1.0   Introduction

In this chapter, basic information about the language of study (Yeskwa) shall be given. The chapter centres on background information about the language, the historical background of speakers, sociolinguistic profile of the people as well as, the genetic classification of Yeskwa language. We shall later proceed to scope and organization of study, theoretical framework, data analysis, data collection and later to basic syntactic concepts. We shall finally focus on VERB PHRASE in Yeskwa language and application of transformation rules to Yeskwa language.

1.1   General Background

Yeskwa is a language spoken in Kaduna, Nassarawa and Plateau States. The name Yeskwa was originally called ‘Nyankpa’ meaning ‘to know leaf’, but it was later changed to Yéskwá by the missionaries who could not pronounce the name well.

Yeskwa speakers in Kaduna state can be found in Kagoma District of Jema’a Local Government Area. In Nassarawa state, Yeskwa speakers are found in Panda district of Karu Local Government Area while in Plateau state, they do not have a district of their own neither do they have a Local Government Area of their own because they are mere settlers.

Yeskwa speakers in Panda district of Karu Local Government Area are popularly known as Nyankpa people. Yeskwa speakers form 60% of the populace while the other take up the remaining 40%. This clearly indicates that the speakers of the Yeskwa language in Panda district of Nassarawa state are more than any other people in the district.

Since speakers of the Yeskwa language happen to live in a predominantly Hausa speaking community, it then follows that the Hausa language is usually the second language of every Yeskwa native speaker. Hence, the majority of Yeskwa native speakers also speak Hausa fluently.

Yeskwa language is still spoken currently and it is not threatened by Hausa people. However, from a brief visit, there is every evidence that the language continues to flourish and is spoken by the young people in the settlement.

1.2   Historical Background of Yeskwa Speakers

Yeskwa speakers claimed to have originated from Darigo in Kaduna state.  From available corpus of oral evidence, the first Nyankpa man who lived during the pre-historical period originated from a place called ‘DARIGO’. The mystical place which is itself name after the founder of the language, is up to date, faithfully behaved with certainly, up to form part of the areas around the hills situated North, East and West of the present Kwoi, now in Kaduna state across the  Gitata, Bagagji up to Uke areas of the present Nassarawa state.

A permanent foot mark and other archeological evidence of this pre-historic advent of Nyankpa language can still be found at this orally authentic place of origin called (Darigo). Darigo, the first Nyankpa man had a wife called Obiche with whom they had several children. among these children were Ovurgbe, Ontat, Onok (all males) and Oching (female). Each of them had his or her own children who grew into the various clans we have in Nyankpa land both home and in Diaspora today. The offspring from Ovurgbe became the Ovurgbe clan. Those of Ontat form the Ontat clan while those of Onok are believed to be founders of the old Nok of famous archeological monuments and indeed its surrounding towns up to Kafancha, Kagoro and Zunkwa area in the present Kaduna state.

Oching the only female is believed to have married probably to a different language called Zho, then living at the foot of the hills where the present Kwoi town in Kaduna state is situated. She had children with him out of whose lineage the present Mada and Eggun language are believed to have sprung from. The Nyankpa people are thus one of the proud archeological ethnolinguistic clusters of the famous Nok area.

1.3   Sociolinguistic Profile

The people have their own distinct culture and general way of life. The Nyankpa people have been generally known in the literature as Yeskwa, a Hausaised form of their name.

Although there are native speakers of Yeskwa in Kaduna, Nassarawa and Plateau states, they do not form a single speech community across these states because of the phonological and morphological differences. These differences do not interfere with intelligibility. They have a common history and share similar social and cultural ideologies.

Yeskwa is conventionally divided into twenty mutually comprehensible dialects and Titatara is said to be the main dialects.

As par the role of Yeskwa language in education, the research conducted by the researcher revealed the important role play by Yeskwa language in the area of education. It is a language used in elementary and secondary schools. The language used as a language of instruction or taught as a subject within both primary and secondary schools in the language area. However, it has said not to attained a high level of standardization nor has it been studied in the Nigeria Universities.

The role of Yeskwa as a language in the field of  commerce cannot be overemphasized. Its role is as old as the existence of the Anyankpas. Yeskwa language is used by the majority of people to transact business between each other or among one another.

Above all, Christian broadcasts scriptures in Yeskwa language. Hence, the majority of Yeskwa native speakers also speak Hausa fluently.

1.4   Socio-Cultural Background of the Speakers

This section centres on the socio cultural background of Yeskwa speakers in term of their occupation, religion, administration, population, festivals marriage, burial rites, culture.

1.4.1        Occupation

The major occupation of Yeskwa speakers is farming and rearing of animals. They produce both cash and food crops, among which are; cocoa, bananas, cotton, oranges, yam, millet, maize, guinea corn, beni seed, rice and eshun. Eshun is said to be good for stomach upset patients. Some who have the means and resources rear cows.

