Kiakia: The Nupe Word for Bicycle - by Ndagi Abdullahi - Loadedgists
Tue. Dec 1st, 2020


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Kiakia: The Nupe Word for Bicycle – by Ndagi Abdullahi

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The word Keke, which we use for bicycle today, is not the original Nupe word for bicycle because it was adopted from Hausa. This, of course, doesn’t mean that we cannot continue to use keke as the Modern Nupe word for bicycle. As we all know, no language is static and all languages grow by borrowing loan words and other linguistic elements from other languages.

But the correct Nupe word for bicycle is Kiákiági or Kiági – this was the original word used by Nupe people to refer to the bicycle before the Hausa Keke came to overshadow it.

Ironically enough the Hausa people actually got their ‘Keke’ from the Nupe ‘Kiákiá’ which originally and literally means ‘movement’ and used to be applied by Nupe people to anything that moves including animals, like donkey (Kiákiátia or simply Kiátiá, or Kiátiági). In the Old Nupe language ‘kia’ was the word for ‘motion’.

Etymologically we can see that in actuality the word ‘Kiákiá’ was the Middle Nupe word for Horse and in former times the horse was referred to by Nupe people as Kiákiá.

Our Modern Nupe word ‘Dòkò’ for Horse is also wrong because it is borrowed from the ‘Doki’ of the Hausa people. The Hausas in turn got their Doki from the ‘Dakwa’ of the Mandingo people of the West African Coast.

Because the Nupe people saw the bicycle before the Hausa people, the bicycle came by the Sea, the Nupe people also referred to the bicycle as Kiákiá or Kiákiági or ‘the horse’ or ‘the horse thing’. And that was how bicycle came to be known as Kiákiá among Nupencizhi. And the Hausa people then borrowed and corrupted the Nupe Kiákiá into Keke.

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But the pervasive influence of the Hausa Lingua Franca came to ultimately overshadow the original Nupe Kiákiá with Keke for the horse in the Nupe language because the two words keke and Kiákiá are evidently synonymous both phonetically and morphologically.

In conclusion the real Nupe word for bicycle is Kiákiági or Kiági.

As I shall discuss in another post, the real Nupe word for a car or motorcar is Kiakiako or Kiako. Though mato, matuka and mota are now the Modern Nupe words that shouldn’t be rejected too.

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