Negation In Yukuben Language – Complete project material




Yukuben language is one of the languages spoken in Taraba state. Taraba state is a state in Nigeria named after the Taraba River which transverses the southern part of the state. Taraba’s capital is Jalingo. Taraba state is bounded in the west by Plateau and Benue states and on the east by Cameroon. Taraba states has sixteen local government areas which are governed by elected chairmen.Out of the local government area is Takum local government where the language of the study ‘Yukuben’ is spoken. As at 1992, it was recorded that the population of Yukuben speakers was 15,000 and the population in all countries was 15,950. It was later discovered that they were scattered all over the countries. As at 2010, they recorded that in Nigeria, they are about 23,000 in population and 25,000 in all countries. The major occupation of the people of Taraba state is agriculture. Taraba is called ‘Nature’s gift to the nation’ as the state is rich and have many ethnic groups including Kutep, Jukun, Chamba, Mumuyes, Mambia, Wukums, Fulanis, Khen, Tiv, Jenjo, Hausa and Ndoro. Source: Lewis, M. Paul (ed) 2009 “Yukuben: a language of Nigeria”.


According to oral history from the native speaker, the Yukuben people of the present day Taraba state of Nigeria are of Jukun origin.Thier region is Takum local government area between Katsina Ala and Gamana river. Yukuben speakers can also be found in the North west province of Cameroon. In Cameroon, Yukuben people are known as ‘uuhumgigi’ but the people are originally called Yukuben. Breton (1986) recorded about 950 speakers of Yukuben language in cameroon. The term Yukuben comes from Kuteb – Yikuben and the meaning of Yukuben is ‘the child of a witch’. The alternative name for the language are Nyikobe, Nyikuben, Boritsu, Ayikobe, Uuhumgigi, Gohum, Balaabe. It must however be noted that this language have dialectal variants known as ‘Lísà’, ‘shìbún’ and ‘Fété’.

Yukuben people are headed by a king called the ‘Ùdéng Uchun’ of Uuhumkhigi land. He is assisted by a group of chiefs called Bàgbàn. The administration of Yukuben land is pictured into village heads who report to the district heads and they in turn report to the king, the Ùdéng Uchun.


The major social institution among Yukuben people is the marriage institution. The first step is a proposal made by groom’s family to the bride’s family. If the proposal is accepted, introduction follows where the husband family provides palm oil in calabash and cock to the in-law. Bushmeats are also presented. After the approval, the date of wedding is fixed where the groom’s family have to provide the favourite wine of the land called “Bùrukùtù”. They drink and celebrate on the wedding day. The main interesting thing is that no payment of Dowry.

An average Yukuben man  or woman is a professional farmer. Cash crops such as guinea-corn, maize, groundnut, rice, millet, cassava, yam are produced in commercial quantity. Soybeans, palm wine, honey, colanut, cocoa are also produced by the people.They export crops and sell to other parts of Taraba state. Similarly, the people undertake other livestock production activities like poultry production, pig farming and rabbit breeding. Other occupational activities they engaged in are pottery, cloth-weaving, carpentry, bricklaying, mat-making, carving, black-smiting.

The major religion of Yukuben people is Christianity and Traditional religion. There is no mosque in the village talkless of having Muslim worshippers. Traditionally, they worship Idola masquerade, ‘Oohgum’ which is said to protects against witch craft, ‘Khima’ is said to be the god of thunder and used against thieves, ‘Bahmbre’ is also said to be used against witch craft and thieves.

For their dressing, they put on weaved cloth known as ‘Ukya’ in Yukuben language which is usually known as ‘Aso òfì by Yorubas’. Also men wear what is known as “Ìsáng” in their language. This Ìsáng is produced using bark of the tree beaten till it become soft or tender to wear.

The major food they take is maize, guinea-corn, cassava, plantain, yam, rice. They usually produced their wine using guinea-corn, this wine is known as ‘Bùrùkùtù’ or ‘Besen’. They also convert rice to ‘Tuwo’ called ‘Buna’.


Yukuben belongs to the Jukunoid phylum. Below is a language chart which shows the language genetic classification.


In this project, we intend to investigate the following aspects of Yukuben language.

  • Relationship between non-negative sentences and negative sentences in Yukuben language.
  • Identify the negative markers and illustrate how they are used in Yukuben language.
  • To study in detail the types of negation strategies that exist in Yukuben language.
  • Investigate the syntactic positions of the negative markers as found in the syntax of Yukuben language.
  • To examine if there is any significant role played by tone in negative construction in the language.
  • To find out the implications of negation in the syntax of Yukuben.

