Phonological Adaptation of English Loanwords

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Abstract
Language contact is as old as man. As people move around to overcome their economic, political and social challenges, they move along with different languages. These languages meet and borrow from one another. The Igbo and the English languages are some of the instances of languages contact. This study investigated phonological processes the English loanwords in Igbo undergo. Some English loanwords were collated and analyzed using the questionnaire method. It is discovered that the loanwords are not just borrowed into the Igbo language; they do undergo different phonological processes like vowel and consonant modification, vowel insertion and deletion. It is also discovered that the pitch is not left out in the involved phonological processes. Words in English are changed from stressed words to tone words in Igbo. The study reveals the effects of the contact of English and Igbo. It also reveals the flexibility in the development of Igbo words.

PUBLISHED BY:
Polac Journal of Humanities and Security Studies, Vol. 1. No. 1. December 2015.

ISSN: 2476-8057

Submitted: June 25, 2016

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Submitted: June 25, 2016

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PHONOLOGICAL ADAPTATION OF ENGLISH LOANWORDS IN IGBO

 

Ejiofor, Eugene Uchechukwu

 

Department of Linguistics & Nigerian Languages

Faculty of Humanities

Nigeria Police Academy, Wudil

 

Email: nkegenee@yahoo.com

 

Abstract

Language contact is as old as man. As people move around to overcome their economic, political and social challenges, they move along with different languages. These languages meet and borrow from one another. The Igbo and the English languages are some of the instances of languages contact. This study investigated phonological processes the English loanwords in Igbo undergo. Some English loanwords were collated and analyzed using the questionnaire method. It is discovered that the loanwords are not just borrowed into the Igbo language; they do undergo different phonological processes like vowel and consonant modification, vowel insertion and deletion. It is also discovered that the pitch is not left out in the involved phonological processes. Words in English are changed from stressed words to tone words in Igbo. The study reveals the effects of the contact of English and Igbo. It also reveals the flexibility in the development of Igbo words.

 

1.0 Introduction

The Igbo is the native language of the Igbo people, an ethnic group of southeastern Nigeria. It is estimated that there are over 24 million native speakers of Igbo (Wikipedia). A standard literary language was developed in 1972 based on the Isuama and Umuahia dialects (?kaas?s? Igbo).  The first book to publish Igbo words was History of the Mission of the Evangelical Brothers in the Caribbean (German: Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen Brüder auf den Carabischen Inseln), published in 1777.  Shortly afterwards in 1789, The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano was published in London, England, written by Olaudah Equiano, a former slave, featuring 79 Igbo words (Oraka 1983 p21).  The narrative also illustrates various aspects of Igbo life based on Olaudah Equiano's experiences in his hometown of Essaka.

The central dialect of Igbo is traceable to the 1939 standardization committee led by Dr. Ida C. Ward. The recommendations of the Ward committee were gradually accepted by missionaries, writers, and publishers across the Igbo region. In 1972, the Society for Promoting Igbo Language and Culture (SPILC), a nationalist organization which saw Central Igbo as an imperialist exercise, set up a Standardization Committee to extend Central Igbo to be a more inclusive language. Standard Igbo aims at cross-pollinating Central Igbo with words from Igbo dialects outside the "Central" areas, and with the adoption of loanwords.

Linguistic borrowing involves reproducing linguistic items found in one language into another language. It is believed that no community, no matter its size, will live without having contact with other communities. This contact brings about influence in various forms of life among which is borrowing linguistic items from one another. The items borrowed from the source language might be adopted to suit the phonological and morphological systems of the target language. However, it is likely that the borrowed items can or cannot retain the meaning of the source language.

The coming of Britain to some parts of West Africa which resulted in the amalgamation of what is today known as Nigeria; and the consequent colonization of Nigeria by the British government introduced English language into Nigeria. English consequently became the language of the colonial administration and education. The use of English as the language of education and as the official language in Nigeria gave the language lots of prestige to the extent that Nigerians, especially, the Igbo are very eager to be identified with the language.

