ARGUMENT STRUCTURE OF THE URHOBO VERB: A MINIMALIST APPROACH


ARGUMENT STRUCTURE OF THE URHOBO VERB: A MINIMALIST APPROACH  

                                                   ABSTRACT

This research work examines the argument structure of the Urhobo Verb: using the Minimalist Approach, the various types of argument and the manner in which they are introduced in a sentence were described.  The basic assumption is that Urhobo language is a potentail source of input for the determination of the predicate argument structure. The specific objectives are: to classify Urhobo verbs into the number of arguments a verb can take, explore the role of valency, and transitivity in the predicate argument structure of Urhobo, as well as relate thematic functions to argument structure in the Urhobo language. A thorough literature was reviewed of languages whose materials were accessible at the time of this work. The method of data collection was categorized into two main sources: primary and secondary data. The primary data refers to the information that were obtained using, oral interview, the secondary source refers to documented information obtained from library, internet, and other published materials. Finally, we discover that functional arguments are lexical items, which strictly subcategorize phrases in their syntactic environment. It was also a finding that Urhobo  language is centered around the verbs, in most cases verbs are the basis  for the expansion of Urhobo words, though nouns and adjectives and other word formation process contributes to the expansions of its vocabulary, words and sentences

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Title page ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ii

Certification --------------------------------------------------------------------------- iii

Approval  page  ………………………………………………………………. .iv

Dedication------------------------------------------------------------------------------- v 

Acknowledgement --------------------------------------------------------------------- vi

Abstract----------------------------------------------------------------------------------- vii

CHAPTER ONE: INTRODUCTION

1.1   Background of the Study ------------------------------------------------------- 1

1.1.1 Economy of Derivation Principle----------------------------------------------- 2

1.1.2 Computational System ------------------------------------------------------- 4

1.1.3 Checking ----------------------------------------------------------------------- 4

1.1.4 Sellout ------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5

1.1.5 Copy --------------------------------------------------------------------------- 6

1.1.6 Urhobo language and its people ---------------------------------------------- 8

1.2 Statement of the Problem -------------------------------------------------------- 11

1.3 Research Questions --------------------------------------------------------------- 11

1.4  Objectives to the Study ---------------------------------------------------------- 11

1.5   Scope of the Study ----------------------- --------------------------------------- 12 

1.6   Significance of the Study ------------------------------------------------------- 12

1.7   Delimitation of the Study-------------------------------------------------------- 12

1.8   Tone ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 12

CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW 

2.0      Introduction -------------------------------------------------------------------- 14

2.1      Theoretical studies ------------------------------------------------------------ 14

2.1.1 Arguments --------------------------------------------------------------------           14

2.1.2 Argument structure: An overview ----------------------------------------- 15

2.1.3 Verbs  Argument Alternation ---------------------------------------------- 20

2.1.4 Predication-------------------------------------------------------------------- 22 

2.1.5 Transitivity -------------------------------------------------------------------- 23

2.1.6 Passivization ------------------------------------------------------------------ 28

2.1.7 Thematic roles and functions ----------------------------------------------- 30

2.1.8 Case theory -------------------------------------------------------------------- 40

2.1.8.1 Nominative case --------------------------------------------------------------- 43 

2.1.8.2 Accusative case ----------------------------------------------------------------- 44

2.1.8.3  Dative case ---------------------------------------------------------------------- 44

2.1.8.4 Genitive case -------------------------------------------------------------------- 44

2.1.8.5 Vocative case --------------------------------------------------------------------   45 

2.1.8.6 Ablative case --------------------------------------------------------------------    45 

2.1.9 Case Assignment ----------------------------------------------------------------    47

2.1.9.1 Tense ------------------------------------------------------------------------------   48

2.1.9.2 Verb -------------------------------------------------------------------------------   48

2.1.9.3 Preposition------------------------------------------------------------------------       49

2.1.9.4 Agreement ------------------------------------------------------------------------    49  

2.1.10 Complementation --------------------------------------------------------------- 54

2.2    Empirical study ------------------------------------------------------------------- 58

2.2.1 Maleficiary---------------------------------------------------------------------- 72

2.3 Summary of literature Review ----------------------------------------------------  73

2.4   Theoretical framework------------------------------------------------------------ 74

CHAPTER THREE: REASEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.0       Introduction--------------------------------------------------------------------- 77

