A Morphosyntactic Investigation of Functional Categories in English and Izon

Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2012

211 Pages


Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Figures Figures

1.1 Background to the study
1.2 The Ịzọn language
1.3 Previous studies in Ịzọn
1.4 The present study
1.5 Statement of the problem
1.6 Aim and objectives of the study
1.7 Scope of the study
1.8 Significance of the study
1.9 An overview of the model of analysis
1.10 Summary

2.1 Introduction
2.2 Languages in contact and bilingualism
2.3 Bilingualism
2.4 Contrastive analysis
2.5 Linguistic models of contrastive analysis
2.6 Chomskyan theory of grammar
2.7 Choice of theoretical framework
2.8 Summary

3.1 Introduction
3.2 Forms and Functions of Functional Elements in English and Ịzọn
3.3 Agreement in English
3.4 Agreement features in Ịzọn
3.5 Tense (T) in English and Ịzọn
3.6 The clause structure of Ịzọn
3.7 Case Checking in English
3.8 Case-marking/checking in Ịzọn
3.9 The ’s genitive case in English
3.10 The ’s-genitive Case in Ịzọn
3.11 Negation in English
3.12 Negation in Ịzọn
3.13 Summary

4.1 Introduction
4.2 Wh-Movement in English
4.3 Asymmetry in subject and non-subject wh-movement in English
4.4 Wh-movement in Ịzọn
4.5 Asymmetry in subject and non-subject wh-movement in Ịzọn
4.6 The Complementizer and feature checking in relative/embedded clauses
4.7 The Complementizer and feature checking in relative/embedded clauses in Ịzọn
4.8 The syntax of adpositions
4.9 Determiners/Articles
4.10 Co-ordinating conjunctions in English
4.11 Passive constructions and A-movement
4.12 Passive Constructions in Ịzọn
4.13 Pragmatic functions
4.14 Summary

5.1 Summary
5.2 Head position (head directionality) parameter
5.3 Wh-movement parameter
5.4 Negation parameter
5.5 Auxiliary verbs and agreement feature checking
5.6 Conclusion: The Implications for language learning
5.7 Unresolved problems for further studies



Existing studies on Ịzọn language have concentrated on unilingual application of traditional grammar in constructing well-formed sentences, thereby neglecting critical descriptions of the ways morphosyntactic features ensure the derivation of convergent structures. A contrastive examination of English, (a standard for universal grammar analysis) and Ịzọn languages can properly characterise these syntactically significant features. This work, therefore, investigates the morphosyntactic features in English and Ịzọn languages with a view to identifying and describing the morphosyntactic features that make the structures of the two languages converge.

The study adopts Chomsky’s Minimalist Program, which emphasises checking of morphological features. The research is based on Standard English and the Kolokuma dialect of Ịzọn, used in education and the media, and is mutually intelligible with other dialects. Data on English were collected from various books on English grammar and those on Ịzọn were collected from native speakers in Kolokuma and Opokuma clans in Bayelsa State where the dialect is spoken, and complemented with the researcher’s native-speaker’s introspective data. Since the study is competence-based, completely grammatical structures from each language were used for the analysis. Clausal and phrasal syntactic structures of English and Ịzọn languages were comparatively analysed based on the feature-checking processes of the Minimalist Program to identify shared and idiosyncratic features.

Universal features common to both languages include phrases, clauses, syntactic heads and wh-fronting. However, English and Ịzọn opt for different head parameters. Heads in English precede their complements while heads in Ịzọn follow their complements. Although Nominative Case licensing occurs in Spec-head structures in both languages, Accusative Case is licensed in head–complement relationship in English and complement-head structure in Ịzọn. Both English and Ịzọn permit wh-fronting at Spec-CP, but Ịzọn wh-expressions obligatorily co-occur with focus particles kị or kọ, which are functional elements that licence wh-elements. Whereas English constructs relative clauses with overt and interpretable complementizers such as ‘who’, which precede their complement clauses, Ịzọn constructs relative clauses without overt interpretable wh-expressions except an overt amẹẹ (that) which follows its complement clause. Agreement and Case features are intrinsic in determiners and pronouns in both languages. Whereas referential determiners in English have referential features only, some referential determiners in Ịzọn also have gender agreement features. English verbs have interpretable number agreement feature, but Ịzọn verbs lack this: the verb in Ịzọn does not inflect for number and is uninterpretable. Therefore, movement of the verb for checking of +N feature is overt and occurs before Spell-Out in English, but it is covert and occurs after Spell-Out in Ịzọn. Nevertheless, Ịzọn permits the projection of multiple XPs within a single DP in which two determiners participate in DP-internal Agreement relations with the noun.

Phrasal and clausal structures, heads, Case and wh-movement are common features of English and Ịzọn languages. The interpretability of morphosyntactic features, head directionality and nature of wh-movement licensing constitute peripheral features to the two languages. This study provides a systemic characterization of the interface of functional morphological features and syntactic derivations in English and Ịzọn languages.

Key words: Functional categories; Universal features; English/Ịzọn; Feature-checking: Parametric variation.


It has been a daunting task to undertake this research into an area that is often regarded as dry and difficult. My supervisor, Dr M. T. Lamidi desired that this research work was completed in record time. He always read my work promptly and enthusiastically, and expressed disenchantment at any perceived lull in the writing of the work. He brought his wealth of syntactic knowledge and experience to bear on this work. I must thank him immensely for the guidance, advice, encouragement, and indeed, infinite patience he exercised in the supervision of this work. I am eternally grateful.

I must also thank Dr Oyekanmi Taiwo of the Department of Linguistics and African Languages, University of Ibadan for sacrificing invaluable time to go through this work at various stages, and his professional comments and advice helped to fine-tune the final product. My profound appreciation also goes to lecturers in the Department of English, University of Ibadan for their words of encouragement, especially, Prof. Niyi Osundare, Dr R.O. Oriaku, Dr M.A. Alo, Dr Obododinma Oha, Dr D.S. Adeyanju and Dr A. B. Sunday. I must give special thanks to Dr S.A. Odebunmi, the Sub-Dean (Postgraduate) of the Faculty of Arts, who was readily available for advice and guidance at the Abstract stage of this work.

My profound appreciation also goes to the management of the Niger Delta University, Wilberforce Island in Bayelsa State which provided me with the opportunity and a moderate fellowship to study for the Masters and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. May I also put on record the inspiring encouragement of the lecturers of the Department of English and Literary Studies, especially, the former Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Professor Steve Ogude, now Dean of Postgraduate School, former Ag. Heads of Department, Dr A.A. Afiesimama, Dr B.S. Ngaage and Prof. Simon Umukoro, as well as the poets, Mr Ebinyo Ogbowei and Mr Ebi Yeibo. My appreciation also goes to Professor T.T. Asuka of the Faculty of Education, Niger Delta University who has always encouraged me to persevere.

Friends and colleagues in the Tafawa Balewa Postgraduate Hall provided a pleasant and friendly, and sometimes, critical atmosphere needed for a sustained academic research; (Dr) Henry Hunjo, (Dr) Akpos Adesi, Tam Azorbo, Charles Feghabo, (Dr) Victor Torubeli and (Dr) Abosede Babatunde among many others. I must also thank my friends and relatives outside of academics who were of immense moral and financial support, especially, His Excellency, Rt Hon. Werinipre Seibarugu, former Deputy Governor of Bayelsa State, Hon. Ebiundu Komonibo, Iperemo Wauton, Deputy Chief of Staff, Government House, Bayelsa State, Ebikibina Kwokwo, Pastor Salvation Kwokwo, Wenifreseigha Kwokwo, Debemotimi Kwokwo, Chief and Mrs Banton Akpuruku, Mrs Ineuge Siyaidon Chief (Engr) M.K. Amakoromo, Arthur Amakoromo, Kelly Ebibo Amakoromo and Sir Shellowei Alalu.

My immediate family bore the greatest financial and psychological inconvenience of my academic endeavours. I salute the resilience of my wife, Duoboebi, who was a worthy captain in keeping the family going in my absences. May my labour be a source of inspiration and challenge to my teenage undergraduate children, Preye and Ebikila, who have witnessed my sojourn. I cannot forget those occasions when Tarila, the seven years old lad would ask on the telephone: “Daddy, when are you going to come?”

