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CHAPTER ONE

GENERAL BACKGROUND

Linguistics over the years has been defined as the scientific study of language.  However, studying language scientifically entails the study of phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics of a language so as to get empirical and sufficient facts/data, carry them out, experiment and process them, then formalize a rule to form linguistically significant generalization about such language.

The above mentioned levels of linguistics are referred to as core linguistics by YULE in that, they as the level at which the structure of any language whatsoever can be studied, analysed and determined.  Hence in this project work, my main objective is to examine one of the five attested level of language which deals with the arrangement of words (phrases) to form sentences (i.e. SYNTAX) and my focus will be on question formation.  An aspect which deals with how questions are formed/asked.

This chapter will introduce the historical background of mernyang people, their socio-cultural profile and the genetic classification of the language.  This chapter also discusses the scope and organization of the study, the theoretical frame work used for our analysis and the review of the chosen frame work.

project topics data for students

1.1     HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

Oral tradition and history has it that the mernyang people are descendants of Kofyar people who lived on the hills in Qua’an pan Local government area of plateau state.

Kofyar people are said to have migrated from Dada village in Kano State and the settlement was founded by Dofyar and nade his sister who were both great hunters.

On the account of their settlement in Kofyar, Dofyar and Nade are said to engage in hunting expendition when they found themselves on the hills in the northern plateau.  Due to the beauty and attractiveness of the hills, Dofyar and Nade decided not to go back to Dada (Kano-State) which was their original hometown, but stayed back and made an abode for themselves on the hills.

After many years, the offsprings of those great hunters grew into a large community and saw reasons for them to engage in farming to complement their original and major occupation of hunting.  Due to the nature of the hills, some of the people had to come down from the hills to create a better abode for themselves on the plain surface.

As a result of the height of the hills from the ground, and the hardship encountered by the people when climbing the hills, some of them decided to stay and provided shelter for themselves while those that had the going up and down easy decided to make the top of the hills their permanent abode.  Those that decided to stay and live on the plain surface are today known as THE MERNYANG PEOPLE and the settlement is named Kwa(or pan) while those on the hills remain as “Kofyar” people.  However, inspite of this, the Kofyar and the Kwa people (Mernyang speakers) still see themselves as one and they have a mutual relationship.

Of many communities and villages in Qua’an Pan Local Government Area of Plateau State, the Kwa chiefdom i.e. the mernyang speakers remain the major and the dominant group.  They are known and called “the pan chiefdom by their neighboring villages and towns, and according to the 2005 census, they can boast of 10,000 people within the community and about 95,000 speakers of the language, they are scattered around the nooks and crannies of Plateau State.

Educational development, the expansion of settlement and the volume of trade, agricultural practices and population increase among others have today contributed to making (Kwa pan) chiefdom enjoy rapid growth and development.

1.2     Geographical Background of Mernyang people

The mernyang speaking people are found in the northern part of Qua’anpan local government area of plateau state.  In the state, they are located as the southern east of the state

  • Socio Cultural Profile

The mernyang speaking people have a diverse culture and they distinct from one another depending on the districts because there are four districts of the mernyang speaking people.  They are: Kwa, which is the mernyang people, Doemak, Dokankasuwa, Kwang and the Kwalla people.

  • Occupation

As fore mentioned, the main occupation of the mernyang speaking people is farming.  They also engage themselves in trading and hunting and for those close to the rivers incase of Kwang and Dokan Kasuwa they engage in fishing too.

  • Religion

Before the coming of the colonial masters, mernyang people were all animist, but with the coming of Islamic and the Catholic missionaries who settled at Kwa and Kofyar, some embraced Islam and others Christianity.  Today we have Christians and Muslims and also some of the animist cohibiting together. In regards to Christianity, catholic is the dominant church because the missionaries that came are from Island and are catholic missioners.

  • Festivals

The mernyang speaking people have different festivals depending on the time, place and district, but there is one general festival been celebrated yearly called Shika’am where all sons and daughters of mernyang converge to attain and celebrate the festival.  Several talents are displayed to add more beauty and shape to the event.  The people also dance, display magic and the likes.  This is done by the youth while elders watch.

  • Marriages

Marriage in mernyang land differs from district to district, from clan to clan and religion to religion.  In case of Kwa, sometimes a lady is betrothed few days after birth in which she has to marry the person she is betrothed to or if she refuses she then pay back what the family of the husband already brought on her behalf even when she was young.

Payment of bride price depends on the families and clans.

1.3            GENETIC CLASSIFICATION

AFRO – ASIATIC

Ancient Egyptian Semitic           chadic         Berber        Cushitic

North chadic      West chadic          East chadic         South chadic

A2         A3 (Angas-Gerka)

1           2

Cak-fem mushere Jorlo  Kofyar     Mislup        mwayhand       nyks

Bwal Doemak      Goran         Jepal    Kofyar    Kwalla         MERNYANG

Source adapted from w.w.w ethnologue com/shows= language asp- ?

