The Atsam Verb Phrase

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

The Atsam Verb Phrase

List of Symbols and Abbreviations

  • S – Sentence
  • GB – Government and Binding
  • X – X-Bar
  • SPEC – Theta
  • XP – Maxima Projection
  • CP – Complementizer Phrase
  • IP – Inflectional Phrase
  • INFL – Inflectional
  • NP – Noun Phrase
  • VP – Verb Phrase
  • ADJP – Adjectival Phrase
  • PP – Prepositional Phrase
  • N – Noun
  • V – Verb
  • NI – N-Bar
  • AI – A-Bar
  • CI – C-Bar
  • AGR – Agreement
  • TNS – Tense
  • SS – Surface Structure
  • DS – Deep Structure
  • DET – Determiner

Table of Contents

  • Title Page
  • Certificate
  • Dedication
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Symbols and Abbreviations
  • Table of Contents

Chapter One


  • 1.0 General Background
  • 1.1 Historical Background
  • 1.2 Sociolinguistic Profile
  • 1.2.1 Marriage System
  • 1.2.2 Religion
  • 1.2.3 Occupation
  • 1.2.4 Administrative Setting
  • 1.3 Genetic Classification of Atsam
  • 1.3.1 Geographical Location of Atsam
  • 1.3.2 Map of Atsam Community
  • 1.4 Scope and Organization of the Study
  • 1.5 Theoretical Framework
  • 1.6 Data Collection
  • 1.7 Data Analysis
  • 1.8 Brief of Review of the Government and Binding Theory
  • 1.8.1 the X-bar Theory
  • 1.8.2 the Theta Theory
  • 1.8.3 the Case Theory
  • 1.8.4 the Governement Theory
  • 1.8.5 the Bounding Theory
  • 1.8.6 the Binding Theory
  • 1.8.7 the Control Theory

Chapter Two

Basic Syntactic Concepts

  • 2.0 Introduction
  • 2.1 Basic Syntactic Concepts
  • 2.2 Phrase Structure Rules in Atsam
  • 2.3 Lexical Categories in Atsam
  • 2.3.1 Noun
  • Proper Nouns
  • Common Nouns
  • Abstract Nouns
  • Concrete Nouns
  • 2.3.2 Verb
  • 2.3.3 Pronouns
  • Presonal Pronouns
  • Possessive Pronouns
  • Interrogative Pronouns
  • 2.3.4 Adjectives
  • 2.3.5 Adverbs
  • 2.3.6 Conjunctions
  • 2.3.7 Propositions
  • 2.4 Phrasal Categories
  • 2.4.1 Noun Phrase
  • 2.4.2 Adjective Phrase
  • 2.4.3 Prepositional Phrase
  • 2.5 Basic Word Order
  • 2.6 Sentence Definition
  • 2.6.1 Sentence Types in Atsam
  • Simple Sentence
  • Compound Sentence
  • Complex Sentence
  • 2.6.2 Function Classification of Sentences
  • Declaretive Sentence
  • Imperative Sentence
  • Interrogative Sentence
  • Exclamatory Sentence

Chapter Three

Verb Phrase in Atsam

  • 3.0 Introduction
  • 3.1 Verb Phrase and Head Parameter
  • 3.1.1 Verb Phrase and Head Parameter in Atsam
  • 3.2 the Structure of the Verb Phrase
  • 3.2.1 the Structure of the Atsam Verb Phrase
  • 3.3 Types of Verb
  • 3.3.1 Auxiliary Verbs
  • 3.3.2 Regular Verbs
  • 3.3.3 Irregular Verbs
  • 3.3.4 Active Passive Verbs
  • 3.3.5 Modal Verbs
  • 3.3.7 Action Verbs
  • 3.4 Clauses of Verb
  • 3.4.1 Transitive Verbs in Atsam
  • 3.4.2 Intransitive Verbs in Atsam
  • 3.5 Verb Serialization
  • 3.5.1 Serial Verbs in Atsam

Chapter Four

Transformational Processes in Atsam Language

  • 4.0 Introduction
  • 4.1 Defining Transformational Process
  • 4.1.1 Relativization in Atsam
  • 4.1.2 Question Formation in Atsam
  • Yes/no Question in Atsam
  • Wh Question in Atsam
  • 4.1.3 Focus Construction

Chapter Five

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

  • 5.0 Introduction
  • 5.1 Summary
  • 5.2 Conclusion
  • 5.3 Recommendations
  • References
  • Appendix

Chapter One


1.0 General Background

This chapter examines the language of study, the people speaking the language and their geographical location. It also introduces us to the sociolinguistic of the speakers of the language which includes their culture and beliefs. Again in this chapter, a brief explanation of the scope of the study, method of data collection, genetic classification and theoretical framework used in analyzing the Atsam Verb phrase are discussed.This study focuses on the Atsam Verb phrase. According to the Oral tradition, Atsam is a language spoken in Kauru Local Government Area of Kaduna State. Atsam is also known as Tsam while the people speaking the language are called Atsam.

1.1 Historical Background.

The Oral tradition has it that Atsam is an ethnic group in Northern Nigeria which is Kaduna. They are predominantly found in Kaduna, Plateu and Nasarawa States and Federal Capital Territory, this same tradition states that there was a lack of sufficient data as regards the study of language all because the languages of Kaduna are undoubtedly minority languages and as such, understudied.

