Expressing endearment and avoidance in Hausa

Pet names or nicknames, special terms of endearment that convey intimacy and teasing, are common to all languages. In Hausa, one of Africa’s largest languages, these names take particularly intricate patterns, since they are built by copying part of a person’s name. There are several different ways of doing this, as you can see here:

From Newman & Ahmad (1992: 160)

All Hausa proper names can undergo this treatment, and sometimes, names can have a double hypocoristic ending, so you can find, e.g., Àli, Al̀eele and Alììliyà. There are rules on how these terms are used, and mostly they prescribe that they are used by older people to address younger people or among people of the same age.

A seeming exception are the hypocoristic terms for parents, Bàabalè (from Bàaba ‘father’) and Ìyàale (from Iyà ‘mother’), but Newman & Ahmad tell us that these are in fact avoidance terms. Since the names of parents, in-laws and other senior relatives cannot be uttered, a child bearing for instance the first name of their father cannot be addressed with this name but might be called Bàaba, ‘father ‘, instead – so calling this child
Bàabalè should not be mistaken for an expression of particular fondness toward’s once father, who would not be addressed in this way at all.

Read more oh hypocoristic names in Hausa in this article:

Newman, Paul and Mustapha Ahmad. 1992. Hypocoristic Names in Hausa Anthropological Linguistics, Vol. 34, No. 1/4 (Spring – Winter, 1992), pp. 159-172