As an introductory chapter, we shall focus on the historical background of Bura, sociolinguistic profile of the people and the genetic classification of the language. Other sub-headings in this chapter include the scope and organization of study, theoretical framework, data collection, data analysis, and a brief review of the chosen framework.
1.1 GENETIC BACKGROUND OF THE LANGUAGE
Bura is a language spoken in two adjacent states in the north-eastern part of Nigeria. Native speakers of Bura are found in the southern part of Borno and northern Part of Adamawa. In Borno state, native speakers are found, precisely, in Gwoza and Damboa districts while in Adamawa state, they live around Madagalik, Gulak, Duhu and Isge.
In terms of population of speakers, the SIL website ethnologue counts 250,000 ‘Bura’ altogether (SIL, 1993).
1.2 HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF BURA SPEAKERS
As stated above, native speakers of Bura are found in southern part of Borno in Borno state and northern part of Adamawa in Adamawa state. In Borno state, native speakers are found, precisely, in Gwoza and Damba districts while in Adamawa state, they live around Madagalik, Gulak, Duhu and Isgel.
The people of Duhu in Adamawa state migrated from Sukur mountain. Sukur mountain is located in Gombi Local Government Area in Adamawa state. The migration was due to the growth in their population and search for farm land.
Quite a number of Bura speakers are literate. This is as a result of early contact with the Church of Brethen (CBM) Missionaries which brought education and medical care to Bura people.
1.3 SOCIOLINGUISTIC PROFILE OF BURA LANGUAGE
The Bura people have a very rich sociolinguistic profile just like many African people. These include their system of government with the king as the head. The king is assisted by leaders of different units like farming and army, known as ‘Lawans’. Christianity, Islam and African Traditional Religion (ATR) are the religions practiced by Bura people. A rough estimate of the religious percentages is as follows: Muslim 78%, Christians 20%, Traditionalists 2%.
Traditionally, Bura people wear the normal Hausa attaire and carry sticks (especially those on mountain). The women are seen with skirts and wrapper which they tie on one side above the shoulder. Their hair is always cut short and covered with a calabash.
The economic system of Bura agriculture. In fact, agriculture is the dominant occupation of the Bura. Among their festivals are ‘maize harvest’ festival which performed before fresh corn can be eaten and ‘mbal’ festival for both men and women who are suitable for marriage.
1.4 GENETIC CLASSIFICATION
Bura, Comrie (1987: 706) and Newman (1977) quoted in Meritt (1991: 92), is classified under Bura group of Biu-Mandara branch of Chadic sub-family of the Afro-Asiatic Phylum. This is shown by the family tree below.
1.5 SCOPE AND ORGANIZATION
This long essay is divided into five chapters. The first chapter is the introductory chapter which will contain the general introduction of the research, the historical background of the speakers, sociolinguistic profile of Bura people, genetic classification of the language, collection and analysis of the data and the theoretical framework employed.
Chapter two deals with basic phonological concepts such as the sound inventory, tonal inventory, syllable inventory and sound distribution. The chapter ends with a distinctive feature classification of distinctive sounds of the language.
Finally, chapter five summarizes and concludes the work.
1.6 THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
This project is theoretically modelled according to ‘generative’ grammar, a theory propounded by Chomsky in the 1950s. A generative grammar consists of a set of formal statements which delimit all and only all possible structures that are part of the language in question. The basic aim of a generative of linguistics to present in a formal way the tacit knowledge native speakers have of their language.
1.7 DATA COLLECTION
The data used for this project was collected from native speakers of the language. The data was collected through the use of the Ibadan word of 400 basic items.
Below are pieces of information about the informants.
1. NAME: Simon Shelia
NUMBER OF YEARS SPENT IN BURA: 26 years
OTHER LANGUAGES SPOKEN: English, Hausa, Chibok
2. NAME: Ishaku Bitrus Ndah
OCCUPATION: An Evangelist
NUMBER OF YEARS SPENT IN BURA: Occasionally during holidays
OTHER LANGUAGES SPOKEN: English, Hausa, Fufulde
1.8 DATA ANALYSIS
On collection of the data, the researcher listens to the recorded tape and writes the words in a chosen orthography and transcribes the words phonetically.
By doing this, the researcher was able to observe the behaviour of segments in the language. The principle of minimal pair (a principle of identifying contrastive sounds) was used as a technique for identifying contrastive segments. Through this, the researcher accounts for the sound inventory and the syllable inventory of the language. The minimal pair principle was also used in accounting for the tonal inventory of the language. Words that are homographic but differ in pitch (tone) are treated as distinct words. Such contrast is analyzed as the language attesting distinct tonemes, hence, the language being tonal.
