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CHAPTER ONE

YUKUBEN LANGUAGE AND ITS SPEAKERS

1.0     General Introduction

The main objective of this research is to study Question Formation i.e how questions are formed in Yukuben language. Question formation is one of the syntactic processes and it can be grouped under the linguistics level of syntax.

This chapter will discuss the Historical Background, Socio-Cultural Profile, and Genetic Classification of Yukuben Language. The chapter also consists of the scope and Organization of study, Research methodology and the brief review of the chosen framework

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1.1     Historical Background

According to oral tradition, the Yukuben people of the present day Takum local government area of Taraba State are of Jukun origin. Taraba State is bounded in the West by Plateau and Benue State and in the East by Cameroon. Taraba State has 16 local government areas out of which is Takum local government where the language of study (Yukuben) is spoken.

They originated from Iden in Taraba State in the North Eastern neighbouring region of Cameroon where they are called Uhumkhigi. The term Yukuben comes from Kuteb meaning ‘the child of a witch’ .This can be traced to a time in history of slave trade when a rebellious slave from Uhumkhigi refused to work and was been tortured. In the process, suddenly from nowhere bees emerged and scared everybody away, thus slaves and slave traders  called the slave and the people from Uhumkhigi ‘the child or children of a witch’. Most Yukuben speakers including the younger generations are multilingual, speaking Yukuben, Hausa, Kuteb, and Jukun and in rear cases English Language is a medium of instruction in schools while Yukuben is spoken as a second language. The older generation are not quite as fluent in English as the younger generation, who through education, hold position in the administration and the public service including the police.

Yukuben language has dialects/variants which includes dialects known as ‘Lisa’, ‘Shibun’, and ‘Fete’. Also there are other languages spoken within Sabongida Yukuben which belongs to other ethnic groups. These languages are Lufu, Malam-she and Kapia, the three being Jukun languages then Genwa, Aeha, Kpambo and Lisan from Kuteb.

There are alternative names to Yukuben and they are Ayikiben, Bakabe, Bontsu, Nyikobe, Oohum, Uhumkhigi, Luhum, Luhum-gigi and Gohum. These names are given to them by different ethnic groups in an attempt to address them. However, the two popular names with which they are always addressed are Yukuben and Uhumkhigi.

1.2     Socio-Cultural Profile

Socio-cultural profile has to do with the relationship between the society and culture. It also has to do with the people’s way of life and this includes occupation, population, religion, festivals and mode of dressing etc.

1.2.1    Political Administration

Yukuben people are headed by a king called Udeng Uchen of Uhumkhigi land. He is assisted by a group of chiefs called Babgan. The administration of Yukuben land is that of village heads who report to the district heads and they (district heads) in turn report to the king, Udeng Uchen.

1.2.2 Marriage

A proposal is made by the groom’s family to the bride’s family, if the proposal is accepted; introduction follows where the groom’s family provides palm oil in a calabash and cock to the in-laws. Right after the approval, a date is chosen for the wedding when the groom’s family provides the favourite wine of the land called ‘Burukutu’ also called ‘Besen’ and the people would drink, dance and celebrate. An interesting aspect in their marriage tradition is that there is no payment of dowry.

1.2.3  Occupation

Except for the educated Yukuben who occupy positions in administration, police and in educational sector, most Yukuben are predominantly farmers. This would account for why they are found more in different farm settlements in all the parts of the country.

The major crops they grow are guinea-corn, maize, groundnuts, rice, millet, cassava, yam, which are produced in commercial quantity. Soya beans, palm oil, honey, colanut, cocoa are also produced in measurable quantity. They equally engage in poultry production, pig farming and rabbit breeding.

Pottery, cloth-weaving carpentry, bricklaying, mat-making, carving, blacksmithing are some of the vocational occupation of the people of the Yukuben people.

1.2.4  Religion

The Yukuben are majorly Christians with few worshippers of their traditional religion which according to them is taken as part of the culture of the land and so should not be stopped.

Despite the coming of Christianity, they still worship some idols which they believe protects them against witchcraft and burglary, some of which are Oohgum, Khima (god of thunder) and Bahmbre which protects against witchcraft and theft.

