Published: June, 2020


Franca Okumo & Chibunma Amara Bright-Ajoku

About Author(s):

Federal University Otuoke, Bayelsa State

Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Imo State


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This paper examines the syllable and tonal structures of Ukwuani (an Igboid language spoken in the Northern part of Delta State, Nigeria) nouns. Using the Autosegmental theoretical approach, the study investigates the possible syllable and tonal structures observable in Ukwuani nouns. Data were collected from competent native speaker collaborators using the SIL Africa Area Word List from which generalizations were made. The study reveals that Ukwuani nouns can be classified into four groups based on the number of syllables and the inherent tonal patterns which are: monosyllabic nouns, disyllabic nouns, trisyllabic nouns and polysyllabic nouns. Monosyllabic nouns have a Consonant Vowel (CV) pattern and an inherent high tone while disyllabic nouns have a Vowel, Consonant Vowel (V-CV) and Syllabic Nasal, Consonant Vowel (N̩.CV) syllable structures and a Low Low (LL), Low High (LH), Low Falling (LF), High High (HH), High Low (HL), and High Falling (HF) tonal patterns. Trisyllabic nouns have V.CV.CV or N̩.CV.CV syllable structures and an LLL, LLH, LHL, LHF, LHH, HHH, HHL, HLH, and HHF tonal patterns. Polysyllabic nouns are made up of compound words and so, the tonal patterns depend on the structure of the nouns. It was observed that there are restrictions on tones in the language. Monosyllabic nouns have a basic high tone and are very few in number. The falling contour cannot occur at the initial position, it occurs only after a high or low tone in the disyllabic and trisyllabic nouns. For disyllabic nouns, a final L is very rare except for some personal names. This research contributes to knowledge particularly in the study of Ukwuani an endangered language. It is hoped that this paper will serve as a reference material to studies in the language.

Keywords: Syllable structure, tonal patterns, monosyllabic, disyllabic, trisyllabic, polysyllabic, falling

contour, nouns.