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Keywords:THE MERNYANG NOUN PHRASE
This chapter will examine the general background of the study and the speakers of the language with respects to their history and socio-cultural profile. Also, it introduces to us the genetic classification of Mernyang, scope and organization of the study, including the theoretical framework. Method of data collection and analysis, as well as the review of the chosen framework are also examined. This study focuses on the aspects of Mernyang Noun Phrase. Mernyang is a language spoken in Qua’anpan local government of Plateau state.
Therefore, the areas covered in this study are the sound, tonal and syllable inventories of the language, as well as some syntactic concepts such as phrase structure rules, basic word order, lexical categories and sentence types. Also, transformational processes, which are focusing, question formation and relativization are discussed.
- Historical Background
Going by oral tradition, the Mernyang people originated from a man known as ‘Dafyar’. Dafyar and his sister, Nade, left Dala in Kano and settled in ‘Kopfubum’ near the present day Kofyar. Since then, Dafyar and his offspring, which were fourteen (14) in number have scattered all over Plateau State. One of the sons of Dafyar known as ‘Darep Soekoeto’ founded the ‘Kwa’ settlement where the speakers of Mernyang language are concentrated today. Since then, Darep had been giving birth to children who are also producing sons and daughters. The current total population of the speakers of Mernyang is 10,000 (Nigeria census, 2005).
The speakers are officially known as the pan people, including their language, but locally referred to as Mernyang.
The diagram below shows the geographical location of the Mernyang people on the map of Qua’anpan local government.
- Socio-cultural profile
Going by oral tradition, the speakers of Mernyang language have their own unique way of life that are discussed below:
- Marriage System
Following oral tradition, the marriage system of the people is stage by stage. At first, the boy will take two jars of ‘Brukutu’ to the girl’s parents in order to seek their hands in marriage. After this, the parents of the boy would be asked to supply the following items: goat, chicken, palm oil, salt, magi and benny seed. Once these items are accepted the boy is free to take his wife home.
The last stage involves conducting the marriage ceremony either in the church or mosque depending on the religions of the couple.
Going by oral history, there are two major festivals observed among the speakers. The first one is known as the ‘pan’ day, which is done once in a year. During this event, a lot of social dances and musical presentations are done, among which are sual, koem, feer etc.
The second festival is observed by the districts. Each district has its peculiar way of celebrating its own. Also, a lot of social activities are put in place in order to entertain the audience.
Following oral tradition, idol worshipping was the only religion of the people in the past. But, today, Christianity and Islam are practised. There are few Christians and the existence of festival celebrations.
Following oral tradition, the major occupation of Mernyang people is farming. They plant millet and guinea corn which are the main sources of their foods. However, others still engage in fishing and hunting as their occupations.
- Mode of dressing
The speakers of Mernyang language are typically dressed in their native ‘agbada’ with the popular ‘aburo’ cap. Their women are mostly dressed in their ‘iro’ and ‘buba’ with ‘gele’
Going by oral tradition, the favourite foods of the people are millet and guinea corn. Their common food is known as ‘chugum’ made from millet and guinea corn and grounded with other items. Their favourite drink is ‘brukutu’
- Mode of kingship
The traditional system of rulership among the Mernyang is by monarchy. The choice of who becomes the next king is usually determined by election from the royal family. The king makers have to test the competence of the elected candidate and make him the next king who then becomes the paramount ruler of the land.
- Genetic classification
Greenberg (1966:8) maintains that African languages belong to various families, and there are four main groups namely, Niger-Kordofanian, Nilo-sahara, Afro-Asiatic and khoisan.
- Scope and organization of study
This research work centers on Mernyang Noun Phrase. The work is divided into five chapters.
The first chapter introduces the general background of the study as well as the history and socio-cultural profile of the people. Also, genetic classification of Mernyang, scope and organization of study, including the brief review of the chosen framework were discussed. The chapter also focuses on the method of data collection and analysis.
The second chapter examines some phonological concepts such as sound, tonal and syllable inventories of Mernyang. Also, it treats some syntactic concepts, which are phrase structure rules, basic word order, lexical categories and sentence types in Mernyang.
Chapter three of the work centres on the main aspect of the study, which is the Noun Phrase of Mernyang.
Chapter four addresses the transformational processes in Mernyang which are focusing, question formation and relativization.