It is their belief that all the Yukuben sons and daughters must be Christians of good faith, and should have no reason to change their religion. This is evident in the fact that no single mosque is founding Sabongida Yukuben. It is therefore likely that a Yukuben indigene may not hear or know any Moslem prayer or salutation in his or her lifetime.

However, influences based on trade, marriage, education and some other social vices between the Yukuben and Hausa Muslims may in no time introduce Islam to the Yukuben. The major food they eat is maize, guinea-corn, cassava, plantain, yam, rice. They usually produce their wine using guinea corn, this is known as ‘Burukutu’ or ‘Besen’. They also convert rice to Tuwo called ‘Buna’.

1.2.5  Population

Though there has not been an updated population census figure of the Yukuben, going by the Joshua project figure in 2010, it is estimated to be about 23000 in Nigeria and 25000 in all countries.

My respondent on this language however, argue that the Yukuben population will by now be more than 500,000. This can be justified by considering the fact that Yukuben speakers are spread across the country and most have settled in different regions.

Yukuben speakers are found in many parts of the country where farming exists. This is because most of them are farmers with thousands of settlements in different parts of the country. For example, a large population of them are found occupying a large area in Kaduna State, Adanmawa state and many other Northern States in Nigeria, even in the West, they are found in large population in States like Ondo, Osun etc as farmers.

1.2.6  Festivals and Mode of Dressing

The most common and celebrated festival among the Yukuben people is the annual ‘Kukyib festival’ which is the festival for appeasing the gods. It is considered the biggest celebration in the land.

Another celebration among them is the Circumcision. This festival is called ‘Kukyib Kamang’ among them. It is only observed for boys between the ages 10 -15 years to usher them into adulthood. Other celebrations include death, marriage, chieftaincy, coronation etc.

Their mode of dressing resembles that of Jukun people in the olden days, as women used leaf to cover their private parts while men use bark of tree called ‘Isang’ as form of dressing.

1.3     Genetic Classification

According to Greenberg (1996:127), African languages are classified into four (4). Afro –Asiatic, Niger –Kordofanian, Nilo-Sahara, and Khoisan, where each has sub-families. Niger-Kordofanian is the largest with two sub-families; Niger- Congo and Niger –Kordofanian.  Yukuben belongs to the Jukunoid Phylum. Below is the chart showing its genetic classification.

1.4     Scope and Organization of Study

Chapter One is the introductory part of this project which consists the general introduction, historical background, socio-cultural profile, occupation, religion, population, festivals and mode of dressing, scope and organization of study,  research methodology and brief review of the chosen framework.

Chapter Two is on the basic syntactic concepts including a brief phonological analysis of Yukuben language, lexical categories, phrase structure rule, basic word order and sentence types.

The major focus of Chapter Three of this research work was the comprehensive investigation of the types of questions and process of question formation attested in Yukuben language. The types of questions includes WH-question, Yes/No question, Echo question, Rhetorical question, Tag question and Alternative question.

Chapter Four discussed transformations and the transformational processes attested by Yukuben language.

Chapter Five gave a summary of the essay, providing some findings made from the research work, presented the concludion and gave some recommendations.

1.5     Research methodology

The method used in collecting data in this research work is through the Ibadan 400 wordlist of lexical items which can be found in all languages and the Frame technique method. The wordlist helps a researcher to obtain both phonetic and phonemic consonant and vowel system of the language under study. It also gives information on the lexical items in the language.

All these are made possible by the help of a language helper otherwise known to be a native speaker of the language under study, who can also be called an ‘informant’.

Below is relevant information on my informant.

NAME:      Mr. Augustin Bako

AGE:          35 years

SEX:          Male

No. OF YEARS SPENT: from birth

OTHER LANGUAGES SPOKEN BY THE INFORMANT: Yoruba Jukun English Hausa and Kuteb.

The Frame technique method is used to get additional information like phrases and sentences in the language. This is so because Frame Technique emphasizes syntax and syntax does not deal with words in isolation but with the mechanism of producing grammatically and acceptable phrases, sentences, clauses in a language.

