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1.0 General Background of the Study

This research work is based on the language called Uneme language spoken in Edo State.  This work will focus on the aspects of Uneme Noun Phrase. The term Noun Phrase forms an important aspect of syntax.

Syntax is a branch of linguistics, derived from ancient Greek ‘SYN’ and ‘TAX’. SYN mean ‘Together’ while TAX means ‘Arrangement’.  Syntax is the study of the arrangement of words to form sentences.  Different linguist has defined syntax in different ways:

Talleman (2005) Defines syntax as the study of syntactic property of language.  He sees syntax as sentence construction, that is, how words are put together to make phrases or sentences.

Akmajian (2004) sees syntax as a sub-field of linguistics that studies the internal structure of sentences and the relationship among the internal parts.

Ladeforged (1997) says that syntax is concerned with the way words are combined to form sentences.

Syntax can be hierarchically structured from the larger to the smallest (Sentence——Clause—–Phrase —–Word). Sanusi (1996) says, in the systemic analysis, a sentence is ranked the highest, consisting of one or more clauses.

The focus of this research will be on the aspects of   Noun Phrase of Uneme language. A phrase is a sequence of words that can function as a constituent in the structure of sentences.  There are different types of phrasal categories, these are; Noun Phrase, Verb Phrase, Prepositional Phrase, Adjective Phrase and Adverbial Phrase. A Noun Phrase is headed by a noun and so applicable to others which are named after the lexical categories.

This project work will serve as a priority and a means of developing Uneme language and to save guard it from going into extinction.  It will suit the desires of those that want the language as a means of communication even in schools and in the community.

1.1 Historical Background

According to oral tradition, the Uneme language speakers are found in the northern part of Edo State.  An informant claimed that speakers of the language can be found in two areas in Edo State, these areas are Akoko-Edo and Etsako North.  Edo state is found in the south eastern part of Nigeria.

Hakeem (2003:4) says that the history of Uneme people can be traced to the core area of the Nok cultural zone located in the North eastern part of Niger-Benue confluence.  The area represents the ancestral home land of not only Uneme people but also of related sub-ethnic groups which have come to be described as the Edoid.

Uneme people are migrants from Benin.  They arrived Benin area during king Ogiso Ere’s era and their first settlement was on the outskirt of Benin City.  The Uneme people moved to Benin in the tenth century and later left because of a problem that arises as a result of Oba shift between two brothers in the royal house or palace of Benin kingdom.  The crises were so tense that everybody from Uneme community had to leave.  Their mode of migration from Benin in 1370 AD was in two phases; The first major phase of the migrant moved northwards from Benin, settling in different territories between 1370 and late 1370.  Some of the notable places they headed to are Obadan in the present Edo state and Agbede in the Etsako west area of the present northern Edo state, others are Ogbomeze (Imiava) in the Etsako central area of the present northern Edo state and Okene in Ebira community of the present Kogi State.

The migration of Uneme people experience a split which makes them to move in two different direction, one to Akoko-Edo (the present northern Edo-state) and other to Oghomeze in Etsako.  At the time of their staying in Akoko-Edo, they established three other Uneme communities in different location within Akoko-Edo namely Uneme Aki-Osu in the early 1400s, Uneme Erhurm and Uneme Ekped.

According to the language informant, he claims that, people who speak Uneme are Uzanu, Anegbete, Udochi and Ologua who are the latter of Uneme community in the 1830s.

From history, we are aware that the listed Uneme community are named after children of the same father and mother which latter developed to different community.  Each of them developed to a large community that now lives as a town on their own.  There was a conflict that broke out between Uzanu and Anegbete which led to a war and brought about parting between Uzanu and Anegbete whereby we have Uzanu in Etsako East and Anegbete in Etsako central.  During this war, Uzanu was having upper hand, and this makes the Anegbete to seek the assistance of Nupe people in Bida.  The Nupe people (warriors) came but asking the Oriola who is the prime minister of Anegbete to divide the kingdom of Anegbete into two and give them.  Oriole made them to understand that they are only here for war and not to share kingdom so, they should mind their business and face the Uzanu’s.  The Uzanu’s were captured by the Nupe warriors and later came to invade the Anegbete and the whole of Etsako.

