Learning a new language is a very interesting phenomenon; but, sometimes, it is not without its own downsides. More often than not, an Igala language student is faced with occasional interference, either from another language or other language varieties, mostly through code-switching. Wikipedia defines code-switching as “language alternation,” describing a situation where a speaker ‘alternates’ from one language to another without control.
It is true that the Igala alphabet descended from the English alphabet; but the two alphabets are not mutually interchangeable, as many of the vowels common to both languages are, indeed, starkly different phonologically. Occasionally, the Igala learner is pestered by the ghost of one English vowel or the other where Igala equivalents ought to be.
In this post, we examine the seven (7) Igala vowels – a e ẹ i o ọ u – including the five English ones that are subsumed in them. Then, together, we will identify those that are similar to the two languages and those that are different. The knowledge will, no doubt, help the learner to, henceforth, resist the spur that specter provokes.
1. LETTER Aa
In ENGLISH, letter ‘a’ uses two tones:
(i) It may sound like /a/ as in cat, mat, rat; and
(ii) it may sound like /ay/, as in pay, may, day, lay, say, gray.
In IGALA, letter ‘a‘ takes on four different tones, namely: (i) High tone ( ́ ): E.g. ábíá (dog), álá (sheep).
(ii) Mid tone ( ): E.g. awa, agba, mẹ gba (greetings).
(iii) Mid-High tone ( ̄ ): E.g. Ọ́mátā (name); Ọ́fákāga (town).
(iv) Low tone ( ̀ ) E.g. àgbà (chin); àfà (luck); Àgà (female name).
2. LETTER Ee
In ENGLISH, letter ‘e’ has two levels of pronunciation.
(i) It sounds like /i:/, as in he, she, me, we, be, fee, sheep, Jeep.
(ii) Letter ‘e’ also sounds like /ɛ/, as in men, pen, send, friend, bend, mend, get, fret, met, set.
In ÍGÁLÁÀ, letter ‘e’ generally sounds like /ay/ but uses four different tones:
(i) High Tone ( ́ ). E.g. wé (to stop); égbé (grass);kékélé (to be small).
(ii) Mid tone ( ). E.g. Eee (Yes); (Synonym: ‘Oo’); Awa; Agba; Mẹ gba. (Greetings).
(iii) Mid-High tone ( ̄ ) E.g.
égélē (a bird).
(iv) Low tone ( ̀): E.g. lè (went) (past tense); dè (to guard); yègèyègè (to be scanty).
3. LETTER Ẹẹ
In ÍGÁLÁÀ, Letter ‘ẹ’ takes on four (4) tones:
(i) High tone ( ́ ). E.g. jẹ́ (to accept); mẹ́ (to lend or borrow; kpẹ́ (to share).
(ii) Mid tone ( ). E. g. ẹ, wẹ (you – singular pronoun); jẹ (to eat); mẹ (you – plural pronoun).
(iii) Mid-High tone ( ̄ ): E. g. Á ì dẹ̄?: How is it? Áñẹ́jẹ̄ (Tortoise).
(iv) Low tone ( ̀ ). E. g. dẹ̀ (to shine); gbẹ̀ (to be great); gwẹ̀ (to wash).
4. LETTER Ii
In ENGLISH, the sound of letter ‘i’ is subdued, hardly audible. E. g. it, pit, fit, with, sit, pin, strip, slit.
But in IGALAA, it is strident and agitated and uses (four) different tones in speech:
(i) High tone ( ́):E.g. mí (to rest); lí (to see); hí (to weave); nyí (to create).
(ii) Mid tone ( ). E.g. fii (distantly); kiili (completely); jimm (heavily).
(iii) High-Mid tone ( ̄ ): Ẹ́nẹ́ lī? (Who saw it?) Ọ́jáīnā (Royal Necropolis at Ídá).
(iv) Low tone ( ̀):E.g. hì (to cook); jì (to tie/bury); mì (to swallow); nyì (to do wrong to).
In ENGLISH, letter ‘o’ uses two levels of pronunciation.
7. Letter Uu
Both the English and Igala vowels share a common /u/ sound.
In IGALAA, LETTER ‘u’ uses four (4) different tones:
(i) High tone ( ́). E.g. tú (to untie); gwú (to pound); mú (to arrest). (ii) Mid tone ( ). E.g. du (to take); lu (to extinguish).
(iii) Mid-High tone ( ̄ ). E.g. nyi-ánūnū (to dye).
(iv) Low tone ( ̀). E.g. dù (to defeat); fù (to grow); gwù (to climb); lù (to smell).