Issues on the Categorial Status of ‘Òun’ in Yorùbá

Johnson Folorunso Ilori 1 ,
Author Information & Copyright
1Adekunle Ajasin University
Corresponding Author : Johnson Folorunso Ilori, Department of Linguistics and Languages, Adekunle Ajasin University Akungba-Akoko, Ondo State, Nigeria. Phone: +2347062399363; Email:

Copyright ⓒ 2016, Sejong University Language Research Institue. This is an Open-Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Received: Feb 01, 2012; Revised: May 18, 2012; Accepted: Jun 01, 2012

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


This paper examines issues on the categorial status of òun in Yoruba grammar, particularly its status as conjunction. It draws insight from binding theory to show that in Standard Yoruba and other related dialects, such as Ìlàje, òun is constantly anaphorically bound by the first of the two nominal constituents it purportedly coordinates in line with binding rule and binding principle ‘B’ within the particular phrasal context where it is often analysed as conjunction. Relying on data from South-Eastern Yoruba dialects (Oǹdó and Ào) and a Central Yoruba dialect (Òmùò-Aráròmí) where there is clear cut evidence for two òun in the lexicon, one of which is non-referential unlike the òun in Standard Yoruba, the paper shows that the use of òun as conjunction in Ào, reported in Taiwo (2005), is not exclusive as there are other dialects in the language that do the same. The paper however provide additional evidence to demonstrate that the claim that òun is a conjunction in Yoruba based on the Ào data cannot be generalized to Standard Yoruba and other related dialects (e.g., Ìlàjė) where the non-referential òun found in Ào, Òmùò-Aráròmí, and Oǹdó dialects is absent. These make argument in favour of the so-called conjunction òun in Standard Yoruba (School) grammar being a 3sg pronominal anaphor compelling.

Keywords: Yoruba; nominal conjunction; dialects; pronominal anaphor; agreement; binding principle B



Adéèboyèjé̇, A. 1985. Èdè àti Gírámà Yorùbá. Ibadan: Macmillan Nigerian Publishers.


Adéwȯlé, L. et al. 2000. Exam Focus: Yorùbá Language. Ibadan: University Press Limited.


Amfani, A. 1996. Aspect of Agreement Relation in Hausa Clause Structure. Ph.D Dissertation. University of Ibadan.


Amfani, A. 2004. Two Quasi Verb Forms in Hausa. Journal of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria 8, 45-55.


Awóbùlúyì, O. 1978. Essentials of Yoruba Grammar. Ibadan: University Press Limited.


Awóbùlúyì, O. 1998. Àwȯn È̇ka-èdè Yorùbá. Paper Presented at the Annual Conference of Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria. Pastoral Institute Bodija Ibadan.


Awóbùlúyì, O. 2001. Aró̇pò-Orúkȯ Kúkúrú Ėnìkėta Ėyȯ Aṡolùwà. Yorùbá: A Journal of Yoruba Studies Association of Nigeria 2.1, 1-8.


Awóbùlúyì, O. 2008. È̇kó̇ Ìṡè̇dá-Ò̇rò̇ Yorùbá. Akure: Montem Paperbacks.


Awoyalé, Y. 1983. Reflexivization in Kwa. In G. Dimmendal (ed.), Current Trends in African Linguistics 1-14. Doudrecht: Forish Publication.


Bamgboṡe, A. 1967. A Short Yorùbá Grammar. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books.


Bamgboṡe, A. 1980. Pronouns, Concord, and Pronominalization. Africa und Ubersee 63, 189-198.


Bendor-Samuel, J. (ed.) 1989. The Niger-Congo Languages. Lanham: University Press of America.


Chomsky, N. 1981. Lectures on Government and Binding. Doudrecht: Forish Publication.


Chomsky, N. 1995. The Minimalist Program. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.


Déchaine, R-M. 1993. Predicate Across Categories. Ph.D Dissertation. University of Massachusetts, Amherst.


Haegeman, L. 1991. Introduction to Government and Binding Theory. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Limited.


Haegeman, L. 2006. Thinking Syntactically: A Guide to Argumentation and Analysis. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Limited.


Heine, B. & D. Nurse. (eds.) 2000. African Languages: An Introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Ilȯri, J. 2004. The Categorial Status of 'Òun': A Yoruba Putative Conjunction. Paper Presented at the 24th West African Languages Congress. University of Ibadan.


Ilȯri, J. 2005. A Syntactic Analysis of Yoruba Anaphora System. AMU: Akungba Journal of the Humanities 1.1, 87-109.


Ilȯri, J. 2010. Nominal Constructions in Igálà and Yorùbá. Ph.D Dissertation. Adekunle Ajasin University.


Mohammed, A. 2004. Clitics in Hausa Language. Journal of the Linguistic Association of Nigeria 8, 21-25.


Newman, P. 2000. The Hausa Language: An Encyclopedic Reference Grammar. New Haven & London: Yale University Press.


Newman, P. & R. Newman. 2002. Modern Hausa-English Dictionary. Ibadan: University Press Limited.


Ȯdúntan, B. 2000. Yoruba Clause Structure. Ph.D Dissertation. University of Iowa.


Ȯlábò̇dé, O. 1998. Ìjìnlè̇ Fonó̇ló̇jì àti Gírámà Èdè Yorùbá. Ibadan: Heinemann Educational Books.


Pulleyblank, D. 1988. Clitics in Yoruba. Syntax and Semantics 9, 43-64.


Radford, A. 1988. Transformational Grammar: A First Course. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Taiwo, O. 2005. Negation in the Ào Dialect of Yorùbá. Ph.D Dissertation. University of Ibadan.


Yusuf, O. 1980. Conjunction in Yoruba. Paper Presented at the Department of Linguistics and Nigerian Languages Seminar. University of Ilorin.


Yusuf, O. 1997. Transformational Generative Grammar: An Introduction. Ijebu-Ode: Shebiotimo Publications.


Yusuf, O. 1998. Fundamentals of Syntax and the Study of Nigerian Languages. Ijebu-Ode: Shebiotimo Publications.


UCLA Language Material Project: Teaching Resources for Less Commonly Taught Languages. Retrieved March 20, 2012. Available at URL <>.