This research work focuses on the phonology of Adim language
spoken in Akankpa Local Government Area of Cross-river State, Nigeria. Adim
lies in the Northern part of the forest belt of Southern Nigeria. Adim shares
boundary with Ugep in the North and Idomi in the east, both in Yakkur Local
Adim is the official name of the language and the native speakers
also call themselves Adim. Another name for Adim language is Orun or Arun. Adim
speakers are widely spread across the other areas with Cross-river State of
Nigeria such as Calabar, Ekoni, Yakhur and Idomi. In this chapter will be
focusing on the historical background,socio-cultural profile, scope and
organization of the study, theoretical framework and the genetic classification
of Adim language.
1.1 Historical Background
According to oral tradition as related by my informants, the Adim
people migrated from a village called Edem Omere Akapa as a result of war and
threat from the neighboring village. The first place the Adim people settled
after migrating from Edem Omere Akapa was Idomi, an area confronted with hills,
some left while others stayed back. The second place they settled after Idomi
was Ugep, some spread to Adim while some were found in Ekoni. All of these
places are in the present Cross-river State.
The Adim people were together until the advent of the British
Colonial masters who came to introduce them to western education that then
opened the gate for civilization. The Adim people share many things in common
with some other tribes around them, such as the Yakkur, Abi, Idómi, and Ekoni.
1.2 Socio-cultural profile
According to Yule (1975:239), “Sociolinguistics is the
interrelationship between language and society”. It studies how society
influences the use of language.In his own definition, Olaoye (2002:98) states
that, “Sociolinguistics deals with the study various social, political,
cultural, and linguistic situationwithin a given speech community that gives
how language choice and use reveal the values, cultural beliefs and practices
of the community”. This shows that cultural beliefs, ways of life etc. cannot
be separated from language. In other words, language and culture are
Most Adim people including the younger generation are bilingual,
using Adim locally and Efik regionally. Efik is the medium of instruction in
schools, especially Primary schools, while English is learnt as a second
language. The older like the younger generations are fluent in Efik. Through
western education, the younger generation holds position in the administrative
and public service, which in turn make them tri-lingual, using Adim, Efik and
English languages. While we may refer to the younger generation as being
tri-lingual we will refer to the older generation as being bilingual, we can
hardly find someone who is monolingual among Adim speakers; they all
communicate in at least two languages. Adim is basically used as a means of
The Adim people have different outfits for different special
occasion. They have traditional attires that are very rich, but with the advent
of modernization, they also put on modern clothes.
In the primitive age, men used animal skin to cover their private
parts, while women used leaves and animal skin to cover their private parts.
They used leaves to cover their private parts in front. Uniquely, they always
make signs on the animal skin in order to attract young men.
Initially the Adim native speakers were idol worshippers before
the arrival of white missionaries, who introduced Christianity to the Adim
people. One of the gods they worshipped is called Obolose which means “