Noun Phrase In Migili – Complete project material



1.1     General Background

Language is the fabric that ties every member of the society together. It is an instrument used by man for specific purposes. The focus of this research is to shed light on how noun phrases are formed in Migili language. Migili is a Nigerian language spoken in Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State.

The first chapter of this research focuses on the genetic classification of Migili language, the scope and organization of study, the theoretical framework, data collection, that is that government and binding theory.

According to Winkler (2007:l05) “Syntax is the branch of linguistics that is concerned with the principles by which the phrases and words of a language are combined to make sentences”. In other words, syntax is a sub-field of linguistics that studies the arrangement of words in a sentence.

1.2     Historical Background of Migili

Migili refers to the name of a language and also a group of people. The Migili people constitute about 96% of the total population of Agyaragu in Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State, Nigeria. The language is spoken by about 18,000 speakers.

History has it that different tribes such as Migili, Alago and Eggon settled at Kororofa kingdom in Taraba State. It was said that a man named Akuka was denied the right to the throne and as a result had to leave Kororofa together with some other members of the Migili tribe to a place called Ukari and later to Lafia region. Some of them moved to Abuja (FCT), Minna in Niger State and Kubacha in Kaduna state.

The Eggon tribe is a close neighbour of the Migili with some of them having the knowledge of Migili language. Today, Migili language has various alternate names like; Ligili, Jijili, Koro of Lafia, among others.

1.3     Socio-Cultural Profile

Like most communities around them, the socio-cultural background of the people of Migili include: Occupation, Religion, Festival, Mode of dressing, Marriage etc.

1.3.1  Occupation

The Migilis are predominantly farmers. Yam is the major cash crop that is being produced in the area. Some other agricultural produce include: guinea corn, maize, millet, groundnut and beans. However, they also engage in weaving and artistic works.

1.3.2  Religion

The Migili people are predominantly Christians. Before the coming of the missionaries, the Migilis were traditionally religion worshippers who has beliefs in ancestral gods. By the coming of Christianity, a lot of people who were traditional worshippers became converts and embraced Christianity.

1.3.3  Festival

One major festival in Migili land is the Odu masquerade festival. The Odu masquerade is dressed in colourful masks and displays spectacular dancing skills and beautiful dance steps. According to the people, Odu was the god of war and it is believed that he helped the people win battles equipping them with magical and spiritual powers.

1.3.4  Mode of Dressing

The people of Migili are fashionable people. There are people who still preserve the tradition of their ancestors and their rich culture. In the olden days, both male and female were usually seen wearing bracelets, cowries, beads. Another distinguishing feature of the Migili’s was the plaiting of head by both men and women.

Nowadays, civilization has played a significant role in the mode of dressing of the people as most of them especially the younger ones now dress in western fashion.

1.3.5  Marriage

Before the coming of the missionaries into the Migili society, marriage was done by the father of the boy approaching the mother of the girl (from birth) and paying a token amount of money to her parents. Once this has been done the girl was said to be betrothed and will continue to live with her parents until she gets about fifteen (15) years of age. The boy pays his first installment of her dowry and farms for the father-in-law once every year.

Today, wedding are done in churches and unlike before women are free to choose their groom and are not mandated to marry from their society alone.

1.4     Genetic Classification

According to Greeberg (1966:8), African languages belong to various families, and there are four main groups.

These groups are: Niger Kordofanian, Nilo-Sahara, Afro-Asiatic and Khoisan.


NIGER CONGO                                                                           KORDOFANIAN

Atlantic                Ijoid     Volta Congo

Kru                   Kwa      North Volta Congo          Benue Congo

Akpe Platoid     Defoid     Edoid      Nupoid     Idomoid   ukumoid     Igboid    Cross river   Bantoid


Beremic           Southern     Adunic     Alumic       Ninzic           West              East                North

Yeskwa             Gyongic          Koro   Hyamic           Jiju        Tyap             Irigwe

Koro Zuba            Koro Ija          Jijilic       Koro-Makamei           Koro Mijili             koro Lafiya

Adapted from Roger Blench (2006)

1.5     Scope and Organization of Study

This research is aimed at discussing the general overview of Noun Phrase in Migili language. This research work is divided into five chapters.

