Variant Vowels and Tones

As we said before, gáláà is a tonal language; in other words, only tone introduces a meaning in a word. For instance, the duplicated consonant, ‘k k,’ is meaningless because there is no vowel bearing a tone or two to give it meaning. But when we add the low-toned vowel, ‘à and the high-toned ‘é,’ a meaning emerges: a short sentence, a command: Kà ké. (Say it now).

The Igala speech uses a number of tones, namely: High, Mid, Low and Mid-High tones; and the Extra High tone, sounding shrill like none of the ones mentioned, usually occurring at the end of negative and other rare statements. This tone is represented by a dot-bearing ‘n’ (ṅ). The four tone variants are shown below with their corresponding tone (or accent) marks and are also phonetically-transcribed to demonstrate how they are articulated, with examples translated to English:

Vowel

Phonetic Transcription

Tone

Examples of the sounds

Á

/á/

High

ájá (Market); éwó (goat)

A

/a/

Mid

awa; awa; agba (Casual greeting)

Ā

/ā/

Mid-high

Ọ́mátā (name); Ọ́fákga (town)

À

/à/

Low

àjà (bird, Night jar); ùlẹ̀ (walk)e

É

/é/

High

égbé (grass); úlé (run)

E

/e/

Mid

hieele (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 (pron.) you; gbẹ (to dry)

Ẹ̄

/ɛ̄/

z

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 Necropolis at Ídá)

Ì

/ ì /

Low

 ìtì (cheek); jìm (darkly)

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); úgwúnú (vulture)

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 (lantern). Look up ‘ẹ̀mùtúla.’

 

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