Igala Vowels Versus English Spectre

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);                 Ọ́fákga (town).

(iv) Low tone (  ̀ )                            E.g. àgbà (chin); àfà                  (luck); gà (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).



 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.  , 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 audibleE. 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).


 5.  LETTER Oo
In ENGLISH, letter ‘o’ uses two levels of pronunciation.
(i) It sounds like /ou/ as in go,      no, woe, foe, goat, moan, foam.
(ii) The vowel letter ‘o’ also sounds like /ɔ /, as in dot, not, cot, pot, rot, dot, hot, lot.
It is similar to the Igala ‘ọ.’
In ÍGÁLÁÀ, the letter may assume four different tones in speech, namely:                   
(i) High tone ( ́). E.g. óbó (soup);  ógbó (old age);  óló (poison).
(ii)  Mid tone (  ). E.g. Ooo (Okay; alright, I agree); gbogbo (loudly);           
 (iii) Mid-High tone  ( ̄ ) E.g. átákōya (town-crier).
 (iv) Low tone (  ̀ ). E.g. òdò(yellow); ògòdò (to be semi-watery); òkpò (fright). 
6.   Letter Ọọ
In ÍGÁLÁÀ, letter ‘ọ’ makes use of four different tones:
 (i)   High tone (  ́). E.g. Ọ́jọ́ (God);  ọ́dọ́ year); ọ́kọ́ (money); ọ́wọ́ (hand).  
(ii)  Mid tone (  ). E.g. nọ (to stiffen); rọ (to roast); tọ (to leap); kọ (to write).
(iii)  Mid-High ( – ): E.g. ọ́gọ́lọ̄ (gutter).
 (iv) Low tone (  ̀ ). E.g. yọ̀ (to be cheerful); kọ̀ (to refuse); nyọ̀ (to be good  or  beautiful)


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).

Igala Vowels Versus Foreign Spectres

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