This trilingual dictionary is the first of any kind for the Cicipu language. It is intended for people who want to learn to read, write, or speak the Cicipu language and who already read English or Hausa. These might be native speakers of Cicipu, or others who are learning it as a second language. A second reason for producing the dictionary is to ensure that future generations of Acipu have a written record of their language. Finally, we hope the dictionary will also be of some interest to linguists, and so a fuller introduction is available in PDF format, providing basic sociolinguistic, phonological and grammatical information. For further information see McGill (2009).

Cicipu (the ‘c’ is pronounced like ch in ‘church’ i.e. [ tʃìtʃípù ]) is spoken in northwest Nigeria, with the main language area straddling the boundary between Kebbi and Niger States (Figure 1).

Nigeria map

Figure 1: Cicipu language area within Nigeria (taken from

The language is a member of the Kainji subgroup of Benue-Congo. Native speakers identify seven dialects (Table 1), the approximate locations of which can be seen in Figure 2.

Table 1: Cicipu dialects/settlements and their Hausa names

Dialect autonym

Cicipu settlement

Hausa name of settlement






















Unless otherwise stated the words and examples in this dictionary are from Tirisino, the most prestigious and probably most robust dialect of Cicipu. The Orisino have maintained their language, and children in every village I visited spoke Cicipu as their mother tongue. Nevertheless younger speakers are heavily influenced by Hausa, which has spread into sociolinguistic domains such as casual conversation which were previously the preserve of the vernacular. The speech of young men and children (particularly boys) is markedly different to that of old men, with a higher incidence of Hausa loanwords and calqued constructions. The number system is a linguistic subdomain which, although very simple, is falling out of use: some young Orisino struggle to count past 5. Similarly many of the words in this dictionary will be unknown to the younger generation.

In contrast, Tikula is possibly the most endangered of the dialects, with only a small number of children learning Cicipu. The Tikumbasi dialect may be similarly endangered, and others likely fall between these two extremes. A few words from other dialects (especially Tikula) are included in the dictionary and clearly marked as such, but no systematic research has been attempted on any dialect other than Tirisino.

Dialect map

Figure 2: Cicipu dialects (see Figure 1 for the wider geographical context)

This dictionary is part of a broader effort to document the Cicipu language which has been ongoing since 2006, funded mainly by the Hans Rausing Endangered Language Project. So far the focus has been on spoken language, resulting in a substantial corpus of texts from various genres (available from the Endangered Languages Archive at SOAS) but little in the way of lexical documentation. This dictionary serves to improve the balance.

The lexical database on which the dictionary is based has been built up gradually since Stuart McGill’s initial linguistic fieldwork in 2006. From 2010-2012 native speaker Markus Yabani was responsible for recording the example sentences together with their Hausa translations. It is his voice that can be heard in the recordings. In 2015 a LexiquePro version of this dictionary was put online, and then in 2017 this was replaced by the current, more mobile-friendly version. The photographs included in this dictionary were taken variously by Markus Yabani, Stuart McGill, and Roger Blench.

The editors are very happy to receive feedback on the dictionary ( ) or discuss any aspects of the Cicipu language.


There are two main ways to navigate the dictionary, as well as two minor ones. Firstly, the sidebar on the left allows the user to browse alphabetically by clicking on one of the letters in the Cicipu alphabet. This displays a list of all the words beginning with that letter. Due to the noun class system the initial letters of words are not evenly distributed; for example almost a third of the words in the dictionary begin with k.

Secondly, the sidebar also contains a search box. This can be used to search in any of the three languages. All search hits are displayed in a single list (for example searching for ‘mar’ would return maringi ‘claperless bell’, Hausa maraba ‘welcome’, and English ‘marsh’. When typing in Cicipu on a PC or Android device it is recommended that the relevant Cicipu keyboard is installed.

As an additional feature, each entry also contains ‘previous’ and ‘next’ buttons Previous and Next buttons which allow the user to move from word-to-word. For technical reasons it has been easier to order this list alphabetically by lexical root rather than word (this is not considered a serious flaw since anyone seeking a list ordered by word can simply use the alphabetic links on the sidebar).

Finally, the home page contains a randomly-chosen ‘sample word’ with a link to the full lexical entry.

Throughout the dictionary text in Cicipu appears in bold (e.g. cinda ), English in plain font (e.g. wait), and Hausa in purple italics (e.g. jira ). Nouns are listed by the citation form (i.e. with the noun class prefix), usually in the singular; however some nouns (e.g. áayà ‘beans’ ) are almost always used in the singular, and so the plural is given as the main entry, with just a cross-reference provided under the singular (e.g. káayà ‘bean’ ). Noun roots are not listed separately but can easily be derived from the singular and plural forms.

When trying to look up a word in Cicipu, bear in mind that some words begin with long consonants (e.g. zzá ‘person’ appears after zũwã ‘roast’) and that others contain long vowels (e.g. kàdáaná ‘large brown hawk’ appears before kàdámá ‘word’). Words that begin with a phonemic glottal stop e.g. 'isanu ‘stand up’ are listed at the end of the alphabet under ' .

Entry details

The format of the dictionary entries is best described through a series of examples. Consider the following entry for the verb cinda ‘give’ (Figure 3).