 

Nwala (1985: 23) demonstrates a strong affinity between the Igbo and the English languages. According to the publication, though the Igbo strongly rejected the colonial masters, they were overwhelmed by the colonial language, English. The love for English by the Igbo made it a common phenomenon for every average Igbo person to code-switch between Igbo and English frequently. Consequent to this is the regular borrowing of English words into Igbo.

 

2.0 Processes Involved in the Phonological Adaptation

There are many processes that are involved in the linguistic borrowing of English words into Igbo. Some of these processes include vowel change, modification of long vowels to short vowels, changing of diphthongs to monothongs and consonant change. Others include insertion of vowels and insertion of consonants; deletion of vowels and consonants and change of pitch from stress to tone. Let us now x-ray the above processes:

 

2.1 Vowel Change

This is a phonological process whereby the original vowel of a language is forced to change when adapted into another. In other words, it is a phonological transformation of the vowels of  loanwords into another vowel in a language. This process is attested in English loans in Igbo language. Instances of this are demonstrated below.

 

 

2.1.1 Substituting Short Vowels

English loanwords in Igbo involve the substitution of short vowels as in:

English Igbo

1. government /ig?v?nm?nt/g?menti /g??me?nti?/: where /?/ in English is substituted with /?/ in Igbo.

2. okra /iDkr?/ ?k?r? /??k??r??/: /?/ is substituted with /?/

3. television /itelevi??n/televish?n /te?le?vi????n/:/?/ is substituted with /?/

4. computer /k?mmipju:t ?r/k?mp?ta /k??mp??ta?/:/?/ is substituted with /?/

5. cup /k?p/ k?p? /k??p??/:/ ?/ is substituted with / ?/

6. kitchen /ikI?In/ kechini /ke??I?nI?/:/I/ is substituted with /e/

7. soldier / is??l??/ soja /so??a?/:/?/ is substituted with /a/

8. machine /m?i?i:n/mash?n? /ma??I?nI?/:/?/ is substituted with /a/

9. latrine /l?itri:n/ latirini /la?ti?ri?ni?/:/?/ is substituted with /a/

10. sugar / i??g?r/ shuga /???ga?/:/?/ is substituted with /a/

11. mango  /imæng??/ mangolo /ma?n??go?lo?/: /?/ is substituted with /o/

12. battery /ibæt?ri/ bat?r? /ba?tI?rI?/:/?/ is substituted with / I/

13. cushion /ik???n/ kwushini /kw???I?nI?/:/?/ is substituted with / I/

2.1.2 Changing Long Vowels to Short Vowels

We also have the substitution of long vowels with short vowels as in:

English Igbo

14. latrine /l?itri:n/ latirini /la?ti?ri?ni?/: The vowel/i:/ in English is substituted

with /I/ in Igbo.

15. guava / igwa:v?/ gova /gwo?va?/:/a:/ is substituted with /o/

16. record / irek?:d/rek?d? /re?k??d??/:/?:/ is substituted with / ?/

17. dormitory / id?:m?tri/d?met?r? /d??me?tìrì/:/?:/ is substituted with / ?/

18. ball /b?:l/ b?l? /b??l??/:/?:/ is substituted with / ?/

19. torch /t?:?/ t?ch? /t??I/:/?:/ is substituted with / ?/

20. church /??:?/ ch?ch? /????I?/:/?:/ is substituted with / ?/

21. school /sku:l/ skulu /sk??l??/: /u:/ is substituted with /?/

22. computer /k?mmipju:t ?r/k?mp?ta /k??mp??ta?/:/u:/ is substituted with /?/

23. blue /blu:/ bulu /b??l??/:/u:/ is substituted with /?/

24. cashew /ikæ?u:/kash? /ka????/:/u:/ is substituted with /?/

 

2.1.3 Changing Diphthongs to Monothongs

Adapting English words into Igbo also involves changing of original diphthongs in English to monothongs in Igbo. This must have been triggered by the fact that diphthongs are not found in Igbo. This is exemplified with the following data:

English Igbo

25. table / iteIbl/ tebulu /teb??l??/: the diphthong /eI/ in English is

  changed to the monothong /e/ in Igbo.

