Application of the Segmental and Autosegmental Models of Phonological Analysis in Analyzing the Interaction of Tone and grammar in Nsukka Dialect of Igbo Language

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This research work on the interaction of tone and grammar is aimed at the application of the segmental and autosegmental models of phonological analysis in analyzing the interaction of tone and grammar in Nsukka dialect of Igbo language. The earlier works on tone in Igbo, Igwe (1975), Emenanjo (1978) were generalized becaused of the inability to capture all the minutes of tone features in all the Igbo dialect. This project work will critically examine the meaning of tgone, in general, it productions and the factors that can affect it. Such tone features as down drift, down step, assimilation and elision as well as their segmental and auto-segmental analysis as is obtainable in Nsukka dialect of Igbo is the central focus of this work.

Nsukka, then Federal University town of Enugu State, South-Eastern Nigeria is situated on the Udi Hills of Enug State at an elevation of 1,300 feet (396m). Nsukka is an agricultural trade centre for yams, cassava, rice, corn (maize) yellow pepper, pigeon peas, cowpea, groundnut, mellon (egusi) and palm oil and kernel produced locally. The occupation of the people is weaving (traditional craft) and trading. Nsukka is the sit of the popular Orzie (Orie) Orba market, the largest market in Enugu State. This market attracts people from far north especially her two northern neighbours, Benue and Kogi States. There is also coal deposit discovered at Obolo, East of Nsukka along the main Onitsha – Mrkurdi Road. Nsukka is made up of 5 local government areas, namely; Igboetiti, Igboeze North, Igboeze South, Udenu and Nsukka Central Local Government Area. Nsukka share boundaries with Benue State on the east and Kogi State on the South.

Nsukka dialect of Igbo is made up of about 15 speech forms. This is to say that we have at least 2 speech forms, in each local Government Area. Using my knowledge of lexicostatistical principles of Morris Swadesh and Robert Lees (1940) which I gained from the course “Dialectology” I carried out a dialectal study of the speech forms of Nsukka dialect and the result shows that noticeable lexical and tonal variations exists within this various speech forms though very minimal. In this research work, I compared five speech forms each taken from the five local government areas and arrived at the following percentage of shared lexical and tonological values between these speech forms. Consider the tables below:
Shared lexical values between pairs of Nsukka speech forms

Shared tonal values between pairs of Nsukka speech forms
The data used for this dialectal research on Nsukka dialect of Igbo was gotten from adult speakers of the various speech forms who have lived in that speech community for 15 years and above who also have linguistics (competence in their respective speech forms.

Igbo language is classified as belonging to the lower Niger sub-group of the Igbo language which is in turn a branch of the kwa group of the Niger-Congo in the Kordor Fanian phylum with around 25 million speakers that are mostly Nigerians. Igbo is an official language of Nigeria and it is also natively spoken in Cameroon. It is written in the Latin alphabet, which was introduced by British colonialists. Secret societies such as Ekpe use the Nsibidi Ideograms which were invented by the Ejagham and were used to represent other languages like Efik.
There are over 20 dialects of Igbo language that are mutually intelligible and unintelligible. A standard literary language was developed in 1972 based on the Owerri and Umuahi dialects. Though it omits the nasalization and aspiration of those varieties. The Igbo alphabets has 36 letters which are made up of 28 consonants and 8 vowels. All the letters are phonemic and orthographic. They directly represent the 36 distinct sounds of the language.
The Igbo writing system has three graphemes namely; Monographs as in /a/, /r/, diagraphs as in /gb/, /kp/ and trigraph as in /in/ /tsh/ in Onitsha. Diacritics are also important features found in Igbo language and they are used to modify the value of graphemes. Its usage effects change in the meaning of words example /O/ /u/.
Igbo however, as a language has some features that are peculiar to it. For instance according to Emenanjor (1982), Igbo has been described typologically as agglutinating language because it makes use of affixes.

The word order for Igbo language is S.V.O. This does not in anyway indicate that there are no sentential constructions that violates this order and still remain grammatically correct but the basic sentence construction in Igbo takes the S.V.O. word order.
Obi gbàrà égwú
Subj vb Obj
Obi danced the music
èkèné Jèrè ákwúkwó
Subj vb Obj
Ekene went to school
iii. Chíkà zùtàrà akwá
Subj vb Obj
Chika bought egg
In a construction where we have a sequence of two words in which one (nominal modifier) describes the other (noun) the noun comes first.
i. Ísí Íké – (stuborn, strong headed)
Head strong
ii. Ónú Útó (sweet mouth)
mouth sweet
iii. áféré ochá (white plate)
plate white

The Igbo orthography has the following syllabic structures:
i. V – This is where a vowel constitute the syllable for example: O as in H/She/it
ó bù ya – He/she is the one
ii. CV – This is where a consonant is followed by a vowel for example: bù – to carry.
iii. The third syllabic structure is the C or the nucleus. This is where a consonant (restricted only m & n (syllabic nasals) constitute the syllabic.
Nnè = mother M – mà knife
N – tù = Ash m – gbá wrestle
These are the three basic units for combining consonants and vowels to form a syllable or multiples of syllables.
The Igbo syllable structure was reduced to the formula C T/S, Emenanjo (1978:1) C = Consonants, S = Syllabic T = Tone.
Igbo operate an open syllable structure i.e. no “coda” (c) and there can only be one consonants at the C – Position of the CV i.e. no consonant clusters.