1.4.2        Religion

The Yeskwa people practice three types of religion Christianity, Islam and Traditional religion. The traditional worshipers worship a main god called NAN and some worship other gods like Ofu, Juju, sticks, stone, tree, earthen pots etc. The priest in charge of the worshipping is Odyong-Utep. In those days, a kind of initiation was done for male adults in the community, for seven days. There is no circumcision. The priest is usually assisted by a selected few elders called “Asacisa”.

Christianity was introduced when the Christian missionaries came to the area in 1912. The indigenes were converted and they have helped in spreading the gospel of Christ.

Islam was introduced during the Jihad of Usman Dan Fodio.

1.4.3        Administration

The system of government in Yeskwa community is monarchical, with the king as the head. The king is known as Odyong Nyankpa.

The first Odyong Nyankpa who ruled the entire Nyankpa chiefdom was probably Ovurgbe and oral tradition put the period as well before 12th century. His kingdom was said to extend as far as present Suleja to the North.

Odyong Nyankpa who is presently Joel Sabo Awinge is the name of the ruler in Yeskwa community. Odyong Nyankpa is the representative of the whole Odyong Nyankpa community. He is a first-class chief. He is said to be the district head. There are also family heads called Doinyankpa, who are in charge of the small villages around.

The youth are always engaged with the community labour. Eighteen years and above pay tax in Odyong Nyankpa community.

1.4.4        Population

Yeskwa speakers form 80% of the population in Kagoma district of Kaduna while they are the leading 40% of the populace in Panda district of Nassarawa state. Though they do not have a local government area or district in Plateau state, they do not exist.

The confirmed total number of speakers was that given in the SIL website ethnologue which puts the total number of speakers at 52,000 (2009, UBS).

1.4.5        Festivals

In addition to popular Christian and Islamic festivals, the native speakers of Odyong Nyankpa have their own traditioned festivals. For instance, the ‘Nyanpa day’ festival which brings speakers together once a year. On this day, different masquerades like Ofuleng, Gbato, Awuya, Odagba, Ochekpai, Furunze, Pasagari, Osaku, Terefu, Kakayawa, Anuwabe join the people to celebrate the festival. Another popular festival among the Odyong Nyankpa people is ‘Ekokop”. It is a festival that held when you have four grandsons. During the Ekokop festival, Odyong Nyankpa speakers go around blowing cow horns, zithers, made from split guinea-corn stalks and trumpets. This “Ekokop” festival is however not as prestigious as the Nyankpa day festival.

1.4.6        Marriage

In Yeskwa community, when wooing a lady, both the lady and her family must give their consent to the proposal. After that, a big he-goat would be taken to the in-laws’ house along with other things culture demands, such as a jar of wine known as Obam, two sheep and this such of introduction may last for a good three  months.

On the era of the wedding known as  Lagyale Ezam, the youth from the groom and some women will go to the wife’s family. People engaged in fight and beatings so as to get the lady away from the house, because her family would be very reluctant in releasing her to the groom’s family. Further still, she can be snatched by the groom’s friend on her way away from the house. If they succeeded, the wife would be taken to the groom’s house. During this send forth, bride price known as “Amfibi Ezam” would be paid together with three bags of salt. A day after the bachelor’s eve, the lady will then be taken to the church for the wedding. Pre-marital and extra-marital sex are forbidden.

1.4.7        Burial Rites

When an elderly person is dead, information is sent to the relations. If the deceased was an active member of the secret cult, the cult takes charge of the burial, they put the corpse inside a room called Okunma for necessary final send forth.

Whatever may be the case, a goat is slaughtered and blood is shed. The grave is dug as a shaft some feet into the ground and a tunnel is made out from the side of it where the corpse is laid. The corpse is buried prostrate. For men, the right hand serves as a pillow and for women it is the opposite.

After the burial, the Ntamu prayer for the dead is held after four days. The widow remains in mourning until the last stage of  mourning feast which is signified by the removal of the skull for observation three months after burial. If there are holes in the skull, the deceased was a witch but if there are none, the deceased was good. The deceased possessions are inheritable.

1.4.8        Mode of Dressing

In the past, Nyankpa people put on Aso Oke known as “agan sake” and abound of leaves to cover their private parts, woven baskets for the bottom while they leave their chest bare. But the present day outfit used in the community is wrapper and shirt. There are also different dresses for different occasions.

1.4.9        Culture

Yeskwa community is very rich in culture. They have different kinds of traditional dances like Zeregbam, Afakpa, Ashakata etc. Drums; Flutes, Wooden Pipe, Cow horns and the like are the instruments used for the dances.