Chapter one which is the introductory part include: the historical background, socio-cultural profile, the scope and organization of study as well as the theoretical framework, the data collection method and data analysis and lastly , a brief review of the chosen framework.

Chapter two shall focus on the basic syntactic concept such as phrase structure rule, lexical categories, basic word order and the sentence types.

Chapter three contains the main aspect of study which is the Noun Phrase. In this chapter, the nature of Noun phrase in Migili language and the processes that are attested will be discussed.

Chapter four will examine the transformational processes such as focusing, relativization, reflexivization and question formation.

Chapter five which is the last chapter will present a brief summary of the whole research and also the conclusion and recommendation based on the findings.

1.6     Theoretical Framework

The theory to be adopted in this research is the government and binding theory in the analysis of Noun Phrase in Migili language.

1.7     Data Collection

This research is made possible through the bi-lingual language helpers. However, the Ibadan four hundred words list and some sentence constructions are used to extract necessary information from the language helpers (informants). The method of collection was through direct translation from  English to Migili language. The language helpers speak Migili, English, Hausa and Eggon.

Reverend Albert a man of God in Agyaragu is one of the informants that made this research work possible. Also, Mr Ayuba Osibi Haruna, a typist in the Local Government played a major role in the collection of the necessary data used in this research work.

1.7.1  Data Analysis

In order to have accurate analysis for this research, the Ibadan four hundred word list with an equivalent meaning of the items in Migili language was used.

Also, the frame technique used in this research is by framing of sentences in English language and the translation of these sentences into Migili language by the informant. This enables the researcher to determine the actual underlying form of a word, constituent and possible syntactic classes to which each word belongs in Migili language.

1.8     Review of the Chosen Framework

The theory to be used in the analysis of Noun Phrase in Migili language is the Government and Binding Theory (GB). This theory is a modular deductive theory of universal grammar which posits multiple levels of representation related by the transformational rule. However, it is a more advanced theory of universal grammar. Sanusi (1996:19-21).

Again, Sanusi (1996:21) explains that government and binding theory greatly eliminates proliferation of transformational rules like: passive, affix-hopping, verb-number agreement, question formation, equi-Np deletion, raising, permutation, insertion e.t.c.

Haegeman (1991:13) defines government and binding theory as a theory of universal grammar which is the system of all the principles that are common to all human languages. Government and binding theory is otherwise known as principles and parameters theory. In government and binding theory, the grammar is a continuous interaction between components and sub-theories embodying different principles and parameters.

Government and binding theory operates through the modules of grammar like government, case, theta, control, binding, bounding and X-bar theories.

1.9     Sub- theories of Government and Binding

Horrocks (1987:29) states that the core grammar of a given language is derived from the interaction of sub – theories of universal grammar. These sub – theories are interrelated that each of them can account for grammaticality or ungrammaticality of any sentence.

These sub-theories are X-bar theory, case theory, Government theory, Control theory, Binding theory, Bounding theory and Theta theory.

1.9.1  X-Bar Theory

For the analysis of this work, X-bar is the theory to be used for comprehensive analysis.

According to Webelbum (1995:18), “the X-bar theory is the central module of the principles and parameters approach in syntax”.

Also, Haegeman (1994) says that the X-bar theory is the part of grammar regulating the structure of a phrase.

Horrocks (1987:63) further explains that the central core of X-bar theory is the recognition of the fact that (most) phrasal constituents have ‘heads’ upon which the other elements of the constituents in question are dependent. He submits further that items which are involved in sub-categorization and which are in most cases interpreted as arguments of the head appear with the head X in a phrasal category X-bar. X is called a phrasal ‘projection’ of X, in this case the smallest constituent containing X as a sub-constituent.

