MERNYANG LANGUAGE AND ITS SPEAKERS
This chapter introduces the Mernyang language and its speakers. It
also discusses the historical background of the study, the geographical
location, cultural and social background, the scope and delimitations of the
study, genetic classification, justification and significance of the study
vis-à-vis, the research method used.
Mernyang which is pronounced as “Mernyan” is a language spoken in
plateau state of Nigeria. It is spoken in the southern part of plateau by small
community as a dialect. Mernyang as a language is officially called MERNYANG
and it means “nucleus of rebel” The name which the language is generally called
“pan”. The community pan are of seven (7) in number but there are just only
three (3) major fluent speakers of Mernyang language in Pan chiefdom and these
are the Kwa district, Kwang district, and Dokan kasuwa district. Each community
of pan chiefdom varies in pronunciation but they all understand one another.
The project work is based on the Mernyang dialect.
In this work, Mernyang morphology is the focus, this work will
feature the consonant and vowel chart of Mernyang since the language has no
written form, Mernyang word formation processes, word classes, Morphological
typologies, morpheme structure, morphemic function and most importantly the
morpheme in Mernyang language.
1.1 GENERAL BACKGROUND
THE MERNYANG AND THEIR NEIGHBOURS
The migration of a large group of people believed to be of the
same stock has been ascribed to oral tradition as taking its roots from the
North East at or around Kanem-Borno. For want of written records some writers
link the migration of these large groups to the introduction of Islam while
others link it to tribal squabbles. Whatever prompted the movement, the groups
sojourned in different locations as they were on the move but the recent
populate settlement nodes being Jivi, Gyangang, Wase, Fiemgiji, Kofyar, Asa,
etc have been noted orally and writing
A group is said to have moved in the direction of Fyer to Asa through
Katul and thereon form the Ron-Kulere-Chakfem-Mushere axis. Its splinter group
had branch off to locate at Ndai and Vice-versa. Ndai is another sub-dispersal
point located between panyam and Mangu.
Yet another group is said to have moved in the direction of Munok
through Langshi into Garram. From Garram Duar settled at chief, Fomter moved to
Doemwai and then to Jagatoe (Dokan Tofa) spreading into Koenoem areas, Lekni
moved towards the Jelbang inselbang and beyond to found the the Goemai of
Muduut and environs. Another group led by Dafyar to Pees and onto Kofyar where
they sojourned and later dispersed as shown bellow.
This bring to focus how the Tal Montol, Koenoem, Mernyang and
Piapung have carved for themselves the identity “Panshak” meaning “brothers”.
By extension and in agreement with language similarity and closeness, the
people of the so-called ethnic principalities of the “corn belt” of the Plateau
are one and the people with minor differences attributed to contact and
prolonged isolation due to migrations.
In the view of Sr.Marie de Paul Neiers (1979:16) these propels of
the “corn belt” stem from one group as she reports: As the archaeological
evidence patters out, towards the end of first millennium of the Christian era,
oral traditions open the second millennium to historians. According to Ames,the
Angas were driven from Borno either about 1100 by the Bolewa and others or else
by Kanuri about 1350. Having spent some times on the move they eventually
scaled the plateau on its eastern side. From there they expanded to the west
and south west forming numerous sub groups such as the Tal,Sura (now Mughavul
with the Challa as a branch of the family),Mirriam, Chip, Ankwe and others.
Both Ames and Neiers did not know the direction and location of
Lekni and Foniter neither did the appraise the relationship between the
knoenoem,Piapung,Monton and present-day Goemai. They could not link the Jelbang
–Muduut group then(known as the Jipari) who had retreated from the Lekni group.
Both Ames and Neiers did not notice the cultural and language bond between the
Tal, Taroh, Pai, Myet group which is in turn linked to the Fier, Mupun,
Mughavul, Ron, Kuletre, Chakfem, Mushere and the “Panshak” group. Finally, Ames
and Neiers did not know that some present –day Goemai are from the Fomter, Njen
and Kwararafa stock other than the Lekni stock.
A major handicap of the early transcribers of oral tradition into
written form was their lack of knowledge of the language of the people and
their cultural practices which would have enabled them to notice the
interwoven, the various groups are to date.
1.2 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND.