3.1 Research Design--------------------------------------------------------------- 77

3.2 The Study Area--------------------------------------------------------------- 77

3.3 Method of Data Collection--------------------------------------------------- 78

3.4 Library Sources---------------------------------------------------------------- 78

3.5 Internet Sources---------------------------------------------------------------- 78

3.6 Method of data presentation--------------------------------------------------- 78

CHAPTER FOUR:   DATA ANALYSIS 

4.1 The Urhobo verb: A classification -------------------------------------------   79

4.1.1 Tonal classification of Urhobo verbs……………………………………   79

4.1.1.1    High tone class…………………………………………………………   78

4.1.1.1    Low tone class…………………………………………………………   80

4.2 Valency and Argument Structure in Urhobo-------------------------------    81

4.2.1.  Mono-valent verbs--------------------------------------------------------------    82

4.2.2 Di-valent verbs -----------------------------------------------------------------    85

4.2.3. Tri-valent verb --------------------------------------------------------------------    88

4.3   Thematic roles/grid in Urhobo -------------------------------------------------     91

4.3.1     Agent ---------------------------------------------------------------------------     93

4.3.2     Patient --------------------------------------------------------------------------- 95

4.3.3   Experiencer----------------------------------------------------------------------- 97

4.3.4    Benefactive----------------------------------------------------------------------- 99 

4.3.5 Instrument------------------------------------------------------------------------ 100

4.3.6 Locative--------------------------------------------------------------------------- 101

4.3.7    Goal ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 103

4.3.8     Maleficiary --------------------------------------------------------------------- 104

4.3.9     Motive -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 105

4.3.10   Force----------------------------------------------------------------------------- 107

4.4       Case Theory--------------------------------------------------------------------- 108

4.4.1 Nominative Case--------------------------------------------------------------- 108

4.4.2 Accusative Case--------------------------------------------------------------- 109

4.4.3 Dative Case-------------------------------------------------------------------- 110

4.4.4 Genitive Case ----------------------------------------------------------------- 111

2.4.5 Vocative Case------------------------------------------------------------------ 111

4.4.6 Ablative Case------------------------------------------------------------------ 112

CHAPTER FIVE: SUMMARY OF FINDING CONCLUSION

5.1   Summary of finding  ------------------------------------------------------------ 113

5.1.1    Functional argument in the Urhobo Language---------------------------- 113

5.1.2  The relationship between Semantic classification in the  Urhobo 

Language ------------------------------------------------------------------------------       114

5.1.3 The relationship between the argument structure in universal grammar and the    Urhobo language ---------------------------------------------------------------------       116

5.1.4  Valency and Argument Structure in Urhobo------------------------------       117

5.1.5 Transitivity, intransitivity and argument structure in the Urhobo language       118

5.1.6 The relationship between verbs and argument in Urhobo----------------      119

5.2  Conclusion ----------------------------------------------------------------------      120

5.3  Recommendation --------------------------------------------------------------      121

REFERENCES----------------------------------------------------------------------      122

CHAPTER ONE:  INTRODUCTION

1. I    Background of the Study        

The minimalist program is an attempt to situate linguistic theory in the broader cognitive science. Minimalism makes a case for an economical and elegant theory of syntax, which eliminates the rigors of convoluted analysis of the process of generating and interpreting linguistic structures. It claims that grammar is minimally complex and that it is a perfect system of optimal design.

