Onitsha History, Kingship and Changing Cultures

Fulfulde Language and History

 Above: Atlantic Languages (Purple); Fulfulde (Fulani) marked “F”

Observe on the color-coded Niger-Congo map above, among the pink and purple locations shown appear scattered purple spots marked with an “F” across the expanse of the map.  These indicate distributions of the Fulfulde language spoken by the distinctively migratory Fulani people, comprising a minor  branch of an Atlantic tongue (most closely related to Wolof and Serer, both located entirely in Senegambia). The movements that produced these scatterings of speakers occurred much later than the times we are dealing with at this point. Murdock (1959:415-21.) placed the main eastward expansion of the Fulani as beginning in the 13th century C.E, largely on written historical grounds.

Readers should note, however, that a confounding complexity exists regarding the people associated with this language:  considerable numbers of its speakers have a biological-genetic connection with yet another major population:  people who today speak Afroasiatic languages (possibly linking with Berber-speakers). 1  Expansion of these remarkably both mobile and sedentarizing people2 apparently continues to the present day and has reached eastward across much of the entire southern Sudan.  But for the region of our focus their appearance is entirely late, not part of the deep historical picture with which we are here mainly concerned.3

  1. MacDonald 1997:46-7. []
  2. See Stenning 1959. []
  3. For Igbo history, the Fulani only become relevant late in the 19th century, and then only peripherally until the time of nationalist politics of the twentieth century. []
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