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Wh-movement is a transformational process which causes the displacement of a wh-element from its base generated position to string initial position. This movement process is used to structurally change a wh-question. This study investigated the movement of wh-elements in question formation in Kọring. Kọring is a minority language spoken in parts of Ebonyi and Benue states. The data used in the analysis were collected from a series of fieldwork undertaken by the researcher. The data were analysed, using the minimalist framework of Chomsky (1993, 1995). It is found that both the LF wh-movement and the syntactic wh-movement are existing in question formation in Kọring. It is also found that the application of syntactic wh-movement in Kọring has its own parameter of insertion and movement of constituents.



1.1 Background of the Study

Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-lingual nation. It is estimated that there are over four hundred different ethnic groups in the country. Each group has its own language. However, only three languages – Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo- are regarded as the major languages in Nigeria. Consequently, the other remaining languages, including Kọring are classified as minor languages.

The Kọring language is spoken in some parts of Ebonyi and Benue states of Nigeria. It is said that Kọring is an endangered language (Anagbogu 2005:132). There are four Kọring speaking communities in Ebonyi State. These are made up of Okpoto, Effium, and Ntezi in Ishielu Local Government Area: and Amuda in Ohaukwu Local Government Area of the state. In Benue State, the language is spoken in Ọffịa and Ụtọnkọn, which are in Okpokwu Local Government Area (Ejiofor 2006; Anagbogu 2003). Ejiofor (2006) traces the origin of the Kọring to the Ukelle proto – language. Kọring belongs to the Upper-Cross group of the Delta-Cross sub-branch of the Cross River language family (Anagbogu 2005:132; cf Williamson and Blench 2003; Crozier and Blench 1992:118). Hence, this research is inspired by the need to subject the language to the modern form of syntactic analyses.

1.2 Area of Study

The Okpoto dialect of the Kọring language is chosen for the analysis of this research because it is the variety spoken by the researcher’s informants. Okpoto is a community in Ishielu Local Government Area of Ebonyi State. It is bounded to the north by Eziulo, to the east by Ntezi and Ezza, to the west by the Ebonyi River and to the south by Ohafia Agbo in Ezzakumoru. Okpoto is about fifteen kilometers from Abakaliki, occupying an area of about 259 square kilometers, and it has a population of about 28,000 (Anagbogu 2005:132).


1.3 Objectives

i. Kọring is a minority language which has not been adequately studied. This prompted the researcher to investigate an aspect of Kọring grammar within the framework of the minimalist programme. This is to determine the extent the grammatical framework can account for the data used in this study.

ii.   As a contribution to academic research in linguistics, the study is intended to show to what extent the data can be accommodated within the grammatical framework.

iii.     It will help to create awareness on the existence of the language and consequently promote its use by the native speakers.

iv.    The adult native speakers, who have been finding it difficult to make the language attractive to their children, will find this research as a helping tool. This is because the children, having read the work, will be inspired to embrace and embark on more researches on the language.

1.4 Scope of the Study

The study is limited to the Okpoto variety of Kọring. Okpoto is more easily accessible to the researcher because it is the variety spoken by the informants. The study is also restricted to simple wh-questions in Kọring. This is to enhance easy understanding of the analyzed data.

1.5 . Research Methodology

1.5.1 Data Collection

Many native speakers of the Okpoto variety of the Kọring language were consulted. They were given some simple sentences where wh-expressions are placed in-situ and where they (wh-expressions) are moved to Spec, Cp to translate and provide their glosses.


The informants were contacted several times. While some contacts were made in order to collect fresh data from them, others were made in order to verify already collected data. I met my principal informant, Mr. John Agbo in 2006 at Awka. One of my informants in the 2006 research on the genetic relation of the Kukelle language and the Kọring language, Mr. Pius Nnaka, told me that there are many Kọring families in the Awka metropolis. Hence, I found Mr. Agbo in my search for any native speaker of Kọring in Awka. He helped me then by making available, as many as necessary, his kinsmen. So, I found it easier to reach him and his kinsmen for this research. Virtually all my informants are adults who claim to have not been out of Kọring speaking areas for more than four consecutive months. Moreover, I tried to verify how reliable are the collected data by using them on different days, while they (my informants) rightly interpreted and glossed them as recorded, though with some difficulties as a result of my poor pronunciations of some of the data.

1.5.2 Data Analysis

Data comprising wh-in-situ and wh-movement in Kọring were collected by me from my informants and glossed by them (my informants). The versions of the data where wh-words or expressions are placed in-situ and where they are moved were compared. That was done in order to observe their differences, especially the movements of the wh-expressions. The data were then analyzed using the theory of the minimalist programme.

Since the 1980s and the 1990s, the GB Theory has been the major framework of the syntactic principles. Minimalism has arisen in the modern time to succeed the GB Theory (Napoli 1996:389). According to Napoli, “the source of the name for this theory is the theory’s goal: minimizing the syntactic apparatus needed to generate sentences”.

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