Five Tones of Igala Tongue

‘Ígálá’ is a tonal language; and, in tonal languages, only tone conveys  meanings in words. For instance, the duplicated consonant, ‘kk’ per se, is meaningless but when you spice it with a vowel, or vowels, you see different meanings roll out. Example 1:  Add the vowel, ‘ẹ,’ bearing a high tone (ẹ́); then, you will have ‘kẹ́kẹ́,’ meaningsmall’ or ‘little’. E.g. Ọ́ma kẹ́kẹ́. A little child.

Example 2: Add two vowels, ‘o’ and ‘e,’ with variant tones, which give you ‘òké-ókē’ (one by one).


Tone (ómúù-ùkọ̀là), therefore, is indispensable in tonal languages, like Igálá, Yorùbá, Ìgbò, Idọmà, etc . The Igala tongue makes use of five tones, namely: High, Mid, Low, Mid-High and Extra-High tones. These are embedded in the various variants of the Igala alphabet’s seven vowels – a e ẹ i o ọ u. It should be noted, however, that a further investigation into Igala speech is likely to reveal more tones used by the language.


The Extra-High tone mentioned above is the shrillest or most strident in articulation and occurs mostly in negative statements, which usually ends with letter ‘n.’ In Igala writing, the tone is represented by the symbol, ‘ṅ’ (my own creation). Examples: Ú jẹ (I am not eating). Ú mọ-omi gẹ̀ . (I am not drinking water again).


The other four Igala tones are shown with examples in the table below:

Vowel

Phonetic Transcription

Tone

Examples of the sounds

Á

/á/

High

ájá (market);    ámá (clay)

A

/a/

Mid

awa; awa; agba (Casual greeting)

Ā

/ā/

Mid-high

Ọ́mátā (personal                   name);       Ọ́fákāga (town                   name)

À

/à/

Low

àjà (bird, Night jar); àmà (pronoun)  they

É

/é/

High

égbé (grass);           

úlé (run)

E

/e/

Mid

hieele (adverb) all;   che (to do)

Ē

/ē/

Mid-high

égélē (a bird);

È

/è/

Low

ènè (question);         Ètè (town)

Ẹ́

/ɛ́/

High

  pẹ́ẹ́ (a little);          fẹ́fẹ́ (to be very clean)

/ɛ/

Mid

ẹ; wẹ (pronoun) you; gbẹ (to dry)

Ẹ̄

/ɛ̄/

Mid-High

Á í dẹ̄? (How is it?) Áñẹ́jẹ̄ (tortoise)

Ẹ̀

/ɛ̀/

Low

 ẹ̀tẹ̀ (source);         

Ẹ̀dẹ̀ (Igala day/name)

 

Í

/ Í /

High

  fÍÍlÍ (to be thin);      míílí (to be slim)

I

/ i /

Mid

  Iii (yes);                 Òmii? (Is it me?)

Ī

/ Ī /

Mid-high

Ẹ́nẹ́ lī? (Who saw it?) Ọ́jaī (Royal Burial Ground at Ídá)

Ì

/ ì /

Low

ìtì (cheek);

Ó

/ó/

High

  óbó (soup);            ólóló (intensity)

O

/o/

Mid

Oo (Casual: I have heard you).

Ō

/ō/

Mid-high

átákōya (town-crier)

Ò

/ò/

Low

òdò (yellow; dwelling place).

Ọ́

ɔ́

High

 ọ́lọ́ (deformity);   ẹ́nẹ-ọlọ́ (a physically        challenged person.

ɔ

Mid

Ábọ (Title Greeting); ọ̀lọ (skyward).

Ọ̣̄

ɔ̄

Mid-high

ọ́gọ́lọ̄ (gutter)

Ọ̀

ɔ̀

Low

ọ̀dọ̀ (wall)

Ú

Ú

High

úlú (seedling)

U

U

Mid

lu (of light) to go off.               Look up ‘úná.’

Ū

Ū

Mid-high

ny’ánūnū (to dye a                  clothing).

Ù

Ù

Low

ùmù or ẹ̀mù (lantern). Look up ‘ẹ̀mùtúla.’

 
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