Further more, Hakeem (2003:7) pointed out that the second major phase of the Uneme’s migration from Benin in 1370 AD witnessed the movement of the affected people eastwards in Niger-river, unlike the first group that moved northwards.  Members of the second group were few in number, and they passed through fewer territories where they settle down briefly before they finally established their permanent home in the Awka area of Igboland in the present Anambra State in 1380’s and 1370’s.

The total population of the Uneme language speakers is estimated to be 19800 (year 2000 estimation of internet) and the alternative names with which the language is called are Ileme, Ineme and Uleme but the standard version is Uneme as been called by the speakers.

1.2   Socio Cultural Profile

The Uneme people are distinguished from others in their own way of life. Their culture is very rich and they believe so much in it.  The language serves as a means of communication in the society, in the market and even in the religious system and it is aimed at being a medium of expression and instruction in schools.

1.2.1           Sociolinguistic Background

The Uneme language is used in trading with the neighboring communities.  For example, the Uzanu’s share the same boundary with Edo and Igbirra, so, the language serves as a means of trading between them.

1.2.2  Culture

The Uneme’s dressing is some how different.  They use Tusks, Beads (for women, the tusks for the legs and for bangles on hands).  In those days, they believed that a girl must be a virgin before she got married, as a result, when a lady is ready to get married she will not wear any cloth but will use a lot of beads to cover her private parts and almost naked round the town.  They also use “Ashid” gotten from the bush to decorate the girl and a lot of beads on the hand, just as the Benin dresses.

Also the Olofu who is the Prime minister has a drum called “Ukpaagba”.  This Ukpaagba is beaten when there is an emergency or a conflict in the king’s family so as to draw the attention of the people.  The drum is being beaten four times representing the four pillars of Uneme that is, it represents Uzanu, Anegbete, Udochi and Ologua.

1.2.3  Festival

Some of the festivals of Uneme community are connected with their religious believes while others are linked to their socio-economic activities.

There is a festival named “Ukpe” which means end of the year celebration.  It is celebrated between August and September of every year.  The people of Uneme are virtually known to be farmers; so therefore, this celebration precedes the coming of new yam.  The festival serves as a major communication channel to bid good bye to the outgoing year and to welcome the coming year whereby every family have to participate in one way or the other.

Another festival in the Uneme community is named Ogun festival.  Ogun festival is associated with, and devoted to the propitiation and veneration of god of iron.  This festival is usually organized only by iron melting societies.  The festival is organized by allocation certain spots in the community to the propitiation of Ogun. They make use of certain animal named ‘dog’ and the whole of the community takes part in singing, dancing and drumming to appease Ogun ‘the god of iron’.

Another festival of Uneme people is known as ‘Second Burial Ceremony’ which can only be done for a dead father.  It is still valid to be done after several years of the father’s demise.  Any one that has not done the second burial is not entitled to the title “Orinitome” in the Uneme community.

1.2.4  Religion

As we have it in the Nigeria system, the Uneme people are also recognized with three (3) main religions these are Christianity, Islam and Traditional Religion.        Christianity

Christianity was not the indigenous religion in Nigeria but was introduced to Nigeria by the Missionaries.  This begin to spread in Nigeria to different community.  Hakeem asserted that Christianity was introduced to the Uneme communities in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s respectively by Christian missionaries like Ogidan of the Anglican Community.  The introduction of Christianity religion was done by some Yoruba missionaries who visited Akoko-Edo frequently and it gradually extend to the Etsako local government Area.  The first church of the missionaries in Uneme Akpama was named St’ Luke Anglican church and it was built in 1922.

Chief Ezekiel Adeleye Igenuma Uduak Peghemehe from the Enivbosu area of Uneme Erhurun was the one that build the first church in Uneme Erhurun in 1923.  This is also an Anglican church.