This Frame technique is important in that it is easier for a researcher to determine the actual underlying form of a given word or constituents as well as the morphological and syntactic concepts in which such a word or constituent can occur within a grammatical sentence. In this case it is possible for a particular word to have various forms.

To elicit or collect data, sentences/phrases are written in English language and the informant would provide equivalent expressions in his native language being investigated.

1.6     Brief Review of the Chosen Framework

The theoretical framework that will be adopted in this research work is Government and Binding theory. Chomsky was the pioneer propounder of Government and Binding theory in his lecture on Government and Binding theory in 1981.

This theory emphasizes that grammar comprises various autonomous sub-systems which interact at interface (i.e. one sub-system generates an output that serves as an input for another sub-system).

Government and Binding theory was a radical revision of Chomsky’s earlier theory in 1981. Although the theory was developed by Chomsky without radical departure from the tradition of transformational generative grammar, Government and Binding differs in a number of significant ways from previous theories especially the standard theory.

Since Government and Binding theory operates through the modules of Grammar, X-Bar, Theta, Case, Binding, Movement, Control, Bounding, Government theories, it will be used in analysing Question Formation in Yukuben language.

However, these sub theories according to Horrocks (1987:29), ‘are interrelated that each of them can account for grammaticality and ungrammaticality of any sentence’. That is to say that they consists of an interlocking network in which each interacts with all the others, thus they would be examined individually.

Below is a representation of these modules of grammar.

Government and Binding theory is a theory of syntax in the tradition of traditional grammar developed by Chomsky (1981). It is a more advanced theory of universal theory. This theory greatly eliminates proliferation of transformational rules like affix hopping, passivization, question formation, raising, verb number agreement, insertion, etc. it must be noted that of all the numerous transformational rules we have under transformational grammar, only the movement rule i.e. move α is retained in the new government and binding theory.

  • X-Bar theory

According to Horrocks (1987:101),

this theory provides principles for the projection of phrasal categories from lexical categories and imposes conditions on the hierarchical organization of categories in the form of general schemata  .

Most importantly it makes explicit the notion of ‘head’ of a phrase. It tells us that a lexical head X and it complements form a constituent θ and that any specifier of this forms with it, a higher level constituent θ. Thus heads precedes their complementrizer.

Thus: XP = X Comp

Where ‘Comp’ which stands for complement could be a prepositional phrase or a Noun phrase with ‘X’ standing for a lexical category. E.g. Noun, Verb etc. This implies that when ‘X’ represents ‘N’, it means that ‘XP’ is a Noun phrase, when ‘X’ represents ‘V’ then, ‘XP’ is a Verb phrase and so on.

Summarily, the major concern of X-bar theory is to describe the syntactic and formal (as in form of notational conventions) structures of phrases and the general characteristics they have in common.

  • Theta (θ) Theory

The Greek letter ‘theta’ is a short form of the word ‘thematic’.

In the words of Horrocks (1987:101-102), ‘theta theory is concerned with the assignment of what Chomsky calls ‘a form of shorthand for ‘thematic’ roles’ to sentence constituents. By thematic roles, it means roles such as agent, patient, (or theme), beneficiary, etc.

It is assumed that these are assigned to the complements of lexical items as a lexical property and that majority of the verbs ‘θ-mark’ the subject position of sentences containing them. This means that any constituent assigned a ‘θ-role’ by definition denotes a predicate argument.

Sells (1985), opines that theta theory provides essentially semantic information. for example. agent – one responsible for the action and the thing upon which the action is performed.

He further says that the properties are written into lexical entries as ‘heads’ and are known as the argument structure of the head; each syntactic argument of the head will receive one θ-role.

However, Horrocks also talked about the θ -Criterion as the main principle of θ-theory. This principle simply implies that each argument bears one and only one θ-role and each θ-role is assigned to one and only one argument.

Furthermore, while θ-roles are assigned at D-structure, the Criterion applies at all levels, ensuring that heads and their argument are in suitable configurations.

1.6.3   Case Theory

Case theory according to Horrocks (1987:102), deals with the principle of case assignment to constituents. Abstract cases are assigned to all NPs with lexical content. The basic idea is that case is assigned under government.

