Aspects of Olukumi Phonology. Project Topics and Materials : Current School News

Aspects of Olukumi Phonology

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Aspects of Olukumi Phonology.


Olukumi is a Yoruboid language spoken by the Ukwunzu and Ugbodu people of Delta state, Nigeria. Hitherto the study, Arokoyo (2012) superficially described the sound system of the language in comparative study of four Yoruba group of languages.

Her analysis however did not account for certain vital aspects of the phonology of the Olukumi language. As such, this study sets out to study those aspects of the phonology of the language that were not adequately accounted for.

This research work provides an adequate description of the sound system of the language including tone and syllable structure. It also highlights and describes those assimilatory processes that are evident in the language.

Furthermore the study provides adequate description of those processes that affects the syllable structure of the language. Since syllable structure processes converts or deletes tone bearing units (TBUs), the study also highlights some of the tonal processes that take place when TBUs are deleted in the language.

Data for this study were collected primarily by means of oral interview of four indigenes of Ukwunzu who have native competence in Olukumi. The Ibadan four hundred word list and a self constructed word list were used to gather primary data from the four respondents.

The minimal pair test was used to identify distinctive consonants, vowels and tones in the language. The Sound Pattern of English (SPE)framework propounded by Chomsky and Halle (1965) was used for the analysis of assimilation and syllable structure processes.

However, since the SPEframework is not capable of handling non-linear/suprasegmental features, the Autosegmental framework propounded by Goldsmith (1976) was adopted for the analysis of tone and other suprasegmental features.

This research shows that contrary to earlier claims, the Olukumi language has twenty-four consonants, nine oral and five nasal vowels, three possible syllable types (two basic syllable V, CV and a third phonological syllable CGV), and two basic tones.

Some of the prevalent phonological processes includes: palatalisation, labialisation, nasalisation, nasal spread, nasal stability, vowel harmony, vowel harmony spread, vowel deletion, vowel insertion, consonant deletion and glide formation.

Some tonal processes that are prevalent in the language includes: tone deletion, tone stability and tone mobility. Contour tone in this language is a concatenation of the Low and High tone which merge as a result of tone stability.

Given that phonology is one of the basic areas of linguistic description, this study serves as a foundation for further research into such areas like syntax, lexicography, morphology documentation and so on.


Title Page…….……………… i
Approval Page……………… ii
Certification Page………….. iii
Acknowledgement………. iv
Table of Contents……. v
Abstract….. viii


1.1 Background to the Study….. 1
1.2 An Overview of Ukwunzu Speakersof Olukumi…… 3
1.2.1 History of the Ukwunzu People……… 3
1.2.2 Language Situation………… 5
1.2.3 Geographical Location….. 6
1.2.4 Linguistic Classification…….. 6
1.3 Statement of Problem……… 8
1.4 Research Questions……………………. 8
1.5 Research Objectives……………….. 8
1.6 Scope and Limitation of the Study……… 9
1.7 Significance of the Study…… 9


2.0 Introduction………………… 11
2.1 Theoretical Review… 11
2.1.1 Phonological Processes….. 11
2.2 Empirical Review……. 25
2.3 Summary of Literature….. 45
2.4 Theoretical Framework.. 46
2.4.1 Minimal Pair Test……. 46
2.4.2 Generative Phonology Theory……. 47
2.4.2 Autosegmental Model.. 49


3.1 Area of Study…………. 52
3.2 Selection of Respondent…. 52
3.3 Methods of Data Collection…. 53
3.4 Method of Data Analysis…… 53


4.0 Introduction… 54
4.1 Sound System of Olukumi Language……… 54
4.2 Phonological Processes……. 63
4.2.1 Assimilation…… 64
4.2.2 Syllable Structure Processes………. 74
4.2.3 Tonal Processes in Olukumi………….. 78


5.1 Summary…………. 83
5.2 Findings…….. 84
5.3 Conclusion and Recommendation……………. 86
References…….. 89
List of respondents


1.0 Background to the Study

Phonology as an important aspect of linguistics is generally concerned with the study of the sound pattern of a language. Identifying the phonemes of any given language is an important aspect of phonology; however, often times, phonological analysis entails more than that.

In other words, besides highlighting the distinctive sounds of a language, a phonologist examines what happens to speech sounds when they are combined to form words and how they interact with each other.

Given the fact that speech is a continuum, speech sounds are not articulated independently as series of distinct segment, rather sound segments merge and blend into one another during speech.

Thus phonemes patterned in this way influence one another. Consequently, Schane (1973:49) observes that: When morphemes are combined to form words, the segments of neighbouring morphemes become juxtaposed and sometimes undergo changes.

Consider the morphologically related forms electric, electrical, electricity, and fanatic, fanatical, fanaticism. Here the final /k/ of electric and fanatic becomes /s/ before a morpheme beginning with /i/. Such changes, identified by Schane are referred to as phonological processes.

Phonological processes are those changes which segments undergo to produce the various phonetic realizations of underlying phonological segments (Ifode, 1999:144).

In the light of the foregoing, Halle (2002:11) remarked that “phonology, from the mentalist-generative perspective, is concerned with the connections between the abstract underlying representations of words and morphemes in memory and their surface representations that serve as instructions to the articulators”.


Abiodun, M. (2007). Phonology. In Y, Ore (ed). Basic linguistics for Nigerian language teachers (pp. 51-94). Port Harcourt: LAN and Emhai Press.

Adive, J.R. (1985). The phonology of Ebira. Dallas: Summer Institute of Linguistics. International. www.ethnologue.comRetrieved on 16 December, 2013.

Akinlabi, A, & Liberman, M. (2000). Tonal complexes and tonal alignment. NELS 31: 1–20.

Arokoyo,  B.E.  (2012).  A  Comparative  Phonology  of  the  Olùkùmi,  Igala,  Owe  and  Yoruba Languages. Towards Proto-Niger Congo: Comparison and Reconstruction, Paris 18-21., assessed Nov 2013.

Aronoff & Ress-miller. (2001). Contemporary linguistics: An introduction. New York: Burton.

Atóyèbí, J.D. (2009). On Nasals and Nasalization in Òko. In Selected Proceedings of the 39th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, 39, 131-136. Somerville, MA: CascadillaProceedings Project., document #2192.

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