Another missionary behind the spread of Christianity in Uneme community was Rev. Oyebode, a Yoruba Christian priest who was based in Auchi.  He was the first Anglican Missionary to influence the spread of the religion in Uneme Aki-Osu in Akoko-Edo Area in the 1920s.  He found the St. Johns Church which was the first of its kind in that environment.       Islam

The Islamic religion was introduced during the time when the Nupes were involved in the Uneme activities.  This was in the time of military and colonizing activities in Akoko-Edo in the 19th century.  The Islamic religion has been in existence before the Christian religion was introduced.  It was only few of Uneme people that are been converted because they sees the Nupes as invaders and people were not encouraged to accept their offer.    Traditional Religion

Ever before the introduction of Islam and Christianity, the people of Uneme so much belief in the Traditional Religion.The people of Uneme believes in Osanobula, Ogbene and Osi which are Supreme Beings.  Osanobula is believed to have had heavenly aids who were appointed by him.  Among such aids were the local divinities or deities, Ilisa which is referred to as the gods and goddesses, and the spirits (especially Esi).  The people of Uneme young and old usually call on him through his various aides for protection and extrication from the hands of perpetrators of evil.

According to Pastor Patrick who is the language informant, he says the religion is still very prominent in the Uneme community due to their cultural and festival activities.

1.2.5  Marriage

Pastor Patrick who is the language informant says that the people of Uneme believe so much in traditional marriage.  Uneme people do not buy the habit of marrying just only one wife but believes solely in a polygamous marriage.  It is like a compulsory fact that if someone has not married two wives, is like the person is a lazy man.

1.2.6  Occupation

The major occupation of the Uneme people is smelting of iron (blacksmith).  The blacksmiths smelt the iron-ore mostly at night because of the high temperature generated in the process of smelting.

Another occupation of the Uneme people is farming.  They practice commercial farming in the Uneme community.  Some of their farm products are; coca, rice, yam, maize, cassava and banana e.t.c. The people of Uneme also practice trading.  They trade with their smelt product such as Anklets, bracelets, local necklace, cutlasses, iron weapons, knives, plates, hoes and pot.  They trade with the neigbouring community and all their products are involved in their trading.

1.3              Genetic Classification of Uneme Language

This is a systematic way of grouping languages that share something in common into the same family.  According to Ruhlen (1991:-5), a genetic classification is a sub-grouping of all relevant language into genetic nodes.  However, a genetic node is a group of languages each of which is more closely related to others in that group than to any language outside the group.

African languages like other languages of the world have been classified by taxonomical linguistics.  The Uneme language is grouped with the languages in the Benue congo where we later end up having Edo and Ghotuo.  The Genetic classification tree below will summarize the sub-grouping of Uneme language.

1.4     Scope and Organization of the Study

It has been discovered that the minority languages in Nigeria are not being paid much attention to.  Therefore, this long essay will describe and present the structure of Noun Phrase in Uneme language and the transformational processes involving such noun phrases.  The processes and the examples are presented and analyzed using Government and Binding theory.

This research work is organized in such away that it will comprise five (5) chapters.

The first chapter presents the introductory part of the long essay, dealing mainly with the historical background and the socio cultural profile of the speakers of Uneme language.  Also, the genetic classification of the language, scope and organization of the study, method of data collection and analysis, and a brief review of the chosen frame work are presented in this chapter.

Chapter two presents a brief review of the sounds, tone and syllable patterns of Uneme language.  It will introduce and explicitly explain with examples in Uneme language the basic syntactic concepts such as, Phrase Structure Rule, Lexical Categories, Basic Word Order and Sentence Types found in the language under study.

Chapter three (3) focuses on the Uneme Noun Phrase which is actually the main focus of this research work.  We will have the structure of Noun Phrase and transformational processes involved in this chapter.

Chapter four will focus on the levels of linguistic analysis in the language. It will examine the transformational processes in Uneme language.

Lastly, chapter five will contain the summary,  recommendation and conclusion of this research work.

1.5     Theoretical Framework

Many theories have been propounded for analyzing language data in order to present a systematic description of the linguistic knowledge or competence a native speaker possesses (Sanusi 1996).  Such theories are used as theoretical framework or methodological tools for analyzing language data.  They include; Traditional or Classical Grammar, structural or Taxonomic Grammar, Systematic Grammar, Transformational Generative Grammar, Government and Binding theory and Minimalist programme.  The theoretical framework adopted for this research work is Government and Binding (GB) theory which is also known as principles and parameters theory (PPT).  This is a theory that captures the similarities which exist between different categories of lexical phrases by assigning the same structure to them rather than having different phrase structure rules for NPs, VPs e.t.c.