From the above, the cover symbol ‘X’ stands for the set of lexical categories which heads phrases as in V(for verb), N(for noun), Ad(for adjective), P(for pronoun), Adv(for adverb), such that N heads NP, V heads VP, P heads PP, Adj heads AdjP and Adv heads AdvP. This implies that phrasal categories e.g VP, PP, NP, AP, all have heads that belongs to the same category as the phrasal category (Akmajiam, 2001:215).

Again, Horrocks (1987) explains that X-bar theory provides principle for the projection of phrasal categories from lexical categories and imposes conditions on the hierachical organization of categories in the form of general schemata. Thus, the general phrase structure rule schema for phrasal categories would be:

Xp                                 X     comp

Where ‘comp’ which stands for complement could be a ‘PP’ or an ‘NP’ with ‘X’ standing for a lexical category e.g. P, N, V e.t.c. This implies that when ‘X’ represents ‘N’, it means that ‘Xp’ is an ‘NP’ when ‘X’ represents ‘V’, then ‘Xp’ is a ‘VP’ and so on.

In summary, the major concern of the X-bar theory is to describe the syntactic and formal (as in form of notational conventions) structures of phrases and the inherent general characteristics they have in common.

1.9.2  Case Theory

According to Horrocks (1987:102), “case theory deals with the principles of case assignment to constituents”. This means that certain lexical heads have the power to assign or determine the case of their NP complements or determine the case of the NP complement which they govern. For example, a ‘V’ or ‘P’ which governs an ‘NP’ compliment will case-mark that constituent.

Basically, the assignment; of case is done under government theory in which the choice of case is determined by the governor.

Thus, Yusuf (1998) conclude that a adjacency is required for case assignment. This is to say that case assignees and assigners must be contiguous with no barrier blocking the discharge of the (abstract) case.

1.9.3  Government Theory

Government is a traditional notion involving the delimitation of the sphere of influence of a particular category with respect to adjacent categories (Horrocks, 1987:103).

He went further to say that the government theory defines the syntactic relationship between a governor and the element that it governs.

Thus: α governs β if

  1. α and β mutually C- command each other.
  2. α is a governor (e.g noun, verb, preposition, adjective).
  3. α governs β, then governs the specifier of β (Lamidi, 2001:98).

The theory of government also defines the relationship which exists between the other sub-theories of GB theory.

1.9.4  Control Theory

This theory is concerned with the way in which subject less infinite structures are constructed. It focuses on an element called PRO. PRO is restricted to the subject position in non-finite clause (Culicover, 1999:55). PRO can only appear in the subject position of non-finite clause; it is banned from all object positions and from the subject position of finite clause as there is no governor for its position.

1.9.5  Binding Theory

Binding theory is a theory that is fundamentally concerned with the syntactic conditions under which ‘NPs’ can be interpreted as co-referencial with other ‘NP’ in the same sentence. The binding theory proposes three categories into which an argument NP can fall:

  1. Anaphor: Which must be bound in its governing category i.e dependently co-referencial.
  2. Pronominal: which must be free in its governing category i.e. it may either refer to an individual independently or co-refer to an individual already named in a given sentence.
  3. Referencial expression: which must be free everywhere i.e potentially referring to something. (Horrocks, 1987)

1.9.6  Bounding Theory

According to Horrocks (1987:128), “the bounding theory is concerned with the limitations to be placed on the displacement of constituents by the transformational rule schema “more α””.

In a similar vein, Kirsten (1991) submits that bounding theory is concerned with the way movement rule (more α) can be constrained. In essence, the bounding theory as its name suggests, bounds the movement rule (move α) by constraining what constituent to be moved, from where to be moved and the actual site into which to be moved.

1.9.7  Theta Theory

The Greek letter theta is a short form of the word thematic. This theory deals with the assignment of thematic roles to sentential constituents. According to Yusuf (1998:23), “ a lexical category will have θ-attribute either as a receiver or an assigner”.

These thematic roles include agent, patient, beneficiary, locative, goal, instrument etc.

Also, Horrocks (1987) opines that the main principle of θ- theory is the θ-criterion, which requires each thematic role to be uniquely assigned i.e each constituents denoting an argument is assigned just one θ-role and each θ-role is assigned to just one argument- denoting constituent.


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