Department of Tiv Language Studies

College of Education,

Katsina-Ala, Benue State, Nigeria

Email: [email protected]


Department of Hausa Language,

College of Education,

Katsina-Ala, Benue State, Nigeria


Department of French,

College of Education,

Katsina-Ala, Benue State, Nigeria

Email: [email protected]


Languages in contact have always left effects on one another; more especially however, is the telling effects such contacts have on the minority or local languages. Globalization has made such a contact between an international language and the so called indigenous language(s) ever more telling; with disastrous consequences on the minority/indigenous languages. Today, we live with the devastating experience of language endangerment and extinction. This paper shows how translation could prove invaluable in gingering interest in, and checking the threats minority languages have come under in our globalized community. The paper points out how the Tiv language is on the path of being revived with the ongoing translation by the Watch Tower Society of Pennsylvania, of Bible-based literature into the language.

Keywords: Tiv, Translation, Language endangerment, Language extinction, Minority language, Language Preservation


The Bible was originally written in ancient Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek. Today, it is available in whole or in part in about 2,600 languages. The vast majority of people who read the Bible do not understand the original languages and therefore must rely on a translation. (Translation committee: New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 2013:1718)

The world is becoming smaller by the day. This is largely so, due to improvements in travel and communication. Globalization as a concept, aims at removing national borders and expanding trade and commerce. These factors, in no small way, make the world look far smaller than it was, just few decades ago. Like a coin that has two sides, a global village holds prospects and spells doom, in almost all human endeavours. Without caution, a global village could well become a jungle with all the trappings of the survival of the fittest and existence (or extinction) of the less fit.

Language is one casualty in the global circumstance. While major/international languages get prominence, some minor or local languages are endangered and or doomed languages. Documentation, standardization and revitalization are therefore, a necessary exercise for most languages, including Tiv. A written form of language has relatively higher degree of permanence than the oral form. There is a dearth however, of written works in Tiv. Translation, under the circumstances, remains a viable option to explore so as to improve on existing body of writings.


The corpus for this study was based mainly on secondary data. Materials were selected mainly from the Ichighan Bibilo, (The Holy Bible in Tiv) 2007 reprint, and some other texts. The Ichighan Bibilo is considered by many, to be the most authoritative translated work in Tiv. Native Tiv speakers enjoy a high degree of mutual intelligibility, but the Tiv used in this work is that spoken in, and around Gboko Local Government Area. Gboko town is the traditional home of the Tiv and the seat of the Tiv paramount ruler; the Tor Tiv.


Different authors /linguists view translation differently. Basically though, it is conceived as either an art or a science, (Bell (1991), cited in Ianna (2012)).

Translation is the art of transforming meaning from one language to another. Catford (1965) on the other hand, views translation as the replacement of textual material in one language (Source Language) (SL) by equivalent textual material in another language (Target Language) (TL). A good definition as any can be found in Bell (1991), cited in Ianna (2012:2) “The transformation of text from one language into an equivalent in a different language, preserving semantic and stylistic equivalences”. From these definitions, we can conclude that translation is a science of rendering expression from an SL into a TL, as closely as possible. This exercise involves looking for areas of convergence or divergences between languages where there may not be exact equivalences. More often than not, this is what is obtainable between two languages (Beaugrande, 2007).It is pertinent to note that there is a difference between interpretation and translation. The former is usually a verbal/or oral exercise, while the latter involves writing.

While there are many factors to consider in the course of and after translation, these three: accuracy, clarity and naturalness, are vital goals to bear in mind to produce a good translation. Native speakers generally detect translated material that is unnatural or mechanical so the desired reaction/response is not likely to be elicited. It is important to keep in mind that a good translation is one that does not appear to the native speaker to be a translation

Although original works exist in Tiv, one of the first authoritative works on the language was a translation of the entire Bible into the language in 1964. Since then there has been a growing number of translated texts into the language. The most translated is the Watchtower magazine published monthly, by the Christian Association of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which has enjoyed wide readership over the years.


