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Chapter One


1.1 Background of the Study

Markedness theory holds that certain elements in the linguistic system have an interrelationship that is neither arbitrary nor purely formal but defined by the fact that one element is distinguished from the other through the addition of an extra feature “a mark”. When the distinction is neutralized it’s always the simpler “unmarked” member of the opposition that appears (Asher, 382).

The theory of markedness was first discovered in modem linguistics in the l930s, in the writings of the Prague school structural phonologists. The prominent phonologists are: Nicholas Trubatzkoy and Roman Jacobson. Their classic proposal about markedness was made in phonology. However, the notion has further been richly explored for all other aspects of languages. It was embraced by European structuralists, linguists, Chomskyan principles and parameters, syntax, neo-Gracean pragmatics, optimancy theory, first and second language acquisition and Creole studies. Those prominent in the grammar are Jacobson (1984), and Hiemsler, (1953, 1992). They ultimately developed it into a theory of linguistics tagged “naturalness”.

Many linguistic phenomena consist of polar pairs: for example, the phonological feature: unvoiced-voiced, the grammatical relations — singular — plural, active-passive (Asher, 378). Asher further said that markedness is correlated with the asymmetric relationship between two choices whether in phonology, morphology, syntax or semantics. The notion of marking is based primarily on the presence or absence of some particular elements of form in which the lexemes, which contain the elements, are said to be marked (formally) for the opposition, in contrast with the unmarked number of each pair, which lacks the element in question. For examples, the lexemes:

          Lion (unmarked), Lioness (marked), and

          Host (unmarked), Hostess (marked) (Lyons 307)

Those marked members of the opposition tend to be more restricted in their distribution and usage than the formally unmarked members. The unmarked features are the ones with wider paradigmatic and syntagmatic distribution. Paradigmatic relation in a sentence refers to the vertical relationship between a lexeme in a sentence and the sequence of words that can be used to replace it without necessarily changing the structure of the sentence, while syntagmatic relation  refers to the horizontal relationship between  a lexeme and other components in the sentence: For example, the unmarked word “beautiful” is said to have a wider paradigmatic and syntagmatic distribution than its marked opposite “ugly” (Lyons, 307) For instance, the sentence — The woman is “beautiful”. The word beautiful can go into pragmatic relation with many other words such as: pretty, gorgeous, elegant, adorable, presentable, nice looking, alluring, etc, but for the marked pair “ugly” we could only think of restricted relation in few words such as: bad looking, unpresentable.

From the examples above, one could see that the unmarked category is freer and therefore has a greater functional load than the marked which is restricted. The unmarked is used to distinguish and identify a greater number of words than the marked one. The unmarked feature can usually enter into more types of combinations, and conversely the marked feature enters into a fewer combinations and specially tends to be combined with other marks. For example, there are usually more oral consonants than nasal ones in a language. English has (p, b, t, k, g, s, etc) but has only (m-n-ŋ). These unmarked words designate the usual, common or normal case in ordinary life, while the marked words are far less common.

For further elaboration on the concept of markedness, let us consider this short story.

One day, Adi and his mother went for shopping. On their way, their car had an accident and his mother died instantly. Adi was injured and taken to a hospital nearby. One of the nurses on emergency unit was startled and cried out, “oh my God, that’s my son.

The question is who this nurse was; since the story has it that Adi’s mother was killed in the accident? This is as a result of the fact that the word “nurse” has come to be associated with women. History and custom has it rather strongly that nurses are women, so much that the expression “a female nurse” sounds strange. This is because it seems redundant and may amount to pronouncing one word twice. In Hausa and Jukun languages and culture, it is almost impossible to have expressions such as:

Kin san ko ungwan zomar ya iso? (Do you know whether the

midwife (Male) has arrived?

“Ungwan zomar”, here, in Hausa refers to midwife. This usage is highly unusual and, therefore, it is termed “marked” in its relation with “Ungwar zomar” (female) with an ‘r’ instead of an ‘n’.

In more linguistic terms, we say that being female is unmarked (usual, typical, normal) for nurses in our culture and conversely, being male is marked (unusual, uncommon) state for nurses, so that it is almost necessary to add the modifier ‘male’ to describe a man as a nurse. In everyday language, female is the unmarked sex for secretaries, midwifes, prostitutes, house-keepers. (Lyons, 308). The essence of the story and the detailed analysis above is to further explicate the concept of markedness as it relates to the Jukun and Hausa word orders.

