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A seminar paper presented by

WAIVE OGHENEFEJIRI RITA (Matric No. 160362) Department of Linguistics & African Languages, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan.

In Partial Fulfillment of the Course LIN 701- READING IN LINGUISTICS

To The Department of Linguistics and African languages, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Ibadan Nigeria February 2012 ABSTRACT
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This paper presents a contrastive analysis of the allophonic variations that exist in English and Urhobo languages. The main focus of this study is to identify allophonic variants in the aforementioned languages, and the environment that conditions the variations in the given segment. Furthermore, facts are presented to aid our understanding of classifying sounds as allophone of a phoneme with the aid of copious data drawn from both languages. Theoretical analysis would be given only where the need arises. This study attests to the fact that allophonic variation is systematic, hence an attempt is made at generalizing contrastive statements regarding the conditioning of allophones in the both language being contrasted. This is done in other to ensure that these variations today do not lead to sound change in the language tomorrow. Key Words: Phone, phoneme, allophone, free variation, complementary distribution, allophonic variation, phonotatics, minimal pairs.



Title page Abstract Table of contents 1.0 Introduction 2.0 Linguistic background of languages used 5 2.1 2.2 3.0 English language Location and population of Urhobo Methodology 7 4.1 The Urhobo Language Fig 1 Phonemic consonant chart of Urhobo Fig 2 Phonemic vowel chart of Urhobo 4.2 4.3 4.4 Phoneme Allophones Allophonic variation

1 2 3 5

5 6 7

4.0 Related works on terminologies used 7 8 8 9 9 10 10 11 12 15 15 18 19 20


5.0 Analysis 5.1 Allophonic variations of consonants in English

5.1:1 Allophonic variations in Urhobo consonants 5.1:2 Contrastive statement on allophonic variants for stops 5.2 Allophonic variants for liquids and glides in English

5.2:1 Allophonic variants for glides in Urhobo 5.2:2 Contrastive statement on allophonic variants of liquid and glides 5.3 Allophonic variation of English vowel segment

5.3:2 Contrastive statement on allophonic variation of nasal segment



5.3:1 Allophonic vowel segments in Urhobo


6.0 6.1 7.0

Hierarchy of problem Scope and Limitation to the study Conclusion

23 23 24 25





Knowledge of segmental contrast is fundamental to comprehending language and the initial step in phonological analysis is to establish sounds in the language that are in contrast. However in every language, there are many sounds that do not contrast hence it is of great importance to examine the distribution of sounds in words and to compare word meaning. This work therefore will make up for the deficiency that prospective Urhobo learners may have while analyzing the phonology of the language because emphasis will be laid on the allophonic variation that exists in the language, explanations on the realization of a phoneme (contrastive phonological unit)would also be dealt with mainly with the aid of copious data drawn from both English and Urhobo in other to achieve the goal of contrastive analysis.



English language The variety of the English language used in this work is restricted

to those varieties spoken predominantly by native speakers of English. This implies that consideration will be based on the kinds of English spoken by the inner circle members. The American English would be used to compare and contrast. At the time of Elizabeth I (15331603), there were at most seven million native speakers of English. At the opening of the nineteenth century, English had spread to every corner of the world, and in the course of the nineteenth and

speakers of English had increased to some 350 million. It is worthy to note here


twentieth centuries i.e the time of Elizabeth II (1926 ) the number of native

that England (if not the whole UK) is the natural place where English was developed as the language of the people. While it has been strongly affected by various invasions, English is endemic in England. Everywhere else, English has been introduced. In the inner circle such as New Zealand, USA Australia, Anglophone part of south Africa country except the UK, a large group of Englishspeaking people arrived bringing their language with them, and they became a dominant population group in the new environment. Bauer (2002).