Code = kwl

1.4     SCOPE AND ORGANIZATION OF STUDY

This research will focus its attention on question formation.  This work aims at giving a detailed syntactic analysis of the question formation in Mernyang language.

The work attempt to discuss WH question, The Yes or No question, Tag question, Alternative question, Rhetorical question in mernyang language.  This description will also focus on some of the peculiar features of the language.

This research work consists of five chapters.  Chapter one deals with the introductory aspect of the work, that is the sociolinguistics profiles of the dialect, its historical background, socio cultural profile, genetic classification, scope and organization of the study, theoretic framework.  The second chapter centers on the basic syntactic concept, where we intend to analyze the phrase structure rules as well as the lexical categories and sentence types based on Government and binding theory.

The third chapter will examine the question formation of mernyang language while chapter  four introduces us to transformational process like focus construction, reflexivization and relativization.  Chapter five summarizes and concludes the work

1.5.   DATA COLLECTION

The method employed for data collection is the bilingual elicitation approach involving English and mernyang.  The data were elicited with the use of the Ibadan four hundred  word  list, which consist of basic list of simple words.  Apart from the 400 wordlists, questions and sentences in English were translated to mernyang by mernyang native speakers.  The data collected were subjected to analysis.

Oral interviews were   conducted in English language and answers to the questions   were given in Mernyang by my informant.  The answers to these questions were used in the syntactic analysis of mernyang.

Below are the full details of my informant

Name:        MICHAEL DAMAN NA’ANKAM

Age:  50 YEARS OLD

My informant is a native speaker of mernyang language.  My informant speaks the following languages; English, Hausa and Mernyang.

1.5.1  Data Analysis

In this research work, the data was collected from my informant both in writing and recording in an audio cassette then the analysis of the data collected was carried out using Government and Binding theory of syntax as proposed by Chomsky (1986).  This research work will be limited to the aspect of question formation of Mernyang.

The informants used are fluent in the language, their fluently and competence formed the basis of choice of them as my informants.

1.6     Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework to be employed in this research work is Government and Binding Theory (GB).  G.B theory is a model of grammar propounded and developed by Noam Chomsky.  This is done with the aim of covering universal Grammar (UG) that is, the system or principles, conditions and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages.  It was also done as a reaction to transformational Generative grammar to account for all and only the representations that underline the grammatical sentence in a language.

Government and Binding theory is a modular deductive theory of grammar.  Proponents of G.B. often maintained that there’s no such thing as roles of language but the principles and parameters whose values can vary from one language to the other do exist with specified units.

Chomsky (1995:15-16) remarks as follows,  “The principles and parameter approach held that language have to rule in anything like familiar sense of transformation and no theoretically significant grammatical construction, except taxonomic artifacts”.  There are universal   principles and finite array of options as to how such principles apply (parameter) but no language particular roles.

It is also worthy to note that though Government and Binding theory is a common label for this model or syntax,  it is misleading because it gives undue prominence to the two elements of government and Binding, whose status was not fundamentally superior to the other sub-theories like X-bar, theta, case etc.  Hence, the ‘principles and parameters theory’ has come to be seen as closer to essence.

G.B has two levels of representation related by transformational rule called Move alpha.  Move alpha is stipulated by movement that is  the syntactic level is  elaborated by the concept of movement (Cook 1988:30) G.B requires two levels of syntactic representation.  The deep structure (D-structure) which is the level at which we obtain all information on the words and their combination, it consists of base rules, lexical rules, strict sub categorization, selectional restrictions, phrase structure rules (Yusuf 19971:68)  It is the level at which all the elements in the sentence are in their original location (cook 1988:30)

We also have the surface structure level (s-structure) which is the level at which some components in the sentence have been moved.  The s-structure is clearly generated from the D-structure by the application of movement rules.  There is a relationship between the deep structure and the surface structure they are related by movement.

THE SUB-THEORUS OF G.B.

Chomsky postulates a set of interacting sub-theories each of which deals with some control area of grammatical enquiry.  Each of these theories comprises a principle or set of principles, and each of these may be subject to parametric variation.  That is to say, it is assumed that the grammar of languages vary in only finitely =.  Many ways with respect to the domain covered by a given sub-theory.

All these sub-theories of G.B. theory operates in a modular form, this theory itself is referred to as a modular deductive theory of grammar.  The sub-theory assured are the following:

  1. X-bar theory
  2. Theta theory
  3. Case theory
  4. Binding theory
  5. Bounding theory
  6. Control theory
  7. Government theory

1.6.1  X-bar Theory

X – Bar syntax replaces large numbers of idiosyncratic rules with general principles.  It captures properties of all phrases and its bases on lexicon.  The principle is that a phrase always contains a head of the same type.

It defines the possible phrase structure configuration of language in general.  The control notion is that each of the major lexical categories (Noun, Verb, Prepositions and Adjectives) is the head of a structure is dominated by a (phrase, verb, verb phrase, Noun phrase (NP), preposition: pp and Adjective – AP) it comes after other possible constituents in the example below.

