Negation In Uneme Language

Project and Seminar Material for Linguistics and Communication

Negation In Uneme Language

Chapter One

1.1 General Introduction

This long essay is a study of Negation in Uneme language. In this chapter, historical background of the speakers, the geographical location, and the socio-cultural profile of the speakers, genetic classification as well as the scope and organization of the study, theoretical framework, data collection, data analysis and a brief review of the chosen framework are discussed.

1.2 General Background

Uneme is a language spoken in South-South part of Nigeria. The native speakers of Uneme are found in the North-Eastern part of Edo State. Edo State is an inland in the central Southern Nigeria. Benin City, been the capital of Edo State, is bounded in the North and East by Kogi State, in the South by Delta State and in the West by Ondo State. The official name is Uneme while names used by the speakers are: Uzanu, Anegbete and Udochi. The speakers are found in three Local Government Areas in Edo State, which are Etsako, Agbazilo and Akoko-Edo. The language is also spoken in Okene Areas of Kogi State. Etsako Central Local Government Area is located in the heart of Etsako land, it is bounded in the West by the Etsako west Local Government Area, in the East by Etsako East Local Government Areas, in the North by Okene and in the South by Esan territory.

Akoko-Edo which is found in the Northern part of Edo State is bounded in the North by the present Kwara State and parts of the present Kogi State and in the North-West by the present Ondo State. The population of the speakers was estimated to be about 6,000 (Crotzier and Blench, 1992). The map of Uneme communities is below:

Scale boundaries …………………… Uneme Communities …………………………

Map of present day Edo State showing the location of Uneme Communities

1.3 Historical Background

According to Hakeem (2003:4) “the history of Uneme people can be traced to the core area of the Nok cultural zone located in the North-East on the Niger-Benue confluence”. The area represents the ancestral homeland of not only Uneme people but also of related sub-ethnic groups which have come to be described as the Edoid. He also notes that Uneme people arrived in Benin area during king Ogiso Ere’s time and their first place of settlement was on the outskirts of Benin City. The Uneme people were encouraged to move to Benin City in the tenth century, because of their utilitarian metal crafts. It was this mental crafts that brought development into Benin City. The Uneme people had to move out of Benin because of the way they were treated (they were taken as slaves), and this made them move to their present settlement.

The Uneme people migrated from Benin in 1370 AD. The major migration was when they moved North words from Benin, settling in different territories between 1370 and late 1390. Notable among such places included Obadan (on the outskirts of Benin City) in the present Southern Edo State in mid-1370s, Ugboha (in Esan territory) in the present central Edo State in mid-1370s, and the site of what is now know as Agbede in the Etsako west area of the present Northern Edo State. Others were Ogbomeze (imiava) in the Etsako central area of the present Northern Edo State in the late 1380s, and Okene in Ebira land in the present Kogi State in the late 1390s. There was a major retreat south ward by the Uneme people, in the process of this South ward migration, a split occurred, which saw the Uneme people moving towards the Ogbomeze (Imiava) area. The group that moved to the AkokoEdo area settled in a community, which they founded and came to be known as Uneme Akpama in the late 1390s. Subsequent migration from Uneme Akpama saw the creations of three other new Uneme Communities in different locations within Akoko-Edo namely Uneme Aki-Osu in the early 1400s, Uneme Erhurum in the same period and Uneme Ekpedo in the mid 1400s.

Further demographic changes that occurred in the twentieth century connected with vocation of Uneme Nekhua by a sub-group now known as the Uneme Aiyetoro, led to the founding of a new community named Uneme Aiyetoro, in the early 1900s. However, the group that returned to occupy the place earlier vacated by the main migrating Uneme people in the Ogbomeze (Imiava) area of the present Etsako central district in the late 1390s, gave way for the establishment of a number of other new Uneme territories in the 1830s and 1840s, examples of these new communities included the following: Uneme in the early 1830s and 1840s, Uneme-Udochi in the early 1830s and 1840s, Uneme-Ologua in about the same time, but later destroyed by the Nupe during their invasion of Uneme Anegbette which also came into being during that period.

1.4 Socio-cultural Profile

The socio-cultural profile of Uneme people is observed in their festivals, ceremonies, religion and mode of dressing.


Some of the festivals of Uneme community are connected with their religious believes while others are connected with their socio-economic activities. Notable among such festivals is Ogun festival. Ogun festival is associated with and devoted to the propitiation and veneration of god of Iron. This festival is usually organized only by iron-smelting societies. The festival is organized by allocating certain spots in the community to the propitiation of Ogun. The use of certain animals especially dogs and the involvement of the entire community in the singing, drumming and dancing are common practices, so as to appease Ogun as the god of iron.

