Negation In Yeskwa Language – Complete project material



This work deals with negation in Yeskwa Language. Yeskwa is a language spoken in Jema’a local government in Kaduna State and Karu local government (formerly Keffi local government area) in Nasarawa State of Nigeria. The language is also known as Nyanpa. The native speakers call themselves as Nyanpa while they are known and addressed as Yeskwa by the Hausa.

This chapter will also give insight into the historical and sociocultural background of Yeskwa people. It will also situate the Yeskwa language in the genetic classification of languages.

The chapter also contains a discussion of the adopted theoretical frame. Furthermore, the chapter explains the theoretical framework, data analysis and the mode of data collection and introduction of basic syntactic concepts.

1.1     Historical Background of Yeskwa people

Yeskwa language is also known as Nyanpa. Nyanpa is the real name of this language in focus but the Hausa name it as Yeskwa. The Yeskwa people are located in only two different places/areas in Nigeria. These areas are: Jama’a local government area of Kaduna State and Karu local government area of Nasarawa State respectively. The people of Yeskwa migrated from Maiduguri before they finally settled down at their present areas. According to one oral account, it was said that the people took counsel among themselves and they finally agreed to settle at their current area amidst forest then, because the land is fertile for agriculture. It is worthy of note that Yeskwa people are farmers. They produce cash crops and food crops such as Yam, Beniseed, Okro, guinea corn, millet, maize, cassava, vegetable, tomato etc.

At this juncture, it must also be stressed that the word ‘Nyanpa’ is a fusion of two native words with strong meaning each. One of such words is ‘Ay’ which means ‘we branch’ and ‘Anpa’ which means ‘leaf’. Hence, the word ‘Ayanpa’ which is the outcome of the two words (ay and anpa) are strung together to name the community known as Nyanpa. The word ‘ ayanpa’ therefore means ‘ ‘we branch to settle in this bush’.

1.2     Socio-cultural profile of Yeskwa people

This section focuses on the ways of life of the people of Yeskwa with regard to their occupation, marriage system, religion and burial ceremony.

1.2.1  Occupation

The major occupation of the people of Yeskwa is farming. They produce crops such as Beniseed, Asha, yam, cassava, millet, maize, okro, vegetable, guinea corn, soya beans, tomatoes etc.

1.2.2  Marriage system of Yeskwa people

In Yeskwa speaking community, there are many interesting things about their marriage system. One of such interesting things is that, a man can marry twelve (12) to even thirty (30) wives. Since the only occupation that the man does is farming. He marries these women for them to assist him on his farm. These women also give birth to as many children as possible. The products (children) between this man and these women then grow up to become farmers. These Children get mature and end up helping their father on his farm.

Another interesting point to note about Yeskwa marriage system is that two men that are close friends can betroth their two unborn children to each other if one is born male and the other born female. But on the contrary, if the two children are born males they automatically become close friends just as their fathers.


Generally, the Yeskwa people were idol worshippers long before the coming of Christianity and Islam but now the Yeskwa people are made up of Christians, Moslems and idol worshippers with Christians having about eighty percent (80%) of the population while twenty percent (20%) are either idol worshippers or Moslims.


Long before now and even now, the people of Yeskwa people don’t delay in burying their corpse. Whenever a person dies in this community, they send messages to the dead’s relations that are either far or near for them to come around, they waste no time as soon as they are around they bury the dead person instantly without further delay. One amazing thing about how the Yeskwa people conduct their burial service is that as soon as the grave is dug, the corpse is brought near the grave wrapped with white cloth. After prayers have been said for the corpse, the people then proceed to drop the lifeless body into the grave and cover the grave with planks and finally cover the planks with sand without it (sand) touching the corpse’s body.


Genetic classification is a sub-grouping of all relevant languages into a genetic node. The word ‘genetic’ is from the word genesis meaning ‘origin’. In other word, genetic classification is the way we classify all languages that are related into one group, domain or node. A node is defined as a group of languages that are closely related to the other. The essence of genetic classification is as follows:

  1. To affirm that certain languages are related to one another in terms of common ancestors.
  2. To specify how the languages are inter-related.

