Aspects Of Yiwom Morphology

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[΄]   High sound

[`] low sound

[ ] mid sound

 Syllable

Figure 1: The Genetic classification of Yiwom

Figure 2: The consonant chart of Yiwom

Figure 3: The vowel chart of Yiwom

Figure 4: The pronoun table of Yiwom





1.0   General Introduction

1.1   General Background

1.2   Historical background

1.3   Geographical Location

1.4   Sociocultural Profile

1.4.1        Religion

1.4.2        Ceremonies ceremony Ceremony Ceremony

1.4.3        Festivals

1.4.4        Dressing

1.4.5        Traditional Administration

1.4.6        Economic

1.5 Genetic classification

1.6   Scope and Organization

1.7   Theoretical Framework

1.8   Data Collection

1.9   Brief Review of Theoretical Framework


2.0   Introduction

2.1   Sound Inventories in Yiwom

2.2   Tonal Inventories

2.3   Syllable Inventories

2.4   Brief Review of Phonological concept in Yiwom


3.0   Introduction

3.1   Morphology and Morphemes in Yiwom

3.2   Types of Morphemes

3.2.1        Free Morphemes

3.2.2        Bound Morphemes

3.3   Functions of Morphemes

3.3.1        Inflectional Morphemes

3.3.2        Derivational Morphemes

3.4   Noun

3.4.1        Proper Noun

3.4.2        Common Noun

3.4.3        Countable Noun

3.4.4        Uncountable Noun

3.4.5        Concrete Noun

3.4.6        Abstract Noun

3.5   Verb

3.5.1        Transitive Verb

3.5.2        Intransitive Verb

3.6   Adjective

3.7   Pronoun

3.7.1        Personal Pronoun

3.7.2        Reflexive Pronoun

3.7.3        Possessive Pronoun

3.7.4        Interrogative Pronoun

3.8   Adverbs

3.9   Determiners

3.10 Number

3.11 Preposition

3.12 Conjunction

3.13 Language Typology


4.0   Introduction

4.1   Morphological Processes

4.1.1        Compounding

4.1.2        Borrowing

4.1.3        Affixation

4.1.4        Reduplication

4.1.5        Refashioning


5.0   Introduction

5.1   Summary ;

5.2   Conclusion

5.3   Recommendation






This chapter Introduces the language and its speakers, other issues in the chapter includes the historical background, sociocultural profile, geographical location, genetic classification, scope and organization, theoretical framework, data collection, data analysis, brief review of the chose theoretical framework and the literature review.


Crystal (2008:283) defines linguistics as “the scientific study of language” .This means that linguistics is the scientific study of natural language as everything concerning language is undertaken in linguistics. This project work is on the aspect of morphology of Yiwom language.

The speakers of the Yiwom language are estimated to be 14,100 in the year 2000. The Yiwom people are also known as Garkawa, Gerkanchi, Gerka and Gurka. The speakers call themselves Yioum instead of Yiwom and they will be referred to as Yiwom in this project.


Hiel-Yioum is what they call their town, but the Fulani people call them Garkawa. It is a unit in the southeast corner of the present Mikang local government of Plateau states in Nigeria. The unit consists of an undulating county slightly rising from south to the Garkawa hills in the extreme North. The Yiwom people have been in their present home for upwards of two hundred years (200 years). The Pitop came to the area first and provided itself a stockaded town at a place called Hakbap. The Rohta followed second and settled in Kiel-Hiel at Rohta-Hills, north of Hiel-Yioum. Other families arrived in large detachments one after the other, and took refuge at Kiel-Hiel. Rohta rock was fortified and was capable of withstanding siege.

