Headedness in Yorùbá: An Examination of the Deviant Value of Determiner Phrase

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Sino-US English Teaching


The issue of “headedness” is a product of Chomsky’s (1988) notion of UG (Universal Grammar) that led to the development of a framework known as P&P (Principles and Parameters) theory. It is this theory we have adopted for our analysis in this paper. The purpose of this paper is to examine the inconsistency in the value of Head Parameter with reference to the value of DP (determiner phrase) in Yorùbá. As a native speaker of Yorùbá, the author has adopted an introspective method of data collection and used the intuitive knowledge of other native speakers of the language for necessary clarifications. Despite the fact that English and Yorùbá are both head-initial, the structure of the NPs (noun phrases) in English shows that the head noun is always pre-modified, making the NP “head-final”—a violation of the value of Head Parameter in the language. This necessitated the need for Abney’s (1987) DP hypothesis; in which the determiner heads its own phrase, thereby making a NP in English head-initial. This solves the problem of Head Parameter in English. However, since nouns in Yorùbá are post-modified, adopting “DP-analysis” will automatically produce head-final—a violation of the value of Head Parameter in thelanguage. Given the inconsistency in the specification of head-complement order among the noun phrases in English and Yorùbá, this paper proposes to set a parameter for SVO (Subject-Verb-Object) languages with pre-modification (like English) to adopt “DP-analysis”, and those with post-modification (like Yorùbá) to adopt “NP-analysis”. This will ensure “head-initial” value for the two categories of SVO languages



headedness, pre-modification, post-modification, DP-analysis, NP-analysis, English, Yoruba