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This research work is on the aspect of the syntax of Kaninkon Language spoken in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State. By syntax, we mean the aspect of language which deals with how words are put together to form sentences and how such sentences are interpreted in natural languages.

In this chapter, we will be discussing the historical background of the language, sociocultural profile under which we shall discuss the occupation, religion, marriage, festival and the language status as well as the genetic classification of the language. The research methodology used is the frame technique, while government and binding theory is used to analyze Kaninkon verb phrase.


According to oral history by his “Royal Highness Malam Bako Galadima” a native speaker of Kaninkon language, the Kaninkon people are among the indigenous tribes of Jema’a Local Government and Kafanchan Area in particular. They are indigenous to the area they occupy. The area they occupy traditionally has borders with Kagoro to the North East, Baiju to the North, Kagoma to the West, Numana and Mada to the South. They are brothers with Nindem and Kanufi who are also to the South East.

Oral tradition indicates that the Kaninkon people came to their present abode from Katsina, this appears to be the Katsina of Benue area (Katsina -alla). They may probably descend from Kaita family in the present day of Katsina State. This might have been made known from oral history passed down from their forefathers.

The initial migration involved many clans but probably due to interclan conflicts, only two clans constitute the Kaninkon. These are Turan to the South and Ngbechio to the North. Turan the ancestor of the southern clan had two wives, who bore him three (3) sons. One of the wives had two sons while the other had only one. Kyung was the older of the two sons from one of the wives, Ngarchem (Gerti) was his younger brother. The only son to the other wife was Kper (Amere).

The Kyung people were the first in Kaninkon land to have introduce the Hausa type of rulership by Shabiri Ngom. This was during the reign of Kyop – Ngban – Nikyop Ba’aro Yajod. He was said to have sold out one of his twin daughters to the Hausa ruling house to be crowned as the first Tum (i.e. ruler) of Kyung (Bakin Kogi). Later in about 1810 (before recorded history) after he had been crowned the first Tum, the daughter by name, Heidiza placed a curse on the family of Shabiri. She said the family will never give birth to twins. She was not happy with the treatment she met, it is said that her father’s action was later cleansed by the elders of the clan.

The Kaninkon did not lived in isolation but with other neighbours namely: Ningom, Numana, Ninzam, Mada, Kagoma, Kagoro, Ayu, Jaba, Sanga and Bajju. Indeed, when the British administration arrived, it refused to classify Ningom and Numana as different tribes but as clans of the same tribe with the Kaninkon. This classification resulted from the similarities in culture, language and other anthropological parameters. Some of these include; counting from one to twelve instead of one to ten, the same language, same dance, settlement patterns, same tribal marks and the culture in general. The slight different in language spoken might be due to geographic spread and migration.

It is not so difficult to identify a Kaninkon man when he is conversing or discussing with his kinsmen or some other persons. They also speak the dialect to their children at home.


Its is believed that every society has its own way of life, this is a wide variation from culture to culture of values and norms of which Kaninkon also has.


Farming was the major economic system of Kyung people (Kaninkon). Traditional agriculturist depend not only on labour but also the assistants of kinsmen and neighbours to clear large farms plough, plant and harvest them. The Kyung traditional agriculturist involve the division of labour according to sex and age, it involve the men and women. The division of labour among the Kyung people shows that men did the work that require more physical exercise that has to do with direct production and consumption, women assisted by the way of cooking and other less tedious work.

The production of Kyung people were mainly food crops, the principal crops are guinea corn, aki, cocoa yam. Other minor crops cultivated along side the principal crops were maize, wini seed, coconut, cassava and pupkins.


In the year 1932, Christianity came into the land and with the advent of Christianity, traditional religions beliefs give way and at the moment there are two religions: Christianity and Islam. Islam is restricted to only one district -(Dangoma District), the rest of the chiefdom can be said to be about ninety percent Christians. Only few people still practice traditional religion but they are not recognized in the society.