Yeskwa language is part of the Niger Congo language family which is a sub-family of Niger Kordofanian.

Below is the diagram that shows the Yeskwa language in genetic classification.


Nigerkordofanian      Nilo-sahara                                          Khoisan                        Afro-asiatic

Niger congo                                                                                                                Kordofanian

Westatlantic         Mande                 Gur          Adamawa Eastern      Benue-congo                Kwa


Nungu                                                        YESKWA                                                           Eggon

source: Greenberg Joseph H. (1966) the Africa language structures(2nd ed. With additions and corrections).                1.4     SCOPE AND ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY

This work covers aspects of negation in Yeskwa language and it is segmented into five chapters. Chapter one captures the introductory part of the work dealing with the historical background and socio-cultural profile of the Yeskwa people. The place of Yeskwa in genetic classification is also indicated, it also includes a review of the mode of data collection and analysis together with the review of chosen framework that is, Government and binding theory of syntax known as GB Syntax. Chapter two deals with the phonology of Yeskwa language and some basic syntactic concepts such as phrase structure rules, lexical categories, sentence types, and basic word order. Chapter three focuses on the syntax of negation in Yeskwa language while chapter four deals with various transformational processes attested in Yeskwa such as focus and relativization in relation to negation. Chapter five summaries and concludes the entire work.


The method employed in data collection is informant method. Here, the informant was interviewed and he produced equivalent words from English language to his language (Yeskwa), with the Ibadan 400 – wordlist serving as the main guide. Data were also collected by the use of frame technique.

Below are some information about the informant (language helper):

Name: Mr.  Ole Abdullahi Aminu

Age: 63 years

Sex: Male

Occupation: Farmer

Number of years spent in Yeskwa: 25

Language(s) spoken apart from Yeskwa: Nupe, Hausa and Yoruba.


In this research work, five examples from Yeskwa noun phrase, five examples from verb phrases and prepositional phrases were used. There are also examples from Yeskwa language sentence types: five examples from simple sentence, four examples from compound and two examples from complex sentences. The data collected were used according to how the native speakers used them without imposing any extraneous rule or correction.

1.6     Review of chosen framework

The theoretical framework to be used in this research work is Government and binding theory (GB). Government and Binding theory or GB syntax was proposed by Noam Chomsky in the 1950’s). This theory was derived from the theories of universal grammar which posits multiple levels of representation related by transformational rule (move − alpha). (Sanusi, 1996:21)

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 – α).

Government and Binding theory postulates 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. The sub-theories of Government and binding theory are given below (Cook, 1988:87)

X – Bar Theory

Theta Theory

Case Theory

Binding Theory

Bounding Theory

Government Theory

Control Theory

1.6.1  X – BAR THEORY

According to Haegman (1991), X bar theory brings out what is common in the structure of phrases. For example all phrases are headed by a lexical head which is a zero projection (x°); X−bar theory distinguishes between three types of projection: complements combine with X to form an X’ projection, adjunct, combine with X’ to create a copy of X, and specifier combines with the topmost X to form the maximal projection XP. In other words, X bar theory presents a new approach to phrase structure, making use of the following principles:

XP  spec; X

X    X; compl

In line with these principles, a lexical head is projected into an X, which is represented by N; and the X is in turn maximally projected into an XP, which is represented by NP. In other words, the lexical head noun (N) stands for the variable X while the maximal category NP stands for the variable XP as seen in the following examples:

The teacher



Det                                          N

The                                            teacher

Cook (1988:87) says in X-bar theory, the lexical categories remain the basic symbol. The phrase in which they are incorporated are shown by the addition of bars to the original symbols. This is exemplified below (Lamidi 2001:150)

The house



Spec               N

Det                     N

The                teacher

Lie down


V                ADV

V                   ADV

Lie               down


Sodiq (1992) confirms that theta theory is to determine the semantic relationship between constituents in a structure. To present these relationships, this theory employs two basic principles namely the theta criterion and the projection principle. Let us consider the following example

John kissed Mary

According to theta theory, the above structure is built up on certain semantic relationships. Thus, the NP (John) bears the theta role agent.