1.2 Word Order

Interest in word order in language goes back to Plato and Aristotle in their formulation of the definition of subject and predicate. Similarly, Halliday divided a clause into two distinct segments: theme and rhyme. The theme is the topic of the clause and occupies an initial position. The theme is the goal of discourse and fulfils the communicative purpose. The theme has given information and maintains coherence by connecting backward as a point of orientation, and connecting forward as point of departure. According to the Prague -school, if the verb is giving information, it is thematic. If the verb is an item of information in its self, it is rheumatic (Baker,1992).

Speakers of languages manipulate sentences in all sorts of ways because they are trying to convey different meanings. Structures of these languages allow speakers to express all the meanings that they need to put across. In some cases, this might mean altering the basic word order of a sentence, to emphasize or downplay a particular phrase, or to ask further question, or else grouping words together in different ways to modify the meaning.

          The order of words in sentences indicates the order of meanings. Languages differ in this respect. According to Tallerman (2011), some languages have relatively restricted word order. In languages of relatively restricted word order, the relationship between the components of the sentences (words) relies on the situation of each word in the sentences. Word order in languages of relatively restricted word order is more important, in signaling meaning. For example, English has a fixed word order. The sentence below contains three main elements. These elements are the subject (Amah), the verb (played) and the object (football).

                               (a) Amah played football

                               (b) Amah plays football

          In English, this is the normal word order, and it is “unmarked”. All variants of this order are almost impossible, except for special purpose, and it is therefore “marked”. Tallerman (2011) further opined that there are restrictions on word order in each language. For examples, the word order in Japanese, Welsh, and Malagasy has the following:

(a) Sensei-ga   gakusei   ni  tegami-o   kaita

(a) Teacher      student   to  letter        wrote

Meaning- The teacher wrote a letter to the student

                   (b)Ysgrifennodd    Yr   athro       lythyr   at   y    myfyriwr

                   (b) Wrote               the teacher     letter    to the   student

Meaning- The teacher wrote a letter to the student

                                      (Culled from Tallerman 2011)

          The examples above show that not all languages have the same sentence structure and by implication do not have the same word order as English. However, there may be some important features that are common. In fact, according to Tallerman (2011), at least 80 percent of all languages would start their sentences with a subject.

          The word order in Jukun is also restricted, just as it is in Arabic, by certain considerations like customs and tradition. Word order is important in signaling messages between interlocutors. Individual words sometimes do not have much identity. Words take their character when they are sequenced in a sentence. For this reason, it is not only important to know what to say, but it is also important to know how to say it. Words and sentences are verbal images of thoughts. Words in sentences come in linear order as the speaker cannot produce more than one word at the same time. Sentences should inevitably have word order. If the sentence follows the normal structure of a language, it is unmarked; if the normal structure is violated for a reason like emphasis, it is marked. This violation of normal word order does not mean that incorrect word order is acceptable. Any violation of normal word order should be within the potential of the language. Word order is the product of grammar and emphasis. This order is a matter of choice. The speaker has the meaning in mind; speech is an image of this meaning. Speech is ordered according to the order of meaning in the speaker’s mind (Atshina, 1998).

          It is worthy of note that the Jukun customs and traditions see some day- to- day activities as strange and abominable; hence, the grown up males do not seem to practice them. Sentences describing those activities are “marked” and are hardly ever mentioned. The unmarked alternatives are preferred when such activities must be discussed within the grown up males. For example, in the Jukun communities, culture and traditions do not permit such expressions as:

                   (a) Indi ya nganmyi (Jukun)

                   (a) I am going to defecate (English)

                   (b) Armyi na tun (Jukun)

                   (b) I feel like defecating (English)

          The two Jukun expressions are marked and less popular. There are “unmarked” and more popular terms like “Nyakentan”, “Taje” all modifying defecate and making it more popular.

