The Applicability of Three Selected Syntactic Elements in the Description of African Languages and Implication for the Theory of Universal Grammar (UG): Ngas, Hausa, and Fulfulde as Case Studies


African Humanities Program Dissertation Fellowships


Language and Linguistics


The project examines the extent to which the characterization in Universal Grammar (UG) of three syntactic elements—Move-alpha, TOP, and PRO—can be applied to African languages. Has their characterization captured the full range of permissible options in UG, since not all known human language data, particularly African language data, are used to account for the facts of UG? The project appeals to the representation of the selected elements in the Minimalist Program, with emphasis on operational and explanatory adequacy. The use of data from two Chadic and one Atlantic-Congo language allows for a comparative and unified analysis. This investigation into the workings of less studied African languages strengthens, extends, and modifies the theory of UG, and questions its wholesale application to African languages, arguing that there can be no adequate theory of UG unless syntactic theory can account for the facts presented in African languages.