Negation In Nungu Language

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Table of contents

List of Abbreviation and Symbols


1.0               General Introduction

1.1               Historical background of Nungu Speakers

1.2               Socio cultural profile of Nungu people

1.2.1            Occupation

1.2.2            Religion

1.2.3            Housing

1.2.4            Clothing

1.2.5            Marriage

1.2.6            Naming and Burial Ceremonies

1.2.7            Education

1.2.8            Administration

1.3               Genetic classification

1.4               Theoretical Framework

1.4.1            X – Bar Theory

1.4.2            Theta Theory

1.4.3            Case Theory

1.4.4           Case Filter

1.4.5           Binding Theory

1.4.6           Bounding Theory

1.4.7           Government Theory

1.5              Scope and Organization of study

1.6              Data Collection

1.7              Data Analysis


2.0              Introduction

2.1              Sound Inventory in Nungu language

2.1.1           Nungu Consonant sounds

2.1.2           Nungu Vowel sounds

2.2              Basic Syntactic concept

2.2.1           Sentence type        Simple sentence        Compound Sentence        Complex Sentence

2.2.2           Sentence Functions        Declarative Sentence        Interrogative Sentence        Exclamatory Sentence        Imperative Sentence

2.3              Basic word order

2.4              Phrase Structure Rules

2.4.1           Phrases

2.5              Lexical categories

2.5.1           Noun        Common Noun        Proper Nouns        Concrete Nouns        Abstract Nouns        Collective Nouns        Countable Nouns        Uncountable Nouns

2.5.2           Pronouns        Personal Pronouns        Possessive Pronouns        Interrogative Pronouns

2.5.3           Verbs        Intransitive Verbs        Transitive Verbs

2.5.4           Adjectives

2.5.5           Adverbs

2.5.6           Prepositions

2.5.7           Conjunction

2.5.8           Interjection


3.0              Introduction

3.1              Negation

3.1.1           Negation as universal category

3.1.2           Types of Negation

3.2              Types of Negation formation

3.2.1           Negation of Modal Auxiliaries

3.2.2           Main Verb Negation

3.2.3            Negative Commands

3.3              Negation in Nungu language


4.0              Introduction

4.1              Transformations

4.2              Negation and focus construction

4.2.1           Subject NP focusing

4.2.2           Direct object NP focus

4.2.3           Indirect object NP focus

4.3               Negation and Relativization

4.4              Negation and Reflexivization


5.0              Introduction

5.1              Summary

5.2              Observation

5.3              Conclusion

5.4              References



Gb              –        Government and Binding

­­X                –        X­­- Bar

Spec            –        Specifer

XP              –        Maximal Projection

CP              –        Complementiser Phrase

IP                –        Inflectional Phrase

INFL           –        Inflection

NP              –        Noun Phrase

VP              –        Verb Phrase

ADJP          –        Adjective Phrase

PP               –        Preposition Phrase

N                –        Noun

V                –        Verb

NI                –        Noun Bar

VI                –        Verb Bar

CI                –        C – Bar

AGR           –        Agreement

TNS            –        Tense

MOD          –        Modal

SS               –        Surface Structure

DS              –        Deep Structure

DET            –        Determiner

S                 –        Sentence

Comp                   –        Complement

FOC            –        Focusing

REL            –        Relativization

NEG           –        Negation

NPIs           –        Negation polarity items




Language is a human means of communicating ideas, emotions and desires. It is a system of arbitrary, vocal symbols which permit all people in a given culture, to communicate and to interact. Any language is fundamentally, series of sounds which become meaningful only when the sounds are grouped together in certain, definite arrangements.

The role of language in human life cannot be over emphasized and it calls for proper documentation to avoid language extinction. In citing the goals of linguistic research, it is pertinent to know that it involves language policy formation, language planning and standardization.

This research work aims at examining the aspect of Nungu negation.  This introductory part will show some factors on the language and its speakers by looking at the historical background of the language, socio-cultural profile, genetic classification of the language, a brief review of the chosen theoretical framework, scope and organization of study, and data collection and data analysis.