Wait entry

Figure 3: Entry for cinda ‘wait’

The headword cinda is written orthographically and is followed by a phonetic representation ([tʃĩnda]) and then the part of speech. A full list of Cicipu parts of speech and affixes are given in Tables 2 and 3 below.

Table 2: Parts of speech

Part of speech




associative plural

auxiliary verb






existential predicate









numerical adjective

object clitic

particle (discourse)

possessive pronoun






question word


reportative evidential


Table 3: Affixes




aspect marker









tense marker


If the word has multiple senses of meaning then these are indicated with numbers i.e. 1. wait, 2. look after, and so on; if there is only one sense then the number is omitted. For each sense glosses are given in English (wait) and Hausa (jira).

One or more example sentences may appear after the glosses, together with encyclopaedic information and notes on usage if relevant. If the examples have audio then a playbar will be displayed below the relevant example. Most examples have audio for the Hausa translation as well as the Cicipu. A link to the contributor of the example (in this case Markus Yabani) appears underneath the example.

The following screenshot shows a noun ddø̂ø ‘horse’ (Figure 4). Each noun entry includes both a gender/noun class pairing (8/3) and, where appropriate, the plural form ( ìdø̂ø).

Horse entry

Figure 4: Entry for ddøø ‘horse’

Neck bone entry

Figure 5: Entry for ddøø ccillu ‘bone at the back of the neck’

Figure 5 shows a subentry of the headword ddøø ccillu as well as a cross-reference to another headword ( See also cillu ‘neck’).

For identifiable loan words such as kaduniya ‘world’ (Figure 6) the source of the loan is given at the end of the entry (e.g. Borrowed from Arabic duniya via Hausa).

World entry

Figure 6: Entry for kaduniya ‘world’

Idiolectal or dialectal variants (e.g. hyáɓá ‘teardrop’, Figure 7 ) have concise entries, but with a link to the main entry. A similar approach is taken for verbal nouns (e.g. cìdópì ‘sewing’ appears in the dictionary as a minor entry cross-referenced to the main entry dopo ‘sew’).

Tear entry

Figure 7: Entry for hyaɓa ‘teardrop’

Audio files

The audio recordings in this dictionary were recorded by Markus Yabani. Some of these sound files cover two examples, in which case you may have to wait a few seconds to get to the start of the example you want to hear. It should be possible even for beginners to identify the relevant portion.

The sound quality of the audio recordings is variable. Our original intention was to use them purely as an aid to transcription but we decided that they were too valuable a resource not to publish along with the dictionary. In particular native speakers may find them useful for checking their understanding of the accompanying written Cicipu.

Hausa translations

An attempt has been made to translate every word and every example sentence into Hausa as well as English. This is problematic due to the lack of a written standard for the particular dialect of Hausa spoken by the Acipu. This variety is a form of the ‘Western Hausa’ dialect centred on Sokoto (Newman 2000:1). It is also my impression – based on comparing Yabani’s Hausa translations with the dialectal forms given in Bargery (1934) – that in terms of vocabulary there is (or at least has been) strong influence from Katsina too. But the Hausa spoken by the Cicipu diverges in other ways too, and no-one who has spent all their life in Cicipuland would be able to pass themselves off as a native Hausa speaker – an obvious example is that almost all nouns are assigned to the masculine gender, the exceptions being when the referent is actually female. There are also phonologial differences such as the use of epenthetic vowels (e.g. fuska ‘face’ is pronounced [húsᵊkà ]) and the simplification of phonemes: the Hausa ejectives ts [] and ƙ are pronounced [ s] or [] and [k] respectively. Hausa sh [ ] is also often pronounced [ s ]. Cicipu vowel harmony also has a significant effect on the way native speakers pronounce Hausa (e.g. [ ɡúːnáː ] for gona ‘farm’). When revising Yabani’s initial Hausa transcriptions we have tended to retain grammatical differences, but abstract away from phonological differences in an effort to make the identification of the Hausa words easier. Bargery (1934) has been followed for Sokoto Hausa spelling. Yabani’s original unedited transcriptions are available from the ELAR Cicipu deposit.

Although officially part of the Hausa orthography, in practice the hooked letters ɓ, ɗ, and ƙ are often written as b, d, and k respectively. In this dictionary we follow the standard Hausa orthography.


In addition to the parts of speech listed above, the following abbreviations are used:




kind of
















Bargery, George P. 1934. A Hausa-English dictionary and English-Hausa vocabulary . London: Oxford University Press.

McGill, Stuart. 2009. Gender and person agreement in Cicipu discourse . PhD thesis, School of Oriental and African Studies.

Newman, Paul. 2000. The Hausa language: an encyclopedic reference grammar . New Haven: Yale University Press.


Many people have helped make this dictionary possible, especially the Wømø of Karishen, the Sarkinƙasa in Sakaba, the Mai Unguwa of Inguwar Rogo, and Mohammed Mallam. Other important contributors have been Mohammed Musa, Musa Mai Unguwa, Ibrahim Mai Unguwa, Ayuba Sani, Ishiaku Ibrahim, Amos Bako, Israel and Omonor Wade, David Heath, and David Crozier. Tugweede ggẽi!

We are especially grateful to the Kay Williamson Educational Foundation for a grant towards the production of this dictionary, and especially to Roger Blench for his encouragement throughout the project.

Stuart McGill, November 2017