Location and population of Urhobo: The Urhobo language is a south western Ediod language The Edoid

languages make up a sub-branch of the West Benue-Congo branch of NigerCongo, and are spoken in the southern part of Nigeria. They are classified into four co-ordinate groups, namely Delta Edoid (DE), North Central Edoid (NCE), North Western Edoid (NWE), and South Western Edoid (SWE). Elugbe (1973, 1989). Urhobo is widely spoken in Delta state, in areas covered by the present Ethiope, Okpe, Ughelli, Sapele and Warri Local Government Areas. There are twenty-two (22) clans within the Urhobo speaking community namely: Agbarha, Agbarho, Agbassa, Agbn, Arhavwari, Abraka, Egwhu, Evwreni, phrn-ot, Idjerhe, Og Oghara, Okere, Okparabe, OkpOlomu, Orogun, Udu, Ughelli, Ughienvwen (Jeremi), Uvwi, and Uwheru. Each of these clans has its dialect that differs from the other in certain respects such as lexeme. However, most of them are highly mutually intelligible. The Agbarho dialect is the standard variety which is used for writing the language. It should also be noted that the choice of Agbarho as the standard variety is neither for geographical nor population reasons but mainly for intelligibility. Geographically the neighbours of the Urhobo to the South are the

Oredo and Orhionmwon Local Government Areas; to the East are the Isoko and

Ijaw speakers of Bomadi and Burutu, to the North are the Edo(Bini) speakers of

Ukwani speakers of Isoko and Ndokwa local Government Areas and finally, to the West are the Itsekiris of Warri North Local Government Area. Aweto (2002) estimates that the population of Urhoboland was 1.2 million in 1991 and it is now about 1.5 million. 3.0 METHODOLOGY The data collection method is essentially qualitative; the basic method utilized in the collection of data was that of participant observation as well as intense interview with key informants. A minor quantitative component of gathering data for comparism, is information gathered from available data on the phonology of Urhobo by Prof. Mrs R.O. Aziza. Since no existing work has been done on this topic to the best of my knowledge, I spent some days in Obi-Ayagha, a village in Otu-Jeremi in Ughelli South Local Government Area of Delta State working on the orthography, close contact with the key informant was also maintained with the aid of a mobile phone during the course of this work in order to attain copious data.

4.0 RELATED WORKS ON TERMINOLOGIES USED 4.1 The Urhobo language At the phonetic level, Urhobo has the following seven vowels [i, e, , a, , o, u]. The orthographic equivalents i, e, ,a, , o, u are used for writing the language. All seven vowels have nasal counterparts: [, e, , , , , ]. Elugbe (1991). The syllable structure of the language is of three types, namely, V, CV, CCV. The standard Urhobo dialect is noted to have 28 consonant segment. Aziza (2007).

A chart for the Urhobo consonants and vowels is represented below.


Fig 1: A phonemic consonant chart of Urhobo

bilabial labiodental alveolar postalveolar palatal velar Labial velar Labialised velar glottal

Plosive Nasal Trill

b m


v s

d n r z l

k g kp gb gw m w W

C.approx l .approx

Fig 2:Phonemic vowel chart of Urhobo Front close i central u back

close mid


open a





The Prague School (N. S. Trubetzkoy, R.Jakobson) and American structuralist (principally L.Bloomfield, Z.S.Harris) regard the phoneme as indivisible and as minimally abstract. In this view, the phoneme is essentially a stuctureless object which nonetheless has identifiable phonetic characteristics, it may be realized in speech by phonetically different phones in different environment(i.e its allophone) note that the allophones of a phoneme are united within it by their shared phonetic similarities and by their complementary distribution. Phonemes are, however, not the smallest units of phonetic description, because each phoneme represents a class of phonetically similar sound variants, the allophones, which cannot be contrastively substituted for each other, i.e. cannot stand in semantically distinctive opposition. The phoneme is defined as the minimal unit of speech that distinguishes meaning (e.g., pat vs. bat). At a more abstract level, phonemes are merely bundles of features that are used to provide the necessary information about the sound structure of words in the lexicon.