A language could be compared to a living organism. Living organisms have certain characteristics: they are given birth to, they grow, they get sick and/ or old, and they die. In a similar vein, languages could get sick; that is, they become endangered, and if appropriate remediation measures are not taken, such a language may suffer extinction or death. The term extinction is “used in linguistics for the situation which arises when a language ceases to be used by a community; also called language loss or obsolescence, especially when referring to the loss of language ability in an individual” (Crystal 2008: 267).

Tiv is one of the threatened Nigerian languages. This is largely due to the influence of the English language in particular, and a fascination by the younger generation with the western culture, and at the same time, an abhorrence of tradition and the indigenous language. Gradually, young people, especially females, who are natives, claim they do not know how to speak Tiv or speak bad Tiv, even though they may not necessarily have fluency in the English language, which they want to claim, is the language they speak better. Some parents too, use some sub-standard English with their children even at home, with the erroneous belief that this will enhance their children’s proficiency in English. The negative attitudes by natives have added to other factors to place Tiv in a very bad state. It is our hope that a re-education/ re-orientation, together with translation of works mainly from English into the language will help arrest the current trend and revive the Tiv language.


A minority language is one “used in a country by a group which is significantly smaller in number than the rest of the population; also called a linguistic minorityor language minority. Those who speak the language may be nationals of the country, but they have distinguishing ethnic, religious or cultural features which they wish to safeguard” (Crystal, 2008:307). Usually, there is one, two or three major languages in a country, while there may be many minor languages. In Nigeria for instance, there are an estimated over 400 languages, of which, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba are classified as major languages, while the others are minor languages. Some authors prefer some other terms such as wider use and restricted use for the terms major and minor respectively. Because fewer people use such a language, it is vulnerable as such, may become endangered with the death of some speakers and consequently suffer loss/ extinction.


Languages are much like living organisms in the sense that: they are born, grow, and may give birth, get sick become old and die. Few languages are immune to endangerment and extinction; the majority of the world’s languages are however, vulnerable. Language preservation is therefore, remediation efforts undertaken by, usually the government, an (some) institution(s) or even individuals to save a language that is classified as endangered. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), an estimated 3,000 or more languages would disappear by the end of this century if nothing is done to reverse the state of some languages. With the disappearance of unwritten and undocumented languages, humanity would lose not only an irreplaceable cultural heritage but also valuable ancestral knowledge embedded, in particular, in indigenous languages.Language preservation could therefore mean those conscious efforts by communities, experts and governments to reverse and sustain an endangered language so that it does not suffer extinction.


It is difficult to say when Translation started; but one thing is certain, that it is an ancient practice. Consider:

So the secretaries of the king were summoned at that time in the third month, that is, the month of Sivan, on the 23rd day, and they wrote all that Mordecai commanded to the Jews, as well as to the satraps, the governors, and the princes of the provinces from India to Ethiopia, 127 provinces, to each province in its own script and to each people in its own language and to the Jews in their own script and language. Esther 8:9 New World Translation (NW) (2013:695)

The Bible book of Esther is believed to have been written between 493-475 Before the Common Era, (BCE) that is; about almost 500 years before the birth of Christ. Evidently, however, translation existed as far back as in the Egypt of Moses’ days, approximately over 1,400 years before this event recorded in the Bible book of Esther. (NW 2013:1662). With this, nothing stops one from pegging the start of translation to some five (5) centuries before the Egypt of Moses’ day that is, to the period of the Biblical tower of Babel and the subsequent confusion of man’s language recorded at Genesis 11:1-9.

It was however in the 3rd century of our Common Era (CE) that some specific people were definitely identified with translation. Such names as: Origen, Eusebius and Jerome among others, became prominent during this time as translators. Following the conquest of the world by Alexander the Great (C. 337 BCE) there was a spread of the Greek language and culture (Insight vol. 1 1988:70). That made possible the translation and writing of portions of the Bible in the Common Greek. Later, Latin became the international language and some works; such as Homer’s and the Bible could be translated into Latin (Microsoft Encarta 2008).