The Uneme festival connected with socio-economic activities is Ukpe festival. Ukpe is a yearly thanksgiving festival. It is usually celebrated between August and September of every year. It is mostly celebrated by farmers to welcome new yams. During the celebration, new yams are not used but old ones are used instead. This Ukpe festival provides a forum and a communication channel, used by the Elders and leaders of Uneme Communities for informing and directing their subjects to feel free to eat the new yams produced. During the festival, everyone is expected to come along with the old yam to celebrate the Ukpe festival. It is ensured that pounded yams are served, with either melon soup or Ogbono.

In Uneme communities, a kind if festival is usually held for the outgoing soldiers and the incoming soldiers. This kind of festival in called the “maturity age” where they have between the ages of sixteen years to nineteen years. This festival comes up every three years. Obira or Ogogo is a kind of group formed for children of three years old. These children gather together every three years, and as they grow older to the maturity age, the old ones among them will get to graduate to be elders of the communities. It is these new ones that later becomes Uneme soldiers.

The Uneme people believe in a second burial festival after the normal burial. This second burial is done mainly for the elderly men in the community, and if this second burial has not been done, then, such man has not got a resting place. This second burial usually comes up after several years the first burial must have been had. The Uneme people call it Oninitomi i.e. “the second burial of your father”. This is like a title given to anyone who has done the second burial and a family who has not done this will not be entitled to such title. This kind of festival is not something that is general but just within the kindred that is why it is done kindred by kindred. During this festival, certain amount of money is usually given to the elders.

Marriage Setting

Uneme marriage setting is a polygamous one. It is believed that a man who has not gotten two wives is said to be a lazy man, therefore, a man can marry as many wives as possible. “Oami” and “Adegbe” play an important role in a marriage setting. Oami and Adegbe represent the first and second daughter respectively in a family. According to Uneme tradition, it is said that when a lady i.e. Oami marries a man, she must not present any gifts to her parents but with the permission of her husband. Also, a man who marries a stranger is always taken as Oami and respect will be given to such a man. An elderly man who dies without getting married to Oami, the son, will have to look far a woman, pay her bride-price and then marry her on behalf of his father before such a son can be allowed to marry Oami. A man who marries Adegbe, is assumed to be a lazy man because such man cannot marry Oami. Adegbe has the right to present gifts to her parents without the permission of her husband. In Uneme culture, a man who marries Adegbe first will eventually marry Oami. This practice makes it impossible for a man to marry just one wife.


There are three (3) basic religions in Uneme communities which are: Africa traditional religion, Christianity and Islam.

African Traditional Religion.

The Uneme people who are traditionalists have their believe in “Osanobula” or “Ogbene” or “Osi” which is the supreme being. “Osanobula” is believed to have heavenly aides who were appointed by him. Among such aides were the local divinities or deities, “Ilisa” (referred to as the gods and goddesses) and the spirits (especially Esi). One major proof of Uneme’s belief in the Uniqueness of Osanobula was the fact that every Uneme man or woman usually called on him through his various aides for protection from the hands of perpetrators of evils. The traditionalists have made efforts to develop the town by entertaining the people in their annual festivals.


Hakeem (2003), asserts that Christianity was brought into Uneme communities in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s by Christian Missionaries like Ogidan of the Anglican Communities. He was from Uzosi kindred in Uneme Akpama in Akoko-Edo Local Government Area. This was done through the help of some Yoruba evangelists, who visited Akoko-Edo frequently. The first Church of the Missionaries in Uneme Akpama, the St. Luke’s Anglican Church, was built in 1922. Another Missionary who helped in the spread of Christianity in another Uneme Community was Chief Ezekiel Adeleye Igenuma Uduak Pegbemehe, from the Enibosu area of Uneme Eihurun. He was the brain behind the building of the first Church in Uneme Erhurun around 1923, which was also an Anglican church. Rev. Oyebode, a Yoruba Christian priest based in Auchi, was the first Anglican missionary to influence the spread of the religion in Uneme Aki-Osu in 1920, which was the first Church in the area.


The religion has been in existence before the advent of Christianity in Uneme Communities. Islam was introduced to the Unemes by the Nupes during their (Nupe) military and colonizing activities in Akoko-Edo in the 19th century. The conversion of the people to Islam had to wait till the fall of Nupe regime in 1897. It was only four of Uneme people that were converted into the religion. What hindered the growth of the religion in Akoko-Edo in the twentieth century was the absence of Mallams or Ulama. Islam up till date has not really found a strong root in Uneme Communities.


Farming is one occupation the Uneme’s engage in and which has been in existence for long. The people practice commercial farming system. Some of their products are: yam, maize, cassava, cocoa, rice and banana. All these forms of occupation have brought development to the Uneme people and their various communities. Another aspect of Uneme occupation is iron smelting (blacksmithing). The blacksmiths smelt the iron-ore mostly at night because of the high temperature generated on the process of smelting. Some of the products of the blacksmiths are as follows: Anklets, bracelets, local necklace, hoes, cutlass, iron weapons, knives, plates and pots.Lastly, the Uneme people trade the finished products of their iron-ore. The trading is either done within themselves (Uneme people) or with other communities.

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