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This research work is on the aspect of the syntax of Kurama language. By Syntax we mean the branch of linguistic analysis which involves the branch of linguistic analysis which involves the arrangement of words to form grammatical sentences in a rule governed way.

Syntax is also the study of the way in which different meaningful units of language can be constructed and combined to form larger units such as sentences and the interrelationships of  the these larger constructions. According to Yishai Tobin (1990) it should be noted that there are many aspects of syntax but this research work will specifically focus on the verb phrase of Kurama Language.

A phrase could be described as a group of words that form an integral part of a sentence. There are different types of phrasal categories, for example; Verb, Noun, Prepositional, Adjectival, Adverbial Phrases e.t.c. Each phrasal category is headed by its name. A Verb Phrase is headed by a Verb which may also have many satellites.

In this chapter, we will look at the historical background of the language, sociolinguistic profile under which we shall discuss the marriage, religion, mode of dressing, occupation, festival, language status, the location as well as genetic classification of the language. The research methodology used is the frametechnique while government and binding theory is used to analyze Kurama verb phrase.


The tribe known generally as Kurama, but who call themselves the Akurmi (singular Bukurmi) or the north and the North-West of the Katab in the Zaria provinces. They number between 11,000 and 12,000 persons, and are administered by the Emir of Zaria.

They claim a traditional collection 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 that is those most influenced by contact with the Muslims, profess to be able to trace the wanderings of the tribe back to the time when they dwelt at Medina.

There in the early days of Islam the tribe was partially exterminated as a punishment for their habit of giving false measures of corn. The more honourable among them were allowed to depart, and came to Bornu, where they dwelt for 730 years.

Thereafter they proceeded to Kano, and occupied the Dala district of  the city for 431 years, being driven out by the Kutumbawa, some say for refusing to accept Islam, others for refusing to give their daughters in marriage to the Kutumbawa who were not prepared to perform the marriage rites.


The language (Kurama) is used as a means of communication in the market and it is also used in teaching primary school. The language is spoken in many town in Kaduna and Kano States, some of which are; Ikara, Saminaka, Tudunwada etc.

1.2.1    MARRIAGE

The normal mode of obtaining a wife among the Kurama people is through agricultural service whereby the husband to be will labour on the farm for the father of the bride. The man will also make cash available and other payment to the girl’s parent or guardians.

A bride price of 40,000 – 60,000 cowries, one basket of rice, one pot of honey, these gifts were given during the concluding or final rites. Intermarriage with close relatives of the mother is prohibited by tribal custom.

1.2.2    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.


Dressing is an important aspect of any culture. Your dressing will speak for you that is the tribe that you belong to.

The Kurama people dress according to oral history, like the Hausas.


Kurama language is spoken in the northern part of Nigeria. The population of the speakers in Nigeria as at 2000 is 40,300.

The Kurama language is a language within the sub groupings of the Benue – Congo group of languages, which are in turn the largest branch of the Niger-Congo language family. The language is indigenous to Nigeria, with a little over 40,000 speakers (2000 estimate).

Kurama speakers are found in the central Northern Nigeria states of Kaduna and Kano.

The alternative names for the language are; Akurmi, Akurumi, Azumu, Bagwama, Bukurumi, Tikurami (by non-native speaker)

The language is spoken in Saminaka and Ikara local government area of Kaduna state and Tudunwada Local Government Area of Kano State. “Akurumi” the people, “Tukurami” the language and “Bukurumi” is the speaker.


The people of Kurama are mainly Agriculturist. They plant crops like Maize, Beans, Millets, Guineacorn, Yam, Melon, Wheat (Alkama) and Vegetables. Some of them  engage in bush hunting and craft making like mats, image, and skin (for shoes and bags).


Genetic classification is based on the assumption that the language have diverse from common ancestors. This method used in classifying language genetically is based on resemblance found in language.

Kurama language is from the largest language family in Africa, that is, Niger Kordofanian.



Afro Asiatic                Niger Kordofanian                  Nilo Saharan               Khoisan


Niger Congo                                                               Kordofanian

West Atlantic       Mande    Gur    Kwa   Adamawa Eastern     Beune          Bantu


Bantoid           Jukunoid         Cross River     Plateau


Gyena     Taura    Chawai                    Northern          Central

(Group)                 (Group)           (Group)


Rumaya           Gure                Ruruwa           Bunu   Kurama

Source: Derek, Fivaz(1977) African Languages’


The method of linguistic data collection used in this work for the purpose of obtaining illustrating data is through the use of an informant whose name is Mr. Yohanna Yusuf, a native of Yarkasua in Kaduna state and he is 25years old. Ibadan 400 wordlist was used to obtain data. We also made use of frametechnique.

Frametechnique could be described as the syntactical analysis of language data, using sentences and not just morphemes like wordlist. In frametechnique, words are not considered in isolation.

Wordlist could be described as the medium through which a researcher or investigator collect information on the language being studied through the help of an informant or language helper. The use of wordlist appears to be the quickest form of obtaining linguistic data. By it application, a linguist is able to obtain both phonetic and phonemic consonant and vowels in that language.


