks to Nigerian Dr. Farooq Kperogi for writing this article. Thanks also to the writer/s of the Wikipedia page about the Gullahs.

"Lorenzo Dow Turner (August 21, 1890 – February 10, 1972) was an African-American academic and linguist who did seminal research on the Gullah language of the Low Country of coastal South Carolina and Georgia. His studies included recordings of Gullah speakers in the 1930s. As head of the English departments at Howard University and Fisk University for a combined total of nearly 30 years, he strongly influenced their programs. He created the African Studies curriculum at Fisk, was chair of the African Studies Program at Roosevelt University, and in the early 1960s, cofounded a training program for Peace Corps volunteers going to Africa.


Gullah research
Lorenzo Dow Turner is best remembered as the father of Gullah studies. His interest in the Gullah people began in 1929 when he first heard Gullah speakers while teaching a summer class at South Carolina State College (now University). Although established scholars then viewed Gullah speech as a form of substandard English, Turner sensed that Gullah was strongly influenced by African languages. He set out to study the language. For the next 20 years, he made trips to the Gullah region in coastal South Carolina and Georgia, interviewing Gullahs (often in isolated locations) and making detailed notes on their language. He also made recordings in the 1930s of Gullah speakers talking about their culture, folk stories and other aspects of life.

As part of his studies, Turner traveled to several locations in Africa, specifically Sierra Leone, to learn about the development of Creole languages, as well as to Louisiana and Brazil, to study Creole and Portuguese, respectively. He did research at University of London School of Oriental and African Studies (on various African language systems). He wanted to be able to provide context for the obvious "Africanisms" he discovered in his Sea Islands research. "Such depth and breadth allowed Turner to locate Gullah culture and language within the broader complexities of the African diaspora in the New World, ... firmly outside the reductionist theoretical model of cultural assimilation."[1]

When Turner finally published his classic work Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect in 1949, he made an immediate impact on established academic thinking. His study of the origin, development and structure of Gullah was so convincing that scholars quickly accepted his thesis that Gullah is strongly influenced by African languages. He showed the continuity of language and culture across the diaspora. Many scholars have followed Turner over the years in researching the African roots of Gullah language and culture. He created a new field of study by his work and an appreciation for a unique element of African-American culture."...

"The Gullah are the descendants of enslaved Africans from various people who lived in the Lowcountry regions of the U.S. states of Georgia and South Carolina, in the area of both the coastal plain and the Sea Islands. They developed a creole ethnicity and language that is distinctive among African Americans.

Historically, the Gullah region extended from the Cape Fear area on North Carolina's coast south to the vicinity of Jacksonville on Florida's coast. Today the Gullah area is confined to the Georgia and South Carolina Lowcountry. The Gullah people and their language are also called Geechee, which may be derived from the name of the Ogeechee River near Savannah, Georgia.[1] Gullah is a term that was originally used to designate the creole dialect of English spoken by Gullah and Geechee people. Over time, its speakers have used this term to formally refer to their creole language and distinctive ethnic identity as a people. The Georgia communities are distinguished by identifying as either "Freshwater Geechee" or "Saltwater Geechee", depending on whether they live on the mainland or the Sea Islands.[2][3][4][5]

Because of a period of relative isolation from whites while working on large plantations in rural areas, the Africans, drawn from a variety of Central and West African tribes, developed a creole culture that has preserved much of their African linguistic and cultural heritage from various peoples; in addition, they absorbed new influences from the region. The Gullah people speak an English-based creole language containing many African loanwords and influenced by African languages in grammar and sentence structure. Sometimes referred to as "Sea Island Creole" by linguists and scholars, the Gullah language is especially related to and almost identical to Bahamian Creole. There are also ties to Barbadian Creole, Belizean Creole, Jamaican Patois and the Krio language of West Africa. Gullah crafts, farming and fishing traditions, folk beliefs, music, rice-based cuisine, and story-telling traditions all exhibit strong influences from Central and West African cultures.[6][7][8][9]"...
The bold font is found in this original article.

"Farooq Adamu Kperogi (born 1973), is a Nigerian academic, grammarian, media scholar, public speaker and columnist with Media Trust's two Weekend titles. He was a presidential speechwriter during Obasanjo's administration and has been a reporter and news editor at many Nigerian newspapers including the Daily Trust and the now defunct New Nigerian and Daily Triumph. Kperogi teaches journalism at Kennesaw State University in Georgia, United States.[2][3][4] He is also the author of Glocal English: The Changing Face and Forms of Nigerian English, published in 2015, as the 96th volume in series of Berkeley Insights in Linguistics and Semiotic.[5][6]


Later life and career
After graduating from Bayero University, Kano, Kperogi started working as reporter with newspapers in Katsina and Kano before joining the Media Trust as correspondent for the now defunct Weekly Trust. He also worked for the now defunct federal government-owned paper, the New Nigerian, in the early 2000s. Kperogi began his academic career between 2000 and 2002 at Kaduna Polytechnic, where he taught journalism and mass communication. He also taught at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria for brief time in 2004.[3] Between 2002 and 2004, Kperogi worked in President Olusequn Obasanjo's administration as a presidential speechwriter and researcher. Kperogi writes two columns, "Politics of Grammar" and "Notes from Atlanta", for the Abuja-based Daily Trust weekend editions."...

