Question Formation In Mijili – Complete project material



1.0    General Background

This project work focuses on the aspects of question formation in Mijili (Koro) spoken in Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. The Mijili (Koro) people settled down in some parts of the country. Such places include Abuja, Zuba, Kaffin Koro, Kagharko and Panda. Some members even moved to Bauchi where they established themselves around Misua, Butawa, Warji and Shira.

Mijili people are administered by clan heads and they are assisted by their cheives.

This chapter would explain further on the historical background, the socio-cultural profile and the genetic classification of Mijili language. In addition, this chapter would explain the scope and organization of study, theoretical framework, data analysis and basic syntactic concepts of the language.

Finally, the concept of “QUESTION FORMATION” in Mijili language and the application of transformational rules to Mijili’s question formation would be clarified and explained in the subsequent chapters, while conclusion and recommendation would also be discussed.

1.1    Historical Background

The Koro who were once the tenth largest tribe in Northern Nigeria are parts and percel of the ancient Kororafa Kingdom which flourished and became the most predominant power in Niger-Benue confluence as well as the greater part of Central Nigeria. Morgan (1976) described the Koro as a “Priestly Caste” which headed the Kororafa power. Infact, the Koro were a principal partner who contributed tremendously in the evolution of the Kororafa kingdom and they played a much greater role in the expansion and sustenance of the kingdom.

The Koro were great warrior and they use their war skills along with other Kororafa groups to develop very efficient military force that enable them to transform their kingdom through systematic war of conquest to Hausa land as well as Borno which was the only state that the Kororafa looked upon as their equal.

In order to fully understand the origin of the Koro, we must know the origin of Kororafa groups of languages. The Korofara claimed that they migrated from Bornu and Lake Chad region through a passage between the Lake Chad and Mandara mountains from where they dispersed and migrated in groups to the Southern Bank of River Benue.

Some version maintained that the Kororafa originated from Yemil, East of Mecca, with one Agudu as their leader who took them to Egypt before they reached Bornu and eventually moved to settle down at south of River Benue.

However, through linguistic studies, it has been discovered that the Chad Basin was originally occupied by only two district linguistic groups; the west was occupied by the Teda Deza speaking people. The Kororafa group who are a Bantu group people. The Kororafa group who are a Bantu group linguistically must have originated from central African Region across the Cameroon highlands from where Bantu languages have its origin.

1.2    Socio-Cultural Profile of Koro Mijili

The Koro are generally very high fashionable people. The people are generally light in colour with fine cut features. These are people who still preserve their rich culture and tradition of their ancestors which are jealously guarded to this day.

In the older days, the Koro love of fashion was exhibited in their unique hair styles, dressing and decorations all over their bodies. In that society, both the young girls and men adorned themselves with fascinating decorations to express their beauty and rich culture. Both sex were usually seen wearing beautiful beads, bracelets, bangles, cowries and precious stones.

One of the distinguishing features of the men was the wearing of the “Bante”, a lion-cloth apparel which was richly decorated with fattings, beads and cowries dyed in red garula or purple colour cam wood. This was the mode of dressing in most Koro societies especially among the Koro of Lafia Division (Mijili).

1.2.1           Marriage System

Marriage in Koro society varies from place to place. In Lafia Region, marriage was contracted when a female child was newly born. The father of the boy will approach the mother of the baby girl and seek the hand of the girl in marriage to his son by paying a token amount of money to her parents. This practice was done in the olden days before the coming of Christianity and Islam in to Koro society. Once this has been done, the girl was said to be betrothed. The boy (groom) paid a first installment of her dowry and farms for the father-in-law once annually.

Today, in almost all Koro societies, the girls are free to choose those whom they would marry.Christian weddings are contracted in churches for all christian koro while the Moslem girls marry in accordance with the Islamic injuctions.

1.2.2           Birth and Naming Ceremonies

When the newly married woman became pregnant, it was regarded in Koro society as a good omen that the ancestral spirits has blessed their marriage. When a child is born, his arrival was regarded and greeted all over the village while the husband was expected to fire several volleys of gunshots to celebrate the arrival of a new child birth, the mother who had remain in confinement was asked to bring the child to the christened. The women gathered in the house very early in the morning and the child is circumcised by the traditional birth attendants.