This long essay is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is the introductory chapter. The second chapter deals with the phonological and syntactic aspect of the language. Chapter three present negation in Yukuben language. Chapter four deals with transformational process and negation, and finally chapter five summarizes and concludes the  project.


The theoretical framework for this research is Government and Binding theory by Chomsky 1981. This framework expresses the generalization about the phrase structure of all human languages rather than features peculiar to individual languages.

Government and Binding theory is an arrangement of principles and sub-theories which interact in many different ways. The sub-theories of Government and Binding theory are X-BAR theory, theta (θ – theory), case theory, Binding theory, Bounding theory, control theory and Government theory. (Horrocks 1987:101).

1.6.1  X – BAR THEORY

According to Gert (1995 p.18), x-bar theory is a central module of the principles and parameters approach to syntactic theory. All other modules in one way or another draw on the basic structures it makes available together with the lexicon and the projection principle in defining their own concepts. And X-bar theory as one of the principles of generative syntax is of the idea that syntax is structure determined. The structural principles of x-bar theory can be summarized in terms of traditional notion of endocentricity. X–bar theory provides principles for the projection of phrasal categories from lexical categories and imposes conditions on the hierarchical organization of categories in the form of general schemata. Yusuf (1998:32) talks about the principle for projection of phrasal categories by saying that all major lexical categories project to the phrase (V:, VP, N:, NP, P:, PP) it makes sense to abstract away from category specificity and code all categories with a variable X (i.e. x ranges over N, V, P, A and ADV) and thus find out the structure of XP. We assume an abstract construct specifier (SPEC) (to specify the type of phrase we have, literally).


Following Riemsdijk and Williams (1986 p.15), θ – theory (theta-theory) concerns the fundamental logical notion ‘argument of’, a notion (like case) that any theory of grammar must account for. According to Yusuf (1998:23), the module called the Theta-theory with the subtle observation that a lexical category will have θ-attribute either as a receiver or as assigner. Theta theory deals with the assignment of semantic roles (θ-roles), such as ‘recipient’, to elements in the sentence, constrained by the θ-criterion. It is also concerned with the assignment of what Chomsky calls ‘thematic roles’ to sentential constituents. The Greek letter theta is a form of shorthand for thematic. By thematic roles, Chomsky means roles such as agent, patient (or theme), beneficiary etc. It is assumed that these are assigned to the complements of lexical items as a lexical property. Any constituent assigned a θ-role by definition denotes a predicate argument. By projection principle, and the principle of x-bar theory, the categories assigned θ-roles in lexical entries are projected from the lexicon to become constituent of D-structure, S-structure and LF. The main principle of θ-theory is the θ-criterion, which requires each thematic role to be uniquely assigned i.e. each constituent denoting an argument is assigned just one θ-role and θ-role is assigned to just one argument – denoting constituent. In Yusuf (1998 p.24), each argument bears one and only one θ-role and each θ-role is assigned to one and argument. The commonly expressed roles are agent, patient (or theme), instrument, locative, (goal, source, direction) and a few more. Participants are assigned these role in the D-structure. θ-theory is the linguist’s development of the intuitive logical notion of “argument of”, of the relation of John and Mary, to loves, in John loves Mary. According to Chomsky, John and Mary are refers to thematic role, one playing the role of agent and the other patient. The verb phrase (loves) assigns agent role to the subject NP and also assigns patient role to the object of the verb.


Simply by Yusuf (1998:20), case has to do primarily with the forms that NPs take in different syntactic environments. Case theory deals with the assignment of particular ‘cases’ of noun phrases in the sentence according to their position in the D-structure or S-structure, thereby accounting for eventual difference between the surface forms.Chomsky assumes that all NPs with lexical content are assigned (abstract) case (abstract case is usually distinguished from the case as an overt inflectional category by the use of an initial capital). The basic idea of Horrocks (1987) was that the case is assigned under government, the choice of case being determined by the governor in any given example. In the context of Government and Binding theory, the essential point is that there can be no case marking without government, ungoverned positions cannot receive case. One of the most important principles of case theory is the case of filter, which states that any S-structure that contains Noun phrase (NP) with lexical content but no case is ungrammatical. In case theory, Nominative is assigned by Tensed INFL, Accusative is assigned by V and oblique is assigned by P. N, A, are not known to assign any case. Further to the assignment of case, all noun phrases that have phonetic content must have case, or else they are ill-formed. This corollary is known as the case filter, which is detectable in the Phonetic Form (PF). Chomsky (1981:49) characterize case filter as the one assumed to be a filter in the PF-component: *NP if NP has phonetic form and  no case.


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