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1.0    General Background

This chapter examines the language of study, the people speaking the language and their geographical location. It also introduces us to the sociolinguistic of the speakers of the language which includes their culture and beliefs. Again in this chapter, a brief explanation of the scope of the study, method of data collection, genetic classification and theoretical framework used in analyzing the Atsam Verb phrase are discussed.This study focuses on the Atsam Verb phrase. According to the Oral tradition, Atsam is a language spoken in Kauru Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Atsam is also known as Tsam while the people speaking the language are called Atsam.

1.1       Historical Background.

The Oral tradition has it that Atsam is an ethnic group in Northern Nigeria which is Kaduna. They are predominantly found in Kaduna, Plateu and Nasarawa States and Federal Capital Territory, this same tradition states that there was a lack of sufficient data as regards the study of language all because the languages of Kaduna are undoubtedly minority languages and as such, understudied.

The Atsam people were forced to migrate from one place to another and they are dominated by Hausa people meaning that the Hausa populations are more than Atsam population. The Atsam people were endangered because of pressure from Hausa and that has been the lingua franca in the North of the country. However, locally the language remains in use.

1.2       Sociolinguistic Profile.

According to the oral tradition, the Atsam people like some other tribes have their own unique ways of living and they are discussed below.

1.2.1  Marriage System.

In the Oral tradition, Atsam have their own way of marriage system which is a process carried out by the both parent of the boy and the girl, there will be an agreement between the two of them since when the children are still at their childhood stage till when they are grown up, but in most cases, the Groom will be more older than the Bride, an appropriate date for the marriage ceremony will set as soon as the bride began her puberty stage but now, the ancient procedure has changed because of civilization.

1.2.2  Religion.

The Oral tradition states it that Atsam people consider religion as of great significance in their lives, they make use of two religions in their community namely: Christianity and Islam. There is however, a third religion which is gradually dying off due to increase awareness in the two main religions. This third religion is the traditional religion popularly known as ‘dodo’ in the area and there are few of such followers of traditional belief at present.

1.2.3  Occupation.

The oral tradition has it that the main occupation of Atsam people includes subsistence farming, craft making, bee keeping, fishing, and petty trading. Traditionally, Atsam people are predominantly farmers, through there are few who are engage in other income generating ventures. But 8% of the populations are farmers depending on farming as their means to livelihood.

They also engage in craft making as a source of income, popular crafts making include; baskets, wooden, handle of simple farm tools such as hoes, cutlasses and shovels. Certain group of people in the area in bee keeping for the production of honey and the present of rivers at Kifffin Chawai, and Talo also enhance them in fishing as a source of income while petty trading are mostly done by women, but their of nowadays are now joining their female counter parts.

1.2.4  Administrative Setting.

According to the oral tradition of Atsam, the chief popularly known as Res-Tsam is the overall ruler in Atsam land. The announcement of laws that ensures peaceful co-existence and the maintenance of law and order within the chiefdom rest on his shoulders. He also performs the functions of lobbing government in bringing development programmes to the chiefdom.

Traditionally, the chief’s palace is located at Damakasuwa Chawai which is the headquarters for central administration with six districts. These districts include: Damakasuwa that covers villages as Kichiguya, Rafingora, Mangul and Kisari. The second District is Zambina with its headquarters at Ungwan Makama Chawai; it covers villages as Badurum, Kurmi Riga and Rana. The third district is Faden Chawai, and it covers villages as Kibobi, Talo and Riban. The fourth Pari with its headquarter at Kiffin Chawai, and it covers villages as Kiffin and Pari.

The fifth district is Kamaru with its headquarter at Kizakor and it covers villages as Kamaru, Kihoba, Kuyanboro and Kizakoro, the sixth district is Bakin Kogi. These districts heads are, however, supported by a number of village Heads within their domains. The village Heads also reports to the district heads and the Ward Head is popularly known as Mai’angwa in their tradition.

1.3       Genetic Classification of Atsam.

The idea that groups of languages that share certain systematic resemblances have inherited those similarities from a common origin is the basis for genetic classifications.

Ruhlen (1987) describes Genetic classification as a form of a tree diagram showing the origin of a language from a common ancestor, and it is related to each other genetically to other languages. Atsam language belongs to the platoid group of languages under Benue-Congo group of Niger-Congo phylum of Niger-Kordofanian language family of African languages.

The language family is represented below:



Fantsuam    Gong          Kore           Atsam           Tyap        Piti Atsam    Jjuu


Adapted from (Blench, 1992:94).

