Aspects Of Uneme Morphology – Complete project material



This long essay deals with the study of Morphology in Uneme. i.e the study of how words are formed in Uneme language.

The speakers of Uneme are found in Edo state. The language speakers can also be found in Okene area of Kogi State. The other names for the people are Uneme Ineme and Ileme.

According to the informant, it was believed that the name Uneme was derived from Oba Eweka’s first child who happened to be a female named       INE-EMI meaning “it is not forbidden to have a female as ones first child” whom is believed to be the mother ancestor of the people.

According to Hakeem (2003: 279), Edo State is found in the mid-western part of Nigeria. The Uneme people inhabit a number of villages in the northern and south-eastern part of Kukuruku division. The speakers of Uneme are found in the northern part of Edo state which is located between latitudes 6⁰ 45 N –  7⁰ 35 N and longitudes 5⁰ 55 E,  6⁰ 45 E. Akoko Edo is bounded in the North by the present Kwara state and parts of the present Kogi state, in the north-west by the present Ondo state in the south-east by both Etsako west and Etsako north in the south-west by Owan.

Etsako local government central is located in the heart of Etsako land. It is bounded in the west by the Etsako West Local Government, in the east by Etsako East Local Government in the north by Okene and in the south by Esan territory.

Also according to Aigbokhaleode (1991:8), Uneme North consists of the following communities Uneme Akpama, Uneme Nekhua, Uneme Ekpedo Uneme Erhurun and Uneme Aki-Osu. While Uneme in the south are Uneme Uzanu Uneme Imiava, Uneme Anegbette, Uneme Udochi Uneme Oghomezie andUneme Ukpekho. This chapter being the introductory chapter will be discussing the historical background of the speakers, the geographical location, the people, Genetic classification, etc.


According to my informant the Uneme people originated from Ile-ife in Osun state. There was a time the Benin’s did not want the natives to rule them so they sent a message to Oduduwa the ruler of Ile-ife appealing to him to send one of his sons to be their ruler. The request was granted and Prince Oranmiyan in the company of his friend Ogundare was sent to Benin. In Benin, Oranmiyan got married to Esimonde who bore him a son named Prince Eweka.

Oranmiyan continued ruling the Benins until the period that he discovered that the Benins were difficult to rule. When Oranmiyan found out that they were difficult to rule; he returned to Ile ife leaving Ogundare and Prince Eweka who later became heir to the throne with the title Oba Eweka 1 of Benin.

Ogundare, Oranmiyan’s friend also got married to a Benin woman who gave birth to a child named Ogun. Ogun also got married and gave birth to a son named Ogunola. Prince Eweka also became matured and got married and gave birth to a beautiful girl as the first child named INI-EMI, whom has been mentioned earlier to be the mother ancestor of the Uneme people. It was from her name the Uneme people got the name Uneme from. Ogundare’s great grandson Ogunola then got married to INE-EMI who now gave birth to the descendants of Uneme people.

The Uneme people are immigrants from Benin. They left Benin because of the problem that arose as a result of chieftaincy rift between two brothers in the royal house of Benin kingdom, which led to a war that was so tense that everybody started fleeing.

The main Uneme speakers are the Anegbette, Uzanu, Udochi, and Ologua. According to the Informant, we were told that these people that spoke Uneme all came from the same father and mother before they broke up into different communities that spoke Uneme. Each community now developed into a larger community which now lived as towns. These towns as mentioned earlier are Uzanu, Anegbette, Udochi and Ologua.

These four brothers migrated from Benin because of the war between the two brothers that wanted to become king in Benin. The four brothers settled in a place called Ugbebu. As these four brothers who formed an independent community grew bigger, there arose a quarrel between two of the brothers Anegbette and Uzanu. As a result of this quarrel, the Uzanu had to move to Etsako East and Anegbette to Etsako Central. The war continued for a longer period and Uzanu was having the upper hand and along the line one of the Anegbette said they should send him to Bida to the Nupe people for assistance. The request was granted and the man eventually left, but since there were no vehicles at that time he had to go by foot.