26. phone /f??n/ fonu /fo?n??/: /??/ is changed to /o/

27. soldier / is??l??/soja /so??a?/:/??/ is changed to /o/

28.pineapple / ipaInæpl/panap?l? /pa?na?p??l??/:  /aI/ is changed to a/

 

2.2 Consonant Change

Consonant change involves the changing of consonants from the original word in English with another consonant in the borrowing language. This applicable in English and Igbo contact. Though not limited to, the change is usually triggered by the absence of the original consonant in Igbo. It can also be triggered some times by the limited use of consonant cluster in Igbo. This is exemplified with the following English loanwords:

English Igbo

29. television /itelevi??n/televish?n /te?le?vi????n/: Where /?/ in English is

changed to /?/ in Igbo.

30. bank /bæ?k/ bank? /ba?n?kI?/:  /?/ is changed to /n/

31. cushion / ik???n/kwush?n? /kw???I?nI?/:/k/ is changed to /kw/

 

2.2.1 Insertion

This is a phonological process whereby segment that is not originally found in a word is added to the segments that form the word. In Igbo, vowels are inserted to separate a consonant cluster or at the end of an English loanword that ends with a consonant. As stated earlier, use of consonant cluster is rare in Igbo, and Igbo words do not end with consonants. There are also some rare cases whereby a syllable is inserted at the end of English word that ends with a vowel. Instances of insertion can be demonstrated with the data below.

 

2.2.1.1 Insertion between Consonants

This is necessitated by the need to break consonant clusters in the loan  words. It can be exemplified with the following loanwords:

English Igbo

32. football /if?tb?:l/f?t?b?l? /f??t??b??l??/: where the vowel /?/ is inserted to break the consonant cluster /tb/.

 

33. table /teIbl/ tebulu /teb??l??/: the vowel /?/ is inserted to break the consonant cluster /bl/.

 

34. bible / ibaIbl/ ba?b?l? /ba?I?b??l??/: the vowel /?/ is inserted to break the consonant cluster /bl/.

 

35. latrine /l?itri:n/ lat?r?n? /la?ti?ri?ni?/: the vowel /I/ is inserted to break the consonant cluster /tr/.

36. kettle / iketl/ ket?l? /ke?t??l??/: the vowel /?/ is inserted to break the consonant cluster /tl/.

 

37. blue /blu:/ bulu /b??l??/: the vowel /?/ is inserted to break the consonant cluster /bl/.

 

38. okra / iDkr?/ ?k?r? /??k??r??/: the vowel /?/ is inserted to break the consonant cluster /kr/.

 

39. candle / ikændl/kand?l? /ka?nd??l??/: the vowel /?/ is inserted to break the consonant cluster /dl/.

 

2.2.1.2 Insertion of Vowels at Word Final Position

This is the most common phonological process that happens to English loanwords in Igbo. This is triggered by the non-tolerance of consonants at the word final position in Igbo. Insertion of vowels at the word-final positions on loanwords that end with consonants can be seen in almost all the earlier listed examples as in:

English Igbo

40. church /??:?/ch?ch? : /????I?//- I/ is inserted at the end of the word.

41. ball /b?:l/b?l? /b??l??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

42. clock /klDk/k?l?k? /kl??l??k??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

43. shop /?Dp/sh?p? /???p??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

44. football /if?tb?:l/f?t?b?l? /f??t??b??l??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

45. bottle / ibDtl/b?t?l? /b??t??l??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

46. watch /wD?/w?ch? /w???I?/:/- I/ is inserted at the end of the word.

47. torch /t?:?/ t?ch? /t???I??/:/- I/ is inserted at the end of the word.

