Aspects Of Noun Phrase In Kurama Language

  • Format
  • Pages
  • Chapters




This is a long essay on the noun phrase of kurama language. It is aimed at describing the structure of noun phrase of the language under Government and Binding syntax. Kurama language is a language spoken in Lere local government Area of Kaduna State. The tribe known generally as the Kurama, but who themselves the Akurmi   (Sing. Bukurmi), or forest people, are situated to the north and north-west of the Katab in the Zaria province. They number between 11,000 and 12,000 persons and are administered by the Emir of Zaria.

The study opens with an introduction and focuses on the Historical background of Kurama, its social grouping and emblems, its socio-cultural profile, geographical location and genetic classification. It also covers the scope and organization of study, theoretical frame work, data collection, procedures data analysis and the brief review of the chosen framework.


According to Meek (1931), the kurama speakers claim a traditional connection with Kano, and in proof of this claim assert that the Kurmi market at Kano derived its name from them (viz. the Akurmi). The more learned among them, i.e. those most influenced by contact with Muslims, profess to be able to trace the wandering on the tribe back to the time when they dwell at Medina.

In later days, they were subject to ancient kingdom of Zaria, and during the days when Zaria fell under the influence of Kebbi and Songhai, the Kurama suffered at the hands of the Kebbawa who raided the district annually for slaves. They are also raided frequently by the Ningi in the nineteenth century. The Kurama are “playmates” with the people of Kano, and with the Kanuri, but whether this is due to any close association in the past cannot now be determined. What is certain is that the Kurama belong linguistically to the classifying group of The Sudanic division i.e. to the so-called Semi Bantu speaking group of the Nigerian middle belt zone.


The Kurama people or speakers are found in Lere local government area of Kaduna State of Nigeria. The kurama people are located at the Garu-Kurama district. The line is Southeastern part of Kaduna state, North of Damakasuwa and South from Kumana.

According to Crozier (1976), Kurama language belong to Benue Congo, eastern Kainji and Northern Jos. 220(NAT 1949), 2,000 (STL 1973).

Kurama is along Kaduna/Jos road. From Jos, it is 140 km and from Kaduna, it is 250 km.


According to oral history, the Kurama consist of a number of exogenous divisions wholly or partially localized. Thus the small clan of the Kamau is wholly localized at the village – area of Guru, whereas sections of the Abisi clan are to be found at a number of different village areas. Viz Garu, Srubu, Damakasua, and Kudaru. It appeared that in some instances a number of exogamous units share a common title and a common emblem, but that intermarriage between the units is permissible.

The Har Asre, for example consist of the following sub-divisions, all of which respect the crocodile         (1) Koranga

(2) Kipiri

(3) Tamto

(4) Tasabo

(5) Gama

(6) Tigena

(7) Tungzu

(8) Bundi

A Koranga man may not marry a Koranga woman, but he may marry a woman of any of the other subdivisions with the exception of Kipiri, the koranga and kipiri consider themselves to be related through a common forefather, a relationship which cannot now be demonstrated genealogically. It would seem, therefore, that the Asare at one time constituted a single exogamous clan, but that with the increase or spread of the clan exogamy was replaced by a local exogamy.

There are numerous other kurama clans (e.g. the Asa, Asana, Bisawa, Awai, Akurgi, Nargi, Gurya, etc)

1.2.2 Culture and Tradition

The Kurama people are largely enriched with traditional practices, which are often reflected in their various exogamous groups.

Firstly, the Arerus appear to respect the cock (Bugwara). It was stated according to my informant that, if the husband of an Areru woman had a cock cooked in the compound, he had subsequently to purify the place where it had been cooked by sweeping it with the leaves of the locust bean and shea trees.

Secondly, an Asare can play fearlessly with a crocodile; it is regarded as a relative to the Asare. If an Asare man sees the corpse of a crocodile he must dig a grave for it and bury it reverently, pushing the corpse into the grave with sticks.


The normal mode of obtaining a wife was, and is, by agricultural service plus cash and other payment to the girl’s parents or guardians. The scale of payment of service of obtaining a wife was as follows:

  • An initial services extending over ten years, equal to the amount of work performable by three men for three days each year on the farm of the girl’s father, and for one day on that of the girl’s mother.
  • A bride-price of 40,000 – 60,000 cowries.
  • 2,000 cowries, one basket of rice, guinea corn, one goat, four chickens and one pot of honey. These gifts were given during the concluding rites.


