Nyang language

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Native to Cameroon
Native speakers
65,000 (1992)[1]
Language codes
ISO 639-3 ken
Glottolog keny1279[2]

The Nyang language (Kenyang, Banyang, Manyang) is the principal Southern Bantoid language of the Mamfe family. It is spoken by the populations of the Manyu and Meme departments of the Southwest Region of Cameroon. Nyang is one of the 286 languages of Cameroon, and is spoken by about 65,000 people. Not all speakers of Nyang are proficient in French and English (Cameroon's official languages), and the use of Nyang facilitates communication in the region. The language has two major dialects: Lower (or Central) Bayang and Upper Bayang. The number of Nyang speakers is falling, and it is primarily spoken in rural areas.


People and languages[edit]

The Nyang people are Bantus from Kanem Bornu. The Kanem Bornu Empire encompassed present-day Chad and Nigeria, and Bantu languages are spoken in the region. Nyang means "Bantu son of Yang, who migrated from Kanem Bornu". Two thirds of Africa’s languages belong to the Niger-Congo phylum which stretches from the western tip of the continent at Dakar, east to Mombasa, and south to Cape Town.[citation needed] Most clans had migrated four or five times before recorded history began, and written records are scarce. Languages evolve during migration, and people in the Sudan Basin, Congo Basin and Chad Basin speak similar languages. Sudan Basin languages spoken in Cameroon are Manenguba, Duala, Bali, Bulu, Basaa, Kpwe, Ngemba, Aghem, Balondo and Mungaaka.


Nyang is a shortened, derogatory form of Banyang. Manyaŋ, a singular term for Bayang, loosely identifies the entire linguistic group. Mɔ (singular) and Bɔ (plural) are adverbs denoting number in Mɔ Manyang (singular) and Bɔ Manyaŋ (plural). In that context Manyaŋ equals Mɔ Manyaŋ, and Bɔ Manyaŋ equals Bayang. The prefix Ba in Bayang means "son of" similarly to the "Mc" in "McDaniel". Other examples are Bakossi, Bakweri, Bassa, Bakundu, Balundu and Bafaw.

Villages were founded by an individual who identified himself with his clan (Boh, "the people of"). An example is Ntenako, which was founded by Chief Tanyi Mbi (who returned for the rest of his clan). The people of Ntenako are called boh (pronounced /Bɔ/ Tanyi Mbi), Ab initio, /mɔ/ (singular) Tanyi Mbi is "son of Tanyi Mbi". Bɔ is the plural of mɔ.

There were many sub-clans, each calling itself by the name of its leader while trying to maintain its relationship to the main clan by adding the prefix Ba. Followers of Yang called themselves Bayang (children of Yang). The words bɔ Manyaŋ denote an increase in number. With more migrations and contacts, the term evolved into Bayangue and Bayangi.



/Kebi/ and /kibi/ (faeces) are pronounced differently in Nyang, depending on dialect. The variation is pronounced in Upper and Lower Bayang, and slighter in Central Bayang.

Comparing Upper and Lower (or Central) Bayang, the foremost difference is that while Lower Bayang uses the combination gh (voiced velar stop /g/ and voiceless glottal fricative /h/) as a pharyngeal consonant, the Upper Bayang treats it as a velar stop. For example, "who is that?" is chi agharɛ nɔ in Lower Bayang (the g appears to be silent).

In Upper Bayang it is chi agharɛ nɔ, with an aspirated g. The major differences between Central and Upper Bayang are in writing and pronouncing affricate and fricative consonants. In Upper Bayang, combining the plosive /g/ and the glottal /h/ to /gh/ in a word like /chi agha/ or /agharɛ/ ("who?") gives /chiaga/garɛ/, silencing the /h/. In Central Bayang, the interrogative pronoun "who?" has equal strength (/harɛ/, with muted /g/). There is considerable use of affricate sounds /tʃ/ not used in English.

While Manyang (Manyaŋ) is a loose singular term for Bayang, it is a collective noun. Mɔ (singular) and Bɔ (plural) are adverbs denoting number (singular Mɔ Manyaŋ and plural Bɔ Manyaŋ). A word with double consonants (/bb/) has a distinct pause between the two consonants (for example, /bebbeb/ "AWOL").

Tonal differences[edit]

According to Mbuagbaw (1999), "It is fairly easy to find [Nyang] words where the only difference between them is the tone". For example, keh may have a rising or falling pitch. In Ane a rɔng nɔh ekati keh? ("Does s/he go to school too?") keh has a rising inflection, and in Yi abwɔng mɔh keh? ("Does she have a baby?") the inflection falls.


Dependent structure[edit]

Although the compound word eyʉ bhiti ("night whisper") is pejorative, eyʉ (whisper) is not. For example, emailing a forum moderator with a request to unsubscribe a third party would be eyʉ bhiti in Nyang.

