Journal of Universal Language
Sejong University Language Research Institue

The Morphosyntactic Coding of Focus Structure in Igbo

Maduabuchi Sennen Agbo1,
1University of Benin
Corresponding Author : Maduabuchi Sennen Agbo, Department of Linguistics and African Languages, Faculty of Arts, University of Benin, PMB 1154, Benin City, Edo State, Nigeria. Phone: +234-8056021759; 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: Jul 06, 2013; Revised: Aug 27, 2013; Accepted: Sep 03, 2013

Published Online: Jan 01, 2017


Cross-linguistic studies have ascertained that the information units withinclause structure are systematically coded. These information units shape the information structure of the clause and focus structure is the term for it in the literature. Previous studies on Igbo focus structure centre exclusively on the syntactic derivation of the clause to determine the focus structure. Therefore, this study investigates how pragmatic considerations and morphological markings in the clause structure determine the various types of Igbo focus structure. The study adopts the Role and Reference Grammar (RRG) framework, which seeks out the relationship between referring expressions in a clause and the focus structure. RRG also has the advantage of formally projecting focus structure into the representation of clause structure. Four categorical types of focus structure occur in Igbo. These include, subject focus with the /e/, /a/, /kwá/, and /-nụ`/ markers; object focus with // and // as markers; verb focus with /weé/, //, and // as markers and sentence focus with gwá m΄ and /ghí/̣ as markers. The study reveals that morphological markings code focus structure in Igbo. In other words, it describes the information units within clause structure from the perspective of the interaction between morphology, pragmatics, and syntax, and not exclusively from a syntactic perspective.

Keywords: Igbo; focus structure; morphosyntax; Role and Reference Grammar



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