"Nigerian and African Muslim Personal Names Among the Gullah of Georgia and South Carolina"

13 FEBRUARY 2016
Daily Trust (Abuja)

By Farooq Kperogi
"In last week's column I promised to share with the reader some of the noticeable African influences in the Gullah language. These influences are so vast, varied, and deep that I cannot do justice to them in a single newspaper column. So I decided to write it in two installments.

In his groundbreaking book titled Africanisms in the Gullah Dialect, which I made reference to in last week's column, the late African-American linguist Dr. Lorenzo D. Turner identified more than 4,000 words in the Gullah English dialect that trace lexical descent from several languages in west and central Africa. He found these African influences in Gullah people's personal names, in their quotidian conversational vocabularies, and in their folk songs, stories, hymns, and invocations. I will explore Gullah personal names this week and conclude with the African lexical influences in the everyday speech and songs of the Gullah people next week.

In what follows, I identify the African origins of many Gullah personal names. Given that the research for the book from which material for this column was drawn was done in the 1930s, I have updated several of the author's data and extended and enriched his conclusions based on my own experiential and epistemological location in relation to his data.

Thousands of personal names the Gullah people bear are similar to many names people in west and central Africa still bear. It is impossible to mention all of them in this piece; Turner identified more than 4,000 personal names among the Gullah in Georgia and South Carolina. So I am only going to isolate a few, mostly Nigerian, names that stood out for me.

I am particularly surprised by the large number of Yoruba names the Gullah bear. As Turner pointed out, the Gullah people had not the slightest awareness of the Yoruba origin and meaning of these names. Among the hundreds of Yoruba names Turner recorded among the Gullah people in the 1930s are names like Ade, Adebisi, Adebiyi, Adekule [Adekunle], Adeniyi, Adewale, Adu, Adosu, Aganju, Akaraje [i.e., eat bean cake], Akawo [Akanwo], Alafia [ "Alafia" is an Arabic-derived word; see Arabized African names below], Alabo, Alade, Alawo, Baba, Bankole, Erelu, Iyaoba, Oduduwa, Otunla, Ogboni, Oluwa, Okuta, Ola, Oriki, Olubiyi, Olugbodi, Oyebisi, Sango, Yeye.

There are hundreds more in the book, but I was struck, just like Turner was, that the Gullah people have retained the difficult "gb" sound in their names. Most people, including Africans, who don't speak a Niger-Congo language usually have a hard time articulating the "gb" sound, which Turner called "the voiced labio-velar plosive," including the "kp" sound that begins my last name, which Turner characterized as the "gb" sound's "voiced counterpart" (p. 25). This, for me, is nothing short of extraordinary. Even my first daughter, to whom my native Baatonu language isn't a mother tongue, has a hard time pronouncing her last name and has pleaded with me that we dispense with the "K" in our last name. I told her that be a mutilation of the name because "kp" is an independent sound unit like "ch" is in "chair" in English.

Well, the Gullah people also bear many Africanized Muslim names they obviously inherited from their Fulani, Mandingo, Yoruba, Hausa, Bambara, Wolof, and Mende Muslim ancestors. As I pointed out last week, the extensive second-hand Arabic influence Turner found in many African-derived Gullah words, which he discovered after speaking with West Africans in London and Paris in the 1930s, caused him to learn Arabic so that he could make sense of his data.

Turner recorded names like Aburika, which is probably a corruption of Abubakar; Adamu, incidentally my father's first name, which is the West African Muslim rendering of Adam; Aduwa, an Africanization du'a, the Arabic word for prayer; Ayisa and Ayisata, Mandingo and Bambara Muslim approximations of Aisha, the name of one of the wives of the Prophet of Islam; Ayuba, the Muslim version of Job, which is rendered as Ayub in Arabic; Baraka, which is Arabic for blessing that shares etymological and semantic affinities with Barack, the first name of President Obama; Dirisu, which is how the Mandingo and Bambara people call the Muslim name Idris-Yoruba Muslims call it Disu; Fatuma, Fatu, Fatimata (all Mandingo, Wolof and Bamabara versions of "Fatima," the name of the daughter of the Prophet of Islam); Fitina (derived from the Arabic word for trouble); Ibrahima, the West African Muslim rendering of Ibrahim, which Christians and Jews call Abraham.

He also recorded names like Jumare, now regarded as a Fulani name but which is actually derived from (al)jumea, the Arabic name for Friday- Yoruba Muslims bear the name as Jimoh; Gibril (which Nigerian Muslims bear as Jibril or Jibrin or Jibo and which Christians and Jews know as Gabriel; Imale (the Yoruba word for Muslim, presumably because Islam came to Yoruba land from Mali); Haruna, which is the West African version of Harun, which Christians and Jews know as Aaron; Lafiya ( derived from the Arabic word for good health, which is borne as a royal name among the Borgu people in Nigeria and Benin Republic, and as an everyday personal name in Senegambia and other historically Muslim polities in West Africa; Madina, the name of the second holiest city in Islam known to Westerners as Medina, which West African Muslims bear as a female personal name; Laila; Laraba, a Hausa name given to a girl born on Wednesday, derived from al-arbi'aa', the Arabic word for Wednesday; Woli, (the Yoruba Muslim domestication of the Arabic wali, which means patron saint), etc.