1.3 Justification for the study

The need for this study arises from the fact that:

a.      It will bring to light the group of people whose language the researcher is working on and also an attempt to stop the language from going extinct. So far, to the best of the researcher’s knowledge, little attempt has been made towards the development of the language except for literature works like short stories, collection of idioms and proverbs by Mrs. Grace A. Newman, Jukun syntax and intonation by Fakaude and J. Ndagama of the Federal University of Technology, Yola, and the translation of the New Testament Bible by Luka Agbu.

b.     Since the appropriate choice of the word order is important for unambiguous communication, there is the need for an in-depth knowledge of the markedness theory and its implications on the Jukun second language learners.

c.      This study believes in the application of the markedness theory within and across languages, hence, its relevance and application to the Jukun language.

1.4 Statement of the Problem

          A speaker or writer cannot begin everything at the same time. Each utterance is expressed in a certain sequence. This sequence is decided by the rules of the language being used. Each language has its structural rules and diction. For example, English is a noun-initial language, whereas some languages such as Arabic and Japanese are verb-initial. This implies that verb-initial sentences found in the English language are “marked” and therefore uncommon, whereas noun-initial sentences found in verb-initial languages are “marked”.

          The explanation above also applies to expressions in the Jukun language. If a speaker of the language does not know the marked and unmarked words, he/she makes wrong choices of words in trying to communicate. He/she might convey an entirely wrong meaning in the process.

Because of differences in circumstances, an unmarked structure in one language may be translated into a marked structure in another, or vice versa.

The problem which this study intends to tackle is to analyze, side by side, markedness in both English and Jukun languages, and to see whether each marked structure in one language can be accounted for in the other. The study will also try to find the equivalent, not necessarily identical, marked structures in the two languages.

1.5 Aims of the Study

This study intends to provide an overview of the various senses in which the term “markedness” (marked and unmarked) have been used in the 20th century linguistics and also to bring to light the marked and unmarked words in the Jukun language putting them alongside those marked and unmarked words in English. The aims of this study are therefore summed as follows:

1)    To provide an overview of the various senses in which the term “marked” and “unmarked” have been used.

2)    To explore and explain marked/unmarked word order in the Jukun language.

3)    To distinguish between marked and unmarked word order in Jukun and then contrast with the English language.

4)    To help avoid ambiguity in communication in the Jukun language.

1.6 Research Questions

To accomplish the task in this study, answers must be sought to the following questions:

          i.            Does the Jukun language, like other languages such as   English, Arabic, Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba, etc. also have marked/unmarked word order?

       ii.            To what extent does a speaker of the Jukun language understand the term “markedness”, as it relates to Jukun word order?

     iii.            To what extent does a speaker of the Jukun language understand the implication of the “markedness” as it applies to Jukun “word order”?

     iv.            What are the relationships between the marked and unmarked words in English and Jukun languages?

       v.            How does a speaker of Jukun language avoid ambiguity in communication?

1.7 Significance of the Study

It is important to know that in a process of explaining the term “marked” and “unmarked” words in the Jukun language by translating them into English, what is “marked” in Jukun may not be marked in English. Transforming a marked meaning in one language into an unmarked meaning involves a loss of meaning, emphasis, and creates ambiguity on the reader/listener.

          The importance of this study arises from the fact that the result will help the speakers and would-be translators to specify the marked words in Jukun language. Such specification would raise the readers’ awareness of markedness in order to account for markedness in communication.

          The significance of this study can therefore be summed up as follows:

            I.      That this study intends to be a reservoir of knowledge to readers that there also exist marked and unmarked words in Jukun language word order.

         II.      That attempt to violate markedness procedure in Jukun language word order leads to loss of meaning, emphasis and creates ambiguity.

      III.      The study also intends to be a source of knowledge that will help readers to be able to relate the marked and unmarked words in English and Jukun languages.

     IV.      The study, as well, intends to serve as a guide to researchers who will research further into the theory of markedness in other minor language such as Jukun, as categorized by Akindele and Adagbete, (1999). Such minor languages to the best of my knowledge have not been covered by any research work on markedness.

 1.8 Limitations of the Study

This study will deal with “mark” and “unmarked” terms in modem English and Jukun languages at word and sentence levels. The study is limited to:

1)    Markedness in fields other than word order.

2)    Wukari Jukuns (Wapan) since it has been discovered historically that there are variegated versions of the Jukun language and Wukari dialect (Wapan) is more central.

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