1.3.1  Geographical Location Of Atsam

Today, the Atsam Community are in Kauru Local Government of Kaduna State and they are also in Lare, Zangon Kataf and also in PlateuState. Zangon Kataf is about 5 kilometers distance from Atsam.

Apart from the Atsam people, there are other neighboring communities that can speak Atsam language like Hausa people, Pari people and Rahama Chawai, people that are living in Atsam, Kataf and Zango.

The populations of Atsam people are about 30,000 as of the 2006 census.

1.4       Scope and Organization of the study.

This project research describes the Atsam Verb Phrase. Its examines the structure of verb phrase in Atsam language and the processes involved in the verb phrase constructions. This processes and examples are analyzed using the model of Government and Binding theory. This research work is organized into five chapters.

Chapter one introduces the general and the historical background. Also in this chapter, the sociolinguistic profile of the people and genetic classification of the language are presented, it gives a brief discussion of the theoretical frame work adopted in the long essay and explains the mode of data collection and the analysis.

Chapter two discusses the basic syntactic concepts, like phrase structure rules, lexical categories basic word order as well as the types of sentence in Atsam language.

Chapter three focuses on the Atsam Verb phrase which is the main target of this research. In chapter four, we discussed the transformational processes that involve verb phrases in Atsam language.

Chapter five gives the summary of the work with recommendations and the conclusion of the study.

1.5       Theoretical Framework.

Theories have been set up for analyzing language data to enhance a systematic account of the linguistic presentation of knowledge of a native speaker of a language, such theories are used in theoretical frame work for analysis of data in a language. These include: Traditional or classical Grammar, Transformational Generative Grammar, Government and Binding Theory, Structural or Taxonomic Grammar, Systemic Grammar and Minimalist Programme. The framework used in analyzing Atsam language data is Government and Binding Theory, which is otherwise known as principles and parameters theory, also referred to as modular deductive theory of grammar. It has been chosen because it shows the structure of different phrases in all the languages. It tries to capture similarities in all languages by assigning the same structure to them.

1.6       Data Collection.

The data collected for this research work was through the help of an informant, a complete native speaker of Atsam language, with the use of ‘Ibadan list of 400 basic items’. The list covers the vocabulary items of parts of the body and food items, among others. Frame technique was also used in collecting various phrases in the language. This method enables us to study the word order system as well as to syntactic processes in Atsam language. Tape recorded was used as a back up to these methodologies and the informant Mr. Magaji Sunday, a native of Kauru in KadunaState.

1.7       Data Analysis

Data analysis is the implementation of discovery what it entails in the language under study and it is based on the production of forms by the speaker.

This work will be analyzing the data using the model of “Government and Binding Theory” with its sub-theories by exemplifying Verb Phrases and the transformations.

1.8    Brief Review of the Government and Binding Theory

This theory is an off-shoot of traditional or classical grammar (Sanusi, 1996:19). According to cook (1988:30), Government and Binding theory elaborates syntactic levels through the concept of movement. This theory explains the universal Grammar as introduced by Chomsky (1981). Government and Binding theory is a modular deductive theory of grammar that posits multiple levels of representation related by a transformation rule called “move alpha (a)” (Radford, 1988:401).

The modules of grammar is also known as sub-theories, they are related in a modular form and sub-theories of Government and Binding theory are: X – bar theory, Binding theory, Bounding theory and Control theory, these sub-theories embodies the different principles and parameters (Cook, 1988:159). The interrelationship of sub-theories of Government and Binding Theory:







(Adapted from sells (1985) and Cook (1988)).

1.8.1 The X-Bar Theory (X-Theory)

The X-bar theory was first introduced in his grammatical analysis by Chomsky (1970), in his article entitled ‘Remarks on Nomination’. The X-bar theory is designed to formalize the tradition notion called ‘head’ of a construction and constraint to range of possible phrase structures rules. The heart of the system is the recognition that the lexical categories: Noun, Verb, Adjective, Preposition are the heads and the project of other phrasal nodes Np, Vp, Adjp, and Pp respectively.



According to Ayankogbe (2002:21), X-bar theory is essentially a theory of syntactic categories: according to which for any category X, there is fixed hierarchy of units. As proposed in Chomsky (1986). X-bar convention states that every maximal projection has a specifier of XP position with one Intermediate bar projection serving as the XP’s core. This core consists of head (XO) and the complement, which is maximal projection in itself.



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