About the middle of nineteenth century, the families came from their hills to live in their present homes. Yiwom was once divided into two distinct sections which are the Hill and Plain, the former which is the Hill at Rohta, the latter which is the plain at Pitop. According to legends preserved by both sections, their ancestors sprang from the grounds. The Rohta maintain that they are from river gulnam in the hills, while the Pitop says that their ancestors emerged from the earth. The word “Yioum” in Yiwom dialect means leave. The analogy being: as trees grow out of the ground, so their ancestors came into being. The name “Garkawa” was given to them by Fulani/Hausa traders owing to their military prowess and stubbornness. The name derived from “gagararru”, which in the occurrence of the time became “Garka and Ba Garko and finally, Garkawa”. History shows the Yiwom people to have been a formidable tribe. Legend points to the fact that all the families mentioned and who call themselves Yiwom are of Jukun stock that migrated after the breakup of Kwararrafa Empire (West of Bukundi) and wandered about until they found their present home. Until now, they kept very much to themselves and are good agriculturalist.  Yiwom is regarded by the British as one of the “unconquered tribes” living near or along the trade routes. Source Dabup (2009:67-73)


The home of the Yiwom speakers is situated in the southeast of Mikang local government in Plateau state, Nigeria. It is found in coordinates 9000 north, 9035 East and 90 North, 9.5830 easts. It covers an area of approximately 739km2 which is 285.3 square meters, its time zone is WAT (UTC + 1). It is bounded in the North and East by the Lantang section of Yergam, southeast by the way to Dampar, south by Inshar and West by the Lalin section of Montol.


Yiwom is a Chadic language of the Afro-Asiatic language family spoken by the Garkawa people of Plateau state, Nigeria. They have several clans such as Rohta, Killah, Balbro, Pitop Talim, Lahl, Pensong, Gwar-Gimjim, Bal’Nlah, Longkrom and Wai. Each clan has its own priest called Bangkrom-Krom and its own traditional religion.

1.4.1        Religion

The Yiwom speakers practice all kind of religion including Christianity, Islam and animism. In the olden days, the speakers of the language were mainly practicing animism but over the years, Christianity has taken over and a few practice Islam.

1.4.2        Ceremonies

A lot of ceremonies go on in the Yiwom culture which includes marriage, burial ceremony.    Naming Ceremony

Yiwom speakers do not celebrate naming ceremony. It is the father side that names a child and it is done immediately or at most after three of five days after the child had been given birth to. There is no celebration a lady is not given the chance to name a child even though a mother can name a child, it has to be with the consent of the father but it is usually the father side that gives the child a name.    Marriage Ceremony

When a man seeks a wife in the Yiwom customs, he makes his proposals to the girl directly, when the girl is comparatively young. If she accepts him as suitor, he then sends two or three of his friends to her and asks her if she had accepted their friend, as her suitor. If she says yes, the girl in turn informs her mother that she has accepted the man. Her parents will also call her and question her closely as to whether she has really accepted the suitor. Until the parents are satisfied and certain, they will not receive any presents from the suitor. Once they accept presents from the suitor, the girl is considered betrothed and no one else makes advances to her. The gifts begin at an early stage, at a later stage, the boy builds a mud hut and enclosure for the girl’s mother and he also farms every year for the girl’s father. There would not be any sexual relationship with his fiancée until after marriage in Yiwom’s custom, there are three modes of contracting a marriage and these are:

(a)    Marriage by system of exchange:

In this case, the wife and her offspring virtually become the property of her husband, but with the passage of time this has died out.

(b)    The second mode of marriage is by payment of small customary bride-price. Under the small bride-price system, it was easy for a woman to change her husband, but that hardly happened.

(c)    Cousin Marriage:

This is considered the best form of marriage on the ground that they keep wealth within the family. The second and most important reason is that divorce is not permissible and, therefore, was permanent.    Burial Ceremony

Mourning and burial rites were done in yester-years by making cylindrical shaft with niche, in which the body was wrapped in a cloth. Nowadays, burial is in a rectangular grave with a niche, reclining on a mat facing east, if a man or west, if a woman. This type of grave is of recent adoption, being easier to make than the cylindrical shaft with niche.