Government is a traditional notion involving the delimitation of the sphere of influence of a particular category with respect to adjacent categories. Thus, there can be no case marking without government and ungoverned positions cannot receive case. E.g. Case will be assigned in English language to any Noun Phrase, governs by Noun or Adjectives. Case assignment takes place at S-structure.

Sells (1985), feels that Case theory is responsible for determining in large part the distribution of NPs and possibly other maximal projections too.

Thus, if some NPs fails to be in assigned Case or more strictly, fails to be in a position to which Case is assigned, the structure is ruled ungrammatical.

Further to the assignment of Case, all NPs that have phonetic content must have Case or else they are ill-formed. This corollary is known as the ‘Case filter’.

E.g. the man who that he saw was peter.

With the help of Case filter, the unwanted component is filtered out to give us ‘the man that he saw, was peter’ or ‘the man who he saw, was peter’

1.6.4    Binding Theory

Binding theory is a theory that is fundamentally concerned with the syntactic conditions under which ‘NPs’ can be interpreted as co-referential with other ‘NPs’ in the same sentence.

This means that an NP argument in a sentence may or may not be a co-referential constituent with other NPs in the same sentence. For this reason, the binding theory proposes three (3) categories into which an argument NP can fall.

(1)  Anaphors: this must be bound in its governing category i.e. dependently co-referential. Reflexive and reciprocal pronouns in English language falls into this class. E.g. herself and each other respectively.

(2)   Pronominals : they are NPs that lack specific lexical content and have only the features person, number, gender and case. They must be free in their governing category or local domain. I.e. they may either refer to an individual independently or co-refer to an individual already named in a given sentence.

E.g. Olu says he is a genius

Olu believes him to be a genius.

‘He’ may refer to the individual denoted by Olu or an individual not mentioned in the sentence, thus, co-reference is excluded.

(3)  Referential Expressions: this is otherwise known as ‘R-expressions’, are Noun phrases with lexical heads which potentially refer to something. In this co-reference is excluded.

E.g. Olu says Tolu should be slapped.

Olu and Tolu denotes two different individuals, even where the same name is used twice, the most natural interpretation is one where two different people are involved. E.g. Biola says dark Biola should come.

Ordinarily, R-expressions are not co-referential with other R-expressions in the same sentence. E.g. I know Olu and I can’t stand the fool.

In general, the binding theory has 3 sub-classes for each of the 3 categories of the NP argument as thus;

  • An Anaphor must be bound in its governing category or local domain.
  • A Pronominal must be free in its governing category or local domain.
  • An R-expression must be free everywhere.
    • Movement Theory

There is movement of certain elements from its initial position to another position or site. This is what is obtained in the movement theory. In this theory, α stands for any category while ‘move α’ means move any lexical category from a syntactic position to anywhere.

A moved element either fills am empty position of the same syntactic category or it is adjoined into an existing node .i.e. the landing site is where the element is moved to and the extraction site is where the element is moved from.

For example         Dupe   atsa     kiinu    kenim

Dupe  sweep  room    not

‘Dupe did not sweep the room’

Kiinu   ezi   Dupe    atsa –ki     kenim

room   is    Dupe        sweep        not

‘the room wasn’t swept by Dupe’

1.6.5   Government Theory

Government is a fundamental concept in Government and Binding theory that is used to get at the notion of a local domain; following quite traditional usage, the idea is that some category β is in the domain of some other category (typically a head) α just in case governs β.

The relation of government is defined in forms of a more primitive notion, that of ‘C-command’ which states a relation defined on tree structures. ’C’ means constituents.

In other words, government theory defines the syntactic relationship between a governor and the elements it governs. Thus, according to Sells (1985) two definitions of C-command known as ‘the strong’ and ‘weaker’ definition exists.

Strong definition:

α   C-commands β if every branching node dominating α dominates β

Weaker definition:

α C- commands β if every maximal projection dominating α dominates β

Therefore, government is a localised version of C-command while C-command may hold between α and some β. That is, far down in a tree, government is defined over a much ‘flatter’ domain.

Thus, α governs β if

  • α C-commands

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