Independent structure[edit]

In Nyang, certain words have ingrained meanings and others are context-dependent. For example, Mmú (dog) is self-evident; dogs are visible. However, "snow" (nfókópèppep, literally "white dust") requires a description.

Usage and meaning[edit]

A chief is specifically known as nfɔ, but /nfɔ/ is also used to denote title-holders or as a sign of respect (for example, the head of a family). However, "prince" in Nyang is mɔ nfɔ. According to Bauer, " ... the number of non-established derivatives met in normal text is likely to be extremely small, at well under one percent of attested derivatives".[3]

Figurative usage[edit]

  • Metaphors
Mmu, "dog" (literal)
Mmu, "womanizer" (pejorative)
Ngem, "python" (literal)
Ngem, "glutton" (pejorative)
  • Idioms
"If a palm kernel tree is not ripe, birds will not stop by." (Sɨndɨ a bhekepɨ senen a pu ghat. The word /ghat/ is pronounced differently in Upper and Lower Bayang. Upper Bayang has an alveolar or post-alveolar trill (/r/), and Lower Bayang uses the velar and pharyngeal /gh/.
Mɔh a sow amɔh a jie nejie ne bha fors. "If a child watches his hands, he will eat with dignitaries." If a child has good etiquette, he may associate with his elders.
Nyuɔh a nebheri ndu a ɨtɨgh bhawɔt. "The snake has coiled round the calabash of oil." A dilemma exists.
Mɔh mnieh yibhe ngwai nɔh, kerengeh nor bhe jie a wai muet. "The fetus wants to kill the mother, but it does not know it is killing itself." One's decision will hurt oneself more than the intended victim.
Enɔghɔ mɔt a pu tɨgh ntchɔt. "One tree does not build a forest." In unity is strength.


In asking for the hand of a girl in marriage, a man does not say "I want to marry your daughter"; instead, he uses euphemism. Rather than Ntwo bebhep awoh mɔje ndʉ nebhai ("I have come to ask the hand of your daughter in marriage"), he would say Ntwɔ be bhep mbakne wɔ nchɔŋ che mɔh nkɔk ye ntӑ mɔ wӑ ("I have come to ask you if you will give your chicken to my child"). The verb yɔŋ means "to insert" (or pierce) Ke ki ɔŋ yɔŋ yi amek means "Be careful not to pierce his eye". Dɔkghɔ yɔŋ eyenghe euphemistically means "go and have sex"; the literal translation is "go and fuck her".

Pejorative and meliorative meanings[edit]

  • Me chɔnghɔ siepti kɨtɨnghe ke kɔ ("I will break your bristles")
  • "Please give me those broom bristles" (Nnek muet cheme kɨtɨnghe kos)
  • Ta-Ashukang a bhet nɔh keh? ("Is Mr. Ashukang still alive?")
  • Pu yi nɔh a fu menem keh? ("Isn't that his ghost in the village?" Ghosts are a recurring phenomenon in Bayang culture.)

Morphology and lexicon[edit]

Morphology is the branch of linguistics concerned with word forms of words” in various uses.

Word formation[edit]

In Nyang, words are formed in three ways:

  • Compound words: There are many compound words in Nyang. An example is ekereh mandem (church). The Bayangs worshiped a totemic tree, river, bush or hill (known as njoh) far from the village. Examples of compound words are:
  • nfókópèppep (snow): nfókó (dust) and pèppep (white)
  • Senenen nfai (airplane): Senen (bird) and nfai (sky)
  • Enɔk ne ntaŋ (street lamp): Enɔk (stick) and ne ntaŋ (with moon)
  • Nenenamek (to bully): Nenen (open) and amek (eye)

Some forms of "goodbye" are:

  • "In God's safekeeping" (Mmandem Aŋjet)
  • Goodbye to an individual: ɔŋ kɔ erɨrɨ
  • Goodbye to a group: Bhaŋ Kɔ erɨrɨ


There are six subject and possessive pronouns, used alone or as modified nouns:

  • I: Me
  • You (singular):
  • He or she: yi
  • We: bhese
  • You (plural): bhɨkӑ
  • They: bhɔ


Homographs are extensively used in Nyang:

  • Ndem (penis; I said)
  • Kenɔŋ (bicycle; jail [ekere kenɔn)
  • Ekah (meeting; group)
  • Ntaŋ (moon, month, menstruation)
  • Ntaŋ a fuh (The moon is out.)
  • ntaŋ akoh atuoh (A new month has come.)
  • Ya chi ndu ntaŋ yi (She is menstruating.)
  • Nenu (wrestling; street fighting)
  • Ekak (leg; age group, because age groups walk together)
  • Mbwep (air; rat)
  • Nyien (river; name)
  • Mayep (water; rain)

In the above examples, the noun's meaning derives from the verb.