1.4.3                Festivals

Festivals in the Yiwom custom include circumcision, initiation, hunting etc.    Circumcision

Circumcision rites among male children are carried out every year. Circumcision was regarded as a rebirth, the actual operation of circumcision was performed in order of seniority, and it was not possible for a younger brother to be circumcised at the same time as an elder brother. This is done in the spring, dry season of the initiation year. Circumcision is a necessary antecedent to marriage, as among some other tribes. A boy’s initiation is often held-up by the rule that two brothers by the same mother may not be simultaneously. The younger, even though he has passed the age of puberty, must wait for the succeeding batch. All persons initiated together are regarded as being on the same social footing, and it would improper that a younger brother should be given social equality with an elder. The custom and tradition of Yiwom disallowed female circumcision.    Initiation

After healing and a year of the circumcision, if the boy reached the age of puberty, the head of the family took him to an isolated enclosure for initiation. The account and method of initiation are unknown to those who have not been initiated. After the initiation, the boy was considered to be a responsible member of the community and was no longer required to conceal himself with the women and children. They are warned to show respect their seniors and if they fail to in any of their duties towards your elders, they will be prostrated with sickness.

Hunting festivals takes place after the harvest, in bush, bordering the River Wase to the East. Most types of animals like elephants were found there. Weapons such as spears, hunting-knives, bows and poisoned arrows were some of the weapons used. The spears and arrow heads were dipped in poison before use in the hunt.

Masquerades is kept by each clan and appears from time to time, armed with a whip and chastising recalcitrant boys or any woman who has the effrontery to remain within his reach. Masquerades are kept secret from the women and boys who have not been initiated.

1.4.4                Dressing

In the olden days, the young girls wear “pàtàrí” and it is like a short skirt and the married women wears something like the ìró and bùbá which the Yoruba women wears, the men wears ‘bìndé’ like the Ibos, a short knickers called ‘gúd’ and a long trouser called ‘mùrdú’ or ‘wòrdó’. The modern dressing is like the normal dressing which is the modernized way of dressing and they mostly sew ìró and bùbá and not skirts.

1.4.5                Traditional Administration

The overall head of the Yiwom is called ‘Migher Yiwom’ which means “Head of Yiwom”. The chiefs are recognized by putting on a red cap and holding a staff. The selection of the chiefs is done in a democratic way and through the clan rotation; each clan presents two or three people who are then elected into position. There is also the leader of each clan which is called ‘Migher Pitop’ or any name of the clan which can be ‘Migher Rohta’ which means ‘head of the Pitop’; this is like a subordinate to the ‘Migher Yiwom’ who has the power to choose who he wants as his head of the clan. If a clan is chosen as the ‘Migher Yíwóm’ this year, it will be another clan next time. The war chief is called ‘Migher Klàng’ which means ‘head or leader of war’ and a local chief is called ‘Bangkrum krom’.

1.4.6                Economic

The Yiwom speakers are good farmers. All the usual crops and cereals are grown by them, with the exception of the onion, cassava was only recently introduced and yams were not grown to any commercial quantity. They did not significantly practice crafts except simple mat making. Blacksmiths were few in number as iron was imported from the Burumawa tribe and some by the Fulani/Hausa traders from Ibi. The market is held everyday but Tuesday of every week continues to be the market day. Trade-by-barter was customary among tribes, cowries were never used. Taxes were and still paid in money but not plentiful.

Children are first taught their mother tongue, Yiwom and then Goemai and Jukun languages. A great number are able to speak Hausa as well. They do not have tribal marks, except for personal adornment. “The tribe is immensely proud of itself, in former days the people were feared by all and conquered by none”, writes Mr. Hale Middleton, Resident of Plateau Province in 1931. Dabup (2009:74-95)


Genetic classification is a sub-grouping of all related languages into a genetic node. It is the way we classify all languages that are related into one group, domain or node. It is sometimes called phylo-genetic classification. The relationship between languages is sometimes close as evident with Yiwom and Montol and sometimes more distant as with Shona and Fulani.