Finally may I thank Apostle Duroshola Moyo-Peters, the Senior Pastor of Bestlife Christian Centre, Yenagoa for his prayers, and, ultimately, to God Almighty who has made what seemed impossible to be possible.

List of Tables

Table 1: Tones in Izon

Table 2: Plural Morphemes - Number Agreement

Table 3: Nominative Case Pronouns in Ịzọn

Table 4: Accusative Case Pronouns in Ịzọn

Table 5: Pronominal Determiners/Possessives in Ịzọn

Table 6: Possessives in Ịzọn

Table 7: Case-marking in English

Table 8: Case –marking in Ịzọn

Table 9: Genitive Case in English

Table 10: Tonal marking of Person Agr in Izon

List of Figures Figures

Figure 1: Map of Niger Delta showing Izon and Ijoid speaking areas

Figure 2: Chart showing classification of Ijoid languages and Izon dialects

Figure 3. Chart showing consonants (including digraphs) of Izon

Figure 4: Functional Categories in English

Figure 5: Functional Categories in Ịzọn

List of Abbreviations

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1.1 Background to the study

The syntactic configuration of an utterance in any natural language consists of lexical and functional categories. These two categories of words are intricately related and contribute mutually to the construction of grammatically acceptable sentences. The relationship between content words and function words is basically to ensure grammaticality since lexical words possess idiosyncratic descriptive and semantic content while functional categories lack lexical or descriptive content but carry information about grammatical properties. These grammatical properties are represented by morphological features such as the Phi-features of person, number and gender, and the categorial feature of case.

Syntax, as it is generally understood, is concerned with the formation and interpretation of phrases and sentences (Radford, 1997:2), or with the external relationship of words and groups of words (Crystal and Davy, 1969:18), or the structure and order of components within a sentence (Yule, 1996:100). Crystal (1987:94) describes it as the way in which words are arranged to show relationships of meaning within the sentence.

Beyond these basic postulations on syntax, further studies (especially by Chomsky 1986, 1995, 1998; Radford 1997, 2004, Chomsky and Lasnik 1995, 2005, etc) have revealed the existence of universal principles of language which form part of human nature. In the words of Radford (1997:14), ‘these universal principles tend to determine the very nature and structure of language’ because they govern the kinds of linguistic operations which are permissible in natural languages. The universal principles refer to the principles of Universal Grammar, and they relate to such processes as the derivation of phrases and clauses, interrogation and negation, as well as movement of constituents. Universal Grammar, according to Chomsky (1986), “is a characterization of the genetically determined language faculty which is an innate component of the human mind that yields particular languages through interaction and experience”. Consequently, UG allows a child to acquire any language as its mother tongue (MT) if it is brought up in that language community. In other words, “every normal child is … endowed with some linguistic knowledge which enables it to acquire the complex system known as language” (Ndimele, 1992:1).

The phenomenon of Universal Grammar (UG) presupposes that grammatical structure is substantially similar in all languages. Universal Grammar is a theory of linguistics stipulating principles of grammar shared by all human languages (Campbell 2001:65). Universal Grammar or language universals are central to Chomsky’s generative theory of language. In this theory, linguistic universals are regarded as abstract constraints that govern the form or structure of languages.

In spite of the universal principles, in the Principles and Parameters Theory (PPT), the existence of structural differences between languages is also recognized. Radford (1997:16) argues that all aspects of the grammatical structure of languages cannot necessarily be determined by innate grammatical principles because, were it to be so, all languages would have been characterized by the same grammatical structures. This line of thought points naturally to the existence of interlinguistic variations among languages.

There are universal principles which determine the broad outlines of grammatical structure of words, phrases and sentences in every natural language, there are also language-particular aspects of grammatical structure which children have to learn as part of the task of acquiring their native language (p17).

Linguistic variations are also acknowledged in Smith (2005:38) who affirms that languages differ along different dimensions. Ịzọn, being a natural language, shares in the broad linguistic principles - the principles of UG. For instance, the structural categories of phrase, clause or sentence are observable in the syntactic arrangement of words in English and Ịzọn as in the following examples.

1. The boy came out of the house

illustration not visible in this excerpt

2. Tọbọụ bị warị duo pabo-mi

Boy the house from out come+pst

‘The boy came out of the house’

The identifiable phrases in example 2 are:.

i. a determiner phrase Tọbọụ bị
ii. a prepositional phrase warị duo
iii. a verb phrase pabo- mi

The phrasal composition of the sentence is represented on the tree diagram below

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The illustrations from English and Ịzọn languages above show that these languages share in the general principles of language as UG postulates. Yet, there also exist many areas of interlinguistic variations between Ịzọn and English. The sentence structure of Ịzọn which has the subject-object-verb (NP + NP + VP) or SOV sequence is remarkably distinct from the English subject + verb + object (NP + VP + NP) or SVO sequence. The phrases identified in the Ịzọn example above tend to suggest that functional heads such as determiners and prepositions follow their complements while the complements precede their heads. This observation is at variance with similar phrasal structures in the English example.

Whereas the organization of language is primarily based on phrasal and clausal categories, these categories are derived from lexical and, very importantly, functional categories. A functional category is a category whose members are words which do not have descriptive or lexical content but possess information about grammatical features. Functional categories are closed classes of words and do not permit the admission of new members. A functional element refers to an individual member of a functional category. They include words or morphemes which perform on grammatical function. This study is therefore interested in the configurations and, indeed, the derivation of these phrasal and clausal categories and the roles played by functional categories in Ịzọn and English languages. Our interest is based on the Chomskyan theory of principles and parameters of language which has postulated that although all languages are certainly not identical, they seem to choose their syntactic structures from a limited set of options that are universally available and that language variations come from parameters (Baker 1995:283).

The question may be asked why the need for a CA between two languages when UG has already presumed the natural existence of varying parameters among languages. It is true that similarities across languages and differences among languages are assumed in UG as Comrie (1989) also explains, but if language, is considered to be a cognitive science it is proper to ascertain the extent of similarity and variation between any two languages The i-languages of English and Ịzọn, that is the internalised grammar or system of rules native speakers unconsciously use in speaking and listening, cannot be distinguished by a generalized assumption but through a scientific analysis of syntactic structures.

This explains the necessity for carrying out a morphosyntactic analysis of functional categories within the purview of Universal Grammar (UG) and the Minimalist Program (MP). It is aimed at identifying and accounting for the shared properties of human languages (principles) and the interlinguistic variations (parameters) that exist between Ịzọn and English. In this regard, the study provides structural descriptions and morphosyntactic analyses of functional categories in relation to lexical categories in English and Ịzọn languages.

1.2 The Ịzọn language

Ịzọn is a language spoken by the Ịzọn people who live mainly in the Niger Delta basin of Nigeria and along the coastline to the west of the basin. According to Donwa-Ifode (1995) The Ijo–speaking people spread from Nkoro in the extreme east of Rivers States, westwards to the towns of the Arogbo clan in Ondo State of Nigeria, and from the Atlantic Coast in the South to Elemebri in the Niger (p137) The name Ịzọn is preferred in this study to Ijaw and Ijọ because it is, historically, the original spelling. The reason is that Ịzọn phonetics does not have the sound /ʤ/ nor is the letter “j” found in its orthography. The word Ijaw is an anglicization, a corruption of the original spelling (Ịzọn). In an attempt to revert to the native spelling, Williamson (1969) unsuccessfully used the spelling ‘Ijọ’ but Egberipou and Williamson (1994) eventually adopted Ịzọn. However, the Anglicised form, “Ijaw” is still used to refer to the people in many circles in spite of the fact that Ịzọn refers to both the language, as in Ịzọn bẹẹlị (Ịzọn language), and the people as in Ịzọn otu (Ịzọn people).

The Ịzọn speaking people, strictly speaking, are in Bayelsa, Delta, Edo and Ondo states. The population of the Ịzọn people in these four states, based on the 2006 national population census figures (as contained in the Federal Republic of Nigeria Official Gazette 2009) is approximately 2.3 million. This figure is deduced from across fifteen (15) Local Government Areas of the four states mentioned above. The map below shows the Ịzọn speaking areas of Nigeria.

