1.1 General Background
The main focus of
this research work is a discussion on the aspects of ‘Bura’ question formation.
This chapter therefore, aims at introducing the work by discussing some
historical facts about the Bura people and the language itself.
The research method
used the language helpers. Justifications for the study, as well as the scope
of the work are also examined in this chapter. The chapter will also give
information on the genetic classification of Bura language and then attempt a
brief review of our chosen frame-work, the Government and Binding theory.
1.2 Historical Background
The Pabir and the
Bura are ethnically different, but they both speak the Bura language. They are
the major tribes in Biu and Shani local government areas. The population of the
Bura is over 250,000. Apart from Bura, they also speak Housa, Chibok and Marghi.
A few speak Fulfulde.
The Bura lived
northern Biu before being attacked by Yamta-ra-wala around the 16th century.
The few people Yamta brought with him inter-married with the Bura and built up
the Biu dynasty into a kingdom. Those descended from Yamta’s group were called
Pabir (Babur). This is why the Pabir and Bura differ considerably in culture
and appearance.Until today, the Pabir are the ruling class among Bura, and all
the Bura Villages pay tribute to the Emir of Biu. The Bura still resent the Pabir.
location of Bura land is located on the Biu Plateau, which are highlands in
northeastern Nigeria, covering an area of approximately 2,000 square miles
(5,200 square km) with an average elevation of 2,300 feet (700m).The plateau’s
highest point is Wiga Hill (2,693) feet (821m) and its most prominent relief
features are the many well defined, extinct volcanic cones.
Modern-day Bura live
throughout Nigeria, their ancestral home can be found in the shaded areas on
the Nigeria map.
profile of the Bura tribe
Every community has
its distinct way of life. The way people eat, what they wear, their mode of
marriage etc, differ in various societies. The Bura people, just like every
community, have their distinct culture and tradition.
Bura is a language
spoken as a mother tongue in Biu local government of Plateau State. It has
neighbouring tribes like Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi and a host of other
The main occupation
of Bura people is farming. They practice both subsistence and commercial form
of farming but they are major on cultivation of land, growing of crops for the
sustainability of their household. The Bura people crops are mainly maize,
guinea corn, groundnut and rice.
The Bura had their
traditional religion which was idol worship, before Islam came around in 1920
and Christianity later in the 1920’s. Today, these three religions can all be
found among the Bura.
The Supreme Being
(idol) is called ‘Hyel or Hyel-taku’. They approach Hyel through ‘Haptu’. The
Bura believes that Hyel created everything. But Haptu is a personal God who
takes care of the individual.
The Haptu have
shrines where people worship and offer sacrifices. The gods are represented by
various objects such as water (a lake of river), stones, mountains or forests.
Usually there is a priest through whom consultation is made of the Haptu.
Most sacrifices to
Gods are made on Saturday, so it is a special day. Some gods are for particular
clans, and there is no unified form of traditional religion for the whole
tribe. One of the Haptu is ‘Dlaninps kampeka’ a large being living in space.
His chief priest is called ‘Mthakur haptu’. There is a mthakur haptu in each
village.The most common of the gods is represented by a covered pot kept by a
family head. At the beginning and end of the dry season, or in times of stress,
the family head offers a chicken to the pot for the health of his house hold.
The cult passes from father to son.
The practice of
traditional religion has now largely declined to the advent of Islam and
Christianity. Despite the presence of many towns and villages, Islam is still
the predominant religion among the Bura. The proportion of Christians is small
compared to the entire population.
The rough estimate of
the religious percentages is as follows; Muslim 78%, Christians 20 and
Traditional 2%. There is a certain amount of understanding between the Muslims
and Christians which prevents too much religious tension in the tribe.
determining the building of houses in Bura land are war and farming factors.
The Bura people used to live in huts. The major building structure is the hay,
and the mud buildings. Those using mud for their building are the civilized
among them. Not withstanding in the recent time, they are still using mud in
building their houses.
Before the present
day of westernization and civilization, the Bura people clothed themselves with
animal’s skin. They made themselves with various styles from these skin
materials. For instance, they made shirts, trousers, skirts and so on; they
even went to an extent of carrying their young ones with the skin materials and
mostly use such materials to tie their babies to their backs.
