Negation In Kofyar Language – Complete project material



This chapter will examine the general background of the study and described the speakers of the language in respect of their historical background and socio-cultural profile.  It also, introduces us to the genetic classification of Kofyar, the scope and organization of the study together with the theoretical framework.  The method of data collection and analysis, as well as the review of the chosen framework are also examined. The work studies negation in Kofyar, a language spoken in Qua’anpan local government area of Plateau state.  The speakers of Kofyar spread to seven districts due to their large population in Doemak, the main village.  The Kofyar people are administered by village heads and they are assisted by their chiefs. Therefore, the aspects covered in this study are the sound, tonal and syllable inventories of the language, as well as some syntactic concepts such as phrase structure rules, basic word order, lexical categories and sentence types.

Transformational processes like focusing, relativization and question formation are discussed.

1.2   Historical Background of Kofyar People

According to oral history Kofyar, people of the present day of Plateau state of Nigeria are from Jukun origin.  The ancestral home of the Kofyar people was ‘Kofyar payer’ while their ancestor in Dafyar, who descended from the eastern part of the country. Dafyar gave birth to twelve children in Kofyar among which were twins (Dajan and Dajin) Dajin went to Namu while Dajin stayed in Doemak meaning “my movement ends here”. Kofyar language has the following dialects Kofyar (Kwong), Kwagallak (Kwa), (Kwalla), Dimmuk (Dimuk, Doemak, Mirriam, Mernyang) Bwol (Bwal, Mbol) Gworam (Giverom, Goram), Jipal (Jepel, Jibyal).

The speakers are approximately 50,000. The population known as the Kofyar actually comprises three different ‘tribes as designated by British Colonial officers: the Doemak or Dimmuk, Mernyang and Kwalla.

However, the three groups have a common language, economic pattern and origin (Nigeria census, 2005).  The speakers are officially known as Kofyar people but locally referred to as Koffiar. The diagram below shows the geographical location of the Kofyar people on the map of Qua’anpan local government.

1.3   Socio-cultural profile of Kofyar People

This part focuses on the socio-cultural background of Kofyar speakers in the aspects of their occupation, religion, festivals dressing, food and drink.

1.3.1 Occupation

Going by oral history, an average Kofyar man or woman is basically a professional farmer and they make hunting their secondary occupation. They produce both cash and food corps, among which are yam, rice, peanuts, pearl millet and sorghum e.t.c

1.3.2 Religion

Following oral tradition, Kofyar people practice three main religions: Christianity, African traditional religion with few Muslims. Those who practice the traditional religion worship a god called “Koemgwar” god that expose evil doer, they worship and make sacrifice to it through the oracle called “Koem Toeng Muaan”.  The Na’an is also known as Almighty God amidst the Christians.

1.3.3 Festivals

According to oral history, Kofyar people have a lot of cultures one of their festivals is the “Ka’atar” festivals. This is celebrated for thanking the gods for bountiful harvest.  The “Kwa kwa” festival is done by using the stocks of the whole land to thank the gods. Kofyar people also celebrate “Koemtoeng” festival.  It is done in celebration of mystical powers that are built in the Kofyar man.

1.3.4   Marriage

Following oral tradition, the people have a major social institution which is marriage institution, the first step is a proposal made by the groom’s family to the bride’s family.  If the proposal is accepted, the payment of dowry follows.  The bride is called Namwar while the groom is called Misnamwar.  The people will go to the bride groom’s place to celebrate after paying the price.

1.3.5 Best Food and Best Drink

Going by oral history, Kofyar people have their best food to be pounded yam and their best soup as “took mang” made of pumpkin leaves.  Their best drink are muous, wa’ar goebung, wa’ar dachant.

1.3.6  Burial rites

According to oral history, Kofyar people celebrate the final funeral night of a great person and it is done by slaughtering a horse and it is referred to as “ma’ap” in Kofyar language.

1.3.7   Dressing

Following oral history, in the ancient days, Kofyar people put on animal skin as their cloth, but now they dress to fit the western style.

