Ajami in the Senegambia

by Fallou Ngom

Abba Sagna's Jóola Foñi Community

Background about Jóola Foñi

ajami scholarJóola Foñi (also known as Jola Fonyi or Diola Fogny or Kujamaat Jóola) is part of the Bak languages of the West Atlantic branch of the Niger-Congo phylum. It is primarily spoken in Casamance, Senegal, particularly at the border with The Gambia. It is also spoken in The Gambia by a substantial number of people and in parts of Guinea Bissau. It is considered to be the largest and most widely understood Jóola variety in the Senegambian sub-region (Ethnologue, 2005). Kujamaat Jóola people call themselves Kujamaat and their language Kujamutay. Kujamaat (Foñi) and Kasa are the most important dialects of the Jóola cluster of dialects spoken in Senegambia (Arnoff & Fudeman, 2005). Jóola Foñi is believed to have over 60% lexical similarity with the Jóola-Kasa variety spoken in the villages around Oussouye, Casamance. Speakers of other varieties speak Jóola-Foñi as second language (Ethnologue, 2005). The language is used in commerce, traditional religions, and in other religious services in rural Jóola Foñi communities in Casamance. Over 90% also speak Wolof, French, or Mandinka (Ethnologue, 2005). Consequently, the language has significant influence from these languages. It is used in the media in Casamance, Senegal.

Background information about Jóola Foñi from Casamance

The city of Ziguinchor is the capital of the southernmost administrative region formerly known as Casamance, Senegal. It is the most ethnically, religiously, culturally and linguistically diverse region of Senegal. It is inhabited by the Jóola, Mandinka, Fulakunda, Wolof, Fuuta Jalon Fula (mostly immigrants or descendants of immigrants from Guinea), and many other ethnic groups. Several of the ethnic groups in the region such as the Balanta, the Jóola Kasa, the Mankanya and Mandjak who live in the region follow Christianity and traditional animist beliefs. It is the region with the highest percentage of animists in Senegal. The principal economic activities in the region are rice cultivation, particularly among the Jóola, peanut cultivation, tourism, commerce and fishing. It is the most lush and green region of Senegal.

Linguistic features of Jóola Foñi from Casamance

The Jóola Foñi featured in this ajami text is spoken in the region of Ziguinchor, Casamance. The language is the only member of the Bak family of the West Atlantic group predominantly spoken by Jóola Muslims. The Islamization of the Jóola Foñi is relatively recent and most were Islamized by the Mandinka. The majority of the Jóola of the area known as Basse Casamance (corresponding to the area around Oussouye, Kabrousse and the villages in the vicinity) are predominantly animists, and are known for their resistance to external influences. The most pervasive feature of Kuyamaat Jóola are its simple, elegant and pervasive vowel harmony system, its extensive noun class and gender agreement and its rich agglutinative verbal morphology (Aronoff & Fudeman, 2005). The Foñi variety featured in this collection of ajami texts naturally exhibits some lexical influence from Arabic, French and Mandinka. Because the Jóola Foñi were recently Islamized by the Senegambian Mandinka who brought to them a well-established Arabic and ajami literary tradition, Jóola Foñi Muslims today are increasingly following the literacy trend of the Mandinka people. While Jóola Foñi and Mandinka ajami shares numerous features, Jóola Foñi ajami exhibits some idiosyncratic features.
<< Previous | 1 of 7 | Next >>