Figure 1 : Map of Niger Delta showing Izon and Ijoid speaking areas

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Williamson (1990) classifies Ịzọn as belonging to the Ijoid sub-group of the Niger-Congo family of languages. Its classification as one of several Ijoid languages is also restated in Williamson and Blench (2000). There are many dialects of Ịzọn. The classification of dialects follows clan divisions. Derefaka (2003) lists twenty eight dialects of Ịzọn as the classification below shows. This classification follows Lee and Williamson’s (1990) lexicostatistic classification of Ịjọ dialects and Williamson and Blench’s (2000) Proto-Ijoid (Niger Congo) languages.

Figure 2: Chart showing classification of Ijoid languages and Izon dialects

illustration not visible in this excerpt

An adaptation of Lee and Williamson (1990) and Williamson, K. and Blench, R. (2000)

These are considered as dialects because they are mutually intelligible. The extent of mutual intelligibility amongst them, however, varies according to the length of linguistic separation as well as the geographical distance, just as Fromkin and Rodman (1993:277) observed, that “dialect differences tend to increase proportionately to the degree of communicative isolation between groups”.

This study has adopted the Kolokuma dialect. The reasons for the choice of this dialect are that it is of the central Ijoid classification and has been used extensively in previous studies, especially by Kay Williamson and Egberipou as well as the Ịzọn translation of the Christian Bible (yet to be published). Moreover, it is used by the mass media because it is intelligible to other dialectal speakers. Kolokuma is regarded as a central dialect along with its most contiguous neighbours, namely Gbarain and Ekpetiama. A phonostatistic survey of Ịzọn dialects conducted by Williamson (1987) reveals a 99% similarity between Kolokuma and Gbarain, and 98% similarity between Kolokuma and Ekpetiama. Kolokuma dialect is basically spoken by the large Kolokuma clan and Opokuma clan. Both clans constitute the Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area of Bayelsa State.

1.2.1 Ịzọn orthography and phonology

The orthography of Ịzọn consists of a set of thirty alphabetical symbols. Seventeen of these letters are consonants, nine of them vowels and the remaining four, digraphs. The alphabet as contained in Williamson (1969) and Agbegha’s (1996) ỊzọnEnglish Dictionary has been widely used as the standard form. The orthography of Ịzọn consists of twenty three consonants and nine vowels. Out of the twenty three consonants, four are digraphs. Digraphs are pairs or combinations of letters representing one sound which do not correspond to the distinct sounds of the individual letters. The following are the alphabetic symbols of the Izon language.

a b d e ẹ f g gb gh h i ị k kp l

m n ng o ọ p r s t u ụ v w y z

Consonants: b d f g h k l m n

p r s t v w y z

Digraphs: gb kp gh ng

Vowels: a e ẹ i ị o ọ u ụ

The phonology of Ịzọn is based on the sounds or phonemes represented by these thirty letters which are common to the various dialects of Ịzọn. The general sense of phonology which means the abstract set of sounds in a language which allows speakers/listeners to distinguish meaning (Yule 1985, 1996) is applied here. The consonantal sounds approximate to their equivalent phonemes in English but the digraphs of Ịzọn do not have corresponding sounds in English. Noticeably, the Ịzọn language does not have Dental Fricatives (θ, ð) and Alveolar-palatal Affricates (ʤ, ʧ, ʃ), and this is a source of pronunciation difficulties for Ịzọn speakers learning to speak English. On the other hand, the Ịzọn digraphic sounds gb, kp and gh do not have corresponding sounds in English. The vowel sounds are more or less the same except that English does not apply diacritics to mark phonemes. Moreover, Ịzọn is a tonal language and uses tone marks on its vowels when it is written. What is relevant to this study, however, is the effect of tone on phonemes in creating contrast in the meaning of homonyms or words that have similar spelling and pronunciation. Tone-induced contrasts are quite legion in Ịzọn. Figure 4 below is a chart showing the consonant sounds of Izon.

Figure 3. Chart showing consonants (including digraphs) of Izon

illustration not visible in this excerpt

1.2.2 Tone in Izon

Tone refers to the pitch with which a sound is produced. Ịzọn has three tones, namely high, low and mid (Egberipou and Williamson 1994). High tone is usually marked with the symbol ( ʹ ); and low tone in Ịzọn is either marked with ( ‛ ) or left unmarked while mid tone is unmarked. These tone patterns are used to create significant contrasts in meaning and person agreement features especially of pronouns, pronominal determiners and anaphors (reflexives and reciprocals). Although detailed discussion and illustrations are provided in section 3.7, some examples will suffice here.

Table 1: Tones in Izon

illustration not visible in this excerpt

The data provided above in Table 1 are in pairs. Each pair is a set of homonyms. The difference in meaning between the words in each pair arises from the pitch or tone with which they are pronounced. This is in consonance with Ladefoged’s (1982:285) assertion that tone is a pitch that conveys part of the meaning of a word. First person and third person pronouns attract low tone while the second person pronoun attracts a high tone. Tone is most commonly marked on the initial syllable. The syllable structure of Ịzọn could be ‘V’ or ‘CV’. This means that a syllable could consist of a single vowel or a consonant and a vowel. A syllable in Ịzọn does not end in a consonant. This explains why native Ịzọn-speakers pronounce English words with a final vowel sound as in ‘bịredi’ (bread), ‘kerosini’ (kerosene), ‘Davidi’ (David), ‘Zosefu’ (Joseph), Zọnị, (John), etc.

1.3 Previous studies in Ịzọn

Ịzọn is an understudied language. There is paucity of books and research works on the language. It is classified among the Niger-Congo language family and spoken by the Ịzọn people of the Niger Delta basin of Nigeria. Although there is a dearth of literature on the language, a few general works exist. One of these is the Ịzọn-English Dictionary by Agbegha (1996). A significant contribution to the Ịzọn syntactic structure is the series of readers published by the Ịzọn Readers Writers Committee. This project has produced basic readers for primary and Junior Secondary School classes. It was commissioned by the Bayelsa State Government. The publications are entitled Ịzọn Beeli Bolou Go Fun (2006), and are meant to promote the Universal Basic Education. This work does not involve analyses of sentence structure but concentrates on expressing basic sentences to identify, describe or define objects. The entries on yam and leopard for example are given in (4) and (5).

4. (a) búrú - yam

(b) bei kẹnị búrú

This one yam

‘This is a (tuber of) yam

(c) bei inè búrú

this my yam

‘This is my yam’

5 (a) ẹdụlé - leopard

(b) bei kẹnị ẹdụlé

This one leopard

‘This is a leopard’

(c) ẹdụlé náma

Leopard animal

‘The leopard is an animal’.

The simplicity of the entries demonstrates that the readers are meant for basic literacy purposes. The sentences show that Ịzọn lacks overt copula. Alazigha (2004) has also produced a translation of a Christian prayer book entitled Kari Oru; while there is also a translation of St John’s Gospel of the Christian Bible published by The Bible Society of Nigeria (2004).

Egberipou and Williamson’s (1994) Ịzọn Tolumọ - Learn Ịzọn is another book of elementary Ịzọn language study. This book is actually prepared for Nigerian university students and members of the National Youth Service Corps who are not native speakers of Ịzọn. The book provides information necessary for lexical and grammatical learning. Lexical learning involves identification of body parts, things such as household wares, trees, economic activities, wildlife, etc. In terms of grammar, the book provides simple declarative, interrogative and imperative sentences as well as negation and greetings. This book neither carries out syntactic analysis of phrases and clauses nor discusses their derivation processes. The purpose and orientation of the work does not necessitate a rigorous syntactic analysis. It does not explain how the sentences are computed or generated in the mind of the native speaker as regards the grammatical functions performed by functional categories in ensuring the derivation of well-formed sentences.

