English Language Project Topics

The Tense System of Okun Within the General Purview of Semantics of the English Language

The Tense System of Okun Within the General Purview of Semantics of the English Language

The Tense System of Okun Within the General Purview of Semantics of the English Language

Chapter One

Aim and Objectives of the Study

The study is aimed at investigating the tense system of Okun within the general purview of semantics of the English Language. Specifically, the objectives of the study include:

  1. To describe the tense system of Okun
  2. To identify her tense markers and account for the differing forms of its basic form.
  3. To explain the derivation semantics within the clausal structure of Okun




Tense relates events to the time of an action and it specifies the time of the event. It creates a link between the time of an action and the period of utterance. Lyons (1979:304) notes that the essential characteristic of the category of tense is that it relates the time of an action, event or state of affairs referred to in the sentence to the time of utterance, the time of utterance being now. Comrie (1985) claims that tense is a grammaticalised expression of location in time. Omamor (1982) identifies three points with reference to time; the points are retrospective point (RP), the time anterior to the time of initiation of speech, anticipated point (AP), the time posterior to the point of initiation of speech and the point present (PP), the point of initiation of speech. The summation from the definitions shows that tense relates the time of an action, event or state of affairs in languages. Having said this, the next section will dedicated to the examination of how tense relates the time of an action, event and states of affairs in Okun

Past tense in Okun

Past tense signify event that occur prior to the time of the utterance. Yuka and Omorege (2011) state that past tense signals an event frame that proceeds the moment of speech. In Okun, there is no overt phonetically visible morpheme for marking past tense; the past action is assumed to reflect on the verb in the sentence because it shows a completed action. See the examples below:





Aspect is one of the functional categories that is attested in Ìgásí. According to Huddleston and Pullum (2002:117) aspect applies to a system where the basic meaning has to do with the internal temporal constituency of the situation. Aspects in Okun are divided basically into two namely: imperfect and perfect.

 Progressive aspect in Okun

Progressive aspect primarily shows that the action specified by the verb is ongoing as at the time of the utterance or was on-going in the past. Obiamalu (2015) succinctly describes progressive aspect as an on-going process at the time of speaking, traditionally referred to as present continuous. It could also refer to an on-going action at a point in time in the past, traditionally referred to as past continuous. Okun uses ró as a progressive marker. The preverbal particle occurs between the subject DP and the verb as exemplified in the examples below:




Negation implies the contradiction of the assertions made in a sentence. Crystal (2008) asserts that negation is a process or construction in a grammatical or semantic analysis which typically expresses the contradiction of some or all of a sentence meaning. Scholars have divided negation into two; they are constituent negation and sentence negation. Constituent negation presupposes the contradiction of some or parts of a sentence while sentence negation implies the negation of a whole sentence (see Payne 1992). Okun manifests both the constituent and sentence negation. Okun has the three basic negative markers. They are kpa (‘not’), sẹ (‘don’t’) and ge ̣̀ (‘un-‘). Note that perfective, progressive, habitual and future actions have overt morphemes that show their presence in negative sentence. Consider the examples below:




The work describes the tense system of Okun dialect with particular focus on the basic forms of [+FUT] and [-FUT] markers, their allomorphs in [+NEG] and [-NEG] clauses as well as the derivation of TP using MP as the theoretical orientation. Data comprise structured interview with competent speakers of Ìsánlú variety of the dialect. The analysis of the data reveals the following:

Okun operates [+FUT] versus [-FUT] system.

The marker of [-FUT] in both [+NEG] and [-NEG] is covert or abstract (ø).

The basic forms of the [+FUT] markers are:  in [+NEG] and  in [-NEG]. The NEG is encoded on short DP pronouns as high tone in [+NEG] and as low tone in [-NEG].

There are variations in the forms of the markers of [+FUT] in SY and Okun. Okun basically marks [+FUT] with  in [+NEG] and  in [-NEG] constructions while SY marks [+FUT] with yóò/óò/á/máa in [-NEG] and ní í in [+NEG].

There is observed temporal ambiguity in the tense system of [+FUT] in [-NEG] as in (25b, d, f) and [-FUT] and [-NEG] clauses (as in 13b, d, f) when  ‘1PL’, Ẹ̀  ‘2PL’ and Ọ̀ n ‘3PL’ occupy Spec, TP.

Contrary to the view of Oyèláràn (1982:36), and Awóyalé (1986), tense is an attested grammatical category in Okun and by extension, in the SY.

Tense system either abstract (as in the [-FUT]) or overt, shares the same features with the tense system of many morphologically rich languages. The following features are attestable:

Tense is a probe that attracts DP to its Spec, TP for phi-features’ checking.

Tense is required for the fulfilment of the EPP (i.e. each finite clause must have its Spec, TP filled by DP)

It has P(erson), N(umber) and Case features.

The study upholds the modification of I-layer as proposed in Ajo ṇ́́ go ḷ́o , (2005), ̣́ Ọdúǹtán,

(2000) and Ìlo ṛ́ í and Oyèbádé, (2012) to the effect that hierarchy of projection of the [+N EG]construction should be:NegP>TP>vP>VP as against the proposed clausal structure o f TP>NegP>vP>VP of Adger, (2003).


In this paper, I present the description and analysis of the grammatical category of tense and aspect in the Okun dialect of Yoruba spoken in Kogi State in Nigeria. I examine tense makers in Okun under two headings, the first being tense makers in positive or affirmative sentences and the second heading examines tense makers in negative sentences. I demonstrate that Okun employs both tonal and lexical items to indicate tenses in affirmative sentences and sentences with negation. From my data, I showed that two types of tenses could be established in affirmative sentences in Okun, future and non – future. Okun can be said to have a tense pattern that is similar to that of the standard Yoruba (Bamgbose 1990, Omamor 1982), which makes a distinction between future and non-future (Ajongolo, 2005). The non future tense is not overtly marked. The future tense is overtly marked in affirmative utterances by the lexical items éé. The presence of the éé therefore indicates the future tense while its absence is indicative of nonfuture tense. I demonstrate that tense markers in negative utterances can be either marked or unmarked in the language. While the non – future tense negative marker is not morphologically realized, the future tense negative marker is indicated by the item  in the language.

In this study, we have examined the structure of tense, aspect and negation in Okun. It is shown in the paper that tense in Okun polarises future and non-future tense. It is further established, that the speech form uses the preverbal particle  to mark its future tense. It is also demonstrated that the speech form has designated morphemes for future tense, perfective, progressive and habitual aspects in negative sentences just like their positive counterparts. The study claims that Okun has three basic negative markers which are kpa, sẹ and àge ̣̀. It is shown in this study that two preverbal particles with mid tone cannot occur side by side, as a result, the negative marker undergoes tone lowering or tone raisin

On Aspectual markers, I examine Okun aspects only under affirmative sentences, as there are no overt makers for the aspects in negative sentences. From the facts of my Okun data, I showed the interactions of phonology and syntax as tones and lexical items interplay in marking tense and aspects.


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