Question Formation in Koenoem Language

 Question Formation in Koenoem Language


Question Formation in Koenoem Language


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Chapter one on Question Formation in Koenoem Language



This chapter will dwell on the general and historical backgrounds, socio cultural profile, sociolinguistics profile, genetic classification, scope and organization of study, theoretical frame work, data collection, data analysis and brief review of the chosen frame work. The main objective of the research work is to study question formation i.e. how questions are formed in Koenoem. According to Stockwell (1977) “to study syntax is to study aspects of how sentences are formed and how the are understood”. Question formation is one of the syntactic processes and it can be grouped under the linguistics level of syntax.


Going by oral history Koenoem people are part of the dominant people in Shendam Local Government area of plateau state. They are known as Koenoem or Kanam by the people in the neighboring villages. The word Koenoem means to refuse i.e. “koe” means “to” While “noem” means “refuse” i.e. or “desist” Koenoem and the neighboring village had a river dividing them in which the river (land) belongs to Koenoem but their neighboring villagers were claiming to have own the river because of the catfish they were benefiting from the river because the Koenoem people were not wise and minority in population. So this was what brought about the mass killing between Koenoem and the neighboring village which claim life of many innocent children and villagers and it was this that made the Koenoem people to relocate to on top of hill and form a different community there. Most of the neighboring new born babies were strike to death by thunder after birth. All these information was known through the help of my informant who happens to be a native speaker of the language (Koenoem).

Going by oral history from Mr. Titus who is the native of the community (Koenoem) the name of the neighboring village is Koezam (to dominate) when the villagers got to realized that all the calamities befalling them was as a result of their selfish interest they quickly settle for compromise and resolved the issue and landed over the land to the Koenoem speaking people. At present both Shendam and Mikang L.G.A today don’t take Koenoem for granted. Going by oral information from the indigene of the area, (Mr. Titus) the Koenoem on like any tribe in Nigeria are predominantly farmers and in recent time most of them have now developed interest in going to school and also involved in political activities, one of the members of house of assembly representing Mikang L.G.A in plateau state is from Koenoem ward and the chairman Mikang L.G.A is also from there.

In the (1973 sill) national population census the population of the Koenoem was about 3000 but according to oral information the population at present was not more than 700 because of the conflict that occur between them and the neighboring village (Koezam). 15th edition (2005) Ethnoloque Languages of the World.


Socio cultural profile has to do with the relationship between the society and culture. It also has to do with the people’s way of life. This includes occupation, religion, ceremonies, food, dressing, believe, festivals marriage etc.


Going by oral  history the main or basic occupation of the Koenoem people is farming. They were predominantly farmers; they cultivate crops like maize, millet, guinea corn, groundnut, cassava, beans, rice etc. They were able to harvest rice because they were very close to the river side. After harvesting all the crops the buyers will now come from urban centre and buy at the cheapest price and take it to the city.


Going by oral information form  Mr. Titus  native speaker and indigene of the community. The Koenoem people have various types of food probably because they were farmers. Though, they eat rice, maize, beans, yam etc. but their best and commonest food is Tuwo (made with maize) and Okra soup, also there is a tree call Takueng Koelam that they cook as draw soup. They also take vegetables but their best soup is Takueng Koelam which they even sell because it is always available during raining and dry season, on like the one’s that are seasoners. 


Going by oral information their dressing is like that of the Yoruba’s. the elders or fathers puts on Agbada and Sokoto while the mothers puts on Iro and Buba. Though, Agbada and buba is not restricted to the elders alone but the younger one’s put-on shirts and trousers most often for the male and the females puts on gown, skirt and blouse and native attires.


Going by oral history, the Koenoem people believed so much in superstition. They so much belief in dream that whatever dream someone dreams will surely come to pass and whenever, there is death in the village they find a way of attaching it to something like witch craft, evil spirits e.t.c.


Going by oral history the Koenoem people perform naming or name their child both male and female after the 7th day of birth. They take the child to the church where he or she will be baptized and after the activities in the church there is no other ceremony.


The Koenoem people circumcise only their male child and it is done sometimes after 7 days of birth but mostly its done in the hamattan season where a fowl and a hundred naira is presented for the circumcision price of the child Going by oral history form Mr. Titus native  speaker and indigene of the community


Going by oral information the burial rites in Koenoem is more or less like that of the Muslims where when a person dies and all the relatives or parts of the relatives were there present, they do the arrangement in time and burry the corpse in less than 24 hours, the only reason where the corpse will be kept for more than that hour may be because of some circumstances beyond their control.


In Koenoem land there was no any industrial companies aside the farming that they engage in.


Going by oral information the Koenoem people normally perform their festival once a year which is normally schedule on every 12th of December. The festival is known as Koenoem festival and they have masquerade which always come out to celebrate with them.


Going by oral history the level of education in Koenoem is nothing to write home about, because most of them believed that farming is the best way of making money. Education as defined by “plato” who said education is production of sound mind to a sound body in this definition we are now made to understand that the Koenoem were not aware of the positive impact of education then but now they are. So their children now go to school because of their involvement in politics.


Going by oral history Koenoem peoples administration is more or less a traditional system of administration. The people of Koenoem normally take orders from their chiefs. Going by oral history the chief is the administrative and ceremonial head in the village. Their chief who is known as Long Koenoem dictates some certain things for them and any information which is to be made public to the people must first be approved and authorized by the chief before is to be delivered to the people or masses. Aside the chief is the  Mai Angwa meaning ‘hamlet’ who is the second in command and some time he takes directive or order from the chief to the people.


Going by oral history, there origin can be trace to Tal and Angas, the Tai are the four fathers of the Koenoem which can be traced to Chinese.