  • Nyah (meat; simpleton)
  • Nekwet (vagina; drumbeats)

In these cases, the word's stress determines its meaning.

  • Bhɨrɨ (vegetable; beauty)
  • Amaŋ: Stones (denotative; /sɔt amaŋ ten kɛnen/, "use stones to crush the kernels")
Money (connotative; ɛtӑwu a bhɔŋhɔ amaŋ. "that man is rich")
  • Nebuh (sky, totem)

In the examples above, the word's meaning is determined by syntax.


  • Eh nen (Eight); Enen (It is bitter.)
  • Epɔhbhisi (ugly); Mpɔh bhi si: ugly face (adjective used as noun)
  • Mɔh ekati (Student); Mɔh kati (one hundred)
  • Bhɔ mmu (puppies); Bhɔmu (dogs)

Days of the week[edit]

The days of the week derived from what people do on a particular day, or village market days.

  1. Sunday: njyub bhe chɔkɔk chɔkɔh (the day to sit)
  2. Monday: nyuop betek bhe jue ebwɨ (the day to go to the bush and work)
  3. Tuesday: esieh Kembong (village name)
  4. Wednesday: esieh Ntenako (village name) or nyuop bhetek bhe koreh muet (week's work half done)
  5. Thursday: esieh Nfoh (or Nfuni; village name)
  6. Friday: esieh Nchang (village name)
  7. Saturday: esieh Nekok (or Ossing; village names)


Most sports words are English borrowings, with unique intonation:

  • Futbɔl
  • Basketbɔl
  • Volibɔl


There are few color words in Nyang:

  • Red: tchu
  • Black: Kiri
  • White: pepep
  • Green: Bheyɨ
  • Brown: Mmek

Plural nouns[edit]

  • Mushrooms: Bhjiɔb (diphthongized; /bhjiɔb/)


Mr. is widely used as a masculine term of address. "Mama" or "papa", followed by a person's first name, is also used. For example, Hillary Clinton would be "Mama Hillary". Women are also addressed by the name of their daughter. The equivalent of "Mrs." is ngɔreh.

Words for "having sex" are juŋ, soŋ, naigh, deb and kwet. "Erotic talk" is epusi.

In common usage, the third-person singular pronoun is replaced with Aa:

  • Aa yieh amang. (He is eating kernels.)
  • Aa yieh ntʃui. (She is eating corn.)

Standard usage is:

  • Yi a yieh amaŋ.
  • Yi a yieh ntcwui.


Gender is determined by sight. Pronouns in Nyang are not determined by the gender of nouns (similar to English). To form the plural of a subject pronoun, the speaker use both subject pronouns with the verb:

  • Yam (Eyakagha)
  • Potato (Ewarek)


The word "mother" may be represented in two ways. In the beginning of the sentence, it is Mma:

  • Is your mother home? (Mma ye achi ayob eh?)

At the end of the sentence, the word is Nno:

  • Does he have a mother? (Yi abhoŋ Nnɔ?)
Nyang English
Singular Plural
Ntɨ Bhatɨ Friend(s)
Mmuere Mmuere Friend(s)
Moh Bhɔ Child(ren)
Efeme Bhefeme Table(s)
Ekati Bhekati School(s)
Chi Bhɔ chi Parent(s)
Nebu bhabhu Totem(s)
Ekak Bhekak Leg(s)
Ntɔng bhatɔŋ Teacher(s)
Ntangnyu Bhataŋghanyu Lawyer(s)
Ngang bhɔngaŋ Doctor(s)
Senen Kenen Bird(s)
Eket Bheket House(s)
Ketiet Ketiet Hare(s)
Ekrisu Bhekrisu Mirror(s)
etɨ Bhetɨ Pot(s)
Ntʃan Bho Ntʃan Plate(s), pan(s), bowl(s)
sekwop Kekwop Spoon(s)
Awɔh Amɔh Hand(s)
esɔngri bhesɔngri Problem(s)
Nyiese Amek Eye(s)

Questions are formed by intonation and the inflectional suffix eh. Plurals are formed by indicating the number (in some nouns).

Nyang English
Singular Plural
Nkɔk Nkok Erat (Three) fowl(s)
Nso Nso Enui/ bho-nso enui (Four) deer


Nyang syntax is semantically useful:

  • Má jyɛ nyӑ kebɨgh? ("You eat uncooked meat?")

A Nyang speaker will hear, "How can you eat meat that is not well cooked?"