1.3.1 Kay Williamson’s study of the Ịzọn language

In spite of the apparent lack of scholarly works on the language, a book that needs to be discussed is Williamson’s (1969) A Grammar of the Kolokuma Dialect of Ijo. This monograph provides considerable insight into the structural descriptions. It is a publication which Emenanjo and Ndimele (1995) describe as the first book applying transformational grammar on an African language. In this work, Williamson provides descriptions and analyses of the phonology of Ịzọn, its phrase structure rules, verb and noun phrase transformations, as well as sentence transformations and morpho-phonemics in respect of tone and elision. The following sections highlight Williamson’s description of Ịzọn phrases and clauses which falls short of the feature checking processes of recent grammatical theories such as the minimalist program which this present study has adopted in its analyses. The sentence

Under the phrase structure rules, Williamson (1969) identifies that the Ịzọn sentence comprises a noun phrase (NP) and a predicate (P). This means that

S NP + P

as in

6. Ọmịnị kẹnị bịla ẹrị-mị

They an elephant see + Spa

‘They saw an elephant’. (p33)

The pronoun Ọmịnị (they) serves as the subject NP; the remaining part of the sentence serves as the predicate. The predicate constituent is re-written as complementation (Cp1) which is followed most often by a verb phrase (VP), but sometimes by a predicate noun phrase (PNP) or an ideophone phrase (Idp). This is summarized as

P Cpl


7. PNP


The predicate in example (8) therefore is

8. kẹnị bịla ẹrị-mị

an elephant see + Spa

‘saw an elephant’

The predicate in this sense consists of a complementation

9. kẹnị bịla

‘an elephant’

and a verb phrase which is represented by a verb

10. eri-mi

See + pst

In some sentences, the predicate may just be a verb phrase as in

11. Araụ kọkọ bodọụ

She actually come + ipa

‘She has actually come’.

Although Williamson characterizes bodọụ as immediate past tense, it would seem to be more appropriate to describe it as an expression of perfective aspect following Greenbaum and Quirk (1990:57) who describes Aspect as a grammatical category that reflects the way in which the action of the verb is viewed with respect to time. Indeed, the present perfective is said to refer to a situation set at some indefinite time with a period beginning in the past and leading up to the present. Therefore, the verb phrase kọkọ bodọụ in which kọkọ is an adverb modifying the verb bodọụ expresses the present perfective aspect. The enclitic element which expresses perfective aspect is usually non-sensitive to number and therefore could function as ‘has or have’ irrespective of the number status of the subject noun phrase. We illustrate this in

12. Ọmịnị kokobo-dọụ

They actually come + have.

‘They have actually come’

13. Araụ kọkọ bo-dọụ

She actually come + has

‘She has actually come’

It is observed that the word bo-dọụ translates to come + have in [12] above which has a plural subject, and come + has in [13] which has a singular subject. The reason is that verbs do not inflect for number in Ịzọn. This subject is discussed extensively is section 3.4.2. The noun phrase

Williamson (1969) identifies two configurations of a noun phrase in Ịzọn. The first of these is the NP that consists of a noun followed by ideophones such as ‘sẹ’, ‘ò’ or ‘òó’. According to her, these ideophones provide emphatic meaning to the noun. Following this formulation, the structure of the NP is:


14. NP NP + -ò

- òó

This structure of the NP is shown in the following sentences.

15a. ama-sẹ pọtọpọtọ

Town-all muddy

‘The town is all muddy’

15b. erein-ò, wéléwélé

Sky emph bright

The sky/weather is bright (Williamson 1969:41)

The NPs in these examples are ama-sẹ meaning ‘the whole town’ and erein-ò which is translated literally as ‘sky’ but should more appropriately mean ‘the day’ or ‘the weather’.

The second type of noun phrases identified by Williamson is one which consists of what she characterizes as a noun group (NG). This type of noun phrase is optionally preceded by a determiner, or consists of first or second person pronoun which is followed by a noun suffix (ns). These are illustrated in the following phrases.

16. NP [D +] NG or Pro [+ns]

17. bei wárị-mò sé

This house +pl all

All these houses

18. àrị-kụmò

I only

Only I (Williamson 1969:41)

In English, demonstratives and quantification particles are classified as determiners. It is therefore proper to consider both ‘bei’ (this) and ‘sẹ’ (all) in [17] above as determiners.. This means that the NP should have a structure like Det + Noun + Det and both determiners could be optional. The plausible explanation for this structure is to consider the phrase as a recursive DP in which one DP (wárị-mò sé) is embedded within another DP (bei wárị-mò sé). Therefore there are two heads in this ‘complex’ DP. It is not a Split-DP like that in Hausa, as suggested by Amfani (1996). Williamson does not consider functional categories as heads of phrases nor does she take into account Abney’s (1987) characterization NPs as DPs. Functional categories are classes of words (morphemes) which lack descriptive content but carry grammatical properties such as phi-features. This is revealed in the consistent use of the NP notation in the work. Finally, and more importantly, feature checking in the minimalist tradition is not applied in the description of the syntactic structures.

The role of linguistic theory is to explain how the grammar of a language computed in the human Language Faculty of the brain and the mind, two properties of human beings which are often interchangeably assumed to the home of the Universal Grammar by Chomsky (1986, 1995), Radford (2004), and the psychologist, Pinker (1994). The Language Faculty which contains UG is a cognitive component of the brain which stores linguistic information and a computation component which accesses and uses the stored linguistic information to generate an infinite number of well-formed sentences in a particular language. Chomsky (1995:3) reiterates that linguistic theory is to clearly spell out the notion of grammar in the mind of the native speaker which enables him to generate well-formed expressions. Clearly, Williamson does not consider these theories and processes that lead to the generation of well-formed expressions. These gaps could be excused since her study predated Chomsky (1986) and Abney (1987).

In transformational grammar, transformations are derived by moving constituents in the structure derived from phrase structure rules. A transformation can be defined as the mapping of sentences generated by a set of phrase structure rules at the D-structure to the S-structure through the application of transformational rules (cf Pinker 1994:482). Yule (1996:108) agrees that transformations involve the movement of a ‘branch of a tree’ (a phrase marker) away from one part of the tree diagram and attaching it to a different part. Simply put, a syntactic transformation is a process os structural change in a sentence while fundamentally retaining the meaning of the derivation, as in the transformation of an active sentence to a passive form.

In respect of transformations of the noun phrase in Ịzọn, Williamson’s work discussed coordination and subordination as some of the processes of transformations (cf Tomori 1977:69). In Williamson’s postulation, when noun phrases are coordinated, each phrase is followed by the element ‘mo’ which corresponds to the English conjunction ‘and’. In such derived syntactic structures, the first occurrence of the linker ‘mo’ links two noun phrases while the second can be repeatedly applied in order to allow additional phrases. Coordination is illustrated in the examples in (I9).

19 a Iwiri bó-dọụ

Tortoise come + has

‘Tortoise has come’

19b Mbẹléi bó-dọụ

Lizard come + has

‘Lizard has come’

Transformation (co-ordination)

19c. Iwiri mọ mbeléi mọ bó-dọụ

Tortoise and lizard and come + have

‘Tortoise and lizard have come’

The apparent deduction that can be made from the above noun phrase transformation is that when independent clauses are coordinated, the new or derived structure becomes a single simple sentence whereby all the erstwhile subject NPs collectively constitute one compound subject as in (19c). The noun phrase in this generalized transformation is Iwiri mo mbelei mo which means ‘Tortoise and lizard’. In some other transformational processes, a noun phrase (NP) can be deleted when it is understood from the context. Sentence transformations, in another dimension, according to Williamson, fall into two large groups, namely, those which involve re-arrangement of a single string otherwise known as singulary transformations, and those which arise from the linking of sentences together otherwise known as double-base transformation. Coordination as seen in [19] above is an example of double-base transformation.

20a Araụ bo-mi

She come+pst

‘She came’

20b Araụ bo-gha

She come-not

‘She did not come’

Negation is an example of singulary transformation involving re-arrangement of a single string. Negation in Ịzọn is done by the introduction of the ‘-gha’ or ‘-kumo’ morpheme as a suffix of the verb. The negation morpheme also displaces the aspect marker of a verb if there were any. According to Williamson (1969), negation of optative sentences, which are sentences containing a verb in the optative mood expressing a wish, and are translated by ‘let’, ‘may’ ‘should’, etc, are formed by deletion of the aspect marker and change of ‘-a’ negative morpheme to ‘-kumo’ as in [21] below.