According to the routeledge dictionary of languages and linguistics the term allophone consist of two morpheme, i.e a prefix allo-, and the stem phone. Allo- is a Greek word which means another, different. It is a designation for morphological elements distinguishing variation of linguistic units on the level of parole (i.e the actual language used by people) hence we can say an allo-form (which includes allophones and allomorphs) represent variations of fundamental linguistic units such as phoneme or morphemes on all levels of description. While the term phone refers to a segment or speech sound. In phonology phones become allophones.
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When two (or more) segments are phonetically distinct but phonologically the same they are reffered to as Allophones (predictable variant of a phoneme). They are concretely realized variants of a phoneme (contrastive phonological unit). The classification of phones as allophones of a phoneme is based on (a) their distribution (in terms of position in the segment) (b) their phonetic similarity. Allophones may be realized coincidentally as independent variants unaffected by their phonetic environment ( free variation) such as English voiceless bilabial plosive in final position, aspirated [ph] and unreleased [po] as in [taph] vs [tapo] top, these allophones are in free variation because they do not lead to a change in meaning. Most allophones, however, are in complementary distribution CD (sounds in CD are mutually exclusive) such as [ph] [kh] [th] [phaut] pout [phn] pan in in [khin] kin [thown] tone and and [k] [t] in in


and [p]


[spaut] spout. [spn] span [skin] skin [stown] stone

The data above exemplifies the fact that voiceless stops in English have aspirated and unaspirated allophone. The reason for the allophonic variation of the voiceless stop [p] is based on the syllable structure of the given words. Other examples of voiceless stops in free variation is represented in the schema below. /tp/ tap [tph] [tpo]

Phonemic level (phoneme) [tph]

/tap/ [tpo]

Phonetic level (allophone)





Allophonic variation

Allophonic variation is systematic, it occurs most often among phonetically similar segments and it is conditioned by the phonetic context or environment in which the segments are found. Allophonic variation occurs because segments are altered and affected by the phonetic characteristics of neighboring s elements or by the larger phonological context in which they occur. If allophonic differences are phonotactic (i.e. conditioned according to their placement/environment), language specific and in complementary distribution, then the allophones are said to be combinatory variants. William (2001). Such phonetic variants cannot be freely substituted for one another. Allophonic variation is triggered by a segments environment and it is predictable. On the other hand, the phonetic features that are used to identify the phonemes of a language are NOT predictable. These are known as distinctive features. Viewed from the perspective of features, allophonic variation is seen to be not simply the substitution of one allophone for another, but rather the environmentally conditioned change or specification of a feature. The liquid - glide devoicing that occurs in English words like tree and twinkle, for instance is a change in the value of of the feature [voice] from [+voice] to [-voice] after voiceless stop consonant. Dobrovolsky (2001)

5.0 5.1

ANALYSIS Allophonic Variations Of Consonants In English

Voiceless stops in English are aspirated and this does not lead to a change in the meaning of words. Aspiration is the period of voicelessness that follows the voiceless closure phase of a stop. Ladefoged (1993).
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Asides aspiration, voiceless stops can also be palatalized, labialized or be unexploded in terms of their articulation in actual speech. Hence we can have the possible allophones of the voiceless stops as shown below. Using /t/ we have [tj] [tw] [th] [to] [t] in in in in in till, teeth tooth, two torch, tall spot, spit tilt, tin /t/





[t] [to]-unexploded.

English realize /t/voiceless alveolar stop as, the basic form [t], [tj]- palatalized, [tw]-labialised, [th]-aspirated,

The same holds for all other voiceless stop in English. In words like tool [tu:l], cool [ku:l], where the initial stop is followed by a rounded vowel, the articulation of the stop often anticipates the lip rounding of the next sound (contrast the articulation of the same voiceless stops in tin [tn], and keen [k:n]. These palatalised stops [tj] in tin and [kj] keen are of course nothing but positionally defined allophones of the [t] and [k] phoneme, and their palatalisation is non-dinstinctive). The same type of lip-rounding occurs before [w] in words like Twin Twist [twn] queen [kw:n] quick [kwk] quiz [kwz] Tweezers [tw:zz] [twst]