The fifth chapter summarizes the work, gives some recommendations and concludes the study.
- Theoretical framework
The “Government and Binding” framework has been chosen in this research work to analyse the noun phrase of Mernyang language. This is because it tries to capture similarities among different phrases by assigning to them the same structure. The Government and Binding theory model is examined in detail in section 1.9
- Data collection
The data for this research work was collected using the informant method, with the use of Ibadan word list of 400 basic items as well as the frame technique. The frame technique consists of phrasal and sentential constructions in English, which were directly translated to Mernyang language.
- Data analysis
The analysis of the data obtained was based on the Ibadan word list of 400 basic items and the frame technique.
Therefore, the data will be analysed using the “Government and Binding” model i.e. the different structures of Noun Phrase and their transformations would be exemplified using the different sub-theories of GB.
- Brief review of the Government and Binding Theory
Haegeman (1991:13) regarded Government and Binding theory as a theory of universal grammar, which is the system of all the principles that are common to all the languages. GB theory is otherwise known as principles and parameters theory. In GB theory, the grammar is a continuous interaction between components and sub-theories embodying different principles and parameters (Cook, 1988:31).
According to Cook (1988:30), “Government and Binding theory elaborates syntactic levels through the concept of movement”. Radford (1988) describes Government and Binding theory as a modular deductive theory of grammar that posits multiple levels pf representation related by a transformational rule called “move alpha( )”.
Also, Sanusi (1996) says that, GB theory greatly eliminates proliferation of transformational rules, like: passive, affix-hopping, verb-number agreement, question formation, equi-NP deletion, raising, permutation, insertion etc.
Government and Binding theory operates through the seven modules of grammar, which include X-bar theory, theta theory, case theory, government theory, binding theory, bounding theory and control theory. These sub-theories, according to Horrocks (1987:29), “are interrelated that each of them can account for grammaticality and ungrammaticality of any sentence”.
- X-bar theory
According to Welbelbum (1995:18), “the X-bar theory is the central module of the principles and parameters approach in syntax”. The X-bar theory is designed to formalize the traditional notion called ‘head’ of a construction and to constrain the range of possible phrase structure rules. It is the part of grammar regulating the structure of a phrase (Haegeman, 1994).
The central core of X-bar theory is the recognition of the fact that (most) phrasal constituents have ‘heads’ upon which the other elements of the constituents in question are dependent (Horrocks, 1987:63).
As proposed by Chomsky (1970), the X-bar theory convention states that every maximal projection has a specifier of XP position with the intermediate bar projection serving as the XP’s core. The core consists of the head (X0) and the complement, which can be maximal projection in itself.
- Theta Theory (Ө – theory)
The concern of this theory is the assignment of thematic roles to sentential constituents. According to Yusuf (1998:23), “a lexical category will have Ө- attribute either as a receiver or an assigner.
Also, Horrocks (1987) opines that, the main principle of Ө-theory is the Ө-criterion, which requires each thematic role to be uniquely assigned; i.e. each constituent denoting an argument is assigned just one Ө-role and each Ө-role is assigned to just one argument-denoting constituent.
Thematic roles are the roles assigned to arguments and the common ones are: Agent, patient, goal, locative, source, experiencer, instrument and benefactive
- Agent: This is the investigator of an action. E.g.
Sule toe na’mus
Sule kill cat
‘Sule killed the cat’
‘Sule’ is the agent of the action.
- Patient: An entity undergoing the effect of an action. E.g.
An a’nas namat
I slap woman
‘I slapped the woman’
‘Namat’ is the one undergoing the effect
- Instrument: This is the means by which something comes about. E.g.
Ni gap luwa shi chuk
He cut meat with knife
‘He cut the meat with a knife’
In the above, ‘a knife’ serves as a means by which the meat was cut.
- Locative: The place where something occurs. E.g.
Long na’ah an goepe bishe
King see me in school
‘The king saw me in the school’
‘In the school’ is the location.
- Benefactive: Entity benefiting from an action. E.g.
Hammed gushe goe dagwu
Hammed work for man
‘Hammed works for the man’
In the above, ‘the man’ is the benefactor.
- Case Theory
According to Horrocks (1987:102), “case theory deals with the principles of case assignment to constituents”. Cook (1988:33) says that, case theory deals with the assignment of particular ‘cases’ to noun phrase in the sentence according to their position in the D-structure or S-structure.
