Title page i

Certification ii

Dedication iii

Acknowledgments iv

List of Symbols and Abbreviations vi

Table of Contents vii


General Background1

Historical Background of Bura2

Socio-Cultural Profile of Bura4

Marriage System4





Burial Rites7

Genetic Classification of Bura7

Scope and Organization of Study8

Theoretical Framework9

Data Collection and Analysis10

Data Analysis11

Review of the Chosen Framework11

X-Bar Theory14

Theta (θ) Theory18

Case Theory20

Government Theory22

Bounding Theory22

Binding Theory25

Control Theory27




Basic Structure Concepts In Bura29

Phrase Structure Rule29

Noun Phrase in Bura32

Verb Phrase in Bura34

Prepositional in Bura36

Adjectival Phrase in Bura38

Lexical Categories in Bura41


Proper Nouns43

Common Nouns43

Concrete Nouns44

Abstract Nouns44

Collective Nouns45

Countable Nouns45

Uncountable Nouns46



Transitive Verbs49

Intransitive Verbs49






Basic Word Order in Bura52

Sentence Types In Bura55

Simple Sentence55

Compound Sentence58

Complex Sentence59

Functional Classification of Sentences in Bura62

Declarative Sentence62

Imperative Sentence65

Interrogative Sentence65

Exclamatory Sentence66




Types of Negative Formation71

Negation of Modal Auxiliaries74

Auxiliary Negation75

Main Verb Negation75

Negation of Auxiliary “Do” ,“Have” and “Be”77

Negation of Commands79

Negation in Bura81

Negation of Markers in Bura81

Sentence of Negation in Bura82

Negation of Auxiliaries88

Imperative Sentence Negation91

Interrogative Sentence Negation94




Negation and Focus Construction104

Subject NP Focusing109

Direct Object NP Focus112

Indirect Object NP Focus115

Negation and Relativization118

Negation and Reflexivization123







References 131


General Background

This chapter introduces the language of study, the people speaking the language and their geographical location. It introduces us to the background of the speakers of the language which includes their culture and beliefs.

Also, a brief explanation of the scope of the study, Method of Data Collection, Genetic Classification and the Theoretical framework used in carrying out the research on the language are discussed.

This research is aimed at describing the Bura Negation. Bura is a language Spoken in two (2) local government areas in Borno State. The two local governments’ areas are Biu and Shani respectively. The Bura people are about 250,000 in population.

Historical Background

According to oral history, Bura speakers were believed to had their origin from the Northern part of Nigeria in Borno State. The State shares border with Niger Republic, Chad Republic and Cameroon Republic and Common boundaries with Adamawa, Gombe and Yobe States.

The Bura lived north of Biu before being attacked by Yamta – ra – wala around 16th Century. The few people Yemta brought with him intermarried with the Bura and built up the Biu dynasty into a kingdom. Those descended from Yemta’s group were called Pabir (Babur), this is why Pabir and Bura differ considerably in culture and appearance.

Until today, the Pabir are the ruling class among the Bura, and all the Bura villages pay tribute to the Emir of Biu. The Bura still resent the Pabir.


ImageApart from Bura they also speak Hausa, Chibok and Marghi and also few of Fulflde. The Bura speakers are approximately over 250,000. The Pabir and Bura are the major tribes in Biu and Shani Local Government Areas of Borno State.

Socio- cultural Profile

This center on the socio-cultural background of Bura people in terms of their occupation, Religion, festivals and ceremonies. The following information the socio-cultural profile of Bura people was collected through oral source.

Marriage System

Bura has a way of marriage policy when a female child is born, a suitor may propose by throwing a leafy branch of a certain tree into the mother’s hut. If he is accepted, he gives gifts as the girl grows up. He works

on her father’s farm and makes Zana matting for them when she reaches marriage able age, he organizes his friends to capture her and bring her to his house. Then the remaining part of the bride price is settled, which is not a insists amount and arrangements for the marriage ceremony are concluded.

Also, thing that are normally given in the ceremony is basically kolanut, salt and a white linen. The bride is usually expected to produce a white cloth stained with the proof of her virginity and it may be displayed with pride. Her parents will be ashamed if she is not a virgin.

