Research Articles

Documentation, development, and ideology in the northwestern Kainji languages

  • Stuart McGill
  • Roger Blench


The Kainji languages of north-central Nigeria, which constitute a major branch of the Benue-Congo language subgroup (Gerhardt 1989, Williamson & Blench 2000), have been largely ignored by academic linguists. The group includes approximately 60 languages divided geographically into three main areas. This article will discuss the branches of Kainji found in the northwest, namely Reshe, Lake, Kambari, Northwest, Kamuku and Shiroro, and reserve discussion of East Kainji and Basa for another paper. The article is organised as follows: Section 2 introduces the Kainji languages and provides some background on their speakers and the linguistic and language development work that has been carried out there. Section 3 discusses two important dimensions of ideological conflict in northern Nigeria, ethnicity and religion, while Section 4 outlines the shared historical background and cultural practices of the Kainji language communities. Section 5 provides evidence for the anti-Hausa language ideology held by many rural speakers of Kainji languages, and Section 6 makes recommendations for applied language documentation in the Kainji area.

Keywords: language documentation, language development, Kainji languages, Nigeria, Reshe, Lake, Kambari, Northwest, Kamuku, Shiroro, Hausa, cultural context, history, ideology

How to Cite:

McGill, S. & Blench, R., (2014) “Documentation, development, and ideology in the northwestern Kainji languages”, Language Documentation and Description 11, 90-135. doi:

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Published on
31 Jul 2014
Peer Reviewed