At the emergence of the Arabic Civilization, a Greek philosopher translated the works of Aristotle, Plato, Socrates and others into Arabic (Brann 1985).At the peak of Arabic Civilization, Bagdhad served as a centre for translation. Subsequently Toleda, Spain, became the centre where most textual materials were translated during the European Civilization.

Munday (2001) cited in Ianna (2012, p.5) notes that from the late eighteenth century to the 1960s “language learning in schools in many countries (including Nigeria) had come to be dominated by what was known as the grammar translation method”. This method was finally abandoned for the straight for English method in countries such as Nigeria, so translation was played-down. Today, translation studies have become an academic discipline offered by universities, institutes, and translation centres across the world.

Translation has become one means of transmitting and preserving the thoughts and ideas of one culture in another language. Great works such as those of Plato, Aristotle, Shakespeare Orwell, Dickens and Achebe among many other scholars/writers, have been translated into different languages. By means of translation, the receptor language could hope to have recorded information that could be stored and retrieved to serve generations yet unborn. Minor languages, especially those who do not attract scholarly works, could benefit in a big way by having works in foreign languages translated into them. Tiv is one such language that has very few writers in it. In addition, the new generation of native speakers is not loyal to the language. What all these add up to is that; Tiv is gradually heading down the road of death; already, it is an endangered language.


Tiv could assume three different meanings: (1) the patriarch Tiv, who according to oral tradition is the progenitor of the Tiv people. (2) The ethnic group who presently occupy mostly the Benue River Basin. (3) The language spoken by this ethnic group (Nyon 2016).The language is a sub-group of the Benue- Congo family group. Tiv is classified as Tivoid of southern Bantiod, a subgroup of Bantiod of the Benue-Congo phylum (Blench 2001) According to Nyon (2016:2), “Tiv is genetically related to Berom and Tarok (spoken in Plateau State) Kataf and Piti (spoken in Kaduna State) and Eggon (spoken in Nassarawa State). Tiv is listed among the top 10 languages spoken in Nigeria ( It is a language of broadcast: Federal Radio Co-operation of Nigeria (FRCN) Enugu, Radio Benue Makurdi, Harvest FM Makurdi, Nassarawa State Broadcasting Cooperation, Lafia, Taraba State Radio, Wukari, and Ashi Waves FM, Katsina-Ala, Benue. Tiv is spoken by an estimated 4 million people (


Tiv, like any other language, began its formal journey into a written form with the development of orthography. (Apart from some few Tiv words attempted by Dr. Carl Kumn before the orthography was developed).The credit for developing Tiv orthography goes to the Dutch Reformed Church in general, and the Rev. W.A Malherbe in particular, who in 1911, developed a practical orthography for the language. This pioneering work of Malherbe has attracted very minor revisions. (Shoja 2010:2). In 1931, Malherbe wrote the Tiv – English Dictionary where he provided helpful notes on the Grammar and phonology of the language.

Perhaps, the most ambitious attempt at reducing Tiv to a written form at the time was that of Rev. A.S Judd who translated the first chapter of Mark’s Gospel in 1914. Ikpa (1985) provides the sample texts of the 1914 and 1964 by Judd and the Bible Society of Nigeria respectively (Ikpa 1985:23). To this, we add the textual rendition of the 2007 reprint, the first revision of 2019 and the New World Translation: Icighan Bibilo I Tar u He (2019) below:

A Comparison of a portion from four versions of the Tiv Bible

 Ivangeri u MarkusIvangeli i sha wegh ku Marku
1.Hi ivangeri u yesu Kristu wan u Ondo.Mhii u loho u dedoo u Yesu Kristu wan u Aôndo.
2.Ve mba profeti mba ngirin kin ruam a bera. Nenge mom ngu tindin ortiom wam sha hemen we, u una sor kbenda wo.Er i nger ken profeti Yeseia nahan er: Nenge m ngu tindin ortyom wam sha ishigh yough u una sôr u gbenda yô.
3.Ka imo, Oryilan kin toho, ne sor kbendu u Tor, ne ere kbenda na jixe jixe.Imo i or u yilan ken taaikôngo er; sôr nen gbenda u Ter, kôôm nen igbinda na jighilaa.
4.Yohane ve, ka un u a eren baptisema kin toho a or kwa u baptisma u dzamberYohane va, lu eren batisema ken taaikôngo, lu ôron kwagh u batisema u mgemshima sha u den asorabo.
5.Tar u Juda chichi, man ior kin yerusalem kba duwe va dza dzende, a I yohane, a ere ve baptisema kin ifi u Yoredan, ve mba pasen asorabo ve.Tsô tar u Yudia cii kuamba ken Yerusalem kpaa, ve due ve za her a na, a er ve batisema shin ifi u Yordan, ve lu pasen asorabo a ve.
6.Yohane kar ikondo a ive u rakumi yol na, a dzer kwange u ikov shin iwange na ungu yan ahungwa man yo I kin toho.Yohane yo haan ikondo i sha aive a rakumi iyol. Man a zer kwange u ikôv shin iwenge, yaan mbaahunga man iyough i ken toho.
7.Ngu olon kwa ngu kan er, wan or ngu van kin jume yam, u a hembam. Mo kuma ga mgurainya m sax kwange akav angahar na.Lu ôron kwaghaôndo kaan er “orgen u a hembem agee yô ngu van mo ken jime, u kwange u akôv anguhar a na tsô kpaa mkom u me ngurum me sagh yô.

The 2007 Reprint

This is the same as the 1964 version, since it is a reprint but not a revision. It is reproduced below:


1, Mhii u loho u Dedoo o YesuKristu wan u Aôndo, 2 er i nger ken profeti Yesaia nahan er: “Nenge, M ngu tindin ortyom Wam sha ishigh Yough u una sôr U gbenda

yô; 3 imo i or u yilan ken taaikyôngo er: ‘sôr nen gbenda u Ter, kôôm nen

igbenda Na jighilaa.’”

4 Yohane va, lu eren ior batisema ken taaikyôngo, lu ôron kwagh u batisema u mgemshima sha u den asorabo. 5 Tsô tar u Yudia cii kua mba ken Yerusalem kpaa, ve due ve za her a na; a er ve batisema shin ifi u Yordan, ve lu pasen asorabo a ve. 6 Yohane yô, haan ikyondo i sha aive a rakumi iyol, man a zer kwange u ikôv shin iwenge, yaan mbaahungwa man iyough i ken toho. 7 Lu ôron kwaghaôndo kaan er: “Orgen u A hembem agee yô, ngu van mo ken ijime, u kwange u akôvangahar a Na tsô kpaa mkom u me ngurum me sagh ga yô….”

The revised edition of the Tiv Bible (2017) and a New World Translation (2019)

1Ngun ka mhii u Loho u Dedoo u Yesu Kristu, Wan u Aôndoje ne.Loho u dedoo sha kwagh u Yesu, wan u Aôndo hii nahan
2Er i vande ngeren ken takeda u profeti Yesaia nahan er, “Nenge M ngu tindin ortyom Wam a za u sha hemen. Ka wen un a sôr gbenda sha ci wou ye.Ka vough er profeti Yesaia yange nger nahan, er: (“Nenge M ngu tindin ortyom wam una lu zaan we sha hemen, una sôr u gbenda.)
3Or ngu genger imo ken taakyôngo nahan er, ‘Sôr nen gbenda sha ci u Ter; Kôôm nen Unigbinda I za jighlii.’”Or ngu yôôn ken taaikyôngo er: sôr nen gbenda u Yehova! Kôôm nen igbenda na i lu jighlii’”
4Tsô or u I yilan er, Yohane la, va. Lu eren ior batisema ken taakyôngo. Lu yôôn kwagh u batisema u mgemshima sha u a de asolabo yô.Yohane u Eren Batisema lu ken taaikyôngo, lu pasen er I gbe u ior vea er batisema sha u tesen ikyav er ve gema ishima sha u i de ve asorobo a ve yô.
5Ior mbken ikyasentar i Yudia ciikua Yerusalem kpaa za her a na. ve lu pasen asolabo ve, nahan a lu eren ve batisema shin ifi u Yordan.Tsô ior mba hen haregh u Yudia kua mba ken Yerusalem cii lu duen zan hen a na, nahan lu eren ve batisema shin Ifi u Yordan, ve lu pasen asorabo a ve ken igbar.
6Ikyondo i Yohane i zeren yô, lu i i tume sha aive a rakumi yô. Shi zeren kwange u ikyôv shin iwenge. Kwaghyan u yaan lu mbaahungwa man iyough i ken toho.Yohane yange huan akondo a sha aive a rakumi, shi a tsule kwange u ikyôv ken iwenge, shi yaan ikyomon man iyough I ken toho.
7A lu yôôn kwagh u Aôndo kaan er, “Or ngu van ken ijime yam u nan hembem yô, M kuma u ngurum saghen ikyor i akôvangahar a Na tsô kpaa ga….”Lu pasen kwagh kaan er: “Orgen ngu van mo ken ijime u a hembem tahav yô. M kuma u ngurum saghen un ikyor i akôvough ga….”