1.3.8 Respect

Going by oral tradition the people express respect to each other most especially from younger ones to the adult by squatting also when elders are speaking children does not interrupt.


The importance of a genetic classification of a language is to discover the origin of the language and show its link with other languages. Kofyar language belongs to the Benue-Congo group, which is a sub-family of Niger-Kordofanian (Williamson, 1982:106).


The main aim of this research work is to investigate in details the types of negative strategy that exist in Kofyar language. Negation study in Kofyar will be on sentence negation.  We shall also study negation in respect of transformational processes which involve modification of constituents.  This long essay is divided into five chapters, the first chapter is the introductory chapter which will contain the general introduction of the research work, the historical background of the people, socio-cultural profile of the speakers,  genetic classification, methods of collection and analysis of data and the theoretical framework used.

Chapter two presents a phonological view of Kofyar language and the basic syntactic concepts like phrase structure rules, basic word order, lexical categories and sentence types.

Chapter three is on the negation of Kofyar language, while chapter four introduces us to transformational processes like focus construction, relativization and question formation. Chapter five summarizes and concludes the work.


The theoretical framework to be employed in this research project is government and binding theory.  Government and binding theory is a model of grammar propounded and developed by Noam Chomsky.

This is done with the aim of covering universal grammar that is the system or principles, conditions and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages. The government and binding theory is an interlocking arrangement of principle and parameters which interact in many different ways to the extent that no part can be considered in isolation.  Therefore, negation as an aspect of syntax will be analyze under the government and binding theoretical framework.


The method of data collection is contact method or informant method.  The data was collected orally from the native speaker of Kofyar language. The model of data elucidation is bilingual, the researcher used the English language in asking for the data from the Kofyar speaker, the speaker in turn provided the Kofyar response.  The data were collected through the use of frame technique and the Ibadan word-list of 400 basic items.

Below are pieces of information about the informant.

Name: Mr. Paul Damar

Sex:  Male

Age:  30 years

Occupation: Teaching

Home town:  Doemak

Number of years spent in Kofyar: 30 years

Other languages spoken: Hausa and English language

1.7.1  Method of Data Analysis

To have an efficient data analysis in this work, all data received are accurately transcribed. The morphemes that made up the phrases and sentences are also carefully glossed.  The data collected are worked upon according to how they are used by the native speakers without imposing any extraneous rules or norm of correctness.

1.8   Brief review of the chosen framework

The framework adopted in this research project is the government and binding theory. This theory captures the similarities that occur between different categories of lexical phrases by appointing the same structure to them rather than having different phrase structure rules from vps, Nps and pps.

Government and binding theory deals with transformation.  According to Radford (1988:419) transformation is the rule that deals with the act of changing the structure of one sentence to another structure through the concept of movement known as move-alpha (move-). This theory, i.e. government and binding theory was developed to correct the lapses in transformational generative grammar.

Cook (1988:86) states that, the government and binding theory is an interlocking arrangement of principles and sub-theories which interact in many different ways to the extent that no part can be considered in isolation.


X-BAR THEORY                                PROJECTION PRINCIPLES

D-STRUCTURE                                 LEXICON

Move-                                     θ – THEORY

BOUNDING                        (θ CRITERION)


(Case filter)


PHONETIC FORM                                                 LOGICAL FORM

Source: Sells (1988:25) and Cook (1988:33)

In the diagram above, no part can be considered in isolation from the rest.  Government and binding theory posits seven sub-theories of the theory of grammar.  The structures generated at various levels are constrained by a set of theories, which define the kind of relationships possible within a grammar.