21a Tọbọụ-ma mu ngimi

Girl – the go will

‘The girl will go’

21b Tọbọụ-ma mu kụmọ

Girl the go not

‘The girl (should) not go’

21c Arau mu

She go

‘She should go’

21d Arau mu kumo

She go not

‘She (should) not go’

Williamson’s work also explains other types of transformations. These transformations include interrogatives and subordination using relative subordinating conjunctions The verb phrase

The Ịzọn verb phrase in Williamson’s work is characterized as consisting of a verb (V) and an auxiliary (aux); that is

VP V (+ Aux)

It is generally understood that the VP consists of the V-head, an optional auxiliary element and the object of the verb where the verb is transitive. For instance, in [22] below, the VP is not only the verb nadọụ but ‘egberi bị nadọụ’

22. Àrị egbéri bị ná-dọụ

I story the hear + perf

‘I have heard the story’

Transformations could also be derived from linking two source sentences or kernel strings as we have noted earlier. One of the most noticeable features of verb phrase transformations in Ịzọn, according to Williamson (1969), is the tendency to combine several verbs in one verb phrase, and most of these combinations involve verbs of motion. The implication is that there is a cluster of verbs not only in transformed structures but also in transformed sentences. These could be characterized as Serial Verb Constructions (SVCs). In such occurrences, one verb serves as an adverbial modifier to the other. Example (23) illustrates this phenomenon where [23c] is a transformation of [23a] and [23b].

23. (a) Tọbọụ bị pá bo-mi

Child the out come + spa

‘The child came out’

(b) Tọbọụ bị bángi pá-mi

Child the run out come/go + Spa

‘The child ran out’

The transformation of (a) and (b) is (c) below.

(c) Tobou bi bángi pá bo-mi

Child the run out come + Spa

‘The child came running out’ (p48)

Williamson’s description of the verb phrase transformation is elucidating as it aptly depicts the phenomenon of verb clusters but the morphological texture of the verb representing ‘came out’ is incongruous with the natural usage and semantic content of the words. ‘Bo’ is an independent/free morpheme and indeed, a word in its own right, meaning ‘come’. ‘Pa’ is an abridged form of the word ‘pábó’ (come out) whose opposite is ‘pá mȕ’ (go out).Therefore, it is inappropriate to isolate ‘pa’ and ‘bo’ as different words when expressing the meanings of come-out and go-out. Related expressions but in semantic opposition to pá bó and pá m ȕ are sụọ bó (come in) and sụọ mu (go-in). Antipodal or directional opposition is involved here. The person who utters the expressions sụọbó and pam ȕ is supposedly inside or within while the speaker of the imperative statements póbó and sụọm ȕ is supposedly outside or without the enclave or abode. These are summarized in the following data.

Suobó - come-in - speaker is inside

Suomù- go-in - speaker is outside

Pábó - come-out - speaker is outside

Pámù - go-out - speaker is inside

Mu - go - general sense

The foregoing sections represent the sparse literature of previous works on Ịzọn language. They constitute a foundation which other researches including the present one could build upon. Ịzọn being a Nigerian language may have morphosyntactic relationships with other Nigerian languages

1.4 The present study

The present study is a morphosyntactic analysis of functional categories in English and Ịzọn languages. This study focuses on identifying and describing functional categories in English and Ịzọn. Functional categories consist of function words which carry grammatical information, and morphological features of content words all of which contribute to the derivation of grammatically acceptable sentences in the two languages. This will lead to distinguishing parametric variations on how English and Ịzọn derive convergent syntactic structures in their i-languages. The i-language is the internalized grammar of particular natural languages.

The locus of UG is that all languages share common universal principles and they have language-particular, idiosyncratic features as well. This study adopts the Minimalist Program (MP) model in carrying out its analysis of the principles and parameters about the two languages under study. Smith (2005:38) explains that the child is born with the principles that determine the general features of language. These principles include the existence of linguistic elements and structures such as lexical, phrasal and clausal categories.

The child also possesses knowledge of linguistic processes such as operations Select, Merge and Move, among others. The concept of parametric variations identifies the idiosyncratic aspects of language which the child acquires on the basis of experience in his linguistic community. Smith (2005:39) further explains that “the locus of typological variations is the set of functional categories such as Determiners, Tense and Complementizer”. This is corroborated by Kayne (2005:4) that syntactic parameters are features of functional elements. Some of the issues this study investigates are derivational processes involving functional elements; how features of functional elements such as the Determiner, Agreement and Tense are checked in the Minimalist tradition; head, Specifier and complement features; as well as the head parameter and wh-parameter. The other issues being investigated are case feature checking and negation.

The minimalist program is adopted in this work for two reasons. Although both the PPT and the MP could be used for a comparative analysis of two natural languages, and the PPT is not necessarily inadequate in this regard, the latter is adopted because it is the more recent of the two theories and could also account for the morphosyntactic features that different i-languages used in their syntax. Chomsky (1995:170) expressed this point by stating that “the more recent principles and parameters approach … takes steps towards the minimalist design”. This design also recognizes the fact that “UG provides a fixed system of principles and an array of valued parameters and that language-particular rules are choices of values for the parameters”. These options, according to him are restricted to functional elements (which consist of the features that are checked in the MP). However, with some aspects of PPT are also used, especially in discussing head parameter or the phrasal structures of the two languages.

1.5 Statement of the problem

Universal Grammar postulates the existence of general principles among all natural languages. UG also acknowledges the existence of idiosyncratic parameters specific to different languages. This means that Ịzọn language also shares in these universal features such as a lexicon or mental dictionary, phrasal and clausal categories, Case, Agreement and Tense features as well as wh-movement. Although, there have been contrastive studies of some Nigerian languages and English, no similar attempt, so far, has been made on Ịzọn and English. Therefore, this study is motivated by the need to understand how much of Ịzọn morphosyntactic features and processes in terms of feature checking correlate to those of English grammar within the framework of linguistic universals. Morphosyntactic features are morphological features which carry grammatical information such as phi- and tense features Cinque and Kayne (2005) argue that what is common to all human languages can hardly be understood in isolation from an understanding of how those languages can differ.

Existing studies on Ịzọn language have concentrated on unilingual application of traditional grammar in constructing grammatical sentences, neglecting a critical description of the ways morphosyntactic features ensure the derivation of convergent syntactic structures. Morphosyntactic features are those morphological features or functions elements such as Agreement, tense and definiteness, wh features as well as the categorial feature of case A contrastive examination of English and Ịzọn provides a proper characterization of these syntactically significant features. This study, therefore, investigates the morphosyntactic features in English and Ịzọn with a view to identifying and describing the universal and idiosyncratic application of the features which constitute parametric variations between the two languages.

Some aspects of syntactic derivations this work discusses are the checking of Tense and Agreement features of DPs and verbs. In English, the verb agrees with the subject of a sentence by inflection of the main verb or the auxiliary verb. In Ịzọn, auxiliary verbs (particularly, the copula) seem to be non-existent. How does the verb, therefore agree with the phi features of the subject DP? Moreover, following Abney’s (1987) DP hypothesis, the determiner is the functional head of a DP, and the head precedes its NP complement. Is this the case in Ịzọn also? If not, why is it different? Carnie (2007) has also posited that because determiners are (functional) heads of DPs, only one of them can project onto a single DP. Ịzọn DPs tend to permit the occurrence of multiple functional heads. The issue to unravel here is the relationship of the determiners to the NP complement in terms of Agr feature checking.

