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Title: Yoruba clause structure
Authors: Bode, Oduntan Gbolahan
Keywords: African Languages
Niger-Congo Languages
Atlantic-Congo Languages
Issue Date: 2000
Publisher: The University of Iowa
Abstract: This dissertation is a study of the structure of the Yoruba clause in light of recent insights into ciausai architecture in the Minimaiist framework. Various aspects of the syntax of Yoruba will be examined with one major objective in mind, viz., to tie together the properties of different structures and lexical items, and to show how they interact to determine the basic structure of the Yoruba clause. Although this study is in most part descriptive, its major goal is to contribute to an on-going debate on the architecture of the clause and the role UG plays in its determination. This dissertation addresses two major questions, both of which pertain to clause architecture. One, do all languages have the same inventory of categories, or do they vary with respect to the set of categories they instantiate? Two, does the order of occurrence of these categories in the structural representation of sentences vary from language to language? In answering these questions, I will examine various aspects of the syntax of Yoruba with one major objective in mind, viz., to tie together the properties of different structures and different lexical items, and to show how they interact to determine the basic clause structure of the Yoruba language. This thesis contains six chapters and is organized as follows. In Chapter One, I discuss the objectives of this study and the theoretical issues relating to clause architecture. I also present a brief outline of some crucial aspects of the grammar of Yoruba. In Chapter Two, I present the theoretical framework adopted in this study, viz., the Minimalist Program. Included in this chapter is a discussion of some of the most influential hypotheses about clausal architecture which have been incorporated into the Minimalist framework. Chapter Three deals with the question of category inventory. In this chapter, I review previous studies on categories in Yoruba. I also examine the two major hypotheses on category inventory: the Structural Uniformity Hypothesis and the Limited Diversity Hypothesis. I then propose a category inventory for the Yoruba language on the basis of language-internal evidence, further supported with conceptual arguments. Finally, I argue for the nonexistence of preposition and Agr as distinct categories in Yoruba. Chapter four provides a theoretical description of sentential negation in Yoruba, and examines the issue of the subject position, with the broader aim of providing evidence for the structure of INFL in the language. Included in the discussion in this chapter are the position of negation relative to the subject and Tense, the interaction between Negation, Tense, and Aspect, the restriction on the subject high tone, VP-negation, etc. All these provide compelling evidence for the correct structure of the Inflectional layer in Yoruba. Chapter five is a sketch of the Yoruba verb phrase. I review the three major verb classes in Yoruba, viz., simple verbs, splitting verbs, and complex verbs, and argue that their semantic properties play significant roles in determining their syntactic projections. Also included in the discussion in this chapter is the issue of adverb placement, specifically, the location of adverbs in relation to the internal argument. I also examine the issue of feature-checking. Chapter six concludes the study. I speculate on the consequences of the proposals in this thesis for the Minimalist Program, and also pointed out residual issues that are not fully pursued in the present study, but which merit further research.
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