            Minimalism, according to Asher (1994), seeks to develop an account of linguistic universals that on the one hand, will not be falsified by the actual diversity of languages and, on the other, will be sufficiently rich and explicit to account for the rapidity and uniformity of language learning. Within the theoretical framework of minimalist program, linguistic expressions are generated by optimally efficient derivations that must satisfy the conditions that hold on the interface levels, the only levels of linguistic representation.

           Chomsky (2001) posits that the interface levels provide instruction to two types of performance system: - articulatory- perception, and conceptual – intentional. He maintains that all syntactic conditions must express properties of these levels, reflecting the interpretive requirements of languages and keeping to very restricted conceptual resources. The minimalist approach to linguistic theory is formulated and progressively developed on the theory of principles and parameters. 

     Consequently, it avoids and redefines many terms of the earlier theories. The new terms which drive minimalist syntax includes the following: Economy of derivation principle, checking principle, computational system, spell out principle and copy.

1.1.1 Economy of Derivation Principle 

          Economy of derivation is a principle which states that movements i.e. transformations only occur in order to match interpretable with un-interpretable features. Chomsky (1995) gives an example of an interpretable feature using the plural inflection on regular English nouns e.g. ‘dog’. The word dogs, according to Chomsky (1995), can only be used to refer to several dogs, not a single dog, and this inflection contributes to the meaning, making it interpretable. Economy of derivation, according to Chomsky (1995), is the principle that grammatical structure must exist for a purpose, i.e. the structure of a sentence should not be larger or more complex than required to satisfy constraints on grammaticality. The three economy principles that have been most written about in the literature thus far are SHORTEST MOVE, PROCRASTINATE AND GREED.

         Shortest move, in the words of Napoli (1996:394), “implies that a constituent must move to the first position that is the hierarchically close position of the right kind in an upward direction of the right kind from its source position”. Shortest move prevents movement from passing over an intervening node, whether that intervening node is lexically filled or empty. Thus, a verb could not move directly to AGRS, its tense features would not be checked and the derivation would crash in PF (phonetic form). Violations of shortest move can result in ungrammaticality even without comparing alternative derivations. Based on this, shortest move is believed not always to be a global filter.   

Procrastinate tells us to prefer derivation that holds off on movement until after the spell out. In other words, a movement that does not affect PF is preferred to movements that do affect PF. The spell out will determine whether the verb and adverb will be inside the VP node. This depends on when head-to-head movement takes place. If in PF the V will not be inside the VP, it will precede all constituents contained in the VP- including any adverb that modifies the verb. If the V moves up the tree after spell out, then PF will not be affected by the movement and the V will be inside the VP in PF. In that case, adverbs that modify the V might precede or follow it, depending on the type of adverb and what its location was at spell out. We find that in French, adverbs that modify       V follow it. e.g. 

(1)     Marie se lave souvent les mains

Maire Refl washes often the hands

Marie washes her hands often  

(se is a reflexive clitic) so, the V undergoes head movement before spell out. 

  (2)     *Marie se lave les mains   souvent

  Maire Refl often the hand washes

 Marie washes her hand often (the deep structure)

The head movement in French dictates that the subject and the adverb that modify the verb move together. But in English, adverbs that modify the verb can precede the V, and in fact, never come between the V and the following constituents that are inside the VP. e.g. 

 (3)     *Marie often washes her hand

The sentence above is ungrammatical in the English language because the adverb comes between the verb and the noun in the sentence. 

 The principle of Greed says that a constituent may not move to satisfy the needs of another constituent but only to satisfy its own needs. For example, a constituent can move in order to check off its own feature but not in order to make it possible for another constituent to check off their features.

1.1.2 Computational System

     Computational system in the minimalist program refers to the capacity of grammar to generate from the lexical repertoire of the language a logical apparatus for communication. In other words, the computational system refers to the stock of lexical items, and the resultant meaning. Napoli (1996) shows the computational system in the following way.