As a sign of respect, a man does not eat with his parents-in –law.


The only festival held in Bura is the maize harvest festival and is performed before fresh corn can be eaten. Bura man who has lost a father or mother selects three heads of corn, usually from his first fruits, dresses it carefully and puts it on a tray which he sets by his head at night.


Originally the Bura had no central Government. Now the Emir of Biu appoints the districts head (Ajia) who then approve the appointments of

the village heads (Lawans).Today both these titles belong to certain families. The village heads appoint the ward heads (Bulamas) over small villages and wards of larger ones. Anyone who has leadership ability can be chosen as a Bulama.


The Bura had their traditional religion before Islam came around  1920 and Christianity later came in the 1920’s. Today these three religions can all be found among the Bura. The traditional religion is called Hyel or Hyel- taku, but Naptu is a personal god who takes cares of individual. The gods are represented by various objects such as water, stones, mountains or forests. Most sacrifices to gods are made on Saturday, so it is a special day, the chief priest is called Mythmaker Haptu

Christianity was introduced through the missionaries The proportion of Christians is small compared to the entire population.

Despite the presence of churches in many towns and villages, lslam is still the predominant religion among the Bura. A rough estimate of the religious percentages is as follows: - Muslims 78% Christians 20% and

Traditional 20%. Many Christians are nominal and many are not free from immorality.


The main occupation of the bura people is farming. Minority of the people are subsidized farmers, though commercial farming is also practiced. The major crops are maize, guinea corn, groundnut and rice.

Burial Rites

Bura people celebrate death, when an old person dies, he or she is buried on the second day when everyone has gathered in the evening. The corpse of a chief is buried seated, but other people re laid flat on the floor of the cavity. There is traditional dancing for seven days after the burial and if the deceased was an important person, it lasts for 14days.

On one of the mourning days the Fulnchambwi dance is done. The male dancers jump from the ground to the roof of the hut of the deceased and back again until the roof is destroyed. After this the date is fixed for the

last mourning or sadaka, which is held about six (6) months later, but usually during the dry season.

Genetic Classification

This essence of a genetic classification of a language is to trace the origin of the language and show it relationship with the other language.

Bura language belong to the Afro-Asiatic Family which is shown by the family tree below

Source “Comrie, B. (ed) (1987)

Scope and Organization of the Body

The main objective of this project is to study in details the type of negation strategies that exist in Bura language. Negation in Bura will be an sentence negation, auxiliary negation, imperative negation and interrogation negation. We shall also study in respect to transformation processes which involve modifications of constituents.

This long easy is divided into five chapters, the first chapter is the introduction chapter which contains the general introduction of the research work, the historical background of the Bura people, social-cultural profile, genetic classification, collection and analysis of data and the theoretical framework employed.

Chapter Two presents a phonological review of Bura language and the basic syntactic concepts like phrase structure rules, basic word order, lexical categories and sentences types. Chapter Three is on the negation in Bura

language, while chapter four introduces us to transformational processes like focus construction, relativization. Chapter five summarizes and concludes the work.

Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework to be employed in this research is Government and Binding theory (GB). GB 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 or principles, conditions and rule that are elements or properties of all human languages.

In essence, negation as an aspect of syntax will be analyzed under the GB theoretical framework.

Data Collection

The method of data collection is contact method or informant method. We collected linguistic data for this study by making use of language informants who are native speaker of Bura language. The data were collected through the use of frame technique and the Ibadan word list of 400 basic items. Below are pieces of information about the informants.

1. NAME: Ezekiel Simon Shelai

SEX: Male

AGE:39 years



OTHER LANGUAGE SPOKEN: English, Hausa and Chibok.

2. NAME: Mr. Bashir SEX: Male AGE:36 years

OCCUPATION: Civil Servant



Data Analysis

To ensure an efficient data analysis in this research, all data received are accurately transcribed. 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.

Review of the Chosen Framework

The framework adopted in research 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 VPs, NPs etc

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

Cook (1988: 66), the theory of Government and Binding is an interlocking arrangement of principles and sub theories which interact in many different ways.


