THE SOUND SYSTEM OF Ì̩̀̀ZÓN
The project examined some aspects of the phonology of Ì̩zón. We started by presenting a brief history of the language. Thereafter, we reviewed some previous studies on phonetics and phonology. We then proceeded to listing and describing the consonants and vowels sound found in the language based on the data available to us using the classical phonemics and autosegmental frameworks. We adopted the later framework because the formercan not account for phonological processes. We also discussed the tone system of the language and presented the possible syllable patterns. Source of data employed for the study is primary. The primary data was elicited by interviewing a native speaker of the language.
Keywords: Phonetics, Phonology, Consonant, Vowel.
This study investigates some aspects of the phonology of Ì̩zón language. The language is a member of the West I̩jo̩ branch of languages which is a sub branch of I̩jo̩ group belonging to Proto I̩jo̩id (Williamson and Blench 2000). The Ì̩zón language is spoken in Southern Nigeria (Williamson 1969:1). Observation shows that the language is erroneously called I̩jo̩, like most other languages within the I̩jo̩ group. Sometimes it is written as “Ijaw” which is an Anglicized version of I̩jo̩ (Alagoa 2005, Prezi 2014). Following Williamson and Blench, the I̩jo̩ group of languages comprises nine languages divided into the East and the West branches. The Ì̩zón language is one of the languages in the Western group. The name Ì̩zón is retained in this study.
1.1 The Izon People and Language
The focus of this work is on the Ì̩zón language, which is a member of the West I̩jo̩ group of the Proto-I̩jo̩id. Greenberg (1963) classified the I̩jo̩ group as a member of the Kwa Branch of the Niger-Congo family of African languages, Bendor-Samuel (1989: 2006) classified the I̩jo̩ group as I̩jo̩id belonging to the Atlantic Congo family of the Niger Congo phylum. Williamson and Blench (2000) adapting Bendor-Samuel’s re-classification further reclassified I̩jo̩id as a Proto-language consisting of two branches; Defaka “an endangered language” and I̩jo̩ which is a cluster because it consists of a number of languages divided into the Eastern and Western groups. The Eastern group comprises Nkoro( Nko̩r̩o̩o̩), Ibani, Kalabari, Okrika, Nembe, and Akassa, while the Western group comprises Izon, Biseni, Okordia, and Oruma. This makes a total of ten languages as members of the I̩jo̩ group. Williamson (1989) hypothesizes that the languages within the I̩jo̩ cluster share some level of mutual intelligibility.
1.2 Motivation and Purpose of Study
The motivation of this work is the death of empirical evidence on the sound system of the language. Against this backdrop, the ultimate goal of this work is to identify the phonetic sound and phonemic sounds in the language as well as the possible allophones. Towards achieving this aim, a phonetic as well as a phonological study of the language are the sub goals of this work. This is because a phonological presupposes the conduct of a phonetic study as a preliminary step.
1.3 Statement of the Problem and Research Questions
The study is an attempt to fill the gap created by previous studies. Its aim is therefore to conduct an empirical study of the sound system of the language. Towards achieving this aim, this research seeks to address the following questions
1. What are the speech sounds of Ì̩zón?
2. Which of the speech sounds of Ì̩zón are functional in the language?
3. What permissible combinations of speech sounds does the Ì̩zón language permit?
4. What is tonal pattern of the Ì̩zón language?
1.4 Scope and Significance of the Study
This work aim at conducting a study of the sound system of Ì̩̀̀zón. This would involve the identification and description of the speech sounds of the language as well as a description of her phonemic system. This aims implies a phonetic as well as a phonological study of the language. The phonetic study focuses on articulatory phonectics for the description of sounds. While the phonology study focuses on the phonological process on some segments.
The work would serve as a kind of teaching/learning material not only to the native speakers of the language but also to non-native speakers who may be interested in this aspect of Ì̩zón.
1.5 Method of Data Collection
This work is lexicon based.Source of data employed for the study is primary. The primary data was elicited by interviewing a native speaker of the language. The research instrument employed include the Swedish 200 word list. Our transcription was also confirmed with the aid of i2Speak IPA keyboard software which provided the accurate symbols, diacritics and pitch for each speech sound.
1.6 Theoretical Frameworks
The project will be carried out within the framework of classical phonology and autosegmental phonology. The former take care of the identification of the speech sounds while the latter is used account for the phonological processes on the segments.