Fig.1

                                     Lexicon                               computational system

                    SPELL OUT                             PF          LF

Minimalism sees language as a system consisting the lexicon and a computational system (CS). The (CS) selects items from the lexicon and a determinable syntactic construction. Each formed construction is a structural description (SD) with two representations, namely the logical form LF and phonetic form (PF). Ouhalla (1999) adds that each derivation from the SD must satisfy all relevant co- occurrence restrictions. From figure 1, minimalism discards the terms deep structure and surface structure. Also, Chomsky does not regard deep structures as part of the conceptions which are virtually necessary.   

1.1.3 Checking

           The minimalist program has modified the assumption of the case assignment. This modification is the form of case checking. Minimalism does away with deep and surface structures entirely and retains only the logical and phonetic form levels. The proposal is that in the derivation process, features of the combining elements need to be checked. The checking is for two principal reasons: to ensure that the derivation is well formed at the phonetic level to be pronounceable, and account for the logical derivation of syntactic structures so that it can be meaningful (Mbah 2012). In other words, every un-interpretable feature is checked and every illogical construction is also prevented. An aspect of checking flows from spec-head relation. SPEC is a dummy node, which acts as a filter against elements being copied into or across it. For instance, it does not allow wh-elements to move into COMP positions already containing wh-heads. In other words, the wh-head adjusts to accommodate the element being copied into it, e.g

[Spec [comp Wh [s You saw whom] s] comp] spec?

1.1.4 Spellout

     Radford (2006) claims that spellout is the point in the derivation process when part of the syntactic structure is sent to the phonological form to be mapped to the phonetic form for proper morphophonemic checking and rendering. Sometimes, as in the case of some irregular morphophonemic derivation, some constituents may have null or zero spellout. In other words, when a syntactic form has a null spellout, it is sent, for instance, the morphonemic result of put+ed is put. The ed has a null spellout the form of spellout is shown by Ejiofor (2010) citing 

Luraghi and Claudic (2008) as follows: 

Fig.2

                                                                        LF

                                                                                 Select, merge and move

                                                                 Spell out                      PF

                                                                                                   Select, merge and move

                                                            Numeration (Ai, Bj, Ck)

1.1.5 Copy

     Copy is a new term, which minimalism has redefined technically to mean trace. A trace is a ghost copy of a moved lexical item, which is hosted by all the nodes where the moving lexical item iterated. The assumption of minimalism is that lexical items are not extracted by being merely copied and dropped at the new site. Napoli (1996:390) states as follows:

In the new theory, there is no real movement per se. instead; one node is copied into another node. Hence, there are traces in this theory, but rather, a principle that tells us that in PF only the chain receive a phonetic matrix. The node(s) in the chain is phonetically empty. 

     The determination of argument structure has been shown to be a hard task for several reasons. Little argument exists with respect to (a) how many canonical usages a verb has, (b) which arguments are really required by a verb and (c) in what order they may be realized in sentences, (Gildea 2002). Riemsdijk and Williams (1986) assert that the study of selectional restrictions was an attempt to discover some empirical basis for the distinction between arguments and non- arguments. They further highlight the fact that the verb will have selectional restrictions on its argument and not on anything else. They posit that the theta theory within Government – Binding Theory is another attempt to account for the relation between verbs and their arguments. They note that the term θ role and thematic relation are synonyms. To designate different arguments of the verbs, terms such as agent, patient or (theme), and goal are commonly used. This terminology maintain a system of argument types, in that, for example, it implies that the agent argument of two different verbs have something in common (Riemsdijk and Williams 1986).

           Napoli (1996), remarks that the study of predicate argument structure reveals properties relevant to the realization of arguments. Consequently, the study of predicate argument structure of lexical items must be checked for coherence with the final semantic structure of sentence. If they are consistent, the sentence is well formed and are said to converge. If they are not consistent, the sentences are not well formed and are said to crash. In general, these approaches rely on syntactic information and/or subcategorisation dictionaries for identifying the arguments for a verb in a sentence, and/or assume, as known, the structure types in terms of number and order of argument a verb can take. The main goal in these approaches is to identify the lexemes that are most likely to fill a given argument slot.