In GB theory, 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
Yusuf (1988) submits that, adjacency is required for case assignment. This is to say that case assignees and assignors must be contiguous with no barrier blocking the discharge of the (abstract) case. Example:
Dagwu na’ah an goepe loetuk
Man see me in market
‘The man saw me in the market’
From the above illustration, ‘Dagwu’ being the subject gets NOM case from INFL, which is [+tense] ‘na’ah’ assigns ACC case to ‘me’ and ‘goepe’, being a preposition, assigns OBL case to the noun ‘loetuk’
- Government Theory
Malmjaer (1991:495) maintains that, Government theory deals with the relationship between a head and its complement and defines relationship in other sub-theories. It is a long known fact of grammar that a verb governs its object (where the object could be NP, PP). Only lexical categories can be governors (Chomsky, 1986:162).
The configuration of Government is given below:
In the above schemata, C-commands ß and other nodes dominated by XP. In the same vein, C-commands ß. ß and can thus assign case to each other.
However, can assign case to only ß and not X and Y. The concept of adjacency is also required for government. Adjacency simply means contiguity. This implies that there must be no blocking between a governor and its governee.
- Bounding theory
According to Horrocks (1987:128), “the bounding theory is concerned with the limitations to be placed on the displacement of constituents by the transformational rule schema ‘move ‘”.
Also, Kirsten (1991) says that, bounding theory is concerned with the way movement rule (move ) can be constrained. It defines the relationship of movement between S-structure and D-structure, then restricts word that can be moved, where it can be moved from, where it can be moved to and how far it can be moved (Cook, 1988:33).
Movement rule within the GB theory is assumed to involve the following:
- An extraction site
- A landing site
- An intervening gap
These are illustrated below:
Extraction site, Intervening gap, Landing site
- Binding Theory
Malmjaer (1991:46) describes the binding theory as a theory that is concerned with the syntactic domains in which NPs can or cannot be construed as “co-referential”.
Binding theory is concerned with connections among noun phrases that have to do with such semantic properties as dependence of reference, including the connection between a pronoun and its antecedent (Chomsky, 1988:52). NPs that are arguments are assumed to fall into one of the following categories:
- Referential expressions
- Anaphors: May be defined as NPs whose reference is necessarily determined sentence-internally and which cannot have independent reference. Reciprocal and reflexive pronouns fall into this class. Example:
Kunle loves himself
From the above sentence, ‘himself’ must be taken as referring back to the individual denoted by ‘Kunle’
- Pronominals: These are NPs that lack specific reference. They either refer to individuals independently or co-refer to individuals already named in a given sentence. E.g.
Bola says she is hungry
The pronominal ‘she’ may refer to the individual denoted by the name Bola or to some other individual not mentioned in the sentence.
- Referential expressions: As the name implies, referential expressions are Noun Phrases with lexical heads, which potentially refer to something. Co-reference is excluded here. Thus, in the example below, Taiwo and Kehinde must denote two different persons.
Taiwo and Kehinde should be beaten
Even when the same name is used twice, the most natural interpretation is one where two different people are involved. E.g.
Ade says Ade should be promoted.
It is crucial to note that in special circumstances like this, the second referential expression has to be taken as a kind of pronominal.
- Control Theory
Horrocks (1987:31) submits that, control theory is one in which verbs take infinitival complements that have null subjects understood as being co-referential with an NP in the main clauses. The subject of these infinitival clauses, which is not overtly represented has been represented by PRO. The crucial property of PRO can be explained by saying it must only occur when it is not governed. Chomsky (1986) describes this notion simply as “PRO is ungoverned”
Thus, PRO cannot receive case (since it has no governor). Let us consider the following examples to shed more light on the theory.
- “Mary promised her mother that she would drive the car”
Mary promised her mother [PRO to drive the car]
The PRO here is controlled by ‘Mary’ which is the subject of the main clause.
Another example is:
- I want to slap the man
I want [PRO to slap the man]
Here, the PRO is controlled by the subject of the main clause “I”
- “He wanted to go
In the above example, there are reasons to believe that there is really a subject to the clause ‘to go’ but the subject is invisible. Thus, PRO will represent the invisible subject, e.g.
“He wanted [PRO to go]
Keywords: THE MERNYANG NOUN PHRASE
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