Yiwom language is part of the Chadic family which is in turn part of Afro-Asiatic family. Afro-Asiatic consists of some 353 languages and Chadic is made up of 200 languages. (Ethnologue website), Yiwom is one of 200 Chadic languages.

The diagram of the Genetic Classification of Yiwom language is drawn below.

Afro – Asiatic language family

Chadic        Semitic           Cushitic  Ancient Egyptian                  Berber

Mandra Gidder Musgu   Bana Sahel Western      Kotoko   Bata-Tera         Daba Matakom Gisila

Group                            group Group Group        Group      Group          Group

Hausa Group        Ngizim Group       Warjawa-Gesawa group           Bolewa-Plateau Group

Bolewa Subgroup                    Ron Subgroup               Plateau Subgroup


Angas Ankwe Bwoi Chip DimukGoramJortoKwollaMiriamMontol Sura  Tai  YIWOM

                Figure 1: The Genetic classification of Yiwom language

                         Source: Fivaz and Scott 1977


This research is on the aspects of morphology of Yiwom language. It introduces the language and its speakers. It is on the morphemes in Yiwom language and the morphological processes, that is how words are formed. For the easy presentation of this research, this project work is divided into five chapters.

The first chapter is the general introduction, history of the language, sociocultural profile, geographical location, genetic classification of the language, scope and organization of the study, theoretical framework, data collection, data analysis, review of chosen theoretical framework and literature review.

The second chapter is on the sound inventories and sound patterns in Yiwom which includes the sound inventory, tone inventory, syllable inventory.

The third chapter discusses the morphology of Yiwom; basic morphemes in the language, and the language typology.

The fourth chapter is on the morphological processes in the language which includes borrowing, compounding, affixation, reduplication and refashioning.

The fifth and last chapter summarizes the work, present the conclusion of the project work, as well as offer suggestions on further research


There are two complementary approaches to morphology; Analytic and synthetic. The linguist needs both.

The analytic approach has to do with breaking words down, and it is usually associated with American structuralist linguistics of the first half of the twentieth century. These linguists were often dealing with languages that they had never encountered before, and there were no written grammars of these languages to guide them it was therefore crucial that they should have very explicit methods of linguistic analysis. No matter what language, we need analytic methods that will be independent of the structures being examined.

The second approach is more often associated with theory than with methodology. This is the synthetic approach; it basically says “I have a lot of little pieces here. How do I put them together?” This question presupposes that you already know what the pieces are so in a sense; analysis in some way must precede synthesis. Synthesis really involves theory construction from a morphological point of view, the synthetic question you ask is “How does a speaker of a language produce a grammatically complex word when needed?”. The primary way in which morphologists determine the pieces they are dealing with is by examination of language data. They must pull words apart carefully, taking great care to note where each piece came from to begin with.


In collecting the data, the method used was the informant method. According to Samarin (1967), “Field linguistics is primarily a way of obtaining data and studying the linguistics phenomenal therein”. After the collection of the data using the informant method, and the data have been collected using the Ibadan 400 list, and the frame technique since it is the aspect of morphology of the Yiwom language. The Ibadan word list consist of four hundred basic words in English which will be collected in the language being worked on and the frame technique which includes some sentences in the language which have the English equivalents and then, the wordlist is recorded using a tape recorder or video recorder so as to have something to refer to when working on the data. Recording the data will help to put tones on the words and transcribe the words. The data is then analyzed and being worked upon.

The information’s of the informant used are:

Name:      Kamlong Gabriel Tislet

Age:          42 years

Home Town:     Pituop, Garkawa

Other languages spoken: English, Hausa, Goemai, Tehl

Work:       Policeman

How long he has lived in home town: 23 years


The analytic and synthetic approaches are good approach to this particular language because it does not require that a linguist have a previous knowledge of the language before he or she is able to apply it. The approaches allow a linguist to deal with a language they have never encountered before. A linguist examines a language data and then pulls words apart carefully to know where each piece came from.