*Icighan Bibilo I Tar U He –Mateu – Mpase (Watch Tower 2009)

A Free Translation

According to Mark

The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, the son of God, 2 just as it is written in Isaiah the prophet (“Look! I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way). 3. A voice of one crying out in the wilderness ‘prepare the way of Jehovah! Make his road straight.”’4. John the baptizer was in the wilderness, preaching baptism in symbol of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5. And all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the Jordan River, openly confessing their sins. 6. Now John wore clothing of Carmel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7. And he was preaching: “someone stronger than I am is coming after me, and the lake of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie….” (NW 2013:1349-1350)

As one would expect, the seminal work of Malherbe had some shortcomings. In 1940 Capt. Abraham, R.C set out to improve on the work of Rev. Malherbe. He published four books on Tiv: The Tiv People, Principles of Tiv, A Dictionary of Tiv Language, and A Tiv Reader for European Students (Wada 2003). Abraham’s works especially The Principles of Tiv and Dictionary of Tiv Language, gave great impetus to the growth of written Tiv. Till date, his dictionary, although out of print, is a reference material. Suffice it to say that Abraham’s works were scholarly and improved on some aspects of Malherbe’s work.

A milestone was reached however in Tiv, when the Bible society of Nigeria published the Icighan Bibilo (The Holy Bible) in 1964. This monumental work (revised in 2019) has remained a major work and reference point in the language.

It is true that this discussion has highlighted pioneer works and translations on Tiv. That is not to say, in any way, that these constitute the sole body of literature in Tiv. For example in 1914, the first Tiv Reader Dzwa Tiv was published. The second Reader in 1927 was by the Northern Regional Literature Agency (NORLA).In 1935, Sai, B.A, became the first native to publish on the language:“History of the Tiv” (Wada 2003). Among the newspapers/journals that were published included: Mwanger u Tiv (1940), edited by, Sai B.A, Icharegh (1950); edited by, Kpuum I. and Mkaanem, edited by Sai, B.A Ichareghva newspaper was published in the early 1980s. Sadly though, all these journals have long stopped production.


Every multi-lingual society/nation has a not very pleasant story to tell on language and language use, as far as language is concerned. Regarding the myriads of languages spoken in the world, about 7, 000, (Awake, 2016). This magazine asserts “the diversity and vast number of the world’s languages can complicate travel, trade, education and government” (Awake, 2016, No. 3:3).

That linguistic plurality can bring with it challenges, especially in governance and education, is true for Nigeria. Nigeria is a linguistic goldmine – truly a microcosm of the world. Raymon, G. Jr. (2005) editor of the ethnologues of the world’s languages puts the number of Nigerian languages at 521.Out of this, 510 are living languages, 9 are extinct, while 2 are second languages without native speakers. This statistics gives us a good picture of the Nigerian linguistic state. On the one hand; it is a beauty and blessing; natural language being a gift. On the other hand however, such linguistic diversity presents a plethora of issues. It is for example, a Herculean task to choose a Nigerian language as a national language; it is also a big challenge to truly unite the various ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria. Individuals have a tendency to see themselves as first belonging to their ethnic group before next, considering themselves as Nigerian. Given these, and as such other factors, the ethnic/linguistic diversity may well be a malediction rather than a benediction, especially in Nigeria.