Tai Kabu, Tai Munkong and Tai Kobzak all the three languages understands one another and speaks almost the same language, the only difference is the intonation of pronunciation like:

gi   go meaning ‘you’ (fem)

doem noem meaning ‘refuse’

By Koenoem and Tal people respectively. Koenoem is to desist from something and they form this when the Angas were killing them and destroying their crops.


Going by oral information in Koenoem land the three religion are been observed. i.e. Christianity, traditional religion and Islamic religion but Christianity dominates followed by traditional religion then Islam. Most of the people practicing the Islamic religion are indigenous members of the land, but recently we still have some people coming form other part of the country to settle there which most of them were Muslims . The general language used in the place of worship is Hausa lest the traditional worshippers who use the local dialect to make their incantation. Since majority of them are Christians therefore, they worship in the church with different people from different area.


Going by oral history the Koenoem people normally have their cultural norms and values when it comes to marriage the person who wants to marry pay specific amount of money and some items to the kinsmen before going to the father of the girl for bride price, the price is not always much that’s why they often marry up to 10 wives because of farming.

The first step of marriage rites is to pay some certain amount of money and items or material things such as wrappers shiggida, millet and local bear to the elders of that family The second step is introduction of bride to the groom’s farm land unknowing to the family, the process is “Maiwet” meaning thief farming. The next step is payment of ‘dowry’   pride price if the girl accepts to marry the man. They pay mega amount before real “ mailong” meaning chief farming. Immediately, after the chief farming is the proper marriage ad introduction of the two couples family to each other. In Koenoem divorce does not waste time because immediately a woman is divorced, the man bring in another to replace her, some of the divorce were made in the court of law by chief judge and others in a traditional way where the two families come together and settle amicably by paying back what they collected from the husband.


Crystal (1985:262) observes that of all the means of communication, “language is the most frequently used and most highly developed” it’s a matter of fact the indispensability of language has been “inexorably tied to the effective existence of man in society” (Babatunde, 2002). This assertion prompts our first question what major roles does language play in the society? Brown and Yule (1983) have broadly classified that language is used for interaction and transaction. This implies that all human daily routines are chiefly propelled by language. It underscores the fact that society impinges on language and vice-versa.


Going by oral history and the observation in the community we can conclude that though the native speakers have positive character towards the language because they speak the language in the community but their neighbors have negative character because all the communities in the L.G.A have one language or the other that makes them restricted to their own language.


Going by oral information the language is being used in the market place, at home, among native speakers and in the community in general but it is not used in educational sector (at school) mass communication (that is, for casting news) and in the place of worship which is, the religion sector. Hausa is used in the place of worship; therefore, we can say the language is undeveloped, unrecognized, unnoticeable language that is used only in the community (Koenoem).


The status of the language can be regarded as being minority because if we look at the population of the speaker at most they are not more than 3,000, the language is not on net, its not a written language, it is unknown to acceptable percent of the larger community.


According to Greenberg (1996:127), African languages are classified into four (4): Afro-Asiatic, Niger Kordofanian, Nilo Sahara and Khoisan where each has sub families.

The diagram below shows the sub-family where Koenoem language belongs.     


According to oral source Koenoem is located at the Shendam Local Government of Plateau State. It is at the Northern part of Shendam Local Government Area and Eastern part of Mikang L.G.A respectively. The Koenoem village was formally a ward under Shendam province and later relocate to Mikang or move to Mikang L.G.A.


Chapter one is the introductory part of this project which consists of the general introduction, historical background, socio cultural profile, genetic classification geographical location, scope and organization of study, research methodology and the brief review of the chosen framework.

Chapter two is on the basic syntactic concept including a brief phonological analysis of Koenoem language, lexical categories phrase structure rule, basic word order and sentence types.

Chapter three will reveal the topic of the research work. Question formation will be discussed bringing out examples from Koenoem language.

Chapter four will be an extension of the types of question we have (i.e. Rhetorical, alternative, tag questions etc).

Chapter five contains the conclusion, summary and recommendation.


The method used in collecting data in this research work is through the Ibadan 400 word list and frame technique method. The word list helps a researcher to obtain both phonetic and phonemic consonant and vowel system of the language under study. It also accounts for the lexical items of the language.

The research is possible with the help of a language helper (i.e the native speaker of the language) or informant. The informant that helped in collection of data in Koenoem language is.

Name: – Gwaitil Titus

Age: – 28 years

Sex: – male

Occupation: – solder

How long has he stayed at home: – 20 years

Home town: – Lifidi

The data will be analyzed by frame technique method. Frame technique method makes it easier for the field researcher to determine the constituent of the language as well as the morphological and syntactic content of the language. To collect data, sentences/phrases are written in English and the equivalent is supplied in that language by the language helper. In this research work, all work will be done using frame technique method because the work is based on syntax, which deals with the arrangement of words.


The theoretical frame work that will be adopted in this research work is Government and Binding theory. Government and Binding theory is a theory of syntax in the tradition of transformational grammar developed by Chomsky (1981). Chomsky in (1981) propounded the GB thory that operates through the modules of grammar, Abar, theta case, control, Government and Binding theories which will be use in analyzing question of formation in Koenoem language,

GB theory greatly eliminates proliferation of transformational rules like affix hopping, passivization, question formation, equi – NP deletion, raising, verb number agreement, insertion etc. In Government and Binding theory two categories of syntax are distinguished namely: –

1.  Lexical categories

2.  Functional categories.    

Lexical categories in any language include Noun, verb, adjective and proposition.

Functional categories include elements like Complementizer, Tense, Inflectional Determiners Focus, Agreement etc.

Lexical categories are represented with the aid of diagram below: –




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