Later on the war at home was settled, meanwhile the man spent years trying to learn the Nupe language, he got married and had children before he was known and allowed to meet the Oba of Nupe. On getting to the king of Nupe, he explained the reason why He was there to see Him. He told the king that some people are fighting his own people (kinsmen) and they needed the assistance of the Nupe warriors in their own war. As said earlier the people at home had settled the war and were no longer fighting, by the time he got home with the Nupe warriors, there was no war to fight. They went to meet Oriola who is the head of the Anegbette then. Oriola said the Uzanu and Anegbette are now friends and can not kill each other again (Oriola is the ceremonial president and the Olotu is the prime minister ) and that there was no need for war again, but the warriors that were brought will not want to go back without anything. process the Nupe warriors told the Anegbette to divide their land into two and the half be given In the to them and that Anegbette should retain the other half, but Oriola refused and said it was not possible, to him the only thing he can do is to release them to go into battle with the Uzanu, but the Uzanu were not ready for war because they were not expecting any war. The invaders came and invaded Uzanu, the invaders were almost prevailing before their king (uzanu) who is known as “Iyema” decided that Uzanu should flee from the portion, so the Uzanu fled and left. Before they could know it the whole Etsako was affected by the invaders and they all fled to different places that’s is why we have the Anegbette where they are now and Uzanu were they are .

1.2 Sociocultural profile

The following could be observed among the Uneme. The language Uneme is used as a       means of communication in the market and it is also used in teaching in primary schools.

  1. Culture:

The Uneme people are united by common traditions of origin. Their traditional craft as smith in their dialects and in other social and cultural features. They are well known for blacksmithing, casting of bronze, ornament, selling and manufacturing of war weapons used for security purposes. In addition to these occupations the southern Uneme engaged in fishing and trading in the Niger creeks while the northern Uneme engage in farming and oil palm production.

The peoples favorite food is pounded yam called ema with melon soup called  usomhikpigba. Their best native attire for women is blouse and wrapper while the men dress in buba and sokoto.

  1. The people:

The people indulge in traditional and religious practices such as sacrifice to ancestors and initiation of boys and girls into manhood and womanhood respectively. They believe in supreme being whom they call “osanobular” meaning God the creator. It is believed that the supreme being cannot be communicated with directly, except through the ancestors who act as link between the supreme being and the people. It is also believed that the Almighty God hears and answers prayer through ones ancestors.

The people of Uneme engage themselves in craft works like blacksmithing, casting of bronze and ornament, selling and production of weapons. They also engage in farming and trading and they also engage in oil palm production and selling of iron implement.


The Uneme people come together to celebrate so many festivals, such as ogun festival Ukpekinimi festival, New yam festival and ukpekema festival.

Ogun festival is the festival of the god of iron while ukpekinimi is the festival of masquerades which is celebrated twenty one days before the new yam festival. The celebration comes up between the month of July and September of every year. Since they are predominantly farmers, this festival precedes the incoming of the new yam. During the celebration, they use the old yam for the celebration after which they are now free to eat the new yam.

The Uneme people also have the burial festival which involves performing a second burial ceremony for their parents most especially the father. This ceremony can happen after so many years that the person had died. If you have not done the second burial of your father you can not attain any title. In the burial you must gather the elders together for the ceremony. This burial is done kindred by kindred every year and you will give the elders some certain amount of money. According to the informant other kindred’s can also attend the second burial ceremony, and they will be served food but will not share out of the money and other things offerd to the elders during the burial. The second burial ceremony is called “orintomi


The Uneme people believe that every man must marry a virgin. When a man marries a new bride and is a virgin the man will mark the teeth by breaking part of the front teeth. Anybody that sees her will know that she is married. This tradition of teeth breaking is called Etsako; that is where the Uneme Local Government name was derived.

During the marriage of the virgin, the girl dresses naked and beads of different kinds are used to cover the girls private parts, Ashids which are gotten from the bush are used to decorate her and a reddish substance called Ume is used to decorate her and brighten her up and with a lot of bead on her head like the Benin people.

This is a systematic way of grouping language that share something in common into the same family.

According to Ruhelen (1991:4-5), a genetic classification is a sub grouping of all relevant languages into Genetic nodes. A genetic node is a group of languages each of which is closely related to others in that group than to any language outside the group.

The Uneme language is grouped with the languages in the Benue Congo where we later end up having Edo and Ghotuo.

Fig 1.1 A chart showing genetic classification of Uneme. Adapted from

  • Scope and organization of the study

This research focuses on the aspects of Uneme Morphology. It attempts to discus the arrangement or combination of words to form sentences in Uneme language. This description will also focus on some of the peculiar features of the language.

The work constitutes five chapters. Chapter one deals with the introductory aspects of the study, that is the sociolinguistic profile, genetic classification scope and organization of the study and the theoretical frame work adopted. The second chapter centers on the basic morphological concepts such as morphemes and its type and Language typology. However considering the significance of phonology to grammatical analysis, a brief description of the phonology of the language is carried out in order to establish the segmental phonemes, the tone inventory and syllable structure in Uneme language.