The Nungu tribe is said to have migrated from a Hill side in Bauchi State. The migration was due to persistent oppression from their enemies in neighboring villages, and due to their search not only for conducive and peaceful environment, but also fertile ground to plant their crops. The name they bore at the beginning was “Rindre”, but after their victories, they adopted to be called “Nungu”, meaning “warriors”

When they got to Plateau State, they settled on the north– western part of the state, the present Nassarawa State and made their living for more than seven decades. While they were in Nassarawa State in Wamba Local Government, they occasionally joined their clan in Bauchi during their annual festivals where they discussed the future of their tribe and the well-being of the people.

The Nungu people were forced to migrate from Nassarawa State when their leader was denied of his crown as the King of Wamba kingdom and his title was given to a Fulani man instead. This act of kingship denial was seen as an insult by the Nungu people and they intended to wage war but was prevented by their clans in Bauchi.  When the Nungu king was about to die, he called all his people together and told them to find their way from Wamba and go to another place instead. He said that they should not stay with those tribes that cheated them. Some of the Nungu tribes therefore migrated down to Kaduna and settled in Borumo, a village situated in Jema’al Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Meanwhile some of the tribes stayed in other regions of Nassarawa, but the majority stood their ground in Wamba Local Government of Nassarawa state while others dispersed elsewhere.

According to online sources, the Nungu people were about 10,000 in population as of the National census dated 1973, but those in Kaduna state were above 3,500 people, even though some of their sons and daughters were in other states working in the ministries and Government offices.

Nevertheless, the majority of Nungu are in Nassarawa and Bauchi States (their ancestral home land)

Nungu Language is also known as ‘RINDRE’. Rindre is preferred by the native speakers of the Language.


Every community has its district way of life. The way people eat, what they wear, their mode of marriage, etc differ in various societies. The Nungu people, just like every community, have their distinct culture and traditional.

Nungu is a language spoken as the mother tongue in Nungu speaking territories both in Bauchi, Wamba Local Government Area of Nassarawa State, Borumo village in Jema’a Local Government Area of Kaduna State. It has neighbouring tribes like Gwandara, Kagoro, Ninzam, Atuku, Hausa, and a host of other tribes.


          Nungu people are predominantly farmers. They practice both subsistence and commercial farming. The major crops are cereals, pulses (or legumes) and vegetables.  The main cereals are sorghum, millet, maize, rice and acha; the dominant pulses are cowpeas, groundnuts, beniseed and soybeans; while the major vegetables are onions and tomatoes.  The Nungu people also engage themselves in blacksmith work; they carve iron and invent various useful tools such as hoe, cutlass, knives, guns and other domestic iron made tools. Hunting is another occupation they are so much interested in. Each man went with his gun hanged at his shoulder.


          Nungu people are predominantly Christians and idol worshippers. The traditional worshippers sacrifice to their god called “kinga”, meaning the greatest god.  Precisely, kinga is a carved stone object like human head (skull). This stone is kept in a sacred place they call “Kaze–kinga”, which is the shrine for their great god. The shrine of this god is erected at the village centre, and beside it is the village square where they hold the village meeting, and some other gathering.

The chief priest performs the daily duty of blood sprinkling on a stony object by killing a domestic fowl. In addition, he sprinkles the blood with the powder from a certain sacred tree.  All forms of societal vices and crimes were sanctioned using the Kinga. Undoubtedly, there are still some elderly traditional worshippers who also go to church.

1.2.3 HOUSING:

The factors that determine the building of houses in Nungu land are war and agricultural requirements. The Nungu people used to live in huts. The major building structure is made of mud and hay. In fact, those using mud for their building are the civilized among them. Notwithstanding, in the recent times, they have started using bricks and some have gone to the extent of using blocks with cement substance to enhance the durability of the building.


          Prior to westernization and civilization, the Nungu people clothed themselves with animal skin.  They made various styles from skin materials such as shirts, trousers, skirts and so on.  Women even went to the extent of using such materials to tie their babies to their back.