Few inquiries were made on the subject of religion. Muhammadanism is spreading, and those who have not embraced it practice a lackadaisical form of ancestor worship in which as so often among the semi-Bantu speaking tribes, the bull roerer (Makili) plays a prominent part. Noteworthy points are that, although women never resort to the ancestral graves, men perform their rites at the graves of female ancestors as well as of male.

1.2.5  Mode of Dressing

According to oral history, the Kurama people dress like the Hausa people. In

the olden days, wools were woven to make strapless tops for the men who cover their private parts with animal skin. Wools are also woven for the women to make a long but not wide piece to cover their breasts. The females also cover with leaves from a tree, which looks like palm trees.


          Governance of Kurama

They practice traditional system of governance, where there is an exogamous and social group which is recognized as the chieftain whose duties are religious and social rather than political (the political chieftainship being purely a local matter), it is his business to settle individual and family disputes and allay ill-feeling within the kindred or clan. In addition to the clan or extended families who exercise a social authority not merely over their own households but over those of all younger brothers, cousins, and children.



          Olaoye (2002: 98) defines socio-linguistic as “the study of various social, political, cultural and linguistic situations within a given speech community that give how language choice and use reveal the values, cultural beliefs and practices of the community”. This shows that cultural beliefs, way of life etc cannot be separated from language. In other words, language and culture are inseparable bound.

Most Kurama speakers including the younger generation are bilingual. The older generations are not quite fluent in Hausa as the younger generation who through education hold position in administration and public services including the police. Through education, the younger generations speak two or more languages i.e. Kurama, Hausa and English language making them bilingual.


According to Comrie (1990), genetic classification is a sub-grouping of all relevant languages into genetic nodes. Kurama is under the Benue-Congo language family



Afro Asiatic              Niger Kordofonian                         Nilo Sahara                          Khoisan


Niger Congo                                                                                            Niger Kordofonia


Mande           Gur     Kwa              Benue-Congo          Adamawa                 West

Eastern                     Atlantic  



Isam               Kumana                    Biron                   Junkun                             Kurama




This particular work focuses its attention on the formation of noun phrase in the Kurama language. The description will also delve on some of the peculiar features of the language. This research is expected to add to the linguistic finding on Kurama language.


This research work has five chapters. Chapter one is the introduction covering the historical background, socio-cultural and socio-linguistic profile of Kurama language and its speakers as well as the genetic classification, scope and organization of study, including theoretical framework, data collection, data analysis and a brief review of the chosen framework. Chapter two focuses on the basic syntactic concepts which include phrase structure rules, lexical categories basic word order and the sentences Types. Chapter three focuses on the aspect of noun phrase in Kurama language, chapter centers on the transformational processes of the language. Chapter five concludes the research work.


The theoretical framework adapted in this research work is the theory of Government and Binding.


          The data for this research were collected using the language informant to elicit the data. The Ibadan word list of (400) four hundred basic items is used for the collection.

The data were collected through direct interviews with the informants or

language helper with the use of Ibadan wordlist which contains items that are illuminating and capable of making linguistically significant generalizations.

Information concerning the informant used for this research is given below.


NAME:                                             Mr. Benjamin Gwa

AGE:                                                          41 years

LANGUAGE SPOKEN:                 Kurama, Hausa, English

RELIGION:                                     Christianity

YEARS LIVED IN GARU              Forty-one years

OCCUPATION:                               Civil Servant

MARITALSTATUS:                      Married


NAME:                                             Mr. Kenneth

AGE:                                                          69 years

LANGUAGE SPOKEN:                 Kurama, Hausa, English

RELIGION:                                     Christianity

YEARS LIVED IN GARU              Sixty years

OCCUPATION:                               Historian

MARITALSTATUS:                      Married


With the use of the Ibadan wordlist, we were able to collect two hundred and forty-nine (249) nouns, one hundred and twenty nine (129) verbal and twenty-two (22) adjectives. With the help of the native speaker, one hundred and twenty (120) sentences were collected, which include thirty (30) noun phrases, twenty two (22) verb phrases, three (3) examples in subject Noun phrase focusing, three (3) examples on subject noun phrase relativization, three examples on object noun phrase relativization, three (3) examples on simple sentences, four examples on compound sentences and three examples on complex sentences.