The third chapter focuses on the discussion of various free and bound morphemes and their function in the language, while the fourth chapter is devoted to the description of observable Morphological processes employed to form words in the language. The fifth chapter which is the last chapter rounds up the study by providing the summary, recommendation and conclusion of the study.

Morphology is a major field of Linguistics which deals with the internal structure of words in a language. There are various theoretical frame works to the study of Morphology which different scholars have been able to use in analyzing morphology. As we all know that languages are different from one another, the internal structure of language can not be seen in the same line. This is why the theories for analyzing morphology are different. Here we are to look at the various theoretical frameworks and look at the one that will be suitable for our analysis. The following are the theoretical framework of morphology.


Hockett (1954) distinguished between two approaches to morphology which he referred to as item and arrangement and item and process. Both are associated with the American structuralist linguistics codified by Bloomfield (1933). The two approaches represent two distinct points of view. Item and arrangement proceed from a picture of each language as a set of elements and the patterns which these elements occur. The item and process picture gives no independent status to the items which arise instead through the construction of the patterns.

Item and arrangement grew out of the structuralist which deals with word analysis, and in particular, with techniques for breaking word down into their morphemes which are items. It deals with the order of structure while item and process has to do with a morphology approach in which complex words result from separation of processes on simpler words. It deals with how rules are employed in analyzing morphemes. Everything that we can express and analyse under item and arrangement can also be analysed under item and process.

According to (Eugene Nidas 1949) Analysis and synthesis are two complementary approaches to morphology, both are needed by linguist for their morphological analysis.

He says the analytic approach has to do with breaking words down and its usually associated with American structuralist linguists. There were good reasons for these linguists dealing with languages they had never encountered before and also there was no written grammar of these languages to guide them. Whichever languages we are studying we need an analytical method that will be independent of the structures we are examining. This is true when dealing with unfamiliar languages.

While the synthesis approach on the other hand is associated with theory than methodology; it involves the theory of construction. The analytic principle can also be known as the principle of morphemic identification.

Principle 1

Forms with the same meaning are instances of the same morpheme. This means that elements that have the same form and the same meaning.

For example in English language.

  1. Break – Breaks
  2. Take – Takes

From the above examples we can see the use of ‘s’ which signifies single morpheme.

Principle 2

Forms with the same meaning but different sound shapes may be instances of the same morpheme if their distribution does not overlap. For example, the regular plural marker in English has several allomorphs – voiceless alveolar fricative /s/, voiced alveolar fricative /z/, schwa plus voiced alveolar fricative /iz/, syllabic alveolar nasal /n/, and schwa/Ø/

  1. Seat /s/
  2. Blade /z/
  1. Ox /n/
  2. Dish /Ø/

Principle 3

Not all morphemes are segmental. This means that not all morphemes can be segmented and be pronounced on their own. They are dependent on other morphemes for their realization.

  1. Run – ran
  2. Steal – stole

Principle 4

A morpheme may have zero as one of its allomorph provided it has a non – zero allomorph. These are morphemes that have zero plural form and the zero plural is an allomorph of the usual plural /z/. This is an analytic procedure, not theoretical point.

For example.

  1. Geese – Goose
  2. Man – Men

Principle 5

Homophone form are identifiable as the same or different morphemes on the basis of distinctly different meaning with related meaning. For example

  1. Bank : a river side
  2. Bank: where money was kept.

Principle 6

A morpheme isolatable if it occurs in

  1. In isolation
  2. In multiple combinations in at least one of which the unit with which it is combined occurs is in isolation or in other combinations.
  • In a single combination provided the element with which it is combined occurs is in isolation or in other combination with unique constitutions.

The above mentioned theoretical frame work will be used in analyzing our data.

1.6    Data collection

The method employed for data collection is the bilingual elicitation approach, involving English and Uneme. The data were elicited with the use of the Ibadan 400 word list which consists of basic list of single words.

Apart from the 400 word list, phrases and sentences in English were translated to Uneme by the Uneme native speaker. The data collected were subjected to analysis, and oral interview was conducted in English and answers were given in Uneme by the informant. The answers to these questions were used in the morphological analysis of Uneme.

Below are some pieces of information about the informant used in this research.

Name: – Pastor Patrick Asekhame

Age: –    54 years

Religion: – Christianity

Marital status: – Married.

Other Languages spoken: – Uneme, English

Local Govt: –        Etsako East

The informant is a native speaker of Uneme language and he has lived there for about 23 years He speaks Uneme and English fluently.

1.7     Data analysis

In this research work the data was collected from the informant both in written and in recording on an audio cassette.

The informant used his fluency in the language. His fluency and competence formed the basis of my choice of him as my informant.


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