48. telephone /f??n/telefonu /te?le?fo?n??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

English Igbo

49. bible / ibaIbl/baib?l? /ba?I?b??l??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

50. pot /pDt/ /p??t??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

51. bank /bæ?k/ /ba?n?kI?/:/- I/ is inserted at the end of the word.

52. kettle / iketl/ /ke?t??l??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

53. lamp /læmp/ /la?mp??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

54. cotton / ikDt?n/ /k??tI?nI?/:/- I/ is inserted at the end of the word.

55. college /ikDlI?/ /k??le??I?/:/- I/ is inserted at the end of the word.

56. pineapple / ipaInæpl/ /pa?na?p??l??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

57. candle / ikændl/ /ka?nd??l??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

58. fan /fæn/ /fa?n??/:/- ?/ is inserted at the end of the word.

59. mangoe /imæng??// ma?n??go?lo? /:/- lo/ is inserted at the end of the word.

 

2.2.2 Deletion

This is another rare instance whereby a phoneme is deleted from English word adopted into Igbo. Some examples of this can be found in the following:

English Igbo

60. electric /iilektrik//la?tri?k/:the 1st vowel /i - / is deleted

61. electric /iilektrik//la?tri?k/:the cons. /t/ is deleted between /k/ and /r/.

62. guava / igwa:v?//gwo?va?/: the cons./w/ is deleted between/g/ and /a:/

 

2.2.3 Changing from Stress to Tone

This is a phonological process that affects every English loanword in Igbo. It involves the changing of the pitch pattern from stress that is associated with intonation languages to tone. This is triggered by the fact that Igbo is  a tone language. Hence any lexicon in the language must be tonal. This can be exemplified with the following few examples, in addition to all the English loanwords listed earlier.

English Igbo

 63. school /sku:l//sk??l??/ a stress less monosyllabic word in English is

produced with tone in Igbo.

 

64. machine /m? i?i:n//mà?I?nì/ 'stress' is changed to 'tone'.

65. battery /ibæt?ri/ /bàtìrì/ 'stress' is changed to 'tone'.

66. record / irek?:d/ /re?k??d??/ 'stress' is changed to 'tone'.

67. dormitory / id?:m?tri//d??me?tìrì/ 'stress' is changed to 'tone'.

68. cupboard /ik?b?d//ka?b??d??/ 'stress' is changed to 'tone'.

69. bottle / ibDtl/ /b??t??l??/ 'stress' is changed to 'tone'.

 

3.0. Observations

It is discovered that the major phonological processes involved in the borrowing of English words into Igbo include vowel and consonant change, vowel insertion, vowel and consonant deletion; and change of pitch pattern from stress to tone. The major activator for the above phonological processes is mainly based on the situation that the changed or modified phoneme is not found in Igbo language or where the English phonological rule that produced the concerned loanword violates the Igbo phonological rules. This view is mainly manifested at the instances where /?/ that is not found in Igbo phonemes inventory is replaced with another vowel like /I/ or /a/. The claim is also buttressed by situations where vowels are being inserted in between consonant clusters in line with the phonological rules of Igbo that rarely accommodate consonant clusters, and the instances whereby the vowels /I/ and /u/ are inserted at the end of loanwords ending in consonants which are also rarely accommodated in Igbo.

The study also reveals that the first consonants and vowels of English loanwords are usually retained in Igbo. It is also in line with the above claim that makes it possible for English loanwords to retain their word (or syllable) initial consonants and vowels which are allowed by the Igbo phonological rules. It is clearly manifested that only the front high vowel /I/ or /i/ (depending on the vowel harmony condition) and the back high vowel /?/ or /?/ (depending on the vowel harmony condition) are usually inserted at the end of English loanwords.

4.0. Conclusion

The study investigated the different phonological processes that English loanwords in Igbo undergo. The study is upholding the view that the phonological processes involved in the borrowing of English words into Igbo lexical are systematic. It also upholds the fact that Igbo is developing by increasing its lexicon with borrowed words.

 

 

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