Comparison with English[edit]

Nyang, like English, has sentences which paraphrase each other (as demonstrated by George Lakoff):

  • Mafundem á wai nkɔk: Mafundem killed the fowl.
  • Mafundem á ki nkɔk awu: Mafundem made the fowl die.
  • Mafundem kӑ ki nkɔk ewu: Mafundem caused the fowls to be dead.
  • Mafundem kӑ ki n nkɔk epu nepem: Mafundem made the fowls not live.

Verb tenses[edit]

In conjugating the future tense, Kenyang resembles Spanish in that a verb may be conjugated in at least two forms (with or without the personal pronoun); compare the Spanish yo voy a la playa or voy a la playa with Nyang:

  • To eat: jyiɛh

"I will eat tomorrow" may be said in two ways:

  • Me chɔŋ njyieh mbureh (with subject pronoun)
  • Chɔŋ njyie mbureh (without subject pronoun)

With third-person pronouns, the future uses the personal pronoun:

  • To drink: yuh
  • Yi achɔŋ yuh: He will sleep (subject pronoun at the beginning)
  • Chɔŋ yi yuh: He will sleep (subject pronoun in the middle, after the auxiliary)
  • To sleep: bhereh
  • Bhɔ bha chɔŋ bhereh kenɔ: They will sleep. Same pattern with the subject pronoun at the beginning and in the second sentence there is no subject pronoun.
  • Chɔŋ bha bhereh kenɔ: They will sleep (unlike the first example, no subject pronoun)
  • Dance: Bhe bhen ne bhen
  • Mami susanna aching dak nebhen dak: Susanna will be great on the dance floor.
  • Chɔŋ mami susanna en dak nebhen.

Sentence structure[edit]

Nyang has four types of sentences: simple, compound, complex and compound complex.

  1. Simple sentence: Chi meh. (It is me.)
  2. Compound sentence: Agborramnabg a gheb mmen, ne ngoreh yi a gheb eyaghka. (Agbrorambang stole a goat, and his wife stole a yam.)
  3. Complex sentence: mbuneh meh ntwoh, me chongho cheh who nkap. (If I come, I will give you money.)
  4. Compound complex sentence: Bessem-Ebot a bhia nyaka nfortorh, ke a fu nyaka nebhia mpoko ne yie kem yi ne ngore tchack. (Bessem-Ebot married Nfortorh, but she divorced him when she caught him cheating.)

Coordinating conjunctions[edit]

Nyang has three primary coordinating conjunctions (neh, Keh and kepuh), forming the acronym Nekehke:

  • Neh (and)
  • Keh (but)
  • Kepuh (so)

Teaching Nyang may be facilitated by using basic IPA characters instead of IPA extensions since all three groups of vowels (monophthongs, diphthongs, and triphthongs) and plosive, nasal, fricative, affricate and lateral sounds could be produced. The easiest way to learn Nyang is to learn the syntax, followed by vocabulary.

Possessive pronouns[edit]

  • The goat is eating the grass. (Mmen ayɛ takɔ.)
  • The children are going to school. (Bho Bhӑrɔŋ ekӑӑti.)
  • I love Oregon. (Mme nkɔŋ Oregɔn.)

The primary syntactic structure in Nyang is subject-verb-object, as in English:

  • The birds are eating the corn. (Kenen ke yie njui.)
  • The hunter has killed a rat mole. (Mtemekenteme a wai ngubók.)
  • We are going to play soccer. (Se rɔŋghɔ dep bɔl.)

Although Mbuagbaw (1998) acknowledges Nyang's primary SVO structure, the language also uses subject-verb-complement (SVC) syntax:

  • She is rude. (Yi á saŋ.)
  • Eyere has become a gossiper. (Eyere arob chi mmʉ-menaŋ.)
  • Agbor is now a teacher. (Agbor arub nɛnɛ chi ntɔŋ.)


Like Nyang, most African languages express comparisons with a verb extension rather than by inflection (Heine & Nurse, 2000). In Nyang, the adjective may precede the noun:

  • A beautiful woman (Erɨti ngɔre)

or come after it:

  • Twenty goats (Mmen ɛsӑ)

Name controversy[edit]

The word "Bayangi" was coined by a misspelling, and it is considered derogatory by some. The plural in Nyang is denoted with the voiced bilabial /B/ and the fricative glottal h in combination: Bh. For example, Eyiŋ (thing); Bhe yeŋ (things).


  1. ^ Nyang at Ethnologue (18th ed., 2015)
  2. ^ Hammarström, Harald; Forkel, Robert; Haspelmath, Martin; Bank, Sebastian, eds. (2016). "Kenyang". Glottolog 2.7. Jena: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History. 
  3. ^ Bauer, Laurie (2001). Morphological Productivity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 37. ISBN 9781139428729. Retrieved 19 July 2014. 


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