Allophonic variation in Urhobo is systematic and this is not peculiar to the language. It is a universal phenomenon. Evidence of the systematic nature is evident in the fact that allophones pattern according to their membership in phonetic class. Just as phonemic contrast found in each language are specific to that language so also the actual patterning of phonemes and allophones is language specific. Hence the distribution discovered for Urhobo language may not hold true for other languages. (1) The voiceless glottal fricative /h/ has two allophones that are in free [h] voiceless glottal fricative [x] voiceless velar fricative The use of one instead of the other is particularly a matter of choice. This is obvious in the examples given below in data K. Data A: ohre Eha Uhoho h /ohre/ /eha/ /uhoho/ /h/ [ohre] ~ [oxre] [eha] ~ [exa] neck play shadow sense

variation, they are ;

[uhoho] ~ [uxoxo] [h] /h/ ~ [x]

phonemic rep.(phoneme)

phonetic rep.(allophones)



Note that the phonetic similarity between both allophones is that they are both fricatives.


The alveolar nasal /n/ also has two allophones [n] and [l] which occurs

sometimes in the same environment, but in most cases when the nasal is selected, it has the effect of nasalizing the following vowel segment. See examples in data B below. Data B: n /n/ [n]

~ [l]




n une nokpa onori

/n/ /une/ /nokpa/ /onori/

[n] [une]


grind song policeman leader chief

~ [une]

[nokpa] ~ [lokpa] [onori] ~ [olori]

onorogun /onorog/ [onorog] ~ [olorog]

In the orthography of this language, the native speakers do not use just one symbol for the one significant sound represented by [l] and [n], rather both are written. However, the alveolar nasal is considered as the basic for the two reason below; It is more common to hear words with [n] than with [l], being that there exists more words in this dialect with [n] which cannot be replaced with [l]. example is as shown in data C below: Data C: n oni unu no nana /n/ /oni/ /unu/ /no/ /nana/ [n] [on] [un] [no] [nana] ask mother mouth who? this one

A second reason for the realization of [n] as the basic phoneme is that, when loan words which have the sound [l] enter into the language they are automatically realized as [n]. See examples below indoni [indoni]

london lagos lawyer

inegsi inaya

[inegsi] [inaja]




5.1:2 Contrastive statement The realization of voiceless stops in Urhobo is very different from that of English, reason being that all consonant in this language except the glottal fricative/h/ and the alveolar nasal /n/ has only one allophone each. While English realizes five different allophones for their consonants, as explained above in , allophonic varaiation in Urhobo is evident only in the articulation of

the voiced glottal fricative/h/ whose variant is [h] and [x] (voiceless velar fricative).



ENGLISH The realization of the liquid /l/ is usually not identical and many speakers of English are unaware that they routinely produce the different articulations. This variation can be heard clearly when the words in the data below are pronounced in slow and steady speech. Data D: blue Set 1 [blu] plaw clap clear play plea Set 2 [pa] [kp] [kr] [pei] [pi:]

gleam [glim] slip flog leaf [slp] [flg] [lf]

[]= voiceless alveolar lateral [l] =voiced alveolar lateral These allophones never and do not contrast in English, in fact they do not have a minimal pair such as [plei] and [pei] play, in which the phonetic difference between /l/ and // function to signal a difference in meaning.
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A close examination of the distribution of the two laterals indicates that they both vary symmetrically; all the []s occur after the class of voiceless stops while the voiced [l] never occur after voiceless stops. Apparently it is a predictable property of the phonology of English that voiceless laterals is found in the phonetic environment coming after voiceless stops. Based on our explanations of sounds in CD, We can thus agree that the two variants of /l/are in CD. The representation of the relationship between the phoneme and its allophonic variant is shown below. Phonemic rep. (phoneme) []
after voiceless stop


Phonetic rep.(allophones)


But there exist another variant of /l/ which many speakers of English use. This is called the dark l []. Its usage is as shown in the data below. Data E: [ph] pill [f] fill full [bt] bottle [f] [bk] bulk [hp] help So we can attest to three variants of the phoneme /l/ So far it is obvious that the minimal pair test is a quick and direct way of establishing that two or more sounds belong to separate phonemes in a language. If the sounds contrast, they are allophones of different phoneme but if they do not contrast they may be considerd as allophones of the same phoneme. I have used the word may because in some cases, certain pattern of distribution prevents some sounds in a language from contrasting. For this reason Aronoff et al(2001)



opines that we can establish the phonemic status of a sound by default. Consider the set of data below:

Data F: [p] [et] [l] [p] [s] [k] does not exist does not exist long ping sing clang [hp] hop [het] hate [lh] does not exist [ph] does not exist [sh] does not exist [kh] does not exist

From data F above, it is obvious that the voiceless glottal fricative [h] and the voiced velar nasal[] do not contrast in both initial and final position. Reason being that a minimal pair could not be found in English language. Thus the fact that [h] and [] are in CD does not imply that they are allophones of one phoneme. rather since they are phonetically distinct, we assume that each one is a member of a separate phoneme in this case the pattern of distribution is of secondary importance. Note here also that minimal pair or near minimal pairs help us to establish sounds in contrast, while phonetic similarities and CDs help us decided which sounds are allophones of a particular phoneme, However some sound alternation are in free variation and thus they are allophones of the same phoneme since the variation does not lead to a change in meaning and they are phonetically similar One general statement that holds true for English language is that liquids and glides have voiceless allophone occurring after voiceless stops, and voiced allophones occurring elsewhere. The allophonic variation for the liquid [r] (alveolar trill) is evident in the data G while that of glides are shown in data H below.
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Data G:

Set 1 Brew [bru:] green [gri:n] grain [gren] drip [drp] frog [frg] shrimp [rmp]

Set 2 prow [pra] trip [trp]

crane [kren] creep [krp] pray [pre] tree [tri:]

Data H:

glides /j/ and /w/ palatal and velar approximant. Set 1 Set 2 cute [kju:t]



beauty [bju:ti] swim gwen [swm] [gwen]

putrid [pju:trd] twin quick [twn] [kwk]

We can say liquids and glides are phonetically similar because they both belong to the same phonetic class of non-nasal sonorant consonant.

5.2:1 ALLOPHONIC VARIANTS OF GLIDES IN URHOBO The glides in this dialect /w/ (velar approximant), and /j/ (palatal approximant) have two allophonic variants and they are non-syllabic. A representation of the phoneme and their allophones is as shown below:





Before nasal Vowels


before nasal vowels

elsewhere Page



The distinction between the oral and nasal glide is indicated by the nasality of the vowel in the adjacent segment. See examples below: Data I orthography Owo Uwen Uwodi Ewun w wn uyn Ya Yan Phonemic /ow/ /uwen/ /uwodi/ /ewun/ /w/ /wn/ /ujn/ /ja/ /jan/ Phonetic [ow] [uw] [uwodi] [ew] [w] [w] [uj] [ja] [j] Gloss leg nose prison shirt you breath fly (sng) hang clothes walk

Examples of vowels changing to a glide and assimilating the nasality feature of the following nasal vowel. Data J isuesu Suensun Esio sin ri utin uvie ovien /iswesu/ /swensun/ /esjo/ /sj/ /rj/ /utj/ /uvje/ /vjn/ [iswesu] [sws] [esjo] [sj] [rj] [utj] [uvje] [vj] administration elastic (verb) pulling refusal eating orange kingdom servant

The above nasalized glides are certainly positionally determined allophone of the phonemes /j/ and /w/. Their nasalisation is non- distinctive. 5.2:2 Contrastive statement
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English liquids (/l/, /r/) and glides (/j/, /w/ ) have two allophones each. They are voiced and voiceless allophones respectively as illustrated above. But in Urhobo the liquids are phonemes on their own right with no alternative articulation. So /l/ is realized as [l] voiced alveolar lateral, and /r/ is realized as [r] voiced alveolar trill. Unlike liquids, glides (/j/, /w/) in Urhobo have two variants (i.e allophones) they are [j] - nasal glide which occur adjacent to a nasal segment, and [j] - oral glide which occurs elsewhere.