Sells (1985: 25) and cook (1988: 33).

In the diagram above, no part can be considered in isolation from the rest. Government and Binding theory posit seven sub-theories of theory of grammar. The structures generated at various levels are constrained by a set of theories, which define the kind of relationship possible within a grammar.

These sub-theories of Government and Binding theory are given below:

i. X- Bar Theory

ii. Theta (θ) Theory

iii. Case Theory

iv. Binding Theory

v. Bounding Theory

vi. Control Theory

X-Bar Theory

Lamidi (2000:150), X-Bar theory is based on the theory of  phrase structure. It defines the nature of the type of syntactic categories available to any language. The central notion of x-bar theory is that each of the major lexical categories (Noun, Verb, Preposition and Adverb) is the head of a structure dominated by a phrasal node of the same category (Noun: NP, Verb: VP, Preposition: PP and Adjective: AP). In essence, it defines possible phrase structure configuration in language. The x- bar theory projects from the ‘core projection’, level to the ‘maximal projection level’ which is called projection principle.

Chomsky (1981: 29), the representation at each syntactic level is projected from the lexicon, in that they observe the sub- categorization properties of lexical items. A lexical item projects from its zero bar level to one (single) bar level, which is optional, them to double bar- level. The zero bar-level is referred to as the intermediate projection level and the double  bar level is referred to as the maximal projection level. The illustration is shown below:

Xll Maximal projection level

Xl Intermediate projection level

Xo Core projection level

Horrocks (1987: 99), x-bar theory tells us that lexical head (x) and its complement form a constituent (xi) and that any specifier of this form with a high level constituent (xii).

Another feature that makes generalization rule possible in 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 specifies the order of elements in a language. The basic assumption of head parameter is that sentences may be broken into constituent phrase and structural grouping of words.

Lamidi (2000: 105), the head is the keyword in a phrase and the word can be pre or post modified. In x- bar theory, the head of a phrase is very important and the parameter that distinguished language that is incorporate the head of the phrase to the right or left is known as head parameter i.e head


X - Xo Complement


Xo Complement

Or head last

X1 – Complement Xo


In x-bar theory the lexical categories remain the basic symbol. The phrases in which they are incorporated are shown by the addition of bars to the original symbols. This is exemplified below.

“the man”

Theta (θ -) Theory

Kirsten (1991:493), θ-theory deals with the function relationship between a predicate and its arguments: a predicate is said to assign theta role to each of its arguments. It is concerned with the

assignment of what Chomsky called ‘thematic roles’ such as agents, patient (or theme), beneficiary etc. It is assumed that theta –roles are assigned to the complement of lexical items as a lexical property. The NP complements (direct object ) is assigned to the roles of patient the PP complement is assigned to the role of locative while the subject NP or the sentences is assigned to 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 to just one argument denoting constituent.

The thematic roles are the roles assigned to arguments. The common theta roles are: Agent, patient, instruments and locative.

(a) Agent: - This is the performer or indicator of an action.

E.g. Olu kwàsá tsir Olu (past) eat beans ‘Olu ate beans’.

‘Olu’ is the performer of the action.

(b) Patient: - An entity who is affected by an action.

E.g. Mdana tsi kwi ni.

Man (past) kill goat the. ‘The man killed the goat’.

‘The goat’ is undergoing the action.

(c) Instrument: - It is an entity which occasions the happening of an action.

E.g.  Nene pwa bzir ni ka beltir ni. Nene beat child with belt her. ‘Nene beat the child with her belt’.

‘Her belt’ serves as what Nene used to beat the child.

(d) Locative: - It refers to the places where an action takes place.

E.g. Martha ku mori makarata. Martha (past) goes to school. ‘Martha went to school’.

‘School’ here refers to a place’.

Case Theory

Kirsten (1991:496), case theory regulates the distribution of phonetically realized NPs by assigning abstract case to them. It deals with the principle of case assignment to constituents. Chomsky assumed that all NPs with lexical contents are assigned (abstract) case. Case is assigned by a set of case of assigner to the governed.

