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A COMPARATIVE STUDY OF CLEFT FORMATION IN THE SYNTAX OF NSUKKA AND STANDARD IGBO

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CHAPTER ONE

INTRODUCTION

 

1.0       Background to the Study

Man’s anthropological description as a homo faber and a homo loquens contradistinguish human from other animals and under which they are biologically classified. Homo faber describes man’s capability to make and use tools and other objects while his cultural linguistic attribute defines him as a homo loquens.

This latter attribute of man’s means that he is a user of human language: a system of sound symbol used to intelligibly communicate his thoughts, ideas, feelings and desires through speech or writing. To Strickland (1957), language is a body of sounds and meaning held in common by the members of a linguistic group.  The expressions of a language involve a relationship between a sequence of sounds and a meaning where sound covers phonology, morphology and syntax, (Lamb publication). In other words, the evolution, propagation and use of a language consist in putting meaningful elements or letters of the alphabet together  to form words; putting words together to form phrases; phrases together to form clauses,; clauses together to form sentences and putting sentences together to form texts; Robert (1997) . It is an instrument for interactive communication among people.

Each language-­-has word groups which classify its grammatical constituents. These groups are incomprehensively and popularly called the eight parts of speech, or, in technical term, grammatical or lexical categories. They are seven in number excluding the articles and some particles which were not categorized, and the interjection which belongs to mood.

Noun names an entity or abstracts; pronoun substitutes for nouns; verb says what the subjects does in a sentence; adverb modifies the verb, adverb and adjectives; adjectives qualifies the noun and pronoun; preposition relates the noun / pronoun with another noun / pronoun in terms of position or location; and conjunction which joins words, phrases, clauses  or sentences.

With relatively similar rules across global languages, these lexical categories together with the articles are meaningfully combined.

The variations in the rules of combination among language and dialectal groups but conveying similar meaning raised the question between overt structure and under-lying meaning and interpretation, for example,

(1) (a) J’ ai ferme    (French)

I have hungry    (lit trans)

 

(b) Aguu na-agu m    (Igbo)

(Hunger is hunger me)

 

Both 1 a and b have the surface and expressed structure as literally translated but have the underlying or covert interpretation:

(2) I am hungry.

This, on the other hand, has the different grammatical and semantic implications:

(3) (a) Je suis ferme          (French)

(b) Abu m aguu (Igbo)

(c) I am hunger (English literal translation)

Linguistics is the branch of knowledge or discipline that semantically studies the above and other questions on language.

Describing linguistic phenomena is one of the central goals of linguistics as well as being the primary goal of many linguists. The description may pertain to individual languages or to universal similarity or dissimilarity among languages and is carried out under specific linguistic concepts which include narrative discourse structure, phonology and, topical for this research, syntax.

Matthews (1982) defines syntax as a branch of grammar dealing with the ways in which words are arranged to show connections of meaning within the sentence.

Radford (1988) says that syntax refers to the rules for sequencing or ordering words within a phrase or sentence. Without syntax and its rules, there would be no key with which to discern consistent meanings from a bunch of words lumped together. As a part of the internalized linguistic knowledge of a language, it enables the native speaker, and to an extent, a non-native speaker, to produce as well as recognize acceptable stretches of utterance in that language.

What should be understood to be implicit in the above definitions however is that a syntactic structure is not merely the sequencing of words selected from an array of grammatical categories but a selection based on contextual semantic relevance. For instance, in English, as applicable to the structure of some other languages such as French and Igbo, the basic word or category order is S+V-(+O)  or

–  N/PP+V (+N/PP) where N/PP=Noun or pronoun phrase as subject (s) or object (o) respectively; and V= verb intransitively or transitively used, that is:

(4) Amaka /she eats (rice)

Amalia / elle manges (du ris)

Amaka/ O na-eri nri (osikapa)

Inverting the subject-object positions, the sentence become:

(5) Rice eats her

Du ris elle manges

Osikapa na- eri ya.

Osikapa na-eri ya; are semantically fallacious although syntactically valid.

Syntax deals with a number of things, all of which help to facilitate the understanding of a language.

Inflection is an aspect of it which deals with how the end of a word might change to alter the role and meaning of lexical constituents and subsequently the meaning of the sentence. For example,

(6) (a) The boy beat the girl

(b) The girl is beating up the boy

‘The boy’ is the subject/ agent while ‘the girl’ plays a role as object/ patient that under went the effect of the action of the verb, beat, simple past tense, 6a.

In 6b, the roles have been structurally and semantically reversed with the–ing inflection of ‘beat’ in the present tense, i.e , present continuous tense, indicating that the action is currently in progress or being carried out, and the adverbial particle ‘up’ as action intensifier. Another aspect of syntax comes under generative syntax and transformational generative grammar (T G G)

Generative syntax is a syntactic model which formulates rules to describe the sentence of a language. The structure of the rules is pyramidal. Some of the rules are explicable within, or captured by some other rules until the whole rules are reduced to a minimum of rules which describe the whole linguistic structure.