Translation holds the prospects of preserving man’s unique gift of language. For translation to do this, it is beneficial that a translator mingles with the local people. This enables him to hear the language every day. Furthermore, he can test lexical items and expressions as he converses with natives; this acquaints him with the ‘language in use and acceptable as well as deplorable expressions’.


It bears repeating that there is a dearth of published materials on Tiv. While it is true that Tiv is offered as a teaching subject at the Colleges of Education at Katsina-Ala and Oju, Benue state and as an elective course at the Benue State University (BSU) Makurdi, it is still not taught at the primary (the foundation of formal education) and secondary schools in Benue State, where the majority of native speakers of Tiv are found.

Section 1:10 of the National policy on Education (NPE) (2004) states in part:

Government appreciates the importance of language as a means of promoting social interaction and national cohesion, and of preserving cultures. Thus every child shall learn the language of the immediate environment (LIE). In addition, section 2:14(C) says “Government shall ensure that the medium of instruction is principally the mother tongue or the language of the immediate community.

To this end, section 4:19(e) Explains: “The medium of instruction in the primary school shall be the language of the environment for the first three years. During this period, English shall be taught as a subject”.

As explicit as these policy objectives are; they have merely remained as policies, little or nothing has been done to implement them, so Tiv, although not officially listed as endangered, is threatened.

A language may be described as threatened if some or all the following happen:

a.         It has few native speakers living in the midst of some other dominant language (s).

b.         The adult population of native speakers is more than the youths.

c.          Native speakers are bi or multi-lingual.

d.         There is another trade language in use or a lingua franca predominantly used in the area.

f.          There is no orthography for the language.

g.         The language is not taught in the school system, especially at the basic level.

h.         There is little or no printed literature in or on it.

Based on the checklist above, Tiv fares badly: the native speakers have what may be termed killer language to contend with; the major being English. By the day, native speakers are becoming bi- or even multi-lingual. Deep in our villages, some parents prefer to use Nigerian Pidgin with their children. Trade with the Hausas has also left an effect on the language. Hausa is becoming a trade language to watch. And although Tiv has orthography, it is not taught in public schools and worse, it is not spoken in private schools, which are the preference these days.

Following the return to democratic rule in 1979, the first Civilian Governor of Benue State; the late Aper Aku set up a committee in 1979 to study the existing orthography with a view to implementing fully the teaching/learning of Tiv in schools, from the primary up to the university level. The committee submitted its report in 1980 but the white paper did not see the light of the day.

In addition, with the take-over, by the government, of private primary and secondary schools owned by religious and other bodies, Tiv was no longer taught in schools. So by the mid 1980s to mid 1990s, there were no periodicals in Tiv, no teaching of Tiv in schools, few books on Tiv, no translation work in place. Worse of all, parents preferred the new privately owned nursery/primary schools that were springing up, which refused to teach Tiv. Some parents too, started using English as a medium of communication with their children at home. The sum of all this was a bad picture for Tiv language. A ray of hope however, was appearing as some bodies were making efforts to make input in the print and use of Tiv.


After the regime of Governor Aper Aku, who ruled Benue State from1979 to1984, no serious attention was paid to the teaching and /or development of the mother tongue (L1) in general, and Tiv in particular, in Benue State. At best, subsequent regimes paid lip service to the exercise. When Governor Samuel Ortom came into power, he raised the hope of reintroducing the teaching/learning Tiv in public schools in the Tiv speaking local governments of the state The State Ministry of Education even announced that beginning the 2017/2018 session, all primary schools in the state would be required to teach the L1 for the first three years. Till date we have not heard anything further on the issue.