Aronoff and Fudeman (2005:12) say a linguist needs both the analytic and synthetic approach to morphology and they are complementary approaches to morphology. And this is the main reason why this approach was chosen as the theoretical framework for analyzing the aspect of morphology of the Yiwom language.

The Yiwom language has no written grammars and has never been worked on. It is therefore necessary that the words in the language are broken down before being synthesized. The analytic methods will be independent of the structure, being examined. After knowing the pieces of the language through analytic approach, the synthetic approach asks the question of how to put the pieces together to make complete sense in the language. Part of the analytic approach is the analytic principles which states that:

(i) Forms with the same meaning and the same sound shape in all their occurrences are instances of the same morpheme.

(ii) Forms with the same meaning but different sound shape may be instances of the same morpheme if their distributions do not overlap.

(iii) Not all morphemes are segmental, i.e zero morpheme

The above analytic principles will help a linguist in identifying the morphemes in the language. Say that you have broken a clock and taken it apart, and now you have to put it all the little pieces back together. You could always go by trial and error, but the most efficient way would be to have some theory of how the clock goes together. Synthesis really involves theory construction. The analytic principles were taken from Nida’s (1949; revised edition 1965) morphology.

The theoretical framework chosen were the analytic and synthetic approaches to morphology but other frameworks were also reviewed before we finally choose the analytic and synthetic approaches. Other frameworks reviewed include item-and-arrangement. Item-and-process, and word and paradigm.

Hockett (1954:25) cited in Malmkjær (2002) distinguishes between two approaches to morphology which he calls item-and-arrangement and item-and-process. Both are associated with American structuralist linguistics, codified by Bloomfield (1933), but they continue to be important today.

Item-and-arrangement grew out of the structuralist’s preoccupation with word analysis, and in particular with techniques for breaking words down into their component morphemes, which are the item. Morphology is then seen as the arrangement of these morphemes into a particular order or structure. For example, Books result from the concatenation of the two morphemes book and –s. In its simplest form, this way of analyzing word forms treats word as if they were made of morphemes put after each other like beads on a string; it is also called morpheme-based morphology.

Item-and-process, as its name suggests, is an approach to morphology in which complex words result from the operation of processes on simpler words. If we are working with an item-and-process framework, we might say that books result when the lexeme book undergoes the function ‘make plural’. In regular cases, this function will add the segment /-z/ which is realized as /-s/ after most voiceless segments and as /-¶z/ after sibilants and affricates. It is also called lexeme-based morphology.

Item-and-arrangement and item-and process are almost equivalent to one another mathematically. Everything that you can express in item-and-arrangement can be expressed in item-and-process and vice – versa.

These two approaches were not chosen because; the approach does not apply to the language being worked on. They are suitable for languages with good use of affixation and inflectional languages which the Yiwom language is not.

The word and paradigm approach is an approach to morphology many will be familiar with from school-book descriptions of Latin grammar and the grammar of some modern European languages. Word and paradigm has a long-established history, going back to ancient classical grammars. In this approach, the word is central and is the fundamental unit in grammar. Word and paradigm which is called WP retains a basic distinction between morphology and syntax. Morphology is concerned with the formation of words and syntax with the structure of sentences, central, therefore to word and paradigm is the establishment of the word as an independent, stable unit. Robins (1959) offers convincing criteria for words and argues that word and paradigm is an extremely useful model in the description of languages. Word forms sharing a common root or base are grouped into one or more paradigms. Paradigm categories include such things as number in English. Word and paradigm is particularly useful in describing fusional features in languages.

The word and paradigm approach is of less use in describing certain types of language. To be able to use any of the approaches mentioned, a linguist has to be familiar with a language and its formation of words which the analytic and synthetic approach does not need.



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