‘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,’ meaning ‘small’ 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 ṅ (I am not eating). Ú mọ-omi gẹ̀ ṅ. (I am not drinking water again).
The other four Igala tones are shown with examples in the table below:
Examples of the sounds
ájá (market); ámá (clay)
awa; awa; agba (Casual greeting)
Ọ́mátā (personal name); Ọ́fákāga (town name)
àjà (bird, Night jar); àmà (pronoun) they
hieele (adverb) all; che (to do)
égélē (a bird);
ènè (question); Ètè (town)
pẹ́ẹ́ (a little); fẹ́fẹ́ (to be very clean)
ẹ; wẹ (pronoun) you; gbẹ (to dry)
Á í dẹ̄? (How is it?) Áñẹ́jẹ̄ (tortoise)
Ẹ̀dẹ̀ (Igala day/name)
/ Í /
fÍÍlÍ (to be thin); míílí (to be slim)
/ i /
Iii (yes); Òmii? (Is it me?)
/ Ī /
Ẹ́nẹ́ lī? (Who saw it?) Ọ́jaīnā (Royal Burial Ground at Ídá)
/ ì /
óbó (soup); ólóló (intensity)
Oo (Casual: I have heard you).
òdò (yellow; dwelling place).
ọ́lọ́ (deformity); ẹ́nẹ-ọlọ́ (a physically challenged person.
Ábọ (Title Greeting); ọ̀lọ (skyward).
lu (of light) to go off. Look up ‘úná.’
ny’ánūnū (to dye a clothing).
ùmù or ẹ̀mù (lantern). Look up ‘ẹ̀mùtúla.’