Horrocks (1987), the basic idea is that case is assigned under government i.e. the choice of case is determined by the governor in any sentences. For instance, a lexical head x may be said to govern its sisters in x- bar and certain lexical heads also have the power to case – mark certain of their complements. Thus, NP subject is assigned nominative by INFL, verb assigns accusative case to object of the verb while preposition assigns oblique case to its object.

One of the most important principles of case theory is case filter which states that any S- structure that contains an NP with lexical context but no case is ungrammatical (Kirsten, 1991:407) formally represented case filter as:

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 that it governs (Horrocks, 1987:104).Thus:

α govern β if and only if:

1. α and β mutually c – command each other.

2. α is a governor (e.g Noun, verb, preposition and adjective) 3.α governs β then governs the specifies of β. (Lamidi 2001:98)

The theory of government also defines the relationship in other sub – theories of Government and Binding theory.

Bounding Theory

Kristen (1991:497), It is concerned with the way movement rule (move – α) can be constrained. In essence, it is concerned with the limitations to be placed on the displacement of constituents by the transformation rule schema move – α. Generally speaking, movement rule within GB theory is assumed to involve three things.

A. An extraction site

B. A Landing site

C. An intervening gap


Intervening gap

Extraction site

Here, move- α is defined as move any constituent from anywhere to land somewhere. The original position of alpha (d) before movement is called an in-situ position ( Culicover, 1997:50). Thus,

In – situ position

The above diagram says move any element, which is represented with (α), from its in-situ position regardless of variable X and Y to the left, right, beginning or end of a phrase or sentence. The basic idea to be captured by

bounding theory is that no movement can be move an element too far. Theoretically, move- α is always subject to subjacency condition, a condition that specified that no movement can move an element over more than one bounding node at a time. The illustration is shown below:

Binding Theory

It is concerned with the relationship of NP participants in the sentence. Horrocks (1987:105), state that, “it is concerned primarily with the conditions under which NPs are interpreted as co-referencial with other NPs in the same sentence”. As preliminary, there are three types of NPs which are relevant to the Binding theory. Thus:

1. Anaphors

2. Pronominal

3. Re-expressions(Referential expressions)

The anaphors are NPs that cannot have independent reference such as reflexive and reciprocal pronouns, pronominals are NPs that either refer to individuals independently or co-refer to individual already named in a given sentences and R-expression are NPs with lexical heads which potentially refer to something (Culicover, 1997:35).

The locations of antecedents that count for Binding theory are defined in three Binding principles, viz:

1. Principle A: Anaphors in (reflexives and reciprocals) must be bound in their local domain (usually the sentence immediately around an item).

2. Principle B: Prenominal must be free in their domain and a non- anaphoric pronoun must not be bond with its bonding domain.

3. Principle C: A referring expressions(R-expressions) a non- pronominal; NPs) must not be bond at all, must be free.

The term, bound based on principle A simply refers to the conjunction of C-command and co-indexing. Thus:

α binds β: if and only if:

1. α co-commands β

2. α and β are co-referential.(Horrocks `987:109)

In principle B, the terms ‘free’ simply mean ‘not bound at all’. Principle C refers to elements such as names and other referential noun phrases.

Control Theory

Control theory is the transformational analysis of sentences with verb taking infinitival complements that have null subject understood co- referential with an NP in the main clause. Trask (1993 :62), defined control as a module of grammar that deals with the phenomenon of a VP complement that has no overt subject consequently interpreted semantically as having some determinant phrase (DP) appearing somewhere within the sentences or an arbitrary (unspecified) DP that functions as its subject or ‘controller’. A non-overt subject DP of the infinitival clause is technically represented within the GB frame work by a distinct “empty” category called


According to Riemsdijk and Williams (1986: 132), the abbreviation PRO has been devised to stand for a phonetically null pronoun that occupies the subject position of infinitives. Control theory can be exemplified with an English sentence as follows:

(a) Lanre promised Tolu that she goes Lanre promised Tolu (PRO to go)

The PRO here is controlled by the subject NP ‘Lanre’ and the PRO have reduced ‘that’ she ‘to’.

(b) Dupe wants that she leave.

Dupe wants (PRO to leave). Dupe wants Shade to leave.

(The PRO here is also subject controlled).




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