Journal of West African Languages

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Vowel doubling in Urhobo: the case of loanword Vowel doubling in Urhobo: the case of loanword


Across Benue Congo (BC) languages/dialects of Nigeria (e.g. Igbo, Yoruba, Edo/Bini, Emai, Ewulu-Igbo, among others), English monosyllabic CVC loans are characteristically modified, in which the singleton English /…V…/ is adapted as /…VV…/ in a process that has been tagged ‘vowel doubling’ (VD). Loan phonologists have suggested that the borrowing languages adopt the doubling phenomenon in (C)CVC loans in order to adapt to English neutral intonational contour H*L% (Kenstowicz, 2004; Ufomata, 1991, 2004). Specifically, the tonal template of the adapted /…V́V̀…/ is typically high (H), low (L) tone sequence assumed to correspond to the English neutral citation F0 contour. Surprisingly, however, Urhobo, a member of BC prohibits VD. Source monosyllabic (C)CVC loan(s), e.g. /kɑ:d/ ‘card’, among others, is adapted as /ìkádì/ rather than /èkáàdì/, /káàdì/ noted for Edo and Yoruba CVC loans respectively. The dispreference of VD in Urhobo is one case that leaves much to be curious about. Why does Urhobo prohibit VD that other members of the BC group tolerate? The central goal of this paper, employing the CV theory (Clements and Keyser, 1983), is to argue that the prohibition of VD in Urhobo monosyllabic CVC loans follows directly from the effect of the natural tone rule of native Urhobo, in which underlying grammatical heterosyllabic L tone found in the immediate environment of adjacent H tone typically deletes from the phonetic string and leaves no effect on the H, unlike in the other languages where the L would rather stay afloat and subsequently relinks with adjacent H tone to form phonetic falling contour [H-L] tone, the direct correspondence of source H*L% neutral intonational contour. Thus the paper suggests that it seems likely that these two contrasting tonal grammars explain the (dis)preference of VD in the adaptation of monosyllabic/final CVC of loans in BC loan phonologies.


Volume Number 46.1
Topic #1 Phonology
Topic #2 Vowels
Author This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Language English
Language Family Other Benue-Congo
Subject Language Urhobo

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