1.61 Classical phonology
Classical phonology is an offshoot of structural grammar, which emphasizes the study of the structures of language. A major approach in this theory is phonemics. Any study which seeks to investigate or discuss phonemes is referred to as phonemics. The work on phonemics started with philosophers or scholars in general finding a means to separate the plethora of speech sounds from the once that drive communication. They follow the pattern of recognizing a sound as a phone which was dominant in the discussion of sounds in general at that time. But their focus where on phones that have communicative importance in terms of driving meaning because it became obvious that there were too many things speakers of a language produce but have no communicative significant. So, the term phoneme arose.
It is noteworthy that, the discussion of the concept of the phoneme actually marked the core of the genesis of phonology. However, just like any other science there was no ready consensus of what the phoneme is. One of the views asserts that the phoneme represents a physical phonetic reality. That is, the sounds that belong to the same phoneme share important phonetic properties. The major task, then, for a phonologist holding thisview about a phoneme is to determine which sounds belong to the same class. In order to do this, it is necessary to examine the distribution of the sounds in question. Consequently, the following principles of identification of a phoneme were proposed.
PRINCIPLE OF PHONEMIC ANALYSIS
A minimal pair consists of two similar words which differ in only one sound. If we have more than two words, it is referred to as a minimal set. In order to use this principle, it is necessary to examine the distribution of sounds in question. If two sounds which are phonetically similar occur in the same environment, and if the substitution of one sound for the other result in a difference in meaning, then these sounds are regarded as different phonemes. For example;
English minimal pairs
English Minimal Set
Near minimal pairs
When two similar words differ in more than one segment, they are referred to as a near minimal pair. Segment in this sense refers to the position of a sound in a sequence of sounds; it is not the sound itself. In the example below, the numbers above the transcriptions indicate segments. Like minimal pairs, when there are three or more sequence in which more than two segment differ, they are referred to as a near minimal set. For example;
1 2 3
‘yellow yam’ [i´k͡p̃ɛ̀]
This is when two or more sounds that freely be substituted for one another without resulting to a change of meaning. Unlike in Minimal Pair, the sound that makes a difference in the two words does not result to a change of meaning. For instance,
i. [mili] “water”
ii. [miri] “water”
iii. [rísí] “head”
iv. [rí́∫í] “head”
The methods of minimal and near minimal pairs are used to establish that two sounds belong to separate phonemes. For establishing that two sounds are in the same phoneme, we need to establish that they are in complementary distribution. Two sounds are said to be in complementary distribution if one sound never occurs in the environments in which the other occurs. To establish complementary distribution, we need to find the environments in which the sounds occur. One purposeful way of doing this is the method of compiling local environments. The method is illustrated with the exercise below
Maasai (adapted from hayes 2007)
1. [eŋamaniɣi] ‘name of age-set
2. [eŋgila] ‘garment’
3. [eŋgiruðoðo] ‘fright’
4. [eŋoɣi] ‘sin’
5. [ilarak] ‘murderers’
6. [ilke:k] ‘trees’
7. [imbaɣiβak] ‘you are restless’
8. [kaɣe] ‘but’
9. [koɣo:] ‘grandmother’
From the environment listed, we noticed that [g] only occurs when [ŋ] immediately precedes it. It is likely that [g] is just one allophone of a phoneme, because it has such a restricted distribution. The preceding [ŋ] is likely to be the environment that requires this allophone. Also, we observed that all instances of [ɣ] are surrounded by vowels. This is not the case with others. The pattern suggests that [ɣ] is another allophone of the phoneme that includes [g].the distribution shows that [k] may occur initially, after consonants or vowels, and in final position. These various environments do not include the environment for [ɣ] or [g], and the sounds [k] and [ɣ] are never preceded by [ŋ]. This means that the distribution is complementary – none occur where any other may occur.
1.62 Autosegmental phonology
Autosegmental phonology is one of the multi-linear frameworks of non-generative phonology proposed by John Goldsmith in 1976. It is a frameworkwhich is used to account for the behaviour of segments and suprasegments by spreading them out on independent tiers. There are two principles guiding autosegmental representation, namely the well-formedness condition and the obligatory contour principle.
The well-formedness condition is a universal convension for associating autonomous tiers. Phonologist working with this framework agreed that the association convention that links different tiers together can be stated thus:
(a) Mapping: this principle states that vowels should be associated with tones in a one to one fashion, left to right, until when run out of tones or vowels.
(b) Dumping: if after mapping, some tones are still free (unassociated) link them to the last vowel on the right.
(c) Spreading: if after mapping, some vowels are still free, link them to the last tone on the right
(d) Association lines are not allowed to cross.
While the obligatory contour principle (OCP) prohibits adjacent identical elements in a representation.