It should be noted that the statistic of the data collected has a linguistic significance to this work, with the use of Ibadan 400 wordlist; we were able to collect to two hundred and forty-nine (249) Nouns, one hundred and twenty-eight (128) verbs and, twenty two (22) adjectives with the help of the native speaker. Twenty sentences were collected which includes verb phrase which comprises of transitive and intransitive verbs.


The theory was made known by a popular American linguist called Noam Chomsky just to eradicate the lapses discovered in the structural grammar. He published a book in (1957) titled “Syntactic structures” which established the idea of generative grammar itself.  Another greater research was made by him which led him to the publication of a book known as “Aspects” it is really called “Standard theory” in (1965) purposely to make a clear distinction between the deep and the surface structures. “Deep structures” is an abstract level of structural organization which deals with meaning while   “surface structures” is thereby dealing with the phonetic or spoken form of every sentence (Horrocks, 1987:2, Cook 1988:28)

During the 1970s, this led to the extended standard theory referring to the types of rules that were employed which now developed into the Government and Binding theory named after” Lectures on Government and binding “Chomsky 1981a, Cook 1988:1) G.B Theory/Model is a Chomsky overall theory involving abstract and difficult sub theories, creating a new simplicity and capturing the internal and universal knowledge of language using small numbers of properties. The following are the sub-theories of Government and binding theory:

1.                  X- bar Theory

2.                  Bounding Theory

3.                  Case Theory

4.                  Control Theory

5.                  Theta Theory

6.                  Binding Theory

7.                   Government Theory

The above sub-theory of G.B will be explained respectively purposely to know the importance of each and how they are applied.

1.6.1        X-BAR THEORY

Lamidi (2000:150) states that x-bar theory is based on the theory of phrase structure. It defines the nature of the type of syntactic categories available to any language. The central notion of x-bar theory is that each of the major lexical categories (Noun, Verb, Preposition and Adjective is the head of the same category (Noun; NP, Verb; VP, Preposition; PP, Adjective; AP). In essence, X-bar theory defines possible phrase structure configuration in language for instance, the phrase.

“A new bag”

lijaun  asawa

bag     new

“Eat the food”

Ùlíyá   apúwuniya

Eat       food.

In the above phrases, “a large bag” consists of a head “bag” while “eat the food” consist of a head “eat”. Horrocks (1987) also states that the core of x- bar theory is the recognition of the fact that most phrases have head upon which other elements in the constituents are dependent. The x-bar theory projects from the core projection level to the maximal projection level. This is called Projection Principle.


Chomsky (1981:29) says “representation at each syntactic level is projected from the lexicon, in that they observe the subcategorization proper of lexical properties to be projected to all level of syntactic representation for instance, a lexical item projects from its zero bar level to one (single) bar level which is optional, then to double bar level. The zero bar level is referred to as the core projection level, the single bar level is referred to as the Intermediate Projection Level and the double bar level is referred to as the Maximal Projection Level. The illustration is shown below.

X11 Maximal Projection level

X1 Intermediate Projection


X0 Core Projection level

Horrocks (1987:99) states that x-bar theory tells us that a lexical head (X) and its complements form a constituent (Xi) and that any specifier of this form with a high level of constituent (Xii) thus:


Spec                X1

X0                  Comp

1.6.3    CASE THEORY

Case theory regulates the distribution of phonetically realized NPs by assigning abstract case to them. It deals with the principle of case assignment to constituents. Chomsky assumes that all NPs with lexical contents are assigned (abstract) case is assigned by a set of case assigners to the governed. Horrrocks (1987:103) says the basic idea is that case assigned under the government for instance the choice of case is determined by the governor. In any sentence, that is, lexical head X may be said to govern its sister, in X-bar and certain lexical heads also have power to case mark certain of their compliment. Thus, NP subject is assigned nominative by INFL, (Tense, Agr), Verb assigns accusative case to object of the verb while preposition assigns case to its object.

The relationship between the empty position (trace) and its binder is deemed to be Transformational in the example below:

Book comes outside everyday on top Francis and John

“A book comes out everyday about Francis and john”.

In this example, a distinct type of A-binding associated with the right heads movement of the PP modifier of “a book” known informally as “extra position from NP”

The following sentence can be taken as an example.

Sheu  inwẹh            Audu  mandẹ

Sheu    kill   Audu goat

“Sheu killed the goat for Audu”.


Spec                     11

NP          Tense (Past)VP

N1                               V1

N                          V                  NP

Sheu                                             N1

Nominative                          N         N

inweh       Audu   Mande

Kill                       Goat



The subject Sheu, being the subject gets Nom (nominative case) from (INFL+TENSE), verb assigns Accusative case to the object Audu.

1.6.4        THETA THEORY

Theta theory deals with the functional relationship between a predicate and its arguments. It is concerned with the assignment of what Chomsky calls “thematic roles” such as agent, patient (or theme), beneficiary e.t.c. It is assumed that theta roles are assigned to the complements (direct object) is assigned the role of patient; the PP complement is assig

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