Also intriguing is the nature of wh-movements in languages. What indeed motivates wh-movement and what features do they carry along when they move from one syntactic environment to another? These and other similar issues create parametric variations between English and Ịzọn. This work intends to identify the precise ways in which the nature and syntactic behaviour of functors in English differ from functors in Ịzọn. The study also addresses the implication of identified parametric variations for syntactic theory and second language acquisition. Apart from wh-movement, the study also discussed Agrs- movement in relation to VP-internal hypothesis, Agro-movement for checking of accusative case feature checking as well as Serial Verb Constructions (SVCs)

1.6 Aim and objectives of the study

Universally shared grammatical properties are referred to as principles of universal grammar which manifest in the same way in all languages. In other words, all languages derive their basic or general grammatical principles from a common pool provided by universal grammar. However, in spite of the existence of common principles of grammar in all languages, there are also parameters or grammatical features which are not shared by other languages. The present study is a contrastive analysis of the morphological features and syntactic structures of English and Ịzọn. Ịzọn is a relatively under-studied language whose linguistic structures have not been extensively studied on the basis of the Minimalist Program. Therefore, the aim of this study is to provide a description of Ịzọn and English syntactic structures such as the phrase and the clause, and such operations as movement, mergers and feature-checking. The fundamental objective of the study is to characterize the role of functional morphological elements in the derivation of syntactic structures of English and Ịzọn, Agr relations, Case feature checking, wh-movement, etc. These activities will enable the study to determine the extent of the shared universal principles and parametric variations between the two languages in contrast. The second objective of the study seeks to identify the extent of learning difficulties occasioned by parametric variations and encountered by Ịzọn speakers learning English as a second language and vice versa. The pursuit of the aim and objective stated above will lead to the realization of the objectives of this study.

1.7 Scope of the study

The scope of this study is confined within the precinct of comparative syntax, whereby the nature of feature checking processes of the syntactic derivation of English and Ịzọn are contrasted in order to determine the universal applicability of the syntactic principles propagated in universal grammar. The analysis basically involves morphological features of lexical items especially. Of course, there is no gainsaying that there is a strong interface between morphology and syntax. For instance, Case assignment and checking of Agreement and tense features involve an interaction between morphological features and syntactic processes. The study also takes into cognizance the pedagogical implications of contrastive analysis by establishing the ways in which knowledge of the principles and parameters of universal grammar existing between English and Ịzọn could either interfere with or facilitate the teaching and learning of English by Ịzọn speakers.

1.8 Significance of the study

This study is expected to contribute to the expansion of the frontiers of syntactic theory and practice with the scientific study of the Ịzọn language as it will form a corpus of knowledge about the language within the general discipline of linguistic study especially when it is conducted within a current analytic model such as the Minimalist Program.

The ultimate goal of this study is to characterize the internalized linguistic system or I-language which makes the native speaker proficient in his language. Therefore, the present study is significant for its attempt to reveal the internalized linguistic systems of native speakers of English and Ịzọn within the ambiance of UG. Data on Ịzọn were gathered through observation of and participation in real-life events and interviews with native speakers and recorded in communities in Kolokuma and Opokuma clans in Bayelsa State where the dialect is spoken, and complemented by native-speaker competence of the researcher. Data on English were derived from various books of English grammar. Moreover, it has been suggested that language is a perfect system with optimal design for grammars to interface with other components of the mind, namely, speech and thought (Chomsky 1998, 2002; May 1985; Uriagerika 2000; Radford 2004). Lasnik (2005:79) identifies the interface level of language and sound as Phonological Form (PF) and the interface level between language and meaning as Logical Form (LF). If this notion is to be followed, then this study will provide an understanding of the nature of interaction between the grammars, speech and thought systems of native speakers of English and Ịzọn languages and how their thought systems select varying parameters for their grammars. This implies an analysis of the knowledge of the innate grammatical rules which a competent native speaker possesses of his language.

In a bilingual situation, positive and negative transfers, especially of MT or L1 features to L2 utterances occur (Lamidi 2004). James (1980) has highlighted the significance of contrastive analysis as being a study of bilingual competence and performance of an individual in a foreign language which facilitates teaching and learning of the foreign language. He contends that CA is a device for predicting points of difficulty and some of the errors that L2 learners make. Consequently, by identifying interlinguistic differences between English and Ịzọn, this study will hopefully contribute to the facilitation of teaching and learning of English by Ịzọn speakers.

1.9 An overview of the model of analysis

The Minimalist Program pays attention to categorial and functional features such as T(ense) and AGR(eement), merger and movement operations, as well as levels of projection of a head. It also shows how the computational component works by building up piece by piece the phrasal structures from the lexical resources by the operations of Merge and Move (cf McGilvray 2000:216).

The principles and parameters of languages could also be distinguished between languages using techniques of Minimalist Program such as determining overt and covert movement and the interpretability of morphological features. Therefore, this theory is suitable for our analysis. This research is conducted with the aim of determining how much of the universal features or principles of human language propagated by Chomsky in Universal Grammar are common to both English and Ịzọn languages. Moreover, being a study in contrastive analysis or comparative syntax, the study seeks to also establish what syntactic differences exist between the two languages. Some parameters are the head parameter and wh-parameter, the +interpretable and –interpretable Agreement parameter, which, in other word could be equated to a distinction between strong and weak features. Therefore, the MP is a suitable tool for a comparative study of the morphological features and syntactic processes of English and Ịzọn.

1.10 Summary

This chapter provides a background for the morphosyntactic analysis of functional categories in Ịzọn and English. These are languages in two divergent language families, namely, Niger-Congo (or more recently, Ijoid) and Indo-European respectively. The study is premised on Universal Grammar which postulates that all languages are built on a common grammar with common language universals. The core assumption of UG is that the human brain/mind contains a limited set of rules for organizing language. Different languages make idiosyncratic choices or parameters from these limited set of universal rules. An extant bilingual possesses two i-languages.

The distinction between the brain and the mind in terms of language acquisition and processing is somewhat hazy. Many linguists have used the two terminologies interchangeably, and these include Chomsky (1986:3), Pinker (1994:22) and Jenkins (2000:21). However, if UG is a biological endowment of human beings and if according to Chomsky (1986:2), language is genetically determined, and grows like normal body parts, it is in the physiology of human beings – the Language Acquisition Device (LAD) of the human brain. But the mind is the imaginative and cognitive attribute of humans. On the other hand, the I-language is characterized as being mentalistic: all the lexical items of a language are in the lexicon or mental dictionary (in the mind) of the native speaker/hearer The words in a derivation are selected from this mental dictionary and pushed to the computation or syntactic component of language, the LAD which is in the brain. The brain, therefore, interfaces with the mind in processing language. People of the same language community possess communal linguistic imagination and cognition, and therefore process language by choosing particular parameters available in UG and using the same innate grammatical rules of their language as determined by their collective experience. Every member of the language community possesses competence of the language of his community although the level of accurate and appropriate usage of the language, i.e. performance, may vary among individuals. A study of language, therefore, is a study of the internalized grammar of a particular language.

This chapter has also discussed the pioneering work of Williamson (1969) on Ịzọn grammar which provides ways in which Ịzọn syntactic structures are derived. The aim of this study is to identify areas of parametric variations between English and Ịzọn. It is believed that a comparative study of these languages would reveal the general principles of language or language universals shared by them, and the parameters which differentiate them. Such a study would provide useful hints on how the learning of English by an Ịzọn speaker could be facilitated. Ultimately, the study contributes to the expansion of the frontiers of linguistic knowledge.


2.1 Introduction

In Chapter One, the background for the morphosyntactic analysis of functional categories in English and Ịzọn languages was established. The objective of the research was stated as the identification and characterization of specific parametric or interlingual variations that exist between the two languages. The study is predicated on the postulations in Universal Grammar in respect of language universals and language-specific parameters. Some previous studies on the subject were reviewed especially Williamson (1969) A Grammar of the Kolokuma Dialect of Ịzọn which is basically a description of Ịzọn syntax.

In this chapter, we discuss the theoretical basis of this study. Contrastive analysis is both a synchronic and diachronic study of linguistics involving two languages. In one dimension, it is synchronic if the analysis is a comparison of existing linguistic structures of two languages at a particular period. On the other hand, it is diachronic if the contrastive analysis is a process, a psychological process of studying how a monolingual individual becomes bilingual by studying a second language. Odlin (1989) shares this view that in diachronic linguistics, the interest of the linguist lies in the process of bilingualisation of the individual.

