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CONTRASTIVE ANALYSIS OF THE SEGMENTAL PHONEMES AND PHONOTACTICS OF IGBO AND YORUBA
1.1 Background to the study
Language is the most important tool for communication and is the most tasking area of human endeavour. The human language, distinct from other means of communication, has a special way it organizes the sounds that constitute that language. We also discuss the linguistic units called phonemes including consonants and vowels which make up the segmental tier of the language. Every language has its own way of combining phonemes to form syllables, and every native speaker unconsciously has some knowledge of the sound patterns of his language, i.e. every language has its own unique phonetics, phonology, morphology, syntax and semantics, although analysis may reveal similarities in various aspects of two or more languages. Sound patterns of a language are specified and organized in phonology showing the phonotactic patterns or the distributional patterns of sounds in that language.
Language being the major form of communication, there may be the need for one to acquire or learn other languages for effective communication within a new situation. The National Policy on Education (NPE) 1977, revised in 1981, according to Awobuluyi in Fafunwa Foundation Internet Journal of Education, states that the government considers it to be in the interest of national unity that each child should be encouraged to learn one of the three major languages other than his own mother tongue. So, a child should learn in addition to his mother tongue any of the three official indigenous languages. To this effect, the three official indigenous languages are being taught as alternate languages in secondary schools and colleges of education. These factors have motivated applied linguists to get involved in the investigation of the first language (L1) and the alternate language (AL) in order to understand the learners’ challenges.
Bell (1981: 181) opines thus: “Applied linguists have been concerned to explain the nature of language use by learners and in particular, to assign to the learners’ L1 some degrees of responsibility for that behavior. In essence, the point at issue is the extent to which the structure of L1 is a cause of the errors which the learner produces in his attempt to use the target language”. This means that structures in the L1 interfere with the learners’ ability to produce structures in the L2. Bell (1981) believes that contrastive analysis strongly holds the view that the deviant behavior of the L2 learner is consequent upon the transfer of the habits of L1 into the TL.
The Igbo language is the native language of the States in the South East of Nigeria namely: Abia, Imo, Anambra, Enugu, and Ebonyi. There are sparse populations of Igbo in States like Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Delta and Cross River. However, since language is said to be inherently variable, there are many varieties of the Igbo language, but the variety of the Igbo language the researcher would use in the course of this study is the standard Igbo.
On the other hand, Yoruba is characterized by many dialectical differences, but the standard Yoruba which is spoken in most parts of the North West Yoruba would be used. The differences between the language families and the issues of standardization between Igbo and Yoruba are likely to bring about disparities between them in various levels of linguistic description. One of such levels where marked differences could be expected is in the area of phonology with particular reference to segmental phonemes and phonotactics, which are going to be the concern in this research.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Languages of the world have their phonological peculiarities. Igbo and Yoruba being among the three largest languages in Nigeria also have their peculiarities. Languages are ordered into a common language family based on phonology, morphology and syntax. Moreover, the phonology of one language differs from that of the other. Katamba (1989:79) says, no two languages have exactly the same inventory of phonemes which are realized by the same sets of allophones; no two languages have exactly the same phonological rules regulating the deployment of the sounds. Hence, any Igbo learner of the Yoruba language is bound to encounter some difficulties in learning the language and vice versa since the two languages are different. This is as a result of the phonological differences between the L1 and the TL. Thus, the inherent sound system of the L1 may pose problem in learning the L2. The segmental phonemes and phonotactics of the Igbo language differ from those of Yoruba. The contrasts of the two languages, Igbo and Yoruba, are an impediment to a learner whose L1 is Igbo learning Yoruba as TL and vice versa especially those learning Igbo or Yoruba as TL and as compulsory subjects in primary or secondary school.
1.3 Purpose of the Study
The three indigenous languages that are studied in secondary schools as alternate languages in Nigeria are Igbo, Hausa and Yoruba. This study aims at carrying out a contrastive analysis of the segmental phonemes and phonotactic features of both Igbo and Yoruba in order to identify the similarities, differences, and predictable problems an Igbo learner of Yoruba or Yoruba learner of Igbo will encounter in the learning of the TL. This will enable us to identify the pedagogic problems which an Igbo speaker will encounter in learning Yoruba and vice versa.
Having predicted those areas of differences and difficulties, the language teacher would then concentrate on these areas. In this study, we shall highlight the similarities and the differences in consonantal and vocalic phonemes of Igbo and Yoruba as well as the phonotactics and also investigate the extent to which the identified similarities would facilitate the learning of either Igbo or Yoruba as TL.
Finally, the pedagogical effects of the differences on the Igbo language and the Yoruba language learners would be x –rayed. The researcher will try as much as possible to suggest ways of tackling such problems.
1.4 Research Questions
This study will seek to answer the following questions:
- What are the consonantal and vocalic phonemes as well as the phonotactics of Igbo and Yoruba?
- What similarities and differences are there between Igbo and Yoruba segmental phonemes and phonotactics?
- What problem does a native speaker of Igbo encounter when pronouncing Yoruba phonemes?
- What problem does a native speaker of Yoruba encounter when pronouncing Igbo phonemes?
- What are the pedagogical effects of the sound differences on the learning of the Yoruba language by the Igbo native speaker and vice versa?
1.5 Significance of the Study
For one to learn a particular language, such a person must learn to pronounce accurately sounds and words in the new linguistic system. Therefore, a contrastive study like this will enable the teacher to know the similarities and differences between any two languages under study, to know the influence exerted by the native language on the TL. This influence may cause interference which might come from the L1.
In order to overcome the difficulties involved in learning the TL, this research seeks to expose the different ways in which the phonemes of the two languages are organized into phonotactics. The findings from this study will help curriculum designers and textbook writers to come up with quality instructional materials and textbooks for learners of the Igbo and Yoruba languages in Nigeria. The phonological data gathered in this study would add to the existing knowledge to make immense contribution to the effective teaching and learning of the two languages. The language teacher is empowered in his teaching having been exposed to the areas of concentration. He would emphasize the correct form of pronunciation through organized drill and repetition.
This work will equally serve as a reference tool and inspire other scholars to further conduct studies on segmental phonemes and phonotactics of other languages.
1.6 Scope of the Study
There are several dialects or varieties of the Igbo and Yoruba languages. In this study we hope to use only the standard varieties of the two languages for contrastive analysis. This study is expected to investigate the segmental phonemes and phonotactic features of the Igbo and Yoruba languages and do a contrastive analysis of the segmental (consonantal and vocalic sound systems) and their phonotactics / distributional patterns (syllable structure) of the Igbo and Yoruba languages.
The aim is to highlight similarities and differences between the two languages which will empower us to make predictions of the learner problems.
1.7 Limitations of the Study
The researcher was faced with one problem or the other in carrying out this research work. The researcher encountered the problem of getting enough and adequate or relevant literature on the Yoruba language. Besides, not much work was accessible to the researcher on the area of contrastive analysis of the Igbo language and the Yoruba language. Again, inadequate knowledge of the Yoruba language posed a big problem for the researcher.