Christianity got its first convert in Kaninkon land in the year 1932. The Late Pastor Tete became the first Christian convert on 8th May 1932 and was baptized on the 4th October 1934. In the same year three other Kaninkon people from Ung – fan became Christians they were Mang Kagoro (Makama Ung Fari), Garba Shuri and Eperi. Their convert was to Sudan interior mission (Sim) how Evangelical Church of West Africa (E.C.W.A), as a result of this Kaninkon Chiefdom is now predominantly E.C.W.A.


On the festivities, the major ones use to be the celebration of the anniversary of the death of an old person, marriage and initiation. While marriage could take place at any time most festivities were reserved for the dry season especially for the month of March to early May. Thus, if an old person died in the raining season, there would be a normal drumming and little celebration but the proper celebration would be shifted to the dry season.

There was a big festivity known as “DUNG”, when ever there was DUNG which is not every year but occasionally it could take place in “Turan” the Southern part of Kaninkon or “Ngbechio” the Northern part of Kaninkon. There was no celebration like naming ceremony and like which are currently influenced by Christianity.


On marriage, baby girls could be bethroded right from birth, that is, if a girl was born in a family, a father from another family could say “this girl will be a wife to my son” and like joke if interest continued this could eventually happen and did happen a lot. The Kaninkon people does not marry to a stranger rather they marry themselves.

The celebration of marriage only takes place once in a while, if a maiden refuses to celebrate her marriage at time of marriage celebration she will have to wait till another time that marriage are been celebrated in the land.


Kaninkon language is spoken in the Northern and Southern part of Nigeria. According to “His Royal Highness Mallam Bako Galadima” a native speaker of Kaninkon language, gave the population of Kaninkon speakers at about sixty thousand (60,000) and it is spoken in Kaduna and Katsina State. The alternative name for the language is Nikyob.


Murrit Ruhlen (1987:1) state that “the idea that groups of languages that share certain systemic resemblances have inherited those similarities from a common origin is the basis for genetic classification”.

A genetic classification is a sub grouping of all relevant languages into genetic nodes (groups of languages in each of which one language is more closely related to the other in that group than to any language outside the group).

A genetic classification thus makes two statements; first, it affirms that certain languages are infact related to each other (i.e. share a common ancestor). Second, it specifies that languages are inherited in the form of a branching diagram.

The research work describes the aspect of Kaninkon verb phrase. It examines the structure of verb phrase in Kaninkon language and the transformation process involving the structure of verb phrase. These process and excemplications are presented and analyzed using the model known as the Government and Binding theory.

Five chapters are proposed for this research essay. Chapter one present the introductory parts of the research work dealing mainly with sociocultural profile of Kaninkon language. It also presents the research methodology adopted in the project. Chapter two presents a brief review of the sounds, tones and syllable inventory of the Kaninkon language. This chapter discussed the basic syntactic concepts that are common to this area of study.

Chapter three focuses on the Kaninkon verb phrase which is the focus of this research work. Chapter four described the transformation process involving verb phrase in Kaninkon language. Chapter five which is the concluding part of this research work summarizes the entire work and presents recommendations.


Samarin (1967:43) says “the kind of corpus a field researcher obtains is determined by the purpose and the techniques he adopts in data collection. The focus of this research work is largely and primarily for language description”.

The two possible methods of data collection, i.e. “the informant method and the introspective method” the informant or contact method is adopted in this research in which the native speaker serves as a source of information as well as the elevator of all the utterances given to him by the investigator.

The two informants or language helpers that kindly participated in the development of this research work are:  “Mrs. Nicholas and Mallam Bako Galadima”. Mrs. Nicholas is a native speaker of Kaninkon language spoken in Kaduna State, she is thirty three years old (33), and Mallam Bako Galadima who is also a native speaker of the language is fifty five years old. He helped in given information about the sociocultural profile of the language.

The work list (Ibadan 400 wordlist) is equally utilized in this research work. The list is used to collect a number of words for verification and analysis in this research work.

The frame technique forms a crucial part of this research work since it is the domain of syntax. Syntax as a level of linguistics does not deals with words in isolation but with the mechanism of producing a grammatically acceptable sentence. To this end, the use of frame technique involves writing sample sentences and phrases which the informants translate. The importance of “frame techniques” lies in the fact that it makes it easier for a field researcher to determine the actual underlying nature of a given constituent as well as the possible morphological or syntactic context in which such a word or constituent can occur within a grammatical sentence. For example, the morphological or syntactic component of “man” in English language can be derived if the word is used in different syntactic position; subject, object, direct object, indirect object etc.