The Atsam people were forced to migrate from one place to another and they are dominated by Hausa people meaning that the Hausa populations are more than Atsam population. The Atsam people were endangered because of pressure from Hausa and that has been the lingua franca in the North of the country. However, locally the language remains in use.

1.2 Sociolinguistic Profile.

According to the oral tradition, the Atsam people like some other tribes have their own unique ways of living and they are discussed below.

1.2.1 Marriage System.

In the Oral tradition, Atsam have their own way of marriage system which is a process carried out by the both parent of the boy and the girl, there will be an agreement between the two of them since when the children are still at their childhood stage till when they are grown up, but in most cases, the Groom will be more older than the Bride, an appropriate date for the marriage ceremony will set as soon as the bride began her puberty stage but now, the ancient procedure has changed because of civilization.

1.2.2 Religion.

The Oral tradition states it that Atsam people consider religion as of great significance in their lives, they make use of two religions in their community namely: Christianity and Islam. There is however, a third religion which is gradually dying off due to increase awareness in the two main religions. This third religion is the traditional religion popularly known as ‘dodo’ in the area and there are few of such followers of traditional belief at present.

1.2.3 Occupation.

The oral tradition has it that the main occupation of Atsam people includes subsistence farming, craft making, bee keeping, fishing, and petty trading. Traditionally, Atsam people are predominantly farmers, through there are few who are engage in other income generating ventures. But 8% of the populations are farmers depending on farming as their means to livelihood.

They also engage in craft making as a source of income, popular crafts making include; baskets, wooden, handle of simple farm tools such as hoes, cutlasses and shovels. Certain group of people in the area in bee keeping for the production of honey and the present of rivers at Kifffin Chawai, and Talo also enhance them in fishing as a source of income while petty trading are mostly done by women, but their of nowadays are now joining their female counter parts.

1.2.4 Administrative Setting.

According to the oral tradition of Atsam, the chief popularly known as Res-Tsam is the overall ruler in Atsam land. The announcement of laws that ensures peaceful co-existence and the maintenance of law and order within the chiefdom rest on his shoulders. He also performs the functions of lobbing government in bringing development programmes to the chiefdom.

Traditionally, the chief’s palace is located at Damakasuwa Chawai which is the headquarters for central administration with six districts. These districts include: Damakasuwa that covers villages as Kichiguya, Rafingora, Mangul and Kisari. The second District is Zambina with its headquarters at Ungwan Makama Chawai; it covers villages as Badurum, Kurmi Riga and Rana. The third district is Faden Chawai, and it covers villages as Kibobi, Talo and Riban. The fourth Pari with its headquarter at Kiffin Chawai, and it covers villages as Kiffin and Pari.

The fifth district is Kamaru with its headquarter at Kizakor and it covers villages as Kamaru, Kihoba, Kuyanboro and Kizakoro, the sixth district is Bakin Kogi. These districts heads are, however, supported by a number of village Heads within their domains. The village Heads also reports to the district heads and the Ward Head is popularly known as Mai’angwa in their tradition.

1.3 Genetic Classification of Atsam.

The idea that groups of languages that share certain systematic resemblances have inherited those similarities from a common origin is the basis for genetic classifications.

Ruhlen (1987) describes Genetic classification as a form of a tree diagram showing the origin of a language from a common ancestor, and it is related to each other genetically to other languages. Atsam language belongs to the platoid group of languages under Benue-Congo group of Niger-Congo phylum of Niger-Kordofanian language family of African languages.

The language family is represented below:

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This work examines the Verb phrase (VP) in Atsam language. In chapter one, we looked at the historical background, socio-cultural profile, geographical location and the genetic classification of Atsam language. Today, the Atsam community is in Zangon, Kataf, Birnira Gwari, Plateu state e.t.c.

Zangon Kataf is about 5km distance from Atsam community. Atsam is in Kaura Local government council. The population of Atsam people are about 30,000 as of the 2006 census.

Chapter two discussed the basic syntactic concepts like phrase structure rules, phrasal categories, lexical categories, basic word order, and the types of sentences in Atsam. It is observed that Atsam operate on subject- Verb-Object (S.V.O), like any other African languages and some European languages such as English, Russian, Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba language.

Chapter three discussed the aspects of verb phrase (VP) in Atsam language such as the syntactic position of verb phrase and structural types of verb phrase.

Chapter four examined the various transformational processes such as Relativization, Focus construction, and Question formation in Atsam language. It is observed that only few of the transformational processes are Attested in Atsam language which is quite strange in comparing with other African languages.

Chapter five concludes the study. Here, we present the summary, conclusion and recommendations for further research in the language.


This essay is an attempt at describing the syntactic process of verb phrase in Atsam language. Atsam like other West African language is a tone language which operates raising and falling tone. However, it is observed that Atsam has an S.V.O word order.


In view of the fact that no research work has been carried out on Atsam language, this work has been able to produce what we can refer to as pioneer work, which we hope can serve as a reference material for further study on Atsam language. Therefore, we recommend that, further linguistic researches should be carried out on the aspects of semantics, pragmatics, morph-syntax as well as lexicography of the language.

Also, more research works should be done by authors, so as to produce textbooks in Atsam language for both primary and post primary studies.

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