The Nongu u Kristu u i Seer u sha Tar (NKST), a Christian denomination with its headquarters in Mkar, Gboko, has the credit of being in the forefront of developing and sustaining the Tiv language. It is instrumental to the 1964 translation of the Icighan Bibilo and subsequent works on the Bible. It has encouraged and promoted the teaching of Tiv in schools, and its usage in all its church activities. Some of her members, especially from her clergy have written on, and in Tiv. Suffice it to say that a good deal of its official communication, at all levels, is in Tiv.

Beginning in the early 1990s, however, the Nigeria Branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses, an International Christian Organization, commenced the translation of some Bible-based literature into Tiv. One of the first translated materials was a brochure: Ember uma sha Tar (Enjoy life on Earth). This brochure targets children as its main audience; though it can be used by adults learning to read Tiv too. The language is simple and straight, the pictures are a good visual aid. The reception was warm and some parents used this as a Bible study aid with their children, while volunteer witnesses used it with mostly illiterate adults in their door-to-door Bible teaching campaign, a regular feature of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ activities.

To further help cater for the native population, who showed interest in the Bible message being preached, the Branch further approved, first, the translation /interpreting of talks or discourses at larger gatherings of the Witnesses at Katsina-Ala, into Tiv. Then later, all the assemblies were organized in Tiv at Katsina-Ala – usually three in a year: the first lasting two days, the second, one day and the third three days. This arrangement meant translating talks and dramas as well into Tiv.

The first book-length material to be translated was, U fatyo u Lun uma sha Tar Gbem (You can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth) in the mid 1990s. In the late 1990s, approval was granted by the Governing Body of Jehovah’s witnesses for the Nigeria Branch to translate into Tiv, the principal journal of the Organization, the Watchtower, on a quarterly basis. Attention was also given to the translation and distribution of tracts, booklets, brochures, and books. Lately, audio-visual study aids have been produced and distributed by the organization. Today, the Watchtower (Iyoukura) is translated and distributed on a monthly basis.

To truly revitalize and ginger interest in a language, the children and the younger generation, who own the language, should be the prime target. Toward this direction, beginning in 2012, animated videos began to be translated into Tiv and distributed. These short videos are instructive and enjoyable language tools. They become materials for moral lessons apart from entertainment.

Early in 2016, the Tiv translation team that was formerly housed and worked at the Branch Office in Benin-city was relocated to Gboko. This town is considered the administrative headquarters of Tiv, and the inhabitants are believed to speak the central Tiv, thus a good place for acculturation. The translation office at Gboko is called a Remote Translation Office (RTO), due to the fact that it is removed from the Nigeria Branch located near Benin City.

Today, the Iyoukura (Watchtower) is the only monthly journal in Tiv. There are over 15 books, 20 brochures, and 25 tracts, many audio and visual materials translated into Tiv. But more to that, many more translated materials in print and electronic form are added, almost every day and can be accessed anywhere in the world on www, While it is true that the objective of Jehovah’s Witnesses is to help people learn Bible truths, ultimately, such huge translation exercise is also helping to revitalize and preserve languages such as Tiv.


Translation has many benefits to the language and native speakers. Following are what could be gained from translation work into Tiv.

–           Creation of job opportunities for the teeming unemployed youths

–           Bridging communication gap

–           Educating and creating awareness

–           Development of science and technology leading to overall development

–           Expansion of vocabulary of the individual and enriching the language as a whole

–           Exposure to cultures /views of others promoting tolerance and mutual understanding

–           Facilitating the standardization of Tiv which would in the long run make it one of the languages to be offered by examining bodies such as NECO and WAEC

–           Keeping the language alive.