          Presently there are two kinds of marriage practices in Nungu land: religious marriage (church wedding) and traditional marriage.  Nungu people practice both monogamy and polygamy. Boys marry at the age of eighteen years, while girls marry at the age of sixteen.

A marriage between youths of Nungu land was by special arrangement. A boy’s parents could announce their desire to engage a girl for their son if no other man had done so before. The young man would give four young chickens to the father of the girl. Thereafter, they were both considered betrothed (only if the girl loves him). The man then rendered agricultural services to the parents of the girl for the space of four to seven years, for the girl to make use. As it was, farm work was for the father of the girl. The young man had other services for the mother and that was to re-thatch her roof after every two years. Then at the specified time, the wedding ceremony could take place.


The Nungu people, like most African societies, have quite a number of ceremonies and initiations.  A child’s naming ceremony is done on the seventh day after birth. When a child is born to Nungu communities, he or she is circumcised on the seventh day.

In Nungu Communities, the dead is mourned by covering the corpse with goat skin. The elders give their last respect to the dead by performing some traditional rites, thereafter, the dead will be buried.

If a man dies abnormally, he will be buried in the bush, when a youth dies, there is a great mourning and he/she is buried in his or her room. But when an old person dies in the night, he or she is kept in the local mortuary prepared by the people with sands from the river, banana leaves, and water. The corpse is laid on the sand inside the mortuary usually for two days and the burial rites are performed thereafter.

They also celebrate a number of festivals among them is, “Iʒri rihẹsé” Meaning, the new yam festival, Màngá, and Màtẹngbà which serve as the festival that bring all the Nungu Speaking Communities together. During the celebration of Màtẹngbà which comes up with two years interval, it involved blood ritual and sacrifices, and it covers the range of the sacred days.

In the olden days, they sacrificed with human blood but over time, they have changed to animal blood. Precisely, they either sacrifice a he-goat or a bull in place of human being.


Before the advent of western education, the Nungu people have a way of teaching moralities, respect, and skills within their communities. The education of their children is of utmost importance, because they believe that an uneducated mind will be problematic to himself and the community in general and ultimately die in ignorance. They thereby teach and impart moral knowledge to their children right from birth, and as they grow they set them on skills training.

Western Education was embraced by the Nungu communities and they emphasized that both male and female should be given equal right to education. In their effort to support Government programme on Universal Basic Education, the Nungu community in Jema’al LGA., collaborated with neigbouring villages to build a primary school with modern furniture so as to make it easier for their children to acquire education.


In Nungu Community, leaders are selected through consultation. Before a leader is selected, all the clan, including the youth must be present. They will share ideas and deliberate on the characters and the roles played by the selected candidates throughout his staying in the community. After the deliberate examination and finding with unanimous decision, that the person is worthy of the leadership position, they forward the name of such person to the highest authority for the coronation.


Genetic classification of language is based on the assumption that languages originated from a common ancestor. The essence of the genetic classification of Nungu Language is therefore to trace the origin of the language and show its relationship to other languages, especially African languages. Nungu language belongs to the plateau group of languages. The platoid itself is a sub-family of the Benue-Congo, which originated from the Niger-Congo phylum of the Niger-Kordofanian language family. The Language family tree below shows the genetic classification of the Nungu Language (Williamson, 1982; 102)

African Language

Nilo Sahran         Afro-Asiatic         Niger-Kordofanian                    Khoisan

   Niger-Congo                                    Kordofanian

West           Gur                                Benue                            Adamawa

Atlantic                         Mande        Congo        Kwa           Eastern

  Bantoid        Junkunoid       Cross-river          Plateau       Bantu

Kurama     Tsan   Piti            Amawa                Nungu        kasua

Nungu                 Lungu        Adong

Fig 1: The Genetic Classification of Nungu Language.

(Williamson, 1982:102, and Crozier and Blench, 1976:24).