Horrocks (1987: 101) states that Ө-theory is concerned with the assignment of thematic roles to sentential constituent. Ө -theory posits that a word can assign a number of different theta role (semantic roles that things play in a sentence, e.g Actor/Agent is for the doer of an action, patient / theme is the thing affected). “the main principle of  Ө – theory is the  Ө – CRITERION which requires each thematic role to be uniquely assigned, i.e each constituent denoting an argument is assigned just one Ө – role and each Ө – role is assigned to just one argument –  denoting constituent. For example (Kirsten 1991: 493):

John went to the market by car.


Spec                                                      I

NP                                       I                        VP

N’                             Tns      Agr      V             PP

N                                                             P          NP

John                                                  V      P    Spec      N

go     to    Det   N       PP

the   N     P          NP

market  by       N



In the tree diagram above, verb phrase assigns agent role to the subject NP, verb assigns patient role to the object of the verb and preposition assigns locative role to its NP.


According to Trasks (1993) case theory is one of the principal modules in GB, consisting of various case-marking conventions and the case filter. This theory is responsible for insuring that every overt NP in a sentence is marked as possessing a case, such as nominative, accusative, or genitive, as required by the case filter.

Horrocks (1987:103) opines that the basic idea is that case is assigned under government, i.e the choice of case is determined by the governor in any sentence. A lexical head ‘x’ may be said to govern its sisters in X-bar and certain of their complements. Thus, NP subject is assigned normative by INFL, verb assigns accusative case to object of the verb, while preposition assigns oblique case to its object.

One of the most important principles of case theory is case filter, which states that any S – structure that contains an NP with lexical context but no case in ungrammatical (Kristen 1991: 407).


Horrocks (1987: 105) states that, it is concerned primarily with the conditions under which NPs are interpreted as co-referential with other NPs in the same sentence. There are three types of NPs which are relevant to the binding theory. They are:



Re-expressions (Referential Expressions)

The anaphors are NPs that cannot have independent reference such as reflexive and reciprocal pronouns, pronominals are NPs that either refer to individuals already named in given sentences and Re-expressions are NPs with lexical heads which potentially refer something (Culicover 1997: 35)

The location of antecedent that count for binding theory are defined in three binding principles viz:

Principle A: Anaphors (reflexives and reciprocals) must be bound within their binding domain (usually the sentence immediately around an item)

Principle B: A non-anaphonic pronoun must not be bound within its bounding domain

Principle C: A referring expression R-expression, a non pronominal; NP must not be bound at all.

The term bound in principle A simply refers to the conjunction of C-command and co-indexing. Thus: α binds β: if and only if:

α  Α C-command β

α and β are co-referential (Horrocks 1987 : 109)

In principle B, the term ‘not bound at all’ simply means free. Principle C refers to elements such as names and other referential noun phrases.

Kirsten (1991: 497) states that, bounding theory is concerned with the way movement rule (move – α) can be constrained. In essence, it is concerned with the limitations to be placed on the displacement of constituents by the transformation rule move – α. Generally, movement rule with GB theory is assumed to involve three things:

  1. An extraction site.
  2. A landing site
  3. An intervening gap (see the diagram below))

landing  Site           Gap                  extraction   Site

Here, move – α is defined as, move any constituent from anywhere to land somewhere. The original position of alpha (α) before movement is called in – situ position thus (Culicover 1997:50)

X                             a                              Y



The diagram above means move any element which is represented with (α) from its in-situ position regardless of variable X and Y to the left, right beginning or end of phrase or sentence.


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