The Government and Binding theory (GB) was proposed by Noam Chomsky (an American Linguist) and the work was published in 1981. The modules are derived from theory of Universal Grammar, which posit multiple levels of representation related by the transformational rule (Move ) Cook (1988:28).

Some parts of these syntactic models have been modified by Chomsky (1986), and a host of other linguists like Cook (1988), Heageman (1991). Government and binding theories is an interlocking arrangement of sub-theories, which interact in many different ways that no party of the theory can be isolated from the rest. The sub-theories are:

  • X-bar theory
  • Theta theory
  • Case theory
  • Binding theory
  • Bounding theory
  • Control theory
  • Government theory


          The X-Bar theory defines possible phrase structure configurations in language generally. It provides principles for the projection of phrasal categories from lexical categories and imposes conditions on the mechanical organization of categories in the form of general schemata. Crucially, it makes explicit the notion ‘head of a phrase’.

The central notion is that each of the major lexical categories (noun, verb, preposition, adjectives) is the head of a structure dominated by a phrasal node of the category e.g. noun, noun phrase verb, verb phrase. Cook (1988: 32).

According to Rutledge Dictionary of Language and Linguistics (1972), “The term X-bar arises from the notion where one or more bars are placed above the constituents X to represent the level of complexity.

Generative linguists like Welberhuth (        1995), consider ‘X-bar’ theories as occupying the central posit in syntactic theory. This is due to the fact that all other theories under GB draw in the basic structure that the X-bar makes available.

Chomsky (1986: 12) in the analysis says that, the convention requires that every maximal projection has a specifier of as XP position, with the intermediate bar projection serving as the XP’s core. The core consists of the head Xo and complement (which can be a maximal projection itself). Then, we can say that the maximal projection (X-bar) is another full name for full phrasal category associated with a particular lexical category as the lead of that phrase. This theory is represented by this phrase structure rule.

X11 set to introduce the categories as X11 seeks to explain and these are the lexical intermediate and phrasal categories.



Spec                               X1


X                           Adjunct


Xo                  Complement

Under transformational generative grammar (TG) the phrase structure rule was:


Under GB, the phrase structure rule is as follows: –



C1  C1 IP


I1      I VP

I             Tns Agr

VP spec V1

V1   V (NP) (PP)

X11 in the schema above is believed to be a variable representing noun, verb, adjectives or preposition each of which functions as the head of its own phrase. The head is primary and there is Xo. It is also a lexical category and it can be post-modified by a specifier (spec). The lexical head can project to the intermediate category (X1) though the addition of a complement. Furthermore, the X (X-Single bar) in conjunction with the specifier projects further to X11 (X-double). E.g. in a sentence like, “The publisher of the book” will be phrase marked like this:








Spec                N1


Det                    N                pp


The             Publisher    P1

P                 NP

of      spec          N1

the            N


The head of the phrase is N1 (publisher) and P1 is its compliment. The compliment defines the head and without the meaning or publisher is incomplete.


This is a term that mediates thematic roles and their syntactic realization as

specific argument of a predicate. This theory says ‘that one argument must correspond to each thematic role and vise versa that is, an NP must correspond to each thematic role. (Chomsky, 1986:4)

Argument in this case refers to a noun phrase, which could appear in two form i.e the subject or object position of a verb. The object is further divided in two parts, which are the direct and indirect objects, e.g.

Adeoti         újana          újyáu                    Jumoke

Adeoti         buy            bag             Jumoke

“Adeoti       bought        a bag                    for Jumoke”

‘Adeoti       bought        a bag           for Jumoke’

Subject                      Direct object    indirect object

The thematic criterion also assigns roles to argument. The commonly expressed roles are agent, patient, instrument, locative, goal, source, experiences, benefactive.

  • Agent: The investigator of some action e.g.

Ada   úwe   Tola

Ada   kill     Tola

Ada   killed           Tola

‘Ada’ is the investigator of the action.

  • Patient Entity undergoing the effect of some action

Bola            údákú                   uyàh

Bola            fall              over

Bola            fell              over

‘Bola’ is the one undergoing the effect.

  • Instrument: means by which something comes about

e.g. Dapo    Úgwíyá       Demi                    nú      Àddáh

Dapo wounds       Demi           with   cutlass

‘Dapo  wounded     Demi                    with   cutlass’

‘A cutlass’ in this case serves as a means by which Demi was wounded.

  • Locative: place in which something is situated or takes place e.g.

