UNIVERSITY OF NIGERIA, NSUKKA
Department of Linguistics, Igbo and Other Nigerian Languages
AUTOSEGMENTAL PHONOLOGY - THE URHOBO LANGUAGE
A Seminar Paper Presented in Partial Fulfilment of the Requirements for the Course LIN512: Phonology
OYIBO, EDIRI ENDURANCE PG/MA/12/62631
LECTURER: PROF. R. I. UKORJI (MRS.)
Abstract The primary aim of this paper is to examine the application of autosegmental phonology framework in analysing phonological features of the Urhobo language, a south-western Edoid language of Delta State, Nigeria. Autosegmental phonology which developed out of the inadequacy of previous phonological models was championed by Goldsmith. The framework is used to analyse the syllable structures of the Urhobo language in this paper. It is also used to analyse vowel harmony, nasal harmony and tone; although such analyses are neither limited nor restricted to the mentioned features. We were able to show that although these features occur concurrently with the segments that bear them, the features are better analysed independently of the segments. The main point of this study is that, it lends more credence to the fact that autosegmental phonology framework is an advancement in the studies of languages, especially tonal languages and it stands as a more convenient framework for the analysis of autosegmental features and other phonological features alike of languages. Keywords: Autosegmental phonology, nasal harmony, vowel harmony, tone. 1.1 Introduction
Autosegmental phonology is an approach that can be utilized to analyse phonological representations conveniently in any human language. Human languages are studied from different levels of linguistic levels. In other words, these levels such as phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, etc form the basis in which human languages are studied. These levels are interconnected and interfaced at some points so that one level provides ‘raw materials’ for another to operate. The first levels of linguistics studies are phonetics and phonology levels. Phonetics has to do with defining and describing speech sounds of languages; the various sound segments and superimposed segments that make up a language, how these are articulated, how it gets to the hearer and how the hearer perceive the sound segments. Thus, phonetics is concerned with the description and classification of the speech sounds of every human language. Phonology conversely is the description of the systems and patterning of sounds that the study of phonetics presented of a language. It involves studying a language to determine its distinctive sounds, that is, those sounds that convey differences in meaning. From the foregoing, we can
draw a conclusion interpretatively that phonetics provides raw material for phonological analysis. The phonetics-phonology interface of linguistics provides the segmental tier for autosegmental analysis. Before autosegmental phonology, other phonological models have been propounded for the analysis of phonological features of speech sounds in ways peculiar to that particular model. The autosegmental framework provides a more convenient way for the analysis of phonological representations of languages. Hence, this paper will use the framework for the analysis of phonological features in the Urhobo language. Since Urhobo is not yet well studied or rather, prominent, we will run an overview of Urhobo phonetics before we will present a brief overview of the autosegmental framework and then apply it in the analysis of some phonological features. 2.1 Overview of Urhobo Phonetics
The consonant inventory of Urhobo language is made up of twenty-eight (28) consonant segments. Of these 28 segments, the phones [x] (voiceless velar fricative) and [h] (voiceless glottal fricative) as in [ ̀ h ] and [ ̀ x ] ‘sense’ occur in free variation just as some English ́ ́ phones behave (Aziza, 2007). The phones [n] and [l] are also in complementary...
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