Focus Fronting in Zarma
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Like it is with other languages, focus plays a significant role in the syntax and semantics of Zarma language. However, the discussion of focus in Zarma is hitherto under-reported in the literature. This is because the syntactic properties of focus in terms of their relatedness or otherwise to those of wh-questions and negation (constituent) where focus fronting is involved have not been fully
examined (Sibomana 1995). This paper therefore investigates the expression of focus vis-a-vis its semantic function and architecture in the grammar of Zarma by providing a theoretical analysis of its morpho-syntax. The analysis will draw on language specific as well as cross linguistic evidence. The study adopts the restrictive theory of the Minimalist Program. Primary data for this study came from structured interviews conducted with five purposively selected native speakers of Zarma from Niamey, Niger Republic while secondary data were derived from published works. The data were subjected to inter-linear glossing and qualitative analyses. The study recognizes nò as the head of the Focus Phrase in Zarma, whose strong feature necessitates the movement of any focused item to its specifier position. It argues for some structural identities between focus strategy and constructions such as wh-questions and relative clauses but maintains that in each case different formal licensing is required. The Minimalist Program employed in this paper provides an empirical account for the presence of focused-words at the clause initial position which accords with the EPP feature requirement of the focus head nò. This speculation seems to show why focus fronting, which is feature induced, should be discriminated from case checking.
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