Bimbo         sagan                    takar           Ùrén           úti

Bimbo         hide             book           under          tree

‘Bimbo hide book under tree, “under the tree is the location.

  • Goal: Entity towards which something moves e.g.

Sogo           úni     újyáu          Funmi

Sogo           give   bag              Funmi

‘Sog            gave the bag         to Funmi’

‘to Funmi is the Goal’

  • Source: Entity from which something moves

e.g.    Tolu            return          from            Europe

Tolu            mi               avu             Vwavo

Tolu            returned      from            Europe

‘from Europe is the source’.

  • Experience: Entity experiencing some psychological state e.g.

Toyin                   wang                    winu

Toyin                   is                 die

Toyin                   is                 dead

‘Toyin is the experiencer.

  • Benefactor: Entity benefiting from some action

e.g. Moji     ùjaná                    ùkyaútà      Biodun

Moji      buy             gift              Biodun

‘Moji      bought        a gift           for Biodun.

Biodun is the benefactor.

The notation Ѳ is called the semantic properties assigned by head thematic roles (Ѳ roles). The lexical entry for a verb needs to specify the Ѳ role that goes with it. In the sentence analyzed below, Ѳ-roles are specified.

Akin ingasa         Ife      nu      owata

Agent               Patient           location

Example in Yoruba language.

Akin           pe      Ife      ni       ile

Agent                   Patient        location

Example in English language.

Akin           called          Ife      at       home

Agent          patient                           location

It is important to state that the precise formulation of the theta criterion is only possible by referring to them.




According to the Linguistic Encyclopedia (1991: 2), Binding theory is concerned with the syntactic domain in which NPS can or cannot be related to another NP by being co-referential in the sentences.

Binding theory is one of the most important constructs in the system. It is concerned primarily with the condition under which NPs are interpreted as co-referential with other NPs in the same sentence e.g. “Wonder woman projected herself into the 24th Century”. Herself must be taken as referring to the individual denoted by wonder woman.

“Binding theory is concerned with the categories that must be bound and free in defining the domain in which binding takes place” (Horrocks 1987: 2). For the purpose of binding theory, NPS that act as arguments are assumed to fall into one of the three categories listed below.

  • Anaphors (b) pronouns (c) referential expressions.

ANAPHORS:       these are NPs whose reference is necessarily determined sentence – internally and which cannot have independent reference. In English, reflexive and reciprocal pronouns fall into this class e.g herself, himself, ourselves etc.

e.g.    Tope           intaré                    ná                na      intaré                    ná

Tope           loves        herself           he      loves           himself


PRONOMINALS: pronominals are NPs that lack specific lexical content and have only the features, persons, number, gender and case, unlike anaphors. They may either refer to individuals independently or co-refer to individuals already named in a given sentence e.g. Tope says she is a genius. “she” may refer to the individual denoted by the name “Tope” or some other individual not mentioned in the sentence.

REFERENTIAL EXPRESSIONS: This is otherwise known as R-expression as its name implies are noun phrase with lexical ability to potentially refer to something co-reference here is excluded. E.g. Big Jim says Tiny Tim should be boiled in oil. Even where the same name is used twice, the most natural interpretation is one where two different people are involved.

“Bola says Demilade must be promoted”.

It must however, be admitted that co-referentially is here a possibility, but the sentence so interpreted is stylistically highly ‘marked’, revealing something of the speaker’s attitude.


Control theory is the transformational analysis of sentence with verbs taking infinitival complements that have null subjects understood as being co-referential with an NP in the main clause.

Trask (1993: 62) defined control as module of grammar that deals with the phenomenon of a verb phrase complement that has no overt subject and consequently interpreted. Semantically as having some determiner phrase (DP) appearing somewhere within the sentence or an arbitrary (unspecified). Determiners phrase that function as its “subject” or “controller”. A non-overt subject DP of the infinitival clause is technically represented within the GB framework by a distinct ‘empty category’ called – PRO.

According to Riemsdijk and Willams (1983: 132) “the abbreviation PRO has been devised to stand for a phonetically null pronoun that occupies the subject position of infinitives in control theory” it can be exemplified with the Kurama sentence in the following:

  • Tunde intare wi uma bazeh

Tunde wants that he leave

“Tunde wants that he leave”

(Tunde intare (PRO na uma bazeh)

(Tunde wants 9pro to leave).

(The PRO here is also subject controlled.