The Gullah even bear puzzling names lilke Kafiri (a derogatory name for a non-Muslim, which Yoruba Muslims call keferi), which is an African approximation of the Arabic kafir, and Saitan, which is the Muslim rendering of Satan!

They also bear the names of West African ethnic groups as personal names, indicating the ethnic origins of some of the Gullah people. They bear names like Fulani, Fulbe, Fula (which refer to the same people), Ibibio, Ijesa, Ogbomosho, according to Turner's records. The name Yoruba didn't exist as a collective name for people in what is now southwest Nigeria. "Yoruba" in its current form is a 19th-century creation by Samuel Ajayi Crowther-following 16th century Songhai Islamic scholar Ahmed Baba who first used the name to refer to people in the old Oyo Empire. That is why only names like Ijesa (a Yoruba sub-group found in present-day Osun State) and Ogbomosho, rather than "Yoruba," appear in the records of people enslaved in the West from West Africa.

The Gullah people also bear Kwora, the name for River Niger in many West African languages, including Hausa, Baatonu, and Fulani from where it was probably passed down to the Gullah. Interestingly, in my language, Baatonu, Kwora is a name reserved for members of the royal family in both Nigeria and Benin Republic.

While the gendering of many Gullah names corresponds with their gendering in West African names (for instance, many of the Yoruba names among the Gullah are unisex, like they are among the Yoruba) there is a discordance in others. For example a name like Aba, which is a male name in Gullah, is the name of a girl born on Thursday among the Fante people of present-day Ghana.

Turner found out that most of the personal names that the Gullah bear can be traced to Arabic (by way of members of several Islamized West African ethnic groups who were enslaved to rice plantations in Georgia and South Carolina); Bambara ( who are now found primarily in Mali, but also in Guinea, Burkina Faso and Senegal); Bini in southern Nigeria; Bobangi in the Congo; Zarma who now live mainly in what is now Niger Republic; Ewe who can be found in Togo and Benin Republic; Efik in southern Nigeria; Fante in Ghana; Fon in Benin Republic; Fulani; Hausa; Igbo; Ibibio in southern Nigeria; Kongo in Angola; Kikongo in the Congo; Kimbundu in Angola; Kpelle in Liberia; Mende in Sierra Leone; Malinke, Mandinka, and Mandingo in Senegambia, Mali, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone, etc., Nupe and Gwari in central Nigeria; Susu in Guinea; Songhai in present-day Niger, Mali, Benin Republic; Twi in Ghana; Temne in Sierra Leone; Tshiluba in the Congo; Umbundu in Angola; Vai in Liberia and Sierra Leone; Wolof in Senegambia; and Yoruba in southwestern Nigeria."
I haven't been able to identify the link to the second installment of Dr. Farooq Kperogi's article as mention herein. I'd like to read that article and add a link to it in this post. If you know that link, please share it. Thanks!

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1 comment:

  1. I just added this comment to the comment section of two pancocojams posts about Distinctive African American Names That Begin With "La". Here's the link to the post about female names: The link for the post for male names is given in that post.

    Dr. Farooq Kperogi is the author of a February 13, 2017 Daily Trust [Nigerian] newspaper column entitled "Nigerian and African Muslim Personal Names Among the Gullah of Georgia and South Carolina".

    That column includes a few examples of African personal names that African American linguist Lorenzo Dow Turner found among the Gullah people in the United States in the 1930s.

    Some of those names may help explain why African Americans seem to have a preference for the "La" prefix in personal names for females and males.

    Here are some excerpts from that article which I reprinted in this pancocojams post:*

    "Among the hundreds of Yoruba names Turner recorded among the Gullah people in the 1930s are names like ... Alafia [ "Alafia" is an Arabic-derived word; see Arabized African names below], Alabo, Alade, Alawo....Otunla,...."


    He [Lorenzo Dow Turner] also recorded names like.... Lafiya ( derived from the Arabic word for good health, which is borne as a royal name among the Borgu people in Nigeria and Benin Republic, and as an everyday personal name in Senegambia and other historically Muslim polities in West Africa; Laila; Laraba, a Hausa name given to a girl born on Wednesday, derived from al-arbi'aa', the Arabic word for Wednesday ....

    They also bear the names of West African ethnic groups as personal names, indicating the ethnic origins of some of the Gullah people. They bear names like Fulani, Fulbe, Fula (which refer to the same people)... according to Turner's records"...

    * That pancocojams post also includes information about Gullah people in the United States, information about Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner, and information about Dr. Farooq Kperogi.

    I have a copy of the book The African Heritage Of American English, editors Joseph E. Holloway and Winifred K. Vass (Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 1993) which is based on Dr. Lorenzo Dow Turner’s 1949 book Africanisms In The Gullah dialect. I intend to compile some of those names and feature them in a future pancocojams post or posts.