The paper has discussed translation with emphasis on how it could preserve the Tiv language. Tiv has millions of native speakers but does not have a commensurate number of published works. The dearth on literature in the language is due in part to the neglect by successive administrations in Benue State. The blame is shared by the community as well. The benefits of the language are not appreciated by some of the natives, who feel to have facility in the Tiv language is synonymous with being unschooled. Early efforts by the Christian Missionaries have not been sustained. But for the NKST Church, there would be no Bible in Tiv, or at best, not as earlier as 1964. Had the effort being sustained, then the picture would have been better today. The discussion has shown that if carefully explored, translation has the ability to ensure not only the continued existence of the Tiv language, but also its growth, in this era, when languages are dying every day. The government of Benue State, the Tiv nation in general and linguists in particular should wake up to the demands of the time to preserve the Tiv Language. However, for Translation to achieve such noble objectives as discussed here, the following suggestions should be taken seriously:


Government should implement the noble goals of the NPE, with particular reference to L1teaching at the primary, secondary and tertiary institutions in the country.

A literate society is easier to govern, enjoys better health and lives happier, among other benefits. So government, as well as individuals, should build more schools to raise the literacy level in Nigeria. Centres for translation should be established for training and retraining of translators to make them more effective.

Commercial publishing houses have the target to make profit but are not keen to publish materials in minor languages, for fear of incurring losses. Government at different levels should set up publishing houses with the motive to publish so as to preserve minor languages.

In the alternative, government can come to the financial aid of writers/translators who have materials ready for publishing in indigenous languages, but have no finances to do so.


Awake No.3 (2016) “Breaking the Language Barrier,” Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society New York Inc.

Bell, R.T (1991) Translation and Translation theory and practice, London: Longman

Bible society of Nigeria (1964) Ichian Bibilo; the Holy Bible in Tiv, Lagos (Printed in China)

Bible society of Nigeria (2007 print) Ichian Bibilo; the Holy Bible in Tiv, Lagos (Printed in


Bible society of Nigeria (2017 Revised editon) Ichian Bibilo; the Holy Bible in Tiv Lagos

            (Printed in China)

Blench R. (2001) The Tivoid Language: classification and comparative worldlist; Circulation Draft

Brann, C. M. B. (1985) Standardisation des langues et éducation au Nigeria, African Languages 1, London, 204-224

Catford, J. C. (1965) A Linguistic Theory of Translation in Applied Linguistics; London: OUP

Crystal, D. (2008) A Dictionary of Linguistics and Phonetics (Sixth Edition), USA: Blackwell Publishing

De Beaugrande (2007) Poetic Translation Revisited (online version) retrieved from POETRANS % 20 MAIN % HEADER. htm (accessed: 10:11:19).Encarta (2008) Microsoft Encarta (DVD)

Ethnologue: Languages of the World (2005) Raymond G. Jr. (ed) 15th edition, Dalas Texa: SIL International http://www.ethnologme .com. retrieved 21:11:16

Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004) National Policy on Education

Ianna, B. F. (2012) Understanding Translation, Enugu: Rossen publications Ltd

Ikpa, S. G. (1985) Beginning Development: Current Tiv Orthography, Makurdi: Government Printer

Microsoft Encarta, 2008

Nida, E.A (1964) Toward a Science of Translating, Leiden: E.J Brill

Nyon, S.A (2016) “Pronouns and pronominalisation in Tiv” Unpublished M.A project, University of Ibadan, Ibadan

Shoja, A (2010) Tiv language in practice: A Descriptive Approach, Makurdi: Gold Ink Company, Retrieved: 10/02/2020

UNESCO’s Endangered Languages Programme : Retrieved: 05/06/2020

Vinay, J. P. & J. Darbelnel (1976) Stylelistique comparée du Française et de I’Anglais: Methode de traduction, Paris: Marcel Didier

Wada B.T (2003) Ityakerada I Tsen Zwa Tiv Vo.1, Port Harcourt: Ubwah and Tere (Nig) Limited

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania (1988).Insight on the Scripture Vol.1, Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract society New York Inc.

Watch Tower Bible and Tract society of Pennsylvania (2013).New World Translation of the Holy Scripture, Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract society New York, Inc.

Watch Tower Bible and Tract society of Pennsylvania (2019) Icighan Bibilo I Tar u He – Mateu – Mpase, Wallkill: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society New York, inc.