The Igbo orthography has what is called vowel harmony. In this principle the vowel is of two groups, each having an affinity with the other. Where the group I vowels are in oposition with the group 2 vowels. Vowel harmony is an assimilation or set of assimilations which restricts the vowel sequence that occur in a word by permitting only certain sets of vowels in successive syllable. In other words, when vowel or a given morphemic word or phrase is selected from any one of two mutually exclusive sets, vowel harmony process is said to have taken place. Harmonization can occur in terms of vowel height, front/back, dichotomy or lip rounding, i.e. it can be vertical, horizontal or labial harmonization. Igbo language manifests: a complete or near complete vowel harmony system.
There are eight vowels in Igbo language which may be arranged as follows:
i u
i u
e o
e a o

Set A Set B
i i
e v
o o
u ú
In this theory, it means that all vowels found in one and the same word must belong to group A or must belong to group B.

Íshí = head
Ùdó = peace

Ísè = To Pull
Íme = Pregnancy

Úzò = door
Ozó = again
Ùdò = rope Group B
Ányá = eye
Ázù = fish

This principle is broken by compound word and borrowed words.

1. Odeakwukwo = /reader/ compound word
2. Osikapa = /rice/ borrowed word

Tone is an important feature of Igbo language. Igbo is a tone language i.e. it makes use of voice pitch to differentiate word meaning or utterance. Tone performs two distinct functions. In Igbo language:
Lexical function
Grammatical function

In this function tone is used to show the differences between words that are identical. For example, morphologically, the following words and many other words in Igbo, each has two or more completely different meaning although the forms of these words are identical in all respects. They only differ in the tones attached to them. Igbo has two major tonal systems; high (‘ ) and low (`). It also has a down step tone ( = ) which is not predictable tone.
i. Ísí (head)
Ísì (smell
Ìsì (blindness)
ii. Ìgwè = (Croud)
Ígwè = (Iron)
Ígwé = (Sky)
iii. ákwá = (Cry)
àkwá = (egg)
àkwà = (bed)
ákwà = (cloth)
mgbá = wrestle
mgbà = funnel

Grammatically, tone distinguishes between syntactic structures between statements and questions.
Chíómá dì Íme = Chioma is pregnant
Chíómá ò dì Íme = Is Chioma pregnant?
Tone also distinguishes between main and relative clauses.
Ákwúkwó m di níme àkpà
My book which is in the bag.
ákwúkwó m dì nì Ìmé àkpà
My book is in the bag.

Dialect differences are the inevitable result of language change combined with geographical separation. Every living language is constantly changing in vocabulary, in pronunciation and grammar. Dixon (1997:8) defined dialect as two forms of speech which are mutually intelligible. Igbo language has faced a lot of dialectal problems since the earliest formal study of the language by the missionaries in the late 19th century. Ubahakwe E. (1981) says “there has been no published comprehensive and systematic study of Igbo dialects to date and this is worsened by the simple fact that there is no sensitive instrument for isolating one dialect of a language from the other that have been developed by linguists. The dialectal differences in Igbo language by variations in syntactic structures, word forms, and usage, tone, patterning, nasalization, aspiration, etc.
Among the Igbo dialects that have been worked on is Ngwa and Ohuhu. Nsukka is one of those dialects of Igbo that have received little or no attention. The earliest works on tone in Igbo were generalized since they could not capture all the minute tone, features in the various Igbo dialect and this is because some dialects are exceptions to the established fact about the language. Welmers (1973:90) quoting Armstrong (1965:51) had discussed how the tonal system of a language could be different from the tonal systems of the other dialects of the same language.
As earlier noted, dialects of the same language may have some phonological, morphological, syntactic and lexical differences and Nsukka dialect is one of such dialects. Nsukka dialect is known to have notable differences from the central Igbo (standard Igbo) dialects in terms of its lexicon and spelling as shown below:

Nsukka dialect Central Igbo Meaning
èshì àhù body
èbò àbùó two
ètó àtó three
mmeyi Òbàrà blood
ùgòdù Nkita dog

Nsukka Central Igbo Meaning
Òdò èdò yellow
éjá ájá sand
gù gí you
Oshishi Osísí stick
Ízé ézè teeth

Niger – Kordofarian

Niger Congo Kordofarian

Western Atlantic Mandekwa Benue Congo Adamawa Eastern

Ijaw Igbo Nupe Yoruba

The tree diagram above shows that Igbo language belongs to the kwa sub-group of the Niger Congo Family.

The standard model of phonological analysis is not adequate in the analysis of tone in Nsukka dialect.

The segmental and Autosegmental model of analysis is the best model of phonological analysis of tone in Nsukka dialect.

The objective of this research work is to prove that the segmental and autosegmental model of analysis is best for the analyzing tones in Nsukka dialect of Igbo language.

The significance of this project work is standardization. According to Oluikpe (1979:iii-iv) “one of the aims of Igbo studies is the standardization of the language and enrichment of its vocabularies”. Igbo language is a language with a multiplicity of dialects which though similar in their syllable, structure differ in their phonology, syntax and aspects of their lexicon. No single dialect can be regarded as the standard form of the language. So, to achieve this goal of standardization, the comprehensive survey and description of the dialects are very necessary for the study of individual dialects, which will bring about a broader knowledge of the language in general.

This project work is limited by time factor, financial resources as well as lack of written materials on Nsukka dialect that are related to the topic.

Tone is a general phenomenon of kwa group of language hence, in the first instance and on a less serious note, the scope of the study is generally as we shall first attempt a general assessment of tone and on the other hand and on a more serious note we shall in this study focus on the segmental and autosegmental analysis of tone in Nsukka as a geographical entity and as a speech community since our preoccupation in this work is segmental and autosegmental analysis of tone in Nsukka dialect of Igbo language.

Our primary method of collection of data was personal interviews with adult native speakers of Nsukka dialect who have lived in the speech community for at least 15 years or more. Also, the linguistic and communicative competence of the researcher as a native speaker of the language play important roles in being able to collect relevant data and for accurate and proper analysis of data.

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