GENERAL BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
This chapter introduces the language of study, the people speaking the language and their geographical location. It also introduces us to the background of the speakers of the language which includes their culture and beliefs. Again in the chapter, a brief explanation of the scope of the study, method of Data collection, Genetic classification and the theoretical framework used in carrying out the research on the language are discussed.
1.1 General Background.
This study focuses on the Unèmè Verb Phrase. Unèmè is a language spoken in three (3) local government areas of Edo State. The three local government areas are: Etsako, Akokò-Edo and Agbasilo respectively (Hakeem 2003). The Unèmè people are about 6,000 in population (Crotzier and Blench, 1992).
1.2 Historical Background.
According to Hakeem (2003), the history of Unèmè people can be traced to the core area of the Nok cultural zone located in the North-East of the Níger-Benue confluence. This area According to oral tradition represents the ancestral homeland of not only Unèmè people but also of related sub-ethníc groups which have come to be described as the Edoid.
The Unèmè people is said to have arrived in Benin area in the Era of King Ogiso Ere. Their first place of settlement was on the outskirts of Benin City. In the tenth century, the Unèmè people were encouraged to move to Benin City because of their utilitarian metal crafts but were later forced to move out of Benin City because they were taken as slaves. This led to their relocation from Benin City to their present place of settlement (Hakeem 2003).
1.3 Sociolinguistic Profile.
The following could be observed among the Unèmès:
The language (Unèmè) is seen as a means of communication in the market, relaxation centres and among the elders. It is rare to see the adult and the children speak the language proficiently. The children who are old enough to start going to school do not speak Unèmè as proficiently as their parents do, which shows that the language is gradually fading out.
The Unèmè people like many other tribes have their own unique ways of life that are discussed below.
1.3.1. Marriage System.
According to an oral tradition, the Unèmè people have a unique marriage system which is a process carried out by the parents of a boy. They would pay agreed money on the girl they have chosen for their son to marry. This is done during their childhood state. When the children are grown up, an appropriate date for the marriage ceremony will be set but now civilization has changed everything.
Unèmè people are blessed with festivals. Some of the festivals are connected with their religious beliefs while others are connected with their socio-economic belief. Among such festivals connected with religious beliefs is Ogun festival. This festival is associated with the veneration and propitiation of the god of Iron (Ogun) and it is usually organized by allocating spots in the community to the propitiation of Ogun by the iron smelting societies. The Unèmè festival connected with socio-economic activities is the Old and New yam Festivals.
The Old yam festival is organized between May and June of every year. Unlike the Old yam festival, the New yam festival is being organized to mark the beginning of the harvest of New Yam in every Unèmè community.
In Unèmè, like any other place in Nigeria, the three (3) major religions are practiced, that is, Christianity, Islam and Traditional religions. In these communities, Christians attend churches, Muslims attend mosques and the traditionalists worship in shrines. The traditionalists have their belief in Osanobula or Oghene which is the Supreme Being (Hakeem 2003).
The major occupation of the Unèmè people is iron smelting. According to my informant, the blacksmiths smelt the iron-ore mostly at night because of the high temperature generated in the process of smelting. Some of their products are: chains, hoes, cutlasses, iron weapons, etc.
Another aspect of Unèmè occupation is farming. The people engage mostly in the commercial system of farming. Some of their farm produce are: yam, cocoa, rice, cassava, etc. The farming and blacksmithing occupations have brought a great development to Unèmè people and their communities.
1.4 Genetic Classification of Unèmè.
Ruhlen (1987:1) states that “the idea that groups of languages that share certain systematic resemblances have inherited these similarities from a common origin is the bases for genetic classifications”.
Genetic classification could be inform of a tree diagram showing he origin of a language and how it is genetically related to other languages. Unèmè language belongs to the group of Edoid under the Benue-Congo group of Niger-Congo language family.