Government and Binding theory is propounded by Noam Chomsky.  The theory is named after Chomsky’s book; lectures on Government and Binding (1981). Sanusi (1996:21) describes Government and Binding (GB) as a modular deductive theory of universal Grammar (UG) which posits multiple levels of representation related by the transformational rule (move-alpha).  The application of move-alpha is constrained by the interaction of various Principles which act as conditions on possible representation. Government and Binding theory is a modular deductive theory of grammar.  Proponents of GB often maintained that there is no such thing as roles of language.  But only the principles and parameters whose values can vary from one language to the other do exist with specified units.

According to cook (1988:86), the theory of Government and Binding is described as an interlocking arrangement of principles and sub-theories which interact in many ways in the analysis of human language. Also, Radford (1988:419) defines transformation as the rule that deals with the act of changing the structure of one sentence to another structure through the concept of movement known as move-alpha (move α).  This theory (Government and Binding) was developed to correct the lapses in transformational generative grammar (T.G.).

Nevertheless, Government and Binding is misleading because it gives prominence to the two elements of Government and binding whose status was not fundamentally superior to the other sub-theories like       X-bar, theta, case and bounding theory.

Government and Binding proposes seven sub-theories of grammar.  The structures generated at various levels are constrained by a set of theories, which define the kind of relationship possible within a grammar.  The following are the sub-theories of Government and Binding;

(i)                X-Bar Theory (XI theory)

(ii)             Theta theory (θ theory)

(iii)           Case theory

(iv)           Bounding Theory

(v)             Binding Theory

(vi)           Control theory

(vii)        Government theory.

The above listed sub-theories of Government and Binding theory are closely related in their operation as a theoretical framework.  Each of these transformations operates on the D-Structure and maps the D -Structure into the S-structure.  This can be illustrated by the diagram below:

Syntactic Components

The base: *Phrase structure rules                         Transformation

* Lexicon                                                       Rules

Deep structure

Surface structure

Semantic –                                                         Phonetic –

Interpretation                                                         Interpretation

Fig 1.2   (Adapted from Horrocks 1987:27)

The transformational rules operate in-between the Deep Structure and the surface structure.  It should be noted that within the movement theory, we have three major concept involved;

(i)                Extraction site

(ii)             Landing site

(iii)           Intervening gap.

Horrocks (1987:29) says that “the core grammar of a given language is derived automatically from the interaction of the sub-theories of universal grammar?  Each of the sub-theories accounts for grammaticality or ungrammaticality of any sentence. All these sub-theories of G.B theory operates in a modular form, and this theory itself is referred to as to as a modular form, and this theory itself is referred to as a modular deductive theory of grammar.   Each of these sub-theories will be analyzed one after the other.

1.5.1  X-Bar Theory (XI   Theory)

X-bar theory is the theory used in this research work.  The X-bar 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” (Horrocks 987:101).  X-bar theory is designed to formalize the traditional notion called ‘head’ of a construction and to constrain the system in the recognition that the lexical categories; Noun, verb, adjectives, preposition are the heads and project to their phrasal nodes NP, VP, AP, PP, respectively.  For example, Noun phrase is headed by a Noun.  It comes after possible constituents in the example below.

The Man


Spec                   N1

Det                     N

The                     man

Crucially, X-bar theory makes explicit the notion ‘head of a phrase’.  It may be that grammars vary according to the extent to which they utilize the resources made available by X-bar theory.

Chomsky Noam himself has entertained the idea that there are languages in which sentences is simply of a string of words without any higher level organization.  Culicover (1997:134) states that,

“Phrase structure concerns the hierarchical and left-right relationship between syntactic categories.

In describing the X-bar theory, Chomsky (1986) says, X-bar convention states that “every maximal projection has a specifier of XP position with the intermediate bar projection serving as XP’s core.”  In other words, the X-bar theory brings out what is common in the structure of phrases and projects the characteristics of lexical entries into the syntax which links the D-structure to S-structure and logical form component to the lexicon by specifying the possible context in which a particular item can occur.  The projection from the head to the maximal level is shown below:

XP     –        Maximal Projection

X1      –        Intermediate

X       –        The head


Lexical Category


Intermediate Category


Phrasal Category

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