Sounds are also examined in terms of their distribution. That is, the structural positions in which a sound can occur or occurs and the class of sounds that can pattern together in a given structural position. This triggers an ‘if-then’ condition that warrants the use of distinctive features and the postulation of phonological rules and rule formalization.
1.9 BRIEF REVIEW OF THE CHOSEN FRAMEWORK
This project is theoretically built on the mode of Generative Grammar (G.G). The generative approach of language puts greater emphasis on the need for a linguistic analysis to have explanatory power, that is, to explain adequately what the native speaker intuitively ‘knows’ about his language (Hawkins, 1984: 22). Generative grammar’s meaning is something like ‘the complete description of a language’, that is, what the sounds are and how they combine, what the meaning of the words are, etc. (Davenport and Hannahs, 2005: 4).
Generative Phonology is particularly associated with the works of the American linguist, Noam Chomsky and his followers. The joint work on phonology by Chomsky and Halle published in 1968 as ‘sound patterns of English’ (SPE) marked the emergence of generative phonology as a new theory and framework of description.
Generative Phonology is an alternative to ‘taxonomic’ or ‘classical’ phonemics, and on the other an ambitious attempt to build a description of ‘English’ phonology on a transformational-generative theory of language (Clark Yallop and Fltehcer, 2007: 129). Chomsky criticizes the taxonomic phonologists concerned with segmentation, contrast, distribution and biuniqueness and puts forward the view that phonological description is not based on analytic procedures of segmentation and classification but rather a matter of constructing the set of rules that constitute the phonological component of a grammar (P. 129).
1.9.1 MOTIVATION FOR GENERATIVE PHONOLOGY
Generative Phonology is a theory which built on the insights of taxonomic phonemes even while remodelling the focus of phonological analysis (Oyebade, 2008: 9). It seeks to resolve many issues that the former theory (Taxonomic Phonemics) left unaddressed. These include: Linguistic intuition, Foreign Accents, Speech errors and Language aquisition.
Talking about ‘Linguistic Intuition’, the question that Generative Phonology attempt to answer is ‘how do we know that native speakers know the sequential constraints of their own language (Hyman, 1957: 19)’? Chomsky and Halle (1968: 38) affirm that knowledge of the sequential constraints is responsible for the fact that speakers of a language have a sense of what sounds like a native word and what does not. In other words, speakers usually subject the sounds of foreign languages they intend pronouncing to the phonological pattern of their own language.
A third motivation for GP is ‘speech errors’. Oyebade (2008: 11) reports that a large number of utterances heard by man are defective, possibly as a result of slips of the tongue, stress, stage fright, paralinguistic factors, psychological, as well as physiological factors.
The final motivation of GP is ‘language acquisition’. The errors children usually make when they are attempting to discover the phonology of their own language during the stage of language acquisition is quite revealing.
1.9.2 OPERATIONAL LEVELS OF GENERATIVE PHONOLOGY
There are two operational levels/representations of generative phonology: the underlying level/representation and the surface level/representation. Between these two extremes is an intermediary that mediates or the underlying level to generate surface representations. The mediators are phonological rules (Oyebade, 2008: 15).
1.9.3 THE UNDERLYING LEVEL
The underlying level/representation is also called the phonemic or phonological level/representation. The underlying representation represents the native speaker’s tacit knowledge (Chomsky and Halle 1968: 14) specifically propose that phonological representation are mentally constructed by the speaker and the hearer and underlie their actual performance in spelling and “understanding”. The underlying representation are relatively abstract and do not manifest surface variants.
1.9.4 THE SURFACE LEVEL
The surface representation, on the other hand, is the physical instatiation of underlying forms (Davenport and Hannahs, 2005: 122). The surface representation can be likened to performance – the actual use of language. It is also called the phonetic level because it deals with the physical manipulation of the organ speech to produce linguistic forms. It is accompanied with a lot of nuances that do not characterize the native speaker’s competence, hence, its predictableness. They are complete with lexical items and reflect the grammatical rules of the language.
1.9.5 PHONOLOGICAL RULES
Since the underlying/phonemic level differs from the surface level, phonological rules serve as mediators between these two extremes. Phonological rules link them together. Phonological rules are facts that are expressed in formal statements which act on the information stored in the human’s (native speaker’s) instinct. Phonological rules that act on underlying forms of the language to yield surface phonetic forms.