           Some researchers (Grishman and Sterling, 1994; Laporta, 1999; Gomez, 2004) try to go beyond these lexemes and generalize the structures that are learned by analyzing the similarity between the words occurring across similar instances or by using lexical resources such as Levin (1993)’s verb classes and Mbah’s {2012} GB Syntax.

       Many scholars have written much on Urhobo syntax but nothing has been written on the argument structure of the Urhobo verb using Minimalist Approach to the best of my knowledge. Some linguists such as Green and Igwe (1963), Ubahakwe (1976) Emenanjo (1975) (1978), Nwachukwu (1983), Uwalaka{1983} discuss transitivity in Igbo; Mbah {1999, 2006, 2012), and Ndiribe (2008) talk about verb compounding and thematic roles in Igbo; Anoka (1983) and Imo (2013) discuss co-occurrence restrictions in Igbo, while Aziza (1997), {2010} discusses verb compounding and tone marking in Urhobo, respectively. 

           The materials of these authors form the great pool from which we draw in the course of this research, since there is no much literature on Urhobo grammar on minimalism. This dearth of literature on this area necessitates this study. 

1.1.6   The Urhobo language and its people

Linguistically, Urhobo is classified as a southwestern Edoid group of language spoken extensively in Delta state of Nigeria (Aziza 1998:21). The term “Urhobo” refers to both the language and the people. The Edoid family of language according to Elugbe (1995) falls within the Southwest Benue Congo group as shown in the daigramme below. It is one of Nigerian’s ten largest languages in terms of the number of native speakers. The majority of the people are found in the present local government area of Ughelli North, and South, Ethiop East, and West, Uvwe, Sapele, Udu, and some parts of Warri South Local Government Area of Delta State.

            The immediate neighbors’ of the Urhobo are: Isoko on the South East, Ijaw on the South, and Isekiri on the West. The Bini (Edo) on the North and the Ukwani (Kwale) on the North East. 

           Urhobo is organized into twenty-three polity, which vary widely in size and population. As with most nationalities in Nigerian, each polity (clan) is identified by a distinct dialect of Urhobo and each has a distinct name, which in most cases is the name of the founder (Otite1982). The twenty-three geo- political divisions of Urhobo are Agbon, Evweni, Ephron Oto, Ogo Oghara, Okere, Okparegbe, Okpe, Olomu, Orogun, Idjere, Udu, Ughelli, Ughievwen, Uvie, Uwheru, and Mosogar; of these, Okpe and Uvwie are linguistically two distinct languages that are not mutually intelligible to the average Urhobo man, though both are still regarded as dialect of Urhobo language for social and political reasons. However, notwithstanding the dialectal variations evident in Urhobo, there is a central dialect which is the Agbarho dialect that is intelligible to all.

           Moreover, as is characteristic of most oral history, the origin of Urhobo as a nationality is entangled in controversies. Otite (1984:292), highlights one of such claims by Rev. E. Arawore in his Unpublished “Tradition of history of Urhobo” which claims that, the Urhobo for the first time, came from Egypt, left some people on the Lake Chad, stopped briefly at Ile-Ife and settled permanently in Bini and eventually moved to the swamp of Niger- Delta. 

Fig.3                                 Proto Benue Congo

West Benue Congo                                                                       East Benue Congo

         Yeai                    Akpes                Ayere Ahan          Noi

        Yorubiod       Ediod       Akokoid       Igbooid

                                                                                        Nopid             Oko           Idomoid

     Delta       North Central       North Western    South Western

Esan                                         Chatuo                   

Edo                                           Uneme                  osse                      southern

Ora                                           Yekhee

                                                                   Eruwa   Uvbie   Isoko      Okpe   Urhobo

A tree diagram tracing the Urhobo language. (Elugbe 1995) 

1.2 Statement of the Problem

           The difficulty of determining the argument structure of a predicate has been attributed to the lack of consensus on: how many canonical usages a verb has; which arguments are really required by a verb; and what order may they be realized. Selectional restrictions and thematic relations have been focused on to provide insight to the argument structure of the verb 

 ( Riemsdijk and Williams 1986).

