The Syntactic Position of Negative Markers in Idoma and Tiv : A Deviation from Language Universal Validity

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Journal of Universal Language, Language Research Institute, Sejong University


Syntacticians and typologists have carried out a cross-linguistic study of the syntactic position of the negative marker with respect to the verb in a given sentence (Greenberg 1966 and Dryer 1988). The objective of this study is to carry out a comparative study of the negative marking strategies in both Idoma and Tiv languages, spoken in Benue State, Nigeria. Given the fact that the two languages belong to the same genetic family (Benue-Congo) and share the same basic word order (subject, S; object, O; verb ,V); the study is intended to find out the extent to which the negative marking strategies in the two languages conform to the assumption under language universals. The assumption is that there is an overall tendency for the negative marker to precede the main verb in SVO languages. That is, a location between the subject and the verb. Since none of the two writers speaks any of the two languages, data were collected through interview method. And the frame technique method was adopted in presenting structured grammatical sentences in English to native speakers of the two languages to translate to both Idoma and Tiv. The Principles and Parameters approach was employed for our analysis in this study. Our findings revealed that what obtains in both Idoma and Tiv negative constructions is contrary to the assumption under language universals. Instead of preceding the main verb, the negative markers occur at the sentence-final position, in each of the two languages. Notwithstanding the deviation from the language universal validity, we have discovered a high degree of similarities in the syntactic behaviour of negative markers in both Idoma and Tiv languages



Syntactic Position, Negative Markers, Idoma, Tiv