Government theory deals in essence with the relationship between a head and its complement and it also describes relationship in other sub-theories.

According to Yusuf (1986: 141) “Government is a primitive concept, in that it is a long fact of grammar that a verb governs its object (where the object could be NP, PP) and while the pre-post position govern its object also”. This implies that verbs such as sing, dance, kill, draw, explain etc. govern their (NP) object. Also, where preposition is found often an HP follows giving rise to the statement that a preposition governs its NP objects.

Chomsky (1986: 17) says of an empty category that “a non-prominal empty category must be properly governed. This implies that PRO; a prominal category is exempted from government their for Chomsky defined proper government as: “β’ is properly governed by ‘α’ if it is governed by ‘α’ and a certain kind of connection holds between ‘α’ and ‘β’. He further said that ‘α’ properly govern ‘β’, if ‘α’ governs ‘β’ or antecedents governs ‘β’. The configuration of government is as follows:



β                                 y


a                                     b

In the configurations, ‘α’ governs ‘β’ and ‘y’ are sisters to ‘α’, ‘β’ can C-command ‘y‘ and ‘y’ can C-command ‘β’ i.e they govern each other. Government can be recognized if they are adjacent. Furthermore, it should be noted from the explanation above that government is some kind of c-command, that the governor is not a phrasal category, it is a lexical category in the set of N,V,P,A and I. Government is distinct from c-command, it is not a cases of mutual relationship. Also, the domain of government is much in narrower scope than c-command.

It is important to note that adjacency, namely, contiguity, is required for government and that there must be no blocking categories lexical or phrasal between the governor and the governee (of case assignment)

In      ùjána                    liamtò         Bola


I        buy             pot           for Bola

I        bought        a pot      for Bola


In the sentence above, the verb ‘bought’ governs the NP ‘a pot’ ‘PP governs the NP Bola’. The verb ‘bought’ could not govern the ‘I’ because there is INFL in between them assigning a case to the pronoun I and government cannot take place if there is a blocking category.

The illusion of case government by Sells (1985: 41) is shown below:



XP              V1

XP              V1

V                IP

V                IP


NP              P


                                                                   I                  VP



          According to Kristen (1991: 86) case theory regulates the distribution of phonetically realized NPs by assigning abstract case to them. “it is assigned by a set of case assigners to the constituent they govern”. Yusuf (1986: 26) says, “Case has to do, primarily with the forms that NPs take in different syntactic environment”. With the definitions above, case provides condition of well-formedness in a given syntactic structure configuration.

In Government and Binding theory, the case are said to be assigned under Government as:

  • Nominative case is a assigned by tense ‘INFL’
  • Accusative case is a assigned by verb.
  • Oblique case us assigned by preposition e.g.


Spec            I1

NP              I                  VP


Bola                 Tns           Agr   Spec                  V1


V       NP     PP


Uni a takar P       N

Give       book


to      Bello





Nouns or adjectives do not assign any case. Furthermore, on the assignment of case, all noun phrases that have phonetic content must have case or else they are ill formed. This corollary is known as the case filter which is only detachable in the phonetic form. Case filter states that any NP without a case assigned should not filter out.


+ Lexical

– case



e.g. ( Infl – A )

  1. a) Ma Ujana                   mota           Bola

I        buy             car              for Bola

I        bought        a car            for       Bola

Noun  Accusative                  oblique

Case     case                              case


  1. b) Ma ujana Bola                 mota

I           buy             Bola            car

“I         bought        Bola            a car” dative shift

The case filter in this case says, any NP without a case assigned be filtered out. Finally, the case theory recognizes two case assignment.

  • Inherent case assignment that is assigned at the deep structure level.
  • Structural /Abstract: case assignment is at the surface structural level. (Cook, 1988: 87)


Bounding theory is concerned with the way movement rule (move α) can be constructed. In essence, it deals with the limitation to be placed on the displacement of constituents by the transformational rule ‘Move – α).

Movement rule within the GB theory is assumed to involve:

  • An extraction site (ii) A landing site (iii) An Intervening gap.



Landing site                                Intervening site                     Extraction site

The basic idea, according to Cook (1996: 258), to be captured by bounding theory is that no movement can move an element too far. This requires a principle of some kind to limit movement in the required way. Chomsky (1973) proposed the principle of subjacency, which stipulates that no movement can move an element over more than one bounding node at a time.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like