For example,

(7) NP             N

N        S

N        Det

N        Det   S

N        adj

N        adj adj etc;

(8)  INF                tns

Agr

Number

Aux (modal, be) etc.

(9) VP              V

V         N

V       N P

V       P P

V       P P, P P

V       N S

V       N Det

V N adj adj etc

The above structures are reducible to the minimum structures as follows;

(10)  S                  N P INFL  VP…

The claim for this rule is that every sentence of every language is overtly or covertly composed of this structural order; and that irrespective of the variation of the order of the same lexical constituents, the sentence remains semantically true.

Transformational generative syntax on the other hand relates to the transformational syntactic rules which generate rules of surface and deep structure syntax. It relates the changes at the surface structure to those of the deep structure and reduces same to a minimum of rules.

On its part, transformational syntax refers to a syntactic model which claims the existence of surface and deep syntactic structures of which the former contains all the phonological element used in the actual speech but containing some unexpressed elements which give the sentence an (additional) underlying structure and meaning. For example, the expressions

(11)  (a) Come.

(b) Sit down

are considered as clauses and simple sentence because contrary to the expressed single verb /word structure in ‘11a’ and the phrase-like structure of ‘11b’, both have the implied subject / ‘noun’ phrase ‘you’ and, respectively, implied post adverb, ‘here’ and the post preposition ‘on / in that chair, seat etc. They, in other words are sequentially and semantically interpreted as the deep-surface outlay:

(12) (a) (You) come  (here, in etc)

(b)   (You) sit down    (here, there, in / on this / that chair, Seat, sofa etc)

Where the parenthetical elements are deletable to the background.

What has been observed from the above discussion and contiguous to this study is the submission by linguists on the syntactic flexibility of a sentence and which is achieved by way of transformation through its aspects namely: movement, deletion, substitution and adjunction, Mbah (2006) and Chomsky (1965).

Consequently, that different dialects of a language realize their sentence structures differently to include a type called cleft sentences forms the basis for this study: a comparative study of clefting, (a structural shuffling of the basic syntactic order) in the syntax of Nsukka dialect (a unique version of a language spoken by a community) and standard Igbo (a variety that has official backing for use at formal social occasions or forums). This is with a view to adopting the cleft structures of Nsukka dialect towards addressing the shortcomings of the Igbo language as an effective indigenous language of communication.

1:1          Statement of the Problem

The effective use of language is an indispensable means for effective communication. And the effectiveness of language communication depends on sentence manipulation which, if not properly done, undermines the listener’s understanding of the speaker. Communication in Igbo language is partly hindered by dearth of literatue and knowledge of cleft structures and their formation unlike in some foreign languages like French, English, Latin and German. The problem for this study therefore is to examine cleft formation in the syntax of Nsukka dialect in comparison with standard Igbo.

1.2       Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this research work is to:

Identify cleft formation in syntax and analyze its process as it applies to Nsukka dialect and standard Igbo.  Identify the area(s) of similarity in cleft formation in Nsukka dialect and standard Igbo.Carry out differential analysis of cleft formation in Nsukka dialect and standard Igbo.

1.3       Research Questions

This research work is guided by the following questions:

(a)        What is the nature of Cleft Formation in the  standard Nsukka Dialect and the Standard Igbo variety?

(b)   How do we analyse and explain Clefting in Nsukka Dialect and Standard Igbo variety?

(c)    What are the similarities in Cleft Formation in the Nsukka and that of the Standard Igbo?

(d)   What are the differences in Cleft Formation in the Syntax of Nsukka Dialect and Standard Igbo variety?

 

1.4       Scope of the Study

The range of coverage for the study is specifically on clefting as found in the dialect of Nsukka, in Enugu State. It focuses strictly on the similarities and /or differences in syntax and clefting as it pertains to sentence structures of standard Nsukka dialect and Standard Igbo with occasional cross-reference to English, French, Latin, and German.

 

1.5       Significance of the Study                                                                      

This study is significant in that it will provide answers to the questions of the nature and analytical explanation of cleft in standard Nsukka dialect as well as the similarities and / or differences between the clefting in the dialect and that of the standard form of Igbo.

The findings will induce further researches on cleft formation in the dialect under study and the Igbo language as a whole and thus promote and preserve the use of the language in competition with such other Nigerian languages as Hausa and Yoruba. The work will also provide reference material to ameliorate the lack of it for research work on clefting and syntax in other dialects of the Igbo language.

 

1.6       Limitations of the Study

The researcher encountered a number of challenges in the course of the study. The important ones are:

Firstly, there was hardly any reference material on clefting as none had been previously written by linguists or researchers on Igbo language or any of its dialects.

Secondly, materials accessed from the internet that gave a hint on the subject matter contained information that were abstract and the languages were foreign, complex and strange and produced only a vague idea about clefting.

Thirdly, who could have been resource persons on the core syntactic dialect of Nsukka are inaccessibly old leaving only the less aged and younger ones who, owing to language and dialect diversity, socialization and enculturation could not differenciate between dialect and standard variety of a language.

However, the researcher, being an indigene of the study area, was able to cope by drawing references from past experiences of Nsukka dialectal expressions.

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