Dafyar, from whom the Mernyang and other groups owe their descent
is said to have procreated with his sister Nade as they were the only survivors
of the cataclysm they viewed as the collapse of the sky attended by fire
brimstone. It is believed that all mankind perished due to sins committed which
attracted the wrath of God. Dafyar and Nade had hidden in the cave on a
promontory called Chor in Kopfubum near present day Kofyar.
A casual study shows that one of the many of the chains of
volcanoes in the area (Moelar, Sogom, Pak, Kwanoeng, etc) may have activated
causing the cataclysm they viewed as the sky collapsing with fire and
The offspring of Dafyar had fanned out into many other sub-groups
and sojourned or inter-married thereby producing a much wider cultural mix. The
colonial expedition visit on Latok following the demise of her Mages try’s
Administration officer Mr. Christopher Matthew Barlow in the early 1930s sent
many descendants of Darfyar away from home into other communities thereby further
widening the cultural mix within the sub-region and thereabouts.
The offspring of Dafyar comprised his sons and grandsons or even
great grandsons and so on. Oral tradition has for long maintained the 14 who
have been popular due to the settlements that grew in the wake of their earlier
locations. This offspring whose locations created urban settlements are as
S/N NAME SETTLEMENT
DISTANCE FROM KOFYAR
1. Chikirpe Kwang 6 km 2. Dajan Jepjan 23 km 3. Dajin Dum-mak 3 km
4. Dawam Lardang 5 km 5. Jefut Jaknoeng 11 km 6. Jipal Koeper 8 km 7. Koenzuam
Fujing 6 km 8. Kopgwai Muduut 7 km 9. Longme Bogot 5 km 10. Mugaan Miket 3 km
11. Rundum Zukal 8 km 12. Soekoetko Kwa 3 km 13. Watam Kwanoeng 5 km 14.
Yimpang Fungleet,Later to leet,Chim,
The fountain habitations of the offspring of Dafyar in Dashe’s
The Mernyang realized early how rain-based agriculture rendered
most of the year without farm work. Therefore they engaged in hunting and trade
especially in the dry season. They trade with the Hausas in the North and the
Tiv, Alago, (keana) Azara, Awe, Igala, Igbira, Nupe, and other tribes in the
forest regions. These are trade expeditions that expose them to systems and
institutions of other civilizations much earlier than their neighbors in the
“Corn belt”. Therefore when the early Catholic Missionaries arrived at Shendam
in the first decades of 20th century, they later paid visits to Kofyar area
with the aims of Christianizing the people. They later settled in Kwa for
evangelical work and in that process established primary school in the Kwa
parish which covered the present Pan Chiefdom, parts of Mangu local government
area, parts of Pankshin local government area, parts of Mikang local government
area and parts of Shendam local government area.
1.3 GEOGRAPHICAL LOCATION
The Mernyang ethnic group predominantly occupies a sizeable
territory of southern part of plateau state which is located in the middle belt
of Nigeria. They were formally under Shendam Local Government Area but as a
result of population, there is an increment of local government which result
the Mernyang being presently under QUA’AN PAN local government area of plateau
1.4 SOCIO-CULTURAL BACKGROUND
The Mernyang speaking people have a mode of life which is peculiar
to them as an entity. Perhaps it is right to point out the fact that the people
are very much tied to their culture wherever they are seen,their pattern which
is almost not easily dispensed with moves with them.
Mernyang is one of the languages spoken in Southern part of
Plateau state and the population of its speakers is over (7,000) though the
entire Mernyang speakers are over 1.9million.
The community speaking this particular Mernyang language is called
“KWA, KWANG and DOKAN-KASUWA” though there are some other communities under the
southern province who speaks Mernyang too; except that there are changes in the
intonation that is, the tongue of pronouncing word is different.
Christianity is the dominant religion practiced by the Mernyangs.
Consequently, majority are Christians although very small percentages are
Muslims. Religion plays an important part in the life style of the Mernyangs.