Yeskwa people in those days, used leaves to cover their private parts, woven, basket for the bottom. Red chalk was also used to rub their legs. This was their own dress code. Even to day, during the Nyankpa day festival, the old people insisted that girls should dress in the native way using Agan sake for the festival. Their tribal marks consist of an inverted three, a perpendicular line and an E on either side of the nose.

The Ayankpas eat all kinds of food but their main foods are Shoyu, made from wheat; Tempeh, made from sesame seeds; Quinoa, cooked in the same way as rice; Buckwheat, made from grain and Adzuki beans which also made from beans.

1.5   Objectives and Research Questions

In this study, an attempt shall be made to identify the following:

The pattern and arrangement of words in Yeskwa language i.e. word order

–       Identify the lexical categories of Yeskwa

–       State the transformational processes in Yeskwa language

–       Identify how words are combined to form phrases and sentences language

–       State the rules applied to structure of phrases in the language

–       To know the classification (verb) that exist in Yeskwa

1.6   Justification of the Study

Though the language is codified, there are limited published works in aspects of Yeskwa verb phrase. This project addresses  this aspect with the aim that it will serve as a reliable source to current and further researchers of Yeskwa language including all lovers of linguistics and linguists in general.

1.7   Genetic Classification

The essence of a genetic classification is to trace the origin of the language and show its relationship with other languages. Yeskwa language belongs to the Benue-Congo group, which is a sub-family of Niger-Kordofanian (Williams, 1982: 102). A detail classification of Yeskwa based on the model proposed by the above source is given below:


Afro-Asiatic                        Khoisan                     Niger-Kordofanian         Nilo-Sahara

Niger Congo                                                                                       Kordofanian

Mande       Gur                   Kwa          West-Atlantic      Benue-Congo     Adamawa Eastern

Kainji                         Igboid                       Platoid                       Nupoid                Oko

Plateau Platoid Group                  Western Plateau Group                       Benue-Congo Platoid Group

Northern Western Group                                                                                     Western Group

Proto Koro

Tinor                         Ashe                         Yeskwa (Nyankpa)  Idu           Gwara

Fig 1.7.1: Genetic Classification of Yeskwa

(Williamson, 1982: 102)

1.8   Scope and Organization of the Study

The main objective of this project is to, study in detail the verb classification that exists in Yeskwa language. This research project is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is purely an introductory. It begins with a general background of the language of study. It also looks at the historical background of the speakers, their sociolinguistic profile and the genetic classification of the language. Also present in chapter one is the theoretical framework adopted in writing this project, method of data collection, data analysis, and a brief review of the chosen framework.

Chapter two presents a phonological overview of Yeskwa language and the basic syntactic concepts like phrase structure rules, basic word order, lexical categories and sentence types. Chapter three is on the verb phrase in Yeskwa language.

Chapter four introduces us to transformational processes like focus construction, question formation and relativization. Finally, chapter five, which is  the concluding chapter, is centrally a recap of all that have been said about verb phrase of Yeskwa from the previous chapters as well as major findings about the language including recommendation(s) and conclusion.

1.9   Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework to be employed in this work is Government and Binding (GB)  Theory Government and Binding Theory is a model of grammar propounded and developed by Noam Chomsky. This is done with the aim of covering Universal Grammar (UG) that is, the system in  principles, conditions and rules that are elements or properties of all human language.

1.10 Data Collection

The method of data collection used in this project is contact/informant method. We collected linguistic data for this study by making use of language informants/helpers who are native speakers of Yeskwa language. The data were collected through the use of frame technique and the Ibadan Wordlist of 400 Basic items. The researcher also consulted secondary sources such as the internet, relevant texts, etc. retrieve useful information about the language.

For the primary source  data, the researcher contacted two language helpers; Ayeme Efuna, a 34 year old state security officer and Zakaria Muhammed, 30. The latter works with NNPC. The language helpers hail from Kondoro in Karu Local Government Area of Nassarawa state. Both speak English, Hausa, Gbagi and Eggon apart from Yeskwa. They have spent averagely 25 years in their home town.

1.11 Data Analysis

To ensure an efficient data analysis in this research, the researcher listens to the recorded tape and then transcribes the words phonetically. The morphemes that made up the phrases and sentences are also carefully glossed. The data collected are worked upon according to how the native speakers use it without imposing any extraneous rules or norm of correctness.

1.12 Review of the Chosen Framework

The framework adopted in this research work is the government and binding (GB) theory. This is the theory that captures the similarities which exists between different categories of lexical phrases by assigning the same structure to them rather than having different phrase structure rules for NPs, VPs etc.

Government and Binding theory deal with transformation. According to Radford (1988: 419), transformation is the rule that deals with the act of changing the structure of one sentence to another structure through the concept of movement known as move-alpha (move-a). This theory (GB) was developed to correct the lapses in transformational generative grammar.












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