Concerted efforts are required to provide inputs from different natural languages based on which a cross-linguistic generalization can be attained in matters of predicate Argument Structure. This research, therefore, assumes that the Urhobo language is a potential source of such inputs and thus seeks to account for the argument structure of the Urhobo verb, Using the Minimalist Approach. 

1.3 Research Questions

        The following are some of the questions that aid this research:

1. To what extent can the Urhobo verbs be classified?

2. How does the valency of the Urhobo verb determine its argument structure?

3. To what extent does thematic function relate to argument structure in the Urhobo language?

1.4 Objective of the Study

The main focus of this research is to investigate the argument structure of the Urhobo verb using the minimalist approach. The specific objectives are to:

1. Classify Urhobo verbs

2. Explore the role of transitivity in the predicate argument structure of Urhobo verb

3.  Relate thematic functions to argument structure in the Urhobo language. 

1.5 Scope of the Study

 This research explores towards the argument structure of the Urhobo verb using the minimalist approach. In doing this, this study focuses on theta roles and functions and transitivity in Urhobo language. The research does not discuss selection restrictions due to the exigencies of time and space.

1.6 Significance of the Study

           The research work is significant in the sense that it provides information for cross-linguistic discussion of argument structure of predicate. It equally breaches the gap between the Urhobo syntax and other languages since many scholars believed that Urhobo syntax is yet to receive a proper attention. Finally, this work is an eye opener to young scholars in Urhobo language and other related languages whose syntax is yet to receive a proper attention.

1.7 Limitations to the Study 

           The researcher met tremendous difficulties in getting relevant literature to review, because little or no work has been written on this area of Urhobo syntax. Therefore, the researcher encountered the problem of research materials in the language under investigation. In addition, the theories of syntax are abstract that the researcher had to read a lot of materials from other languages.  However, we want to state that all constraints encountered were handled; they did not in any way affect the authenticity of the findings.

1.8 Tone

           Tone is a characteristic of most West Africa language. The tone of a word or an expression is an essential part of the meaning of a particular word or expression (Yul-Ifode 1995:77). According to Katamba (1989:56), “the pitch of an utterance depends on the rate of vibration of vocal cords, the higher the rife of vibration, the higher the resulting pitch becomes. Thus, in languages where tone plays a role, some sequences of segment may have deferent relative pitch. Pitch variations used in this way is called tone”.  In addition, Aziza (2005:28) sees tone as the pitch with which sound is made. In tone language, tone is as important as consonants and vowels to differentiate the meaning of words that appear very similar, the tone(s) a word bears is part of the meaning of the word, also, a tone language has been defined, by Pike (1948:48) as a language having lexically significant contrastive but relative pitch on each syllable, while Welmer (1953:2) define tone language as one with both phonemes and segmental phonemes enter into the composition of at least some morphemes, In the same vein, Yip (2002:4) defines tone language as a language in which an indication of pitch enters into the lexical realization of at least some morphemes, while Batibo (2000:178), sees tone language as one in which pitch can be used to distinguish between words of grammatical functions.

           In Urhobo, there are two basic tones namely, the low (L) tone and the high (H) tone. There is also a third pitch which is called a downstep, the downstep is found only after the high tone. There are also two gliding tones (HL) falling and (LH); rising both are actually sequences of the basic tones found in some grammatical contexts. It should be noted that only vowels bear tones. 

The tone marking convention used in this research is as popularized by Aziza (2006) with the claim that Urhobo Language operates two basic tones; the high and the low tone. It has been used in Imu (2010). This convention is preferred because of its economy of diacritics. The two basic tones are marked as follows: The high tone is marked by H while the low tone is marked by L according to Aziza (2006:281). 

.

ARGUMENT STRUCTURE OF THE URHOBO VERB: A MINIMALIST APPROACH



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