The norms and principle of Christianity influence the behavioural pattern of
the people. This may be the reason why they are very much dedicated to their
Marriage or wedding according to the Mernyang people is called
“dyik”. To them there are various ways of getting a partner before a wedding
ceremony, these could either be through “matgap”/ “mat ya” ( a situation
whereby family, most especially the daugo’s family, most (man’s family) fell in
love with another family which could either be because the loved family are in
good health, have good blood, good character etc. Then for this reason, the
daugo’s family will like to marry from the family in the process, both parents
will make sure the kids get closer to themselves by trying to make a bond
Another way of getting a partner in Mernyang is through normal
courtship. This way of getting a wife happens when a man or woman found the man
who loves her dearly she then went ahead to inform her parent about the man and
the parent now fixed a date to meet with the man. In other to know if the man is
capable and serious with getting married to their daughter. The next step to be
taken after daguo has met with the Namat parent is the meeting of the both
parent which is then called the introduction. In this process, there is a spoke
man from the daugo side, who do all the talking about the love they have for
their daughter and the care they will give to her after getting married to
It is important to note that during the wedding introduction in
Mernyang and after the marriage the biological parents of the bride will not
serve or stand as the parent of the bride but a representative from the father
(Nda) side and must be a man i.e. the uncle of the bride who is called
“ndadyila” or “ndalarep”. It is this ndadyik or ndalarep that takes all the responsibility
of the bride’s parent and after the wedding. It is this same ndadyik or
ndalarep that makes a list of what the groom’s family will bring. The list
contains item like bene seed (lem), goat (oek he and she), fowl (both he and
she), mous, Roll call (money), wrapper (cloth) etc. All these are very
important and the quantity depends on the bride’s family. Also mous apart from
all the items mentioned is the most important and must be brought along by the
groom’s family and shared between both families during the wedding
introduction. Mous is a must to be taken during the special day in Mernyang.
Mernyang wedding ceremony is different from the Yorubas or Igbos
who after doing the introduction then proceeds to doing of engagement ceremony
and lastly the real wedding, but the Mernyang rather prefer doing introduction
with some ceremony such as didiel and diloegoen traditional wedding.
Didiel is a ceremony that takes place during process of wedding
and a way of telling the relations to be that she is getting married. In this
process all her relations make contribution for her so that she will have
things to take along to her husband’s house. These contributions could either
be money, clothes etc.
Dialoegoen is another ceremony to honor the mother of the girl i.e
the bride to be in the process to wedding. Lastly, after this then a day for
the real wedding will be fixed.
The Mernyang have quite a number of festivals, each of this
festivals has reason and beliefs that support it. For instance, the Shikaam
festival which is popularly common among the Mernyang, which carries several
mind robbing folk dances, folk songs, cultural artifacts and several other
activities to inform, educate and entertain the entire Mernyang nation, their
supporters and neighbors.
A typical Mernyang dressing consist of a wrapper, head tie and
shawl thrown over the shoulder for the woman. This is particularly born out of
the ethnics of Muslim religion which peaches against any form of exposure of
the body of women. In addition to this, a typical Mernyang woman weaves her
hair in the local fashion. Due to civilization, a typical man now dress in
shirt and trouser forgoing their mode of dressing in traditional way, except if
a festival is going on or the celebration of Christmas, Sala ceremony, wedding
and naming ceremony took place he then dresses in their traditional way. The
same thing is peculiar to women who now dress in skirt and blouse, even wearing
of trousers and also making their hair in different kinds of forms.
The Mernyang people are engage in a number of professions as
evidences in our major towns and villages where they are found. These
profession include farming, hunting (such as Moe Nau o those who hunt with bows
and arrows. Moe Kwat Teer or those who spend days or even weeks hunting big
games) weaving carving of wood, fishing, and host of others. They are also good
Generally, the Mernyang are peaceful and rather hospitable people
who are usually prepared to socialize with people from other ethnic group
The Mernyang engaged themselves in a process or act, in organizing
the way they are to rule or governed. The Mernyang are ruled or governed by
“long pan” (chief of pan) which is the overall traditional head of the whole
pan chiefdom and being assisted by the “long” (i.e those who rank are not up
long pan which is the head of the Qua’an pan council)
In a nut shell, the Mernyang are not like the Yorubas or Igbos who
have the King as their head and the chief as an assistants or helpers to the
King in running the kingdom rather, the Mernyang ruling council are all known
as “long” (chief). The overall head of the pan, district head, and youth
representative etc are regarded as “long” (chief). But it is important to note
that in Mernyang, there is no superiority in “long” (chief). In addition to
this, the pan council are called and known to be pan chiefdom and not pan
kingdom because there administration is based on chief and not king.