The framework adopted in this research work is the Government and Binding Theory, which is a model of grammar that seeks to describe language as a property of the human mind. Government and Binding Theory is preceded by other theories of syntax, like the Transformational Generative Grammar, which was first presented in Chomsky (1957) and later reformulated in Chomsky (1965).

Transformations basically transform related structures into each other. Government and Binding Theory was introduced in Chomsky 1981). It was developed to address the lapses in transformational generative grammar, like the method or concept of transformation.

Horrocks (1987:98) states that “transformational rule has been replaced with movement rule. Movement rule recognizes two levels of grammatical representation: D – structure and S – structure. Yusuf (1997:69) explains that ‘D – structure is the level at which we obtain all the information on the words and their combination. It consists principally of the lexicon, which ordinarily means a dictionary, a mental dictionary, where all the words in a language are stored. The D – structure serves as the input to the movement rules and the S – structure serves as the output of the movement rules. G. B. syntax has a number of sub-theories which are:

X – Bar Theory

Binding Theory

Bounding Theory

Case Theory

Theta Theory

Government Theory

Control Theory

These theories are explained one after another later in this work.

According to Lamidi (2000:43), “transformations act on deep structure and map elements there onto the S – structure, i.e. it changes the structure which occurs at the D – structure to what we find at the S – structure. S – Structure is the physical form (representation of structures) in which the structure finally appears after the application of transformations, as shown in figure 1 below:

D – Structure


Lexical rules

Categorical rules

Strict Sub Categorization

Selectional Restrictions

Phrase Structure Rules


(Move – a)

 S – Structure

Phonological Form                                              Logical form

Deep Structure
Projection Principle
q – Theory (q – Criterion) 


Case Theory(case filter)



Surface Structure 


Fig. 2: Modules of Grammar (Cell, 1985:25 and Cook, 1988:33) 


X – Bar Theory 
Phonetic Form
Logical Form

The diagram below shows the relationship between the modules:

1.4.1  The X – bar Theory (X – Theory)

According to Horrocks (1997:100), X – bar theory provides principles for the projection of phrasal categories from lexical categories in the form of general schemata. Lamidi (2000:149) observes that X – bar theory recognizes phrase categories (e.g. NP, VP, PP e.t.c) and lexical categories (e.g. Noun, Verb, Adjective, e.t.c). These categories can be schematized as shown below:


                Spec                X1



 X0               Complement

Fig. 3: Phrasal and Lexical Categories (Lamidi, 2000:152).

In this schema, X is a variable representing N, V, A, or P, each of which functions as the head of its own phrase. The head is primary and therefore it is X0. As an X0, it is a lexical category and it can be post-modified by a complement and/or an adjunct. It can be post-modified by a specifier (Spec). The lexical head can project to the intermediate category (X1) through the addition of a complement.

Lamidi (2000:152) states that X1 (X – single bar), in conjunction with the specifier, projects to X11 (X – double bar). This shows the primacy of the head as the only obligatory category in a phrase. Spec, Adjunct and Complement are relational terms and they are optional in phrases. The X – bar (X1) theory is based on the theory of phrase structure.

1.4.2  Theta Theory

As explained by Peter (1997:21), the general theory of how the syntactic structure mediates the relationship between the syntactic constituents of a sentence on the one hand, and the thematic argument structure of head on the other hand, is q – Theory. Peter explains further that, theta roles are called “Arrestees”. They include patient (the thing affected by the action), Goal (aim or purpose of action), Agent (the individual initiating the action), Source (a place or point where something or somebody comes from), Experience (somebody that has and is aware of a particular emotion or physical feeling), Beneficiary (somebody who benefits from something or action), and Locative (a place where something happens or exists).

Lamidi (2000:56-57) points out that in predicate argument structure, the subject and object positions of a verb are said to be occupied by arguments, say nouns. The terms subject and object are, however, relational terms which show the positions of an argument in relation to the verb. Since the verb is central, it means that the adjoining arguments are dependent on it for their full interpretation. The verb, therefore, assigns thematic roles (or theta roles) to them Horrocks, 1987:102). In other words, it theta – marks them. The role assigned to a noun by the verb defines the thematic relations the noun has with the verb. This may be agent, patient, sources, e.t.c.