But today, some Bura
put on cotton clothes while others till date put on skin materials.
Presently, there are
two kinds of marriage practice in Bura land which are Religion marriage (both
Islam and Christian wedding) and Traditional marriage. The Bura people practice
both the monogamous and the polygamous forms of marriage.
In Bura land, when a
female child is born, a suitor may propose by throwing a leafy branch of a
certain tree into the female mother’s hut. If he is accepted, he gives gifts as
the girl grows up. He works on her father’s farm and makes zana matting for
them. When she reaches marriageable age, he organizes his friends to capture
her and bring her to his house. Then, the remaining part of the bride price is
settled and arrangements for the marriage ceremony are concluded.The bride is
usually expected to produce a white cloth stained with the proof of her
virginity and it may be displayed with pride. Her parents will be ashamed if
she is not a virgin.
Another form of
courtship in Bura land is for a boy to look over the girls while they are
collecting firewoods or fetching water. When he sees one he likes, he asks her
to marry him, and if she agrees, he get 8 or 10 strong fellows to capture her
and bring her to his house. Then, the marriage ceremony is arranged.
The Bura like most
African societies, have quite a number of accompanying ceremonies and
initiations. One of which is the child’s naming ceremony which comes up on the
seventh day after birth.
The Bura usually
don’t circumcise their boys until the practice was introduced around the 1920’s
the boys in Bura land are circumcised around the age of Seven (7).
Another ceremony that
takes place in Bura land is the burial rites. When an old person dies, he or
she is buried on the second day’s evening when everyone has gathered. The grave
is a wide circular shaft at the top, about knee deep, and then a smaller round
shaft is dug from the bottom of this into a flask-shape cavity below. The
corpse of a chief is buried sealed, while other people are laid flat on the
floor of the cavity.
There is always a
traditional dancing for seven (7) days after the burial and if the deceased was
an important person, it lasts fourteen (14) days. During these days, dancers
perform. On one of the mourning days, the Fuinchambwi dance is done. The male
dancers jump from the ground to the roof of the hut of the deceased and back
again until the roof is destroyed.
After this, the date
is fixed for the last mourning or Sadaka, which is held about six (6) months
later, but usually during the dry season.
Before the advents of
the Western Education, the Bura people have a way of teaching moralities,
respects and skills within their communities. The Education of their children
is of utmost importance because they believe an uneducated mind will definitely
die an ignorant and will be problematic to him or herself and the community in
Therefore, they teach
and impact moral knowledge to their children right from birth, and as they
grow, they set their children on skills training.
The Western Education
was embraced by the Bura people and they emphasized that both male and female
should be give equal right to Education. As such, they built schools within the
Originally, the Bura
had no central government, but now, the Emir of Biu appoints the district heads
(Ajia) who then approve the appointments of the village heads (Lawans). Today,
both these titles belong to certain families. The village heads appoint the
ward heads (Bulamas) over the small villages and larger ones. Anyone who has
leadership ability can be chosen as a BULAMA’.
classification of Bura language
classification of languages is based on the assumption that languages
originated from a common ancestor.
The essence of the
genetic classification of Bura language is therefore to trace the origin of the
language and show its relationship to other languages especially Africa
NIGER-KONDOFONIA AFRO-ASIATIC NILO-SAHARA KHOISAN
EGYPTIAN SEMITIC CUSHITIC OMICTIC BERBER CHADIC
WEST-CHADIC BIU-MANDARA EAST-CHADIC MASATERA KOTOKO
BURA HIGI MANDARA
MATAKAM SUKUR BATA
GROUP GROUP GROUP GROUP GROUP
CHIBOK KIBA BURA (PABIR) LABA MANGI PUTAI
Source ‘Courie, B.(ed) (1987)’
Organization of study
This research is an
attempt to describe aspects of the syntax of Bura language and it is limited to
the question formation aspect of the language.
Chapter one of the
work gives the general background to the study, discusses the historical
background and socio–linguistic profile of Bura speakers, as well as the
genetic classification of Bura language. The chapter also discusses on the
scope and organization of the work, the theoretical frame work adopted for the
study, method of data collection and data analysis, and brief review of the
chosen frame work for the analysis of our data.