Microparametric Syntax of Interrogatives in North Eastern Group of Igbo Dialects.


This work examines the syntax of interrogatives in North Eastern Group of Igbo Dialects (NEGD) and Standard Igbo (SI). The main aim is to comparatively characterise the systems of interrogatives in the selected varieties of NEGD, namely Izhi, EzaaMgboEhugboUburu and Nkaleha and to describe the range of parametric possibilities and constraints distinguishing between them and the standard variety (SI).

In doing this, the instruments of the minimalist framework are utilised. Several questions bordering on the structures, behaviours and properties of interrogative elements in the varieties are addressed. A number of variations are found in the grammars of interrogative across the dialects studied and accordingly, accounted for. The work shows that in spite of the variations seen among the dialects of Igbo, all the interrogative forms in the language derive from the same underlying architecture.

On the structure and nature of the whelements, the work argues that all the wh-phrases in Igbo are built on the same primary tree, though with varying internal make-ups, which account for their varying behaviours in overt syntax. The work also argues that movement of whphrases to SpecCP in the language is triggered by the Q-operator for feature checking purposes and for scope specification. 

Wh-in-situ instantiations in Igbo is found to be instances of ‘declarative predicate in-situ question’ (DPIQ) and ‘interrogative predicate in-situ question’ (IPIQ), both of whose interpretation is based on pragmatic, or non-syntactic factors. Based on this, the work argues that the optional tendencies in wh-characterisation of the language are only superficial; that Igbo is actually, a wh-movement language.


It is a linguistic fact that the grammars of different languages exhibit certain differences. For example, a grammar of Igbo is different from a grammar of Yoruba; that of English from French, etc. However, it must also be stated that they have some properties in common. Linguists of different traditions and conventions all agree about this situation.

Against the backdrop of the observed structural differences between languages, one of the major goals of linguistic theory has come to be establishing what is universal in human language, and what are the limits on linguistic variation; that is, in how far and in what ways the grammars of languages or dialects may vary from one another. Consequently, a great deal of contemporary linguistic theories, according to Radford, Atkinson, Britain, Clahsen and Spencer (1999: 7), are aimed at testing hypotheses about UG on ever wide class of languages.

On this prevailing development, Ndimele (2004: 2) notes that there has been a new focus of theoretical interest in syntactic investigation into comparative syntax – a comparative framework adopted to provide some insights into the kind of interlinguistic variations, which might exist among languages, and to illustrate the functioning of certain syntactic processes that may or may not be universal attributes of human language. 

In searching for the principles of UG as well as of the language-specific parameters which yield variations, Kayne (2013) has advocated looking at more 25 closely related languages. (Note that Kayne’s use of the term ‘language’ simply refers to ‘a speech form’; whether such a speech form is regarded as a language or a dialect. In his own words, “I will use the term ‘language’ to cover dialects, too” (Kayne 2013:134). 


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StudentsandScholarship Team.

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