Data analysis is based on the forms produced by native speaker and it is implemented in order to discover what obtains in the language under study.

The data in this research work will be analyzed using the “Government and Binding” model i.e. the different sub-theories of GB like x – bar theory (crucial for the projection of phrasal categories from lexical categories) and movement theory (used for the exemplication of verbal movement from one place to another).


Many theories have been provided for analyzing language data in order to present a systematic account (or descriptive) of the linguistic knowledge or competence a native speaker of a language possesses. Such theories are used as theoretical frame work or methodological tools for analyzing language data. They include: Traditional Grammar, Structural or Taxonomic Grammar, Systemic Grammar, Transformational Generative grammar and Government and Binding Theory.


Government and Binding theory was introduced by Chomsky (1981). The model takes its name from two of its sub-theories. Binding deals with conditions that are formally related or bind certain contents of a sentence and Government deals with the structure contents, within which these Binding relationship obtain, the approach is also described by the phrase principles and parameter theories.

GB – theory has two levels of syntactic structure, the D – structure and S – structure. At the level of deep structure all elements are in their original location while at surface structure, elements have been moved. These two levels of representation are mapped through the rule, Move Alpha (Move – a).

As mentioned earlier, these sub – theories interplay and dictate what can be moved from where (i.e. extraction site) and to where (i.e. landing site). The module account for ungrammaticality resulting from violation of rules and conditions. These modules includes: X – bar theory, theta theory, case theory, Government theory, Binding theory, Bounding theory and control theory. The relationship between one sub – theory and the other can be shown below.

1.8.1  X – BAR THEORY

X – bar theory is part of the grammar that regulates and brings out what is common in the structure of phrases. Cook (1988:94) says; in the X – theory, the phrase structure is a comparatively simple system derived from a few principles and setting of certain parameters.

A phrase always contains a head in X – bar theory, there by showing hierarchy among the constituents. Heads are terminal nodes that dominate words. According to Haeigeman (1991:105), two levels of projection are distinguished in X – bar theory. These are the specifier and complement positions respectively.

X” above ranges over all phrasal categories like Noun Phrases, Verb Phrases, Adjectives Phrases, Prepositional Phrases for X and its complement where applicable. ‘X’ is category Noun, Verb, Adjective and preposition.

Specifier and complement represent grammatical functions or relations, they have a status similar to terms such as ‘subject’ or ‘object’. They are optional constituents for some phrases but obligatory for some other. (Radford, 2002:229).


Theta theory deals with the assignment of semantic rules to participates in a sentences and it is constrained by the theta – criterion. A sentence contains relationship such as who is doing the action and who or what is being affected by the action. According to Radford (2002:373) each are subject or complement of a verb or preposition.

Theta – roles are a part of the lexical entry for a verb or prepositions, they assign θ – roles to the noun phrases that they strictly subcategorize for. The verb phrase compositionally assigns an external θ – rules to the subject NP which is an external argument. According to the Theta – Theory, every argument must be assigned a θ – rule, hence for a noun phrase to be relevant, it must be Theta – marked. Every Noun phrase must have a role it is playing in a sentence. For example,

  • * Olu killed the goat a knife

The NP “a knife” in (A) above does not seem to be relevant in the sentence above, this is because it has not been assigned a Theta – role as a result of the absence of preposition that should assign the role.

In (B) below, the NP “a knife” is made relevant with the presence of the preposition.

  • Olu killed the goat with a knife.

The preposition assigns the instrumental rule to the NP thereby making it relevant.

The common Theta – roles are: agent, patient, goal, locative, source, experience and Benefactive.


Case theory has to do primarily with forms that NPs take in different syntactic environments (Yusuf 1986:26). Case account for some of the formal properties of Noun phrases. Case theory according to Haegeman (1991:180) is the module of grammar that is concerned with the distribution of NPs with grammatical sentences Chomsky (1986:74) assumes that all NPs with lexical content are assigned (abstract) case.