1.4.3  Case Theory

Cook (1988:137) states that “case theory is the module that assigns abstract case to Nps and, by so doing, provides a principal explanation for several aspects of movement”. In Horrocks (1987:120) view, case theory deals with the principle of case assignment of constituents. Chomsky (1982a) assumes that all NPs with lexical contents are assigned (abstract) case. Case Filter

As pointed out by Cook (1988:139), case filter is the principal requirement imposed by the module called “case theory”. Case filter requires that an NP must be moved into a case – marked position. If an NP has phonetic content and no case, it is said to be ungrammatical.

1.4.4  Binding Theory

Binding Theory, according to Peter (1997:59), is a type of referential dependency, whereby the reference of the bound element is exactly the reference of the antecedent. It is concerned with the relationship of NP participants in the sentence. As Horrocks (1987:109) explains, “it is concerned primarily with the conditions under which NPs are interpreted as co-referential with other NPs in the sentence”. For the purpose of the binding theory, NPs that are arguments are assumed to fall into one of the following categories:

(i)      Anaphors

(ii)     Pronominals

(iii)    Referential expressions.

Pronominals are NPs that lack specific lexical content. They may either refer to individuals independently or co-refer to individuals already named in a given sentence. R-expression refers to a noun phrase with a lexical word which potentially refers to something.

Horrocks (1998:110) states Binding conditions to be the following:

(1)     An anaphor must be bound in its governing category

(2)     A pronoun must be free in its governing category.

(3)     An R – expression must be free.

1.4.5  Bounding Theory

Kristen (1991:497) states that Bounding Theory is concerned with limitations to be placed on the displacement of constituents by the transformation rule schema theory is concerned with the way the movement rule, move alpha (a), can be constrained. Movement rule within GB theory is assumed to involve three things (Horrocks, 1987:129):

(a)     An Extraction site (e;)

(b)     A landing site

(c)      An intervening gap

These are shown in the diagram below:

Landing site         intervening         gap         Extraction site                               

Fig. 4: Landing and Extraction sites (Horrocks, 1987:129).

Move a, explains Sell’s (1985:26), is defined as move any constituent from anywhere to land somewhere. The original position of alpha (a) before movement is called an in-situ position, as shown below (Lamidi, 2000:132):

X                    a                      Y

                    WHP                            X is the landing site


                                                          Y is the extraction site



Fig. 5: The Original position alpha (Lamidi 2000).

1.4.6  Government Theory

This theory deals with the relationship between a head and its complement. It is a syntactic relationship between a governor and the element it governs (Horrocks, 1987:104)”. Thus: α governs β if and only 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 in other sub-theories of government and binding theory. (Horrocks, 1987:104).


This project is aimed at studying the various types of negation in Nungu language.

The work intends to examine auxiliary negation, interrogative sentence negation, imperative sentence negation, Yes/No sentence negation, declarative sentence negation, with data from Nungu language. The various transformational process involved in negation will also be discussed.

1.5.1 Data Collection

The service of an informant was employed in the collection the data. The approach was bilingual as I used English language in asking for data from the informant who is a native speaker and he responded in Nungu language.

My informant, Mr. Charles Bitrus, is a 40 years old man born at Wamba town, where he had his primary and secondary education. He has been in Wamba since he was born. He speaks Nungu, Kagoro, Numana, Hausa and English.

1.5.2 Data Analysis

In this research work, statistically, about 100 sentences were collected from the native speaker, five (5) of them were exclusively reserved for general example of sentence negation, four(4) for negation of auxiliaries, five(5) for imperative sentence negation, five(5) for interrogative sentence negation, four(4) was reserved for negated subject NP focus, four(4) for negated direct object focus, four(4) for negation and relativization and four(4) for negation and reflexivization.



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