In English, the effect of nasalization on vowels are treated as allophonic variations. This is because the nasalized version is usually not meaningfully contrastive. See examples below. Data K: seed seen soot [sd] [sn] [st]

soon [sn] In data K above, the effect of the alveolar nasal [n] makes the [] to be nasalized. So there are at least two phones [] and [] oral and nasal vowel respectively used in English language to realize the single phoneme // as shown in the schema below. The situation is the same for all other existing vowel in English. If they occur before a nasal consonant, they assimilate the nasality feature and become nasalized thereby leading to a variation from the basic oral vowel. Phonemic rep.(basic) []
Before nasal consonant


Phonetic rep (allophones)





But this is not the case in Urhobo dialect which operates just like french in this regard. Data L mets [m] main [m] seau [so] son [s] dish hand pail sound

Distinction between the nasal and oral vowel is phonemic in french just as we have in Urhobo. 5.3:1 Allophonic vowel segments in Urhobo. Urhobo has oral vowels as well as their nasal counterpart . Observation shows that It is a usual phenomenon in this dialect for nasal vowel to occur near nasal consonants precisely speaking vowels preceeding the alveolar nasal /n/ are predictably nasalized as evident in the data from Urhobo below. Data M: Set 1 Fa [fa] flog Se [se] call Erhi [eri] spirit Su [su] lead, rule Set 2 fan [f] loosen free sen [s] refuse deny erin [er] fish fun [f] extinguish

Obviously allophonic nasalization is significant in Urhobo and this is because minimal/near minimal pairs can be established. The distinction between the oral and nasal vowel in this language is purely phonemic because they give rise to a contrast in the meaning of words A general hypothesis covering this distribution can thus be; All oral and nasal vowels have only one allophone each. As shown below: Phonemic rep /i/ /e/ // /a/ /o/ // /u/

Phonetic rep









Nasal vowels Phonemic rep // [] // // // // // // []

Phonetic rep






The allophonic distribution of nasal vowels can be generally stated by referring to syllable structure of the language while distribution of oral vowels by referring to the sub syllabic units which is the onset. i.e: In Urhobo, vowels are nasalized in syllable final position. This statement accounts for the words in Set 2 (data M) above.

5.3:2 Contrastive statement Nasalization of vowel segments in English is not significant (allophonic) while that of Urhobo is phonemic, reason being that if you substitute the oral vowel in Urhobo with their nasal counterpart, it leads to a change in meaning of words as illustrated in the analysis above. Whereas the nasality of English vowels is purely phonetically conditioned thus it does not lead to a change in meaning.






Regardless of the fact that everyday speech contains a great deal of allophonic variation, speakers pay little or no attention it. When this is not detected early and diagnosed, it may lead to unintelligibility and most probably the loss of the unique structure of a given language. Although allophonic variation is a universal phenomenon, the actual patterning of phonemes and allophones are definitely not, rather they are language-specific. This might pose a problem for the learner. Hence learners of a language (say language B) should not overgeneralise the rule of his L1 in order to aid competence in the new language. This work therefore will aid pattern preservation of our sound segment. Allophonic variation is conditioned not just by neighboring segments but also by the syllable structure thus a clear cut distinction of the syllables shapes governed by universal and language specific constraint should be attained so as to be able to establish the existence of segmental unit.


Scope and limitation of the study The scope of this work borders around the concise nature of data

presentation and analysis. Conscious effort was made to avoid redundancy while dealing with the sound segments, thus only a selected few that exist in both languages were described. However, emphasis was laid on all of them covertly with the use of generalized statement. The fact that this seminar paper is of a limited scope also imposed a limitation on the study. For instance: the 24consonants in English and 28 consonant segments in Urhobo were not analyzed individually. Rather I grouped them into natural classes and made a generalization for the natural class. Although it has not been easy to gather the much data I wanted to because research work such as these poses logistical problems, but as a researcher I attempted the much I could.
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CONCLUSION We have seen that language tends to explore the same basic phonetic

parameters in building their phonological system, hence the findings in this work demonstrates to us that the condition for realizing the various allophone of a phoneme is the same cross-linguistically. Analysis of allophonic variant is more concrete when we consider the phonetic condition in which they occur as well as their distribution..





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