Case is a property of Noun phrase. It is one of the modules of Government and Binding theory that interacts with other sub – theories to determine grammatically or ungrammatically. These cases are said to be assigned under “Government”. The common case types are:

Nominative – Assigned by tensed INFL

Accusative – Assigned by verbs

Oblique – Assigned by prepositions.

Adjacency is also one of the requirements of case assignment. This is to say that case assignees and case assignors must be contiguous with no barrier blocking to discharge of the (abstract) case. An example from Hausa and Yoruba languages each will suffice to illustrate the prose description. Example in Hausa

  • Tahiru taa ziyara Lukman a gida

Tahiru AGR visit Lukman at house

“Tahiru visited Lukman at home”

Tahiru being subject gets Nom case from INFL which is [+ tense] Ziyara assigns ACC case to Lukman and ‘a’ (a preposition assigns OBL case to gida). In Yoruba

  • Ade n je isu ni ile

Ade ASP eat yam at home

“Ade is eating yam at home”

Where Ade being the subject gets Nom case from INFL, V (je) assigns ACC case to isu and P (ni) assigns OBL case to ile.


Cook (1988:37) remarks that government theory refers to a particular relationship of high abstraction between a ‘governor’ and an element that it governs. A lexical head govern its complement and INFL governs its subject. Verbs and prepositions govern Noun phrases in a sentence.

According to Malmjaer (1991:495), Government theory deals with the relationship in other sub – theories. It is a long known fact of grammar that a verb governs it object [where the object could be NP, PP]. Thus, verbs like see, kill, draw, explain, write etc govern their NP objects. Also where a preposition is found often, an NP follows, giving rise to the statement that a preposition govern its NP object, only lexical categories can be governors (Chomsky 1986:162). The configuration for government is as below:

In the schemata above,a C – commands b and other nodes dominated by XP. In the same vein, a C – commands b. b and a can thus assign case to each other.

However,a can assign case to only b and not X and Y, with this description it is obvious that is crucial to the concept of “government” is the issue of C-commands which is the relationship between an element and those other elements it is “superior to” but does not dominate.

Government theory is extended though the principle of proper government which non-lexical categories do not.


Binding theory is concerned with the relationship of NP participants in the sentence (Yusuf, 1998:145). It is the module of grammar that assigns and regulates an appropriate interpretation of the Noun phrase. The Binding theory is concerned with connections among Noun phrase that have to do with such semantic properties as dependence of reference including the connection between a pronoun and its antecedent (Chomsky, 1988:52).

The theory deals with whether expressions i.e. in the sentence refer to the same entities as other expressions i.e. it describes when different expressions refer to the same person, place or thing. There are three NP types relevant to the Binding theory. They are;

  • Anaphors
  • Pronominals
  • Referential expressions.

Anaphors are NP types like each other and ourselves, that must have antecedents that they depend on for their existence in technical sentences.

According to Riemsdijk and Williams (1986:279), anaphor must be bound in its governing category. There are two types of anaphor; the reflexives and the reciprocals.

Reciprocal: (each other, one another)

Reflexives: himself, herself, themselves, ourselves, oneselves etc

Pronominals are personal pronouns that must be free in their governing category. They do not have antecedent in the sentence.

Referential expressions according to (Yusuf 1998:148) are ‘NPs that serve to identify some entity in real world’. They are lexical NPs and must be free. This is expressed better by the three Binding principles.

Principle A: An anaphor must be bound in its governing category.

Principle B: A pronoun must be free in its governing category.

Principle C: An R – expression must be free every where.

(Haegeman, 1991:233)

A violation in any of the Binding principles result in ungrammatical sentence


According to Horrocks (1987:128), Bounding theory present the relationship of movement from extending too far in the sentence. Kristen, (1991:497) states that “it is concerned with the way movement rule (move a) can be constrained”. In essence, it is concerned with the limitations to placed on the displacement of constituents by the transformation rule schema move a—–. Generally speaking, movement rule within G.B theory is assumed to involve three things namely;

  1. An extraction site


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