Some important concepts of sociolinguistics are also discussed in this chapter. These include concepts of languages in contact, bilingualism and multilingualism, transfer and interference theories within the ambit of the theory of contrastive analysis. Some of the syntactic concepts and theories that are discussed are the Chomskyan theory of grammar from Standard theory through Government and Binding (GB), Principles and Parameters Theory (PPT) to the Minimalist Program. The issues within syntax that are discussed involve projection principle, transformational processes of NP-movement (e.g. Agrs and Agro), Wh-movement in wh-questions and, relativization, auxiliary inversion in yes/no questions, Verb-movement and negation. The discussion extends to X-bar, Theta and Case theories as well as feature checking of the Minimalist Program. These transformations are selected because parameters can be determined from them.

2.2 Languages in contact and bilingualism

There are two broad dimensions about languages coming into contact. A contact situation arises whenever there is a meeting of speakers who do not share the same language and who have the need to communicate with each other (Odlin 1989; Romaine 2001:576). The other dimension is that two or more languages are said to be in contact if they are used alternatively by an individual and in which case, the individual (and not the languages themselves) are the locus of the language contact situation. In almost all cases of language contact, the language of superior influence tends to dominate the other(s) whose speakers then find it expedient or are compelled to learn the dominant language. This scenario is a vivid characterization of the situation in most African countries, including Nigeria, where the indigenous languages were deprived and relegated to the background (Adegbite 2003). Consequently, the indigenous languages lost their pre-eminent position to colonial languages, such as English, French, German and Portuguese. This situation is corroborated in Romaine (2001:576) who explains that

Some of the connections between individual and societal bilingualism become evident when we consider some of the reasons why certain individuals are or become bilingual. Usually, the more powerful groups in any society are able to force their language(s) upon the less powerful.

Usually, the result of such imposition of foreign languages was the transfer of the linguistic features of the indigenous language (L1) to the foreign language (L2) as well as borrowing of words by the indigenous language.

2.3 Bilingualism

As earlier hinted above, language contact situation is a veritable source of bilingualism. There is a general understanding that bilingualism is ‘the ability of an individual to communicate in two languages’ (Haugen 1974, Romaine 1995), the ability to use two languages with equal or nearly equal fluency (Fabbro 2001) or the normality of speaking and using more than one language (Beardsmore 1986). Adegbite (2003:153) summarizes the various definitions of bilingualism as the concept of having two languages, and multilingualism as the concept of having more than two languages. Romaine (2003) explains that bilingualism (and multilingualism) exists within the cognitive systems of the individual as well as in families, communities and countries

A distinction is usually made between individual and societal or group bilingualism. Individual bilingualism is defined as the condition of an individual’s possession of linguistic competence in more than one language while societal bilingualism refers to the co-existence of more than one language in a community. Apart from these two typologies of bilingualism, Haugen (1974) has also identified coordinate bilingualism on the one hand, and compound or subordinate bilingualism on the other. When two or more languages co-exist distinctly without merging in a society, or when an individual alternatively uses two languages with appreciably corresponding amount of proficiency or competence, the languages are said to be coordinate, and a situation of coordinate bilingualism exists. However, where there is some form of merging, a compound or subordinate bilingualism subsists.

2.3.1 Bilingualism in Nigeria

Multilingualism is a situation in which more than two languages are alternatively spoken in a language community or by an individual. Nigeria is a multilingual country, because of the existence of a multiplicity of indigenous language. Indeed, many linguists, including Hansford et al, 1976, Akindele and Adegbite (1991), Wolff (2000), Egbokhare (2001), Ogunsiji (2001), and Oyetade (2001), have asserted that about 400 indigenous languages exist in Nigeria. The ‘linguistic ecology’ of Nigeria is further compounded by the presence of some exoglossic languages such as English, French, and Arabic. Of these exoglossic languages, Banjo (1969) and Akindele and Adegbite (2000) reaffirm that English serves not only as official and national language but also functions as the language of education, of business and commerce as well as the language of internal and external communication. Indeed, in Nigeria, English is the language of upward social mobility while Pidgin complements the indigenous languages and English for communication purposes especially in cities in the Niger Delta area such as Port Harcourt, Calabar, Warri, Sapele and Benin, as well as in other major cities of the country (Oyetade, 2001:252)

In this congested linguistic ecology, it is expected that so much cross-linguistic influences do occur. For instance, Bamgbose (1995:11) delineated some major linguistic influences of English on Nigerian languages as the existence of a large vocabulary of English in the indigenous languages in the form of ‘loans or loan translations’. In a similar manner, indigenous languages have also influenced the English language as it has absorbed some loan words from these languages into its vocabulary. Some of such loan words as identified by Ogunsiji (2001:160) are baba (king), dodo (fried plantain), seriki, megida, obi (royal titles) and ogbono (a type of soup ingredient).

Although, the exact time of the advent of English in Nigeria seems to be shrouded in mystery, Elugbe and Omamor (1991) are of the view that Nigeria was already in contact with Europe as early as 1469. According to them, the first contact situation between a Nigerian population and a European group was between the Portuguese and the coastal peoples of the Niger Delta and that the English became the effective trading partner of Nigeria from the beginning of the 17th century (Elugbe and Omamor 1991:8; Banjo 1996:2). The English introduced and implanted the English language through commerce and later through missionary work and education.

A greater impact was however made by the agency of religion which could be said to have firmly implanted the English language in Nigeria. In addition to commerce and religion was the colonial policy. Akindele and Adegbite (1999:46) aver that “…English has become a Nigerian language. The language has become an invaluable legacy of the British which has provided Nigerians with yet another means of expressing their culture”.

2.3.2 Linguistic consequences of bilingualism

Linguistic study has established the fact that natural languages conform to some general principles or design. This implies that every human being possesses some knowledge of how language is structured and what they do. This knowledge of the general principles of language is what Chomsky has dubbed Universal Grammar. Nevertheless; languages differ in a number of ways. McDonough (2002:57) has specified some of the differences as:

a) the order of basic units of verb, subject, object
b) the order of nouns and pronouns
c) the ways in which sentences are linked together to make relative clauses,
d) The position of the main ‘head’ noun in a noun phrase, and
e) The ways by which they divide up time relations in their tense systems.

As a result of the micro-differences between languages, the learning of a second language becomes a major cognitive task.

The effects of bilingualism and multilingualism are manifested at different levels of language. These are the levels of phonology, grammar, lexicon, pragmatics and discourse. According to Clyne (2000:311), by a normative definition of bilingualism, linguists expect ‘bilinguals to be double monolinguals’. This means that they are expected to possess equivalent level of competence in both languages and thus were not expected to mix the linguistic systems of both languages when using either of them at any particular time. Nevertheless, in the light of performance realities, researchers have observed significant cross-linguistic influences, especially lexical borrowings, phonological, structural and pragmatic interferences. Lexical items are borrowed or transferred where exact equivalents do not exist in the learner’s L1. Phonological integration and replacements also occur when certain sound sequences are non-existent in the learner’s L1. Clyne explains further that contact situations may also cause grammatical change, for instance, from subject-object - verb structure to subject-verb-object structure. Other major forms of linguistic impact of contact situations are the well-known code-switching and code-mixing.

2.4 Contrastive analysis

Contrastive analysis has been an old field of bilingual studies. One of the earliest published works in this area of study was that by Grandgent in 1892 entitled German and English Sound Systems. The field, however, is said to have lacked prominence and significance until Weinreich’s (1953) publication of Languages in Contact. This work is said to have inspired other publications such as Haugen’s (1956) Norwegian Languages in America and Lado’s (1957 ) Languages Across Cultures. Both of Haugen’s and Lado’s works are studies in migrant bilingualism, and are generally regarded as the parents of modern contrastive analysis. Contrastive analysis is generally defined as the systematic study of pairs of languages with a view to identifying their differences and similarities. Sajaavara (2000:140), for example, characterizes contrastive analysis as an area of comparative linguistics that is concerned with comparing two or more languages or subsystems of languages in order to determine the differences and similarities between them. James (1980) however points out that CA is more concerned with the differences existing between languages than their similarities.