NP

Spec            N

N1

Det

That            house

1.6.2  Projection Principle

Chomsky (1981:29) states that (representation at each syntactic level is projected from the lexicon) in that they observe the sub categorization properties of lexical items; projection principles requires lexical properties to be projected to all levels of syntactic representation i.e. a lexical item projects from its zero bar level to one (single) bar level, which is optional, then to double bar level.  The zero bar level is referred to as the core projection level, the single bar level is referred to as the intermediate projection level and the double bar level is referred to as the maximal projection level.

The illustration is shown below:

XII     Maximal projection level

XI      Intermediate projection level

Xo      Core projection level

Horrocks (1987:99) states that X-bar theory tells us that a lexical head (X) and its complements form a constituent (XI) and that any specifier of this form with a high level of constituent (XII) Thus:

XII

Spec                               XI

XO                             Comp

The lexical entry projects onto the structure of the sentence, and its influence ceases at the double bar level.  Another feature that makes generalization rule possible in x – bar theory is the concept of head.  The notion of head of a phrase is called the principle of head parameter.

1.6.3  The Principle of Head Parameter

The principle of head parameter specifies the order of elements in a language.  The basic assumption of head parameter is that sentences may be broken into constituent phrase and structural grouping of words.  Stock well (181:70) says that the parametric variation between language according to whether the position of the head is first or last with respect to its complement is called head parameter.  In other words, all phrases have heads of a related and possible complement along with some others like its specifiers.

Lamidi (2000:105) says that the head is the keyword in a phrase and the word can be pre or post modified.  In essence, the head of a phrase is very important in x-bar theory and the head of the phrase to the right or left of the hand is known as head parameter.  That is, head first.

X          XO  Complement

XI

XO               Comp

Or head last

XI                Complement X

XI

Comp                   XO

To accommodate specifiers, it requires second level of structure putting the levels of specifier and complements together, the order of the head and specifier could be set separately from the order of the head and complement.  Thus

XII               spec x

XI                           XO  comp

Spec            XI

Xo              Comp

All we have been discussing on X-bar (phrase structure) are lexical phrases   and the type of head in lexical phrases is related to word classes.  Lexical phrases invariably have heads that are lexical categories linked to lexical entries.

Another type of phrase is the functional phrase.  Functional phrases  are the phrase that are built around functional heads – Functional phrases are the phrases that are built around functional heads.  Functional phrases invariably have heads that are linked to functional elements.  The functional phrases include inflection phrases (IP).

Cook (1996: 150) says that, inflection phrases are built around functional heads which may contain lexical materials such as morphological endings but are not required to contain lexical materials such as morphological endings but are not required to contain lexical materials.  The top levels of the sentence have been unified with  the rest  of  X-bar  theory.    The  maximal level of a sentence is called inflection phrase (IP) in x-bar theory.  IP consists of specifier and II, II in turn consists of I and a complement thus:

IP                spec   II

I                  I comp

IP

Spec            II

I                  Comp

Other functional phrases includes complementizer phrase (CP)

CP              spec    CI

CI                C    IP

CP

Spec            CI

C                   IP

Determinant phrase (DP)

DP              spec       D

DI                D            NP

DP

Spec            DI

D                NP

1.6.4  Theta (θ) Theory

Kirsten (1991:493) states that θ theory deals with the functional relationship between a predicate and its arguments: a predicate is said to assign theta-role to each of its arguments.  It is concerned with the assignment of what Chomsky calls.  ‘Thematic roles’ such as agent, patient (or theme) beneficiary etc.  It is assumed that theta-roles are assigned to the complements of lexical items as a lexical property.  The NP complements (direct object) is assigned to the role of patient, the PP complement is assigned the role of locative while the subject NP or the sentence is assigned the agent role.

The main principle of θ theory is the ‘θ-CRITERION’ which requires each thematic role to be uniquely assigned i.e. each constituent denoting an argument is assigned just one θ role and each θ role is assigned to just one argument denoting constituent.  For example:

Ahmed went to the market by car.

IP

Spec            II

NP     I                  VP

N1   TNS     AGR

(Past)                 spec     VI

AGENT NO                        V      NP                   PP

N1                   PI         NP

Location NO      PO        NI

NO

Ahmed                               go      market            by            car

In the illustration above, verb phrase assigns agent role to the subject NP.

Verb assigns patient role to the object of the verb and preposition assigns locative role to its NP

1.6.5  CASE THEORY

Kristen (1991:496) states that ‘case theory regulates the distribution of phonetically realized NPs by assigning abstract case to them.  It deals with the principle of case assignment to constituents. Chomsky assures that all NPs with lexical contents are assigned (abstract) case.  Case is assigned by a set of case assigners to the governed.  Horrocks (1987) says the basic idea is that case is assigned under government i.e. the choice of case is determined by the governor in any sentence.  For instance, a lexical head X may be said to govern its sisters in X-bar and certain lexical heads also have the power to  case mark certain  of  their  complements.   Thus

NP subject is assigned normative by INFL; verb assigns accusative case to object of the verb while prepositi

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