  1. X-bar theory
  2. Theta (θ) theory
  1. Binding theory
  2. Bounding theory
  3. Government theory

1.8.1  X-bar theory

Lamidi (2000:150) states that x-bar theory is based on the theory of phrase structure. It defines the nature of the types of syntactic categories available in any language. The main point of x-bar theory is that each of the major lexical categories like (noun, verb, preposition and adverb) is the head of a structure dominated by a phrasal node of the same category, we have (noun as Np, verb: Vp, preposition; pp, and adjective: Ap). In essence, it defines possible phrase structure configuration in language. For instance, the phrase ‘the bad man’  consists of a head ‘man’ while ‘kick the ball’ consists of a head ‘kick’.

The x-bar theory projects from the ‘core projection level to the maximal projection level’. This is called projection principle.

Projection Principle

Chomsky (1981:29) writes that ‘representation at each syntactic level is projected from the lexicon, in that, they observe the sub-categorization properties of lexical items: projection principles requires lexical properties to be projected to all levels of syntactic representation i.e. a lexical item projects from its zero bar level to one (single) bar level, which is optional, then to double bar level.  The zero bar level is referred to as the core projection level, the single bar level is referred to as the intermediate projection level and the double bar level is referred to as the maximal projection level.

The illustration is shown below:

XII   Maximal projection level

XI  Intermediate projection level

Xo  Core projection level

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




Xo                                   Comp

The lexical entry projects onto the structure of the sentences and its influence ceases at the double bar level. Another characteristic that makes generalization rule possible in x-bar theory is the concept of head.  The notion of head of a phrase is called the principle of head parameter.

The Principle of Head Parameter

The principle of head parameter specifies the order of elements in a language.  The basic assumption of head parameter is that sentences may be broken into constituent, phrase and structural grouping of words.  Stockwell (1981:70) states that the parametric variation between languages according to whether the positions of the head is first or last with respect to its complement, is called head parameter.  In other words, all phrases have heads of a related and possible complement along with some others like its specifiers.  Lamidi (2000:105) says that the head is the keyword in a phrase and the word can be pre or post modified (before or after).  In essence, the head of a phrase is very important in x-bar theory and the parameter that distinguished languages that incorporate the head of the phrase to the right or left of the head is known as head parameter.  That is, head first:-

X à Xo Complement


Xo                                   Comp

or head last

XI à   Complement Xo


Comp                                      Xo

To accommodate specifiers, it requires a second level of structure. Putting the levels of specifier and complement together, the order of this head and specifier could be set separately from the order of the head and complement. Thus:

XII à Spec XI

XI à Xo Comp




Xo                                   Comp

All we have been saying on x-bar theory (phrase structure) are lexical phrases and the type of head in lexical phrases is related to word classes.  Lexical phrases invariably have heads that are lexical categories linked to lexical entries.  Another type of phrases is the functional phrase.  Functional phrases are the phrases that are built around functional heads.  Functional phrases invariably have heads that are linked to functional elements.  The functional phrases include inflectional phrases (Ip). Cook (1996:150) states that, inflectional phrases are built around functional heads, which may contain lexical materials such as morphological endings but are not required to contain lexical materials.  The top levels of the sentence have been unified with the rest of x-bar theory.  The maximal level of a sentence is called inflection phrase (Ip) in x-bar theory.  Ip consists of specifier and II, II in turn contains I and a complement.


Ip à  Spec II

I à I Comp




I                                     Comp

1.8.2 Theta (θ) theory

Kristen (1991:493) defines q-theory as the theory that deals with the functional relationship between a predicate and its arguments; a predicate is said to assign theta roles to each of its arguments.  It works with the assignment of what Chomsky calls ‘thematic roles’ such as agent, patient (or theme), beneficiary e.t.c. It is assumed that the theta-roles are assigned to the complements of lexical items as a lexical property.  The Np complements (direct object) is assigned the role of patient, the PP complement is assigned the role of locative while the subject Np or the sentence is assigned the agent role.

The important role of q-theory is the q-CRITERION which requires each thematic role to be uniquely assigned i.e. each constituent denoting an argument is assigned just a q-role and each q-role is assigned to just one argument denoting constituent. For example:

Tolu went to the school by bus



Spec                               I1


Np                        I                            Vp


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