Modern contrastive analysis is carried out with the goal of producing effective foreign language (FL) teaching materials through scientific description of the distinctive features of L1 and L2 to be taught. The general principles of CA involve two steps, namely, description and comparison of linguistic feature. Contrastive linguists first describe the linguistic features of a second language learner’s L1 and L2, and then proceed to compare these features. Following this explanation, it becomes obvious that the goal of CA would appear to be pedagogical. Its aim is the facilitation of learning of a second or foreign language. Following this inclination towards pedagogy, the goal of CA is generally said to belong to psychology while its techniques are linguistic. Lado (1957) asserts that the degree of difference between the two languages correlates with the degree of learning difficulty, and that similarities between languages provided facilitation of SL learning.

Two main types of contrastive analysis have been identified by linguists (Sajaavara 2000:141). These are theoretical and applied CA. Theoretical CA studies produce extensive accounts of the differences and similarities between languages that are being contrasted which add to the information about the characteristics of individual languages or about linguistic analysis in general. Theoretical CA is not necessarily a pedagogical instrument but is an intrinsic exercise in linguistic analysis. In contrast, the prediction of learner’s difficulties is the main concern of applied CA. This orientation of applied CA, then, according to Waudbaugh (1970), cited in Sajaavara (2000:142) is called “the strong hypothesis of contrastive analysis”. Its aims are basically pedagogical. However, there has been serious criticism on the validity of the predictive powers of CA. The Contrastive Analysis Hypothesis claimed that all the errors made in learning the L2 could be attributed to 'interference' by the L1. However, this claim could not be sustained by empirical evidence that was accumulated in the mid- and late 1970s. It was pointed out that many errors predicted by CA were inexplicably not observed in learners' L1 and some uniform errors were made by learners irrespective of their L1 (Elllis 1994). This meant that CA could not predict learning difficulties, and was only useful in the retrospective explanation of errors. These developments weakened the appeal of Contrastive Analysis. This led to the emergence of error analysis (EA) as an alternative approach to second language learning whereby the analyst classifies learner’s errors. CA was thus assigned an explanatory role.

In spite of the criticism from proponents of error analysis, CA has continued to be a useful tool in second language learning and cannot be ignored. The nature of CA may be said to be microlinguistic, considering the fact that its main concern is the description of the formal codes of L1 and L2 without reference to the functions and contextual variables of the codes. The contrastive analyses carried out in this study follow this path, and is tilted towards theoretical CA.

2.5 Linguistic models of contrastive analysis

Languages may be contrasted by using different linguistic analytical models. Four of such analytical models used as tools for contrastive analysis, according to James (1980), are ‘universal and are necessary and sufficient as a basis for the description of any language’ The following are identified by James as models of analysis:

i) Structural grammar model
ii) Contrastive generative grammar model
iii) Case grammar model, and
iv) Transformational generative grammar model

2.5.1 Structural grammar model

Structural grammar is a model expounded by Bloomfield in 1933, and was used by linguists such as Fries, Lado and Harris (who are all structural grammarians) to measure the differences in grammatical structure and to establish maximum differences that existed between any two language systems. The tool of structural grammar was the immediate constituent analysis of Scale and Category Grammar, the precursor of Systemic Functional Grammar. Within the Scale and Category Grammar, language was organized in taxonomy of ranks which consisted of immediate constituents. The category of unit was utilized to analyze given constructions. For example, a sentence could be reduced to its barest constituents as shown in [24] below.

[24] Ebitimi is the clever boy whom everybody loves

Ebitimi is the clever boy whom everybody loves

noun phrase clause

predicate clause



This taxonomic system of analysis, according to James (1980:37), is ontogenetic because consideration is not given to meaning; it hinges strictly on the notion of distribution of elements. He explains that the units of grammar that enter into the description in a contrastive analysis are the sentence, clause, phrase, word and morpheme. This is normal since it is the formal structures of languages that are being compared. In structural grammar, four categories are readily used as important tools of interlingual comparison and contrastive analysis. These are unit, structure, class and system. The structural model of linguistic analysis confines itself to descriptions of surface structure such as the devices of form and arrangement. Its strongest point, therefore, is the ability to reduce a sentence to its barest constituent elements.

2.5.2 Contrastive generative grammar

The Contrastive Generative Grammar model (CGG) was propounded by Kzeszowski (1979) in reaction to the inadequacies of the structural and Transformational Generative Grammar models. These models were used to conduct contrastive analysis as a phased endeavour that involved independent analyses or description of the two languages after which the results from both analyses were juxtaposed for comparison and contrast. Kzeszowski’s (1979) contention is that the descriptive phase of CA was a mere preliminary, rather than an integral part of it. He also faulted the comparative phase as being determined by input in the form of two independently executed descriptions.

Kzeszowski’s (1979) proposition therefore is that CA would be more satisfactory if L1 and L2 structures were generated from some common base and were compared and contrasted during the process of generation. Contrastive Generative Grammar was described as having a vertical approach to CA which placed emphasis on a single bilingual grammar (of the individual) as against classical CA’s two monolingual grammars being compared. CGG has also been criticized on the grounds that it placed excessive premium on extant bilingualism in disregard of certain factors that may prevent a person from becoming bilingual The argument is that there can hardly be a balanced bilingual who possesses equal competence in both languages

2.5.3 Case Grammar

The cardinal assumption of Case Grammar Theory is the claim that two types of deep structures exist. One of these deep structures is called ‘infrastructure’ which underlies the surface structure of any particular language. It is useful for the explanation and resolution of instances of ambiguity and synonymy between pairs of sentences in that language. The other type of deep structure is ‘profound structure’. While ‘profound structure’ is assumed to be universal, ‘infrastructure’ is said to be language specific. The existence of universal linguistic categories such as Noun, Verb, Noun Phase, subject, object, and so on, enables the contrastive analyst to compare and contrast the idiosyncrasies of L1 and L2 on the same (profound) deep structure.

The cases are Agentive (A), Objective (O), Instrumental (1), Dative (D) and Locative (L). ‘Verbs’ in case grammar, according to Blake (2001) are classified according to the case-specified nouns they can co-occur with. Below is an example on the verb ‘open’. Its classification depends on the kind of case combination that co-occurs with the subject noun (or NP) as in

25(i) The door opened (objective case)

(ii) John opened the door (agentive + objective)

(iii) The wind opened the door (instrumental + objective)

(iv) John opened the door with a chisel (agentive +objective +instrumental)

(James (1980:56)

A subtle similarity exists between examples (25iii) and (25iv). The NP ‘a chisel’ in (25iv) is case-marked by a preposition ‘with’ which allows it to be classified as instrumental case. Similarly, ‘the wind’ in (25iii) is also in the instrumental case but does not appear or co-occur with a preposition as does ‘a chisel’ in (25iv). This is because ‘the wind’, though is marked as instrumental case at the profound deep structure, appears as the surface subject of the sentence and therefore, has to shed its case-marking preposition. Otherwise, (25iii) would have been,

26. The door was opened by the wind.

James (1980:58) identifies some advantages of Case Grammar as the following.

i. A pair of sentences of L1 and L2 with different surface structures can be traced to a common deep single case configuration
ii. Understanding Case positions in different languages could be a source of facilitation of second language learning

These advantages notwithstanding, there are also some weaknesses that have been identified in the Case grammar approach. The main criticism seems to be the inadequacy of the number of cases to adequately account for the differences in subject selection possibilities in some cases. This inadequacy makes it necessary to continue to generate and add more cases

None of these analytical models is specifically used in this study although each of them provide pertinent insight to the task of CA.. CGG is not relevant for its emphasis on a single bilingual grammar since prefect coordinate bilingualism is practically unattainable. Case Grammar is more relevant in resolving structural ambiguity. Moreover, this work is primarily concerned with structural similarities and differences. Furthermore, none of these models considers linguistic features of functional elements.


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A Morphosyntactic Investigation of Functional Categories in English and Izon
University of Ibadan
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morphosyntactics, morphology, english, izon, language, universal grammar
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Dr Odingowei Kwokwo (Author), 2012, A Morphosyntactic Investigation of Functional Categories in English and Izon, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/314755


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