The ritual of the naming ceremony begins as soon as the circumcision had been concluded. But today, the situation is different as Christian parent celebrate the naming ceremonies of their children in churches while the Moslems do their’s according to the Islamic injuctions.

1.2.3           Occupations of the Koro

The Koro are very unique and hardworking people who cherish their traditional occupation which had been handed to them from their great ancestors.

The Koro are today one of the greatest farmers who produce the bulk of food crops which are being transported to all parts of Nigeria to feed other Nigerians.

The Koro are also engaged in other forms of occupation. Some of the Koro were engaged in weaving and leather work. In Abuja region, the Koro were engaged in weaving, smelting of iron work and blacksmiths who produced a lot of agricultural implements such as hoes, knives and cutlasses.

More also, Hunting and Fishing were still carried out by the Koro especially during the dry season period where there was less farm work.

1.2.4           Burial Ceremony in Koro Society

The Koro burial ceremonies are very much unique and are celebrated with group of people so that deceased member is given great honour and respect. Once a member of the society especially an elder pass away, immediately messages are sent to all neighboring villages and towns.

The burial ceremonies of Kings and Cheives are much more elaborate and colourful. In such cases over twenty or more Kukaa Masquerades accompanies the Ogu Masquerades dancers and musical groups from all neighboring towns come to pay respect to the deceased king before he would be buried.

Today burial ceremony is done according to Christianity and Islamic rites. But the traditionalist still observed the age long burial rites and ceremonies.

1.2.5           Educational Background

In Koro society, education is part of the social organization and it is largely the functions of the parents themselves, or it might be of the uncle, aunts or even the grand parents to teach the young boys the art of agriculture and the young girls the fetching of water and firewood. The girls were also taught all the domestic arts and the special parts of farming especially reserved for women.

The child’s education does not end with acquisition of skills of crop production but was taught the weather signs and variation in season application of crops on a varieties of soil types.

The indigenous education of the Koro equipped the boy with all the necessary skills required to exploit the environment for successful living. The young child was taught the art of domestication of animals and hunting skills as well as the art of wrestling and traditional boxing.

1.2.6           Music and Traditional Festivals

The Koro are great lovers of music and dances which they exhibit by their vigorous dancing styles during feast and numerous festivals. Their dances are characterized by heavy musical rhythms which are produced from their varieties of huge drum beats and unique musical instruments such as gongs, flutes and cymbals. The young men and maidens who are stylist dancers and singers display their skills to the great admiration of children and elderly members of the community. The masquerades range from the fascinating Odu masquerade to Kpoku and Kukaa to mention few.

1.3    Genetic Classification of Koro

Genetic classification is a sub-grouping of all related languages in to their genetic nodes (groups of languages in each of which one language is more closely related to the other in that group than to any language outside the group).

Rublen (1987:1) state that “the idea that groups of languages that share certain systematic resemblance have inherited those similarities from a common origin is the basis for genetic classification”.

Genetic classification is an off shot of genesis while genesis is derived from the word gene (cell). Languages could be genetically related.

Language of the world can be derived into certain compartment based on striking similarities in their linguistic items. However, language might be similar because they belong to the universal sets, this doesn’t mean that such resemblance can be traced to common origin.

Genetic classification thus makes two statements. First, it affirms that certain languages are infact related to each other (i.e. maintain similar ancestral relations). Second, it typifies how the languages are interrelated in the form of branching diagram.

Koro language falls under the category of Niger-Congo language family. Below is a diagrammatic representation showing the genetic classification of Mijili language with some other related languages coming from the same ancestor (i.e. Niger-Congo language family).

1.3.1 Genetic Classification of Mijili Language

1.4   Scope and Organization of the Study

The ultimate goal of this project is to study the aspect of question formation in Mijili language (Koro of Lafia). Extensive investigation shall be made on types of question formation that are found in the language.

However, the research work is conveniently divided in to five chapters. The first chapter is an introductory chapter which will encompass the general introduction of this research work, the historical background, socio- cultural profile of the speakers ranging from the marriage system of the speakers, birth and naming ceremony, educational background etc. chapter one also has in its fold; scope and organization of the study, data collection and analysis, theoretical frame work.

Chapter two presents a phonological overview of Mijili language and basic syntactic concepts like phrase structure rules, basic word order, lexical categories and sentence types as attested by the language.

The chapter three of this research work which is the core of this project will reveal the topic of research work. Hence, transformation and Question formation will be discussed bringing out example from Mijili language.

Chapter four will be an extension of the types of question that existed in the language (such as alternative and tag question etc)

Chapter five contain the conclusion, summary and recommendation, as it mort the end of the research work.

1.5    Theoretical Framework

Theories are bundles of abstract representation existing in the linguistic repertoire of a linguist. The relevance of these theories lies in the practical sense. All the levels of language analysis has one or more theories that are capable of exposing the rudiments or fundamentals of such level. “The varieties of approaches to syntax and grammars on which they depend make this particular level of language probably the most complex and contentious in terms of linguistic criticism” …… (Geoffrey, finish 2000.82)

Allied to the above, theories are propounded in order to present a systematic account (or descriptive) of the linguistic knowledge or competence of a native speaker. Theories in syntax include traditional, classical, structural, systemic and transformational generative grammar.

The theoretical frame work to be employed in this research is “government and binding theory”: a sub-theory of transformational generative grammar. Government and binding theory is a model of grammar propounded and developed by Noam Chomsky. This theory has been chosen because it makes universal claims about natural languages, i.e. it explains the systems, practices, conditions and rules that are elements or properties of all human languages. Government and binding theory captures the similarities in natural languages by assigning to them the same structure rather than the case of transformational generative grammar.

In essence, Question Formation as an aspect of syntax will be analyzed under the Government and Binding theoretical framework.

1.6    Data Collection and Analysis

Samarin (1967:43) says “the kind of corpus a field researcher obtains is determined by the purpose and the techniques he adopts in his data collection”. The focus of this research is largely for language description and primary for showing oppositeness of some utterances with a view to explaining the semantic implication of such in Mijili language.

The data is collected through contact or informant method. Linguistic data for this study is obtained by making use of proficient informants with a vast knowledge of the language, from the native community.

However, with respect to that, the Ibadan 400 word list of lexical items together with a frame techniques are the basic instruments of data collection. The frame technique forms a crucial part of this research work since it is the domain of syntax. Since it helps an informant to adequately account for both underlying and surface syntactic process that can’t be captured using the Ibadan 400 basic lexical items.

Two informants supply this research work with sophisticated or rich data. Below are piece of information about them.

  1. NAME: Ayuba Osibi Aruna

SEX:                    Male

AGE:                    48 years

OCCUPATION:   Civil Servant


OTHER LANGUAGES SPOKEN:            Hausa, English and Egon


  1. NAME: Hon. Joel Iwa Akatu (JP)

SEX:                    Male

AGE:                    49 years

OCCUPATION:   Civil Servant


OTHER LANGUAGES SPOKEN:                      English and Hausa

ASPECT OF THE DATA SUPPLIED:                400 word list

1.6.1           Data Analysis

To ensure clarity and brevity of this research, all data supplied by the informants are accurately transcribed. The component word or constituent of the sentences of the language (Mijili) are carefully glossed and subsequently translated.

The data collected are strictly worked upon according to native speaker’s rendition without any permutation modification or imposition of correctness so as to make significant linguistic generalization about the language using the data at hand.

1.7    Brief Review of Chosen Framework

Cook (1988:86) views GB theory “as an inter-locking arrangement of principles and sub-theories which interact in many different ways”. Horrocks, G (1987:95) shared a similar opinion “GB theory is best described as a set of interacting components.

GB theory carries over certain aspect of the deep structure into the surface structure through the process of transformations or movement technically termed as move-alpha (move -α).

According to Andrew Radford “This theory was developed to correct the lapses of transformational generative grammar”. According to him (1988:419) “transformation is the rule that deals with the act of changing the structure of one sentence to another. Transformations are supplementary rules to the phrase structure rules. The output of the phrase structure rules is the input of transformational rules”.

GB theory captures the similarities which exist between different categories of lexical phrases by assigning the same structure to them rather than having different phrase structure rules for vps, AdjPs, NPs as postulated by transformational generative grammar. Unlike in TGG, GB theory is a modular deductive theory of grammar. The modules of grammar otherwise known as sub-theories, operate in a modular form, i.e. they are inter connected.

Below is the modular theory of grammar that confirms the interlocking nature of the GB theory.

Modular theory of grammar

The above diagram shows that, no part of the GB theory can be considered in isolation from the rest. It posits seven sub-theories vi2;

  1. X-BAR Theory
  2. Theta θ theory
  3. Case theory
  4. Binding theory
  5. Bounding theory
  6. Government theory
  7. Control theory

X – Bar Theory

According to Horrocks, G (1987:101), X’ 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. Critically, it makes explicit the notion “head” of a phrase.

Similarly, the X-bar (X’) theory is based on the theory of phrase structure. In X’ theory word order (i.e. the syntagmatic arrangement of words) and constituent structure (the relatedness of structures) are paramount. The theory takes into consideration the strict sub-categorization frame that occurs between verbs and norms, and generalizes this over other phrasal categories including sentences. The Internal structure of each phrasal category e.g. an NP is similar to others such that the same set of rules can apply to each of them. Thus, we say that the X’ theory uses cross-generalizations. Lamidi, M.T. (2008:153)

What makes the above possible (according to Lamidi) is the fact that the phrases have certain features in common. One of these is the concept of head. In PSG, the head is the key word in a phrase and the word can be pre – or post modified. This concept has been taken over by the X’ theory. The primacy of the head started from the deep structure in what is called the projection principle. The principle states that each head must be represented at all levels.

There are three categorical levels of X-bar theory Vi2; lexical, intermediate and phrasal category. The schema below represents our discussion here.

In this diagram, we take X to be a variable representing Noun, Verb, Adjective or preposition, each of which functions as the head of its own phrase. The head is the primary and therefore is Xo. As an Xo, it is a lexical category and it can be pre-modified by a specifier (spec). It can also be post modified by a compliment or an adjunct.

The X’ theory projects from the core projection level to the maximal projection level. This is called projection principle.

Projection Principle

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

Another feature that makes generalization possible under the 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 explains the order of elements in a language. The notion of head parameter assumes that the constituents of a phrase may be arranged in different ways. Stowel, (1981:70) says that the parametric variation between languages according to whether the positions of the head is first or last with respect its complement is tagged “head parameter”. In other words, the head in a phrase carries the highest load of semantic information. It is the obligatory part of a phrase, the category to which a phrase falls is strongly determined by the head.

Another type of phrase that is permissible within the X-bar is the functional phrase. In X- bar theory, a phrase can be headed by non-lexical items (functional words) like determiners, inflections, and aggrement. Functional phrases invariably have heads that are linked to the functional elements. The functional phrases includes inflectional phrases (IP)

IP           spec I’

I’          I complement (VP)

E.g. The house was burgled (A case of passivization)

Other functional phrases include complementizer phrase (CP)

CP              Spec C1

C’                 C   IP

Theory (θ Theory)

θ –theory is concerned with the assignment of what Chomsky calls ‘Thematic’ roles to sentential element/constituents. The Greek letter theta is a form of shorthand for thematic.

Thematic roles is similar to semantic roles e.g. role 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. Kirsten (1991:493) states that θ – theory deals with the functional relationship between a predicate and its argument.

A predicate is said to assign theta-role to each of its arguments e.g. the NP complement (Direct object) is assigned the role of patient and the PP complement the role of location while the subject NP or the sentence is assigned the agent role. 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 each θ-role is assigned just one argument denoting constituent. e.g. Sola Cooks in the Kitchen.

In the above the verb phrase assigns the role of an agent to “Sola” (subject NP), the role of agent was also assigned to the object NP by the verb phrase.

Case Theory

Ore, Yusuf (1998:26), case has to primarily with the forms that NPs take in different syntactic environments. For English, Yoruba and many Kwa languages, the concept is not readily demonstrable because these languages do not vary the NPs or N-head forms according to Horrocks (1987:102) case theory deals with the principle of case assignment to sentential constituents. Chomsky assumes that all NPs with lexical content are assigned (abstract) case.

Kristen (1991:496) state that “case theory regulates the distribution of phonetically realized NPs by assigning case to them. Case is assigned by a set of case assigners to the governed. Horrocks (1987:103) further noted that, the basic idea is that case is assigned under Government, the choice of case being determined by the governor in any given example. Government is a traditional notion involving the delimitation of the sphere of influence of a particular category with respect to adjacent categories for instance, NP subject is assigned nominative by INFL, verb assigns accusative case to the object of the verb while preposition assign oblique case to its object. The following exemplifies the case-system in English

Nominative                    Subject NP

Vocative                        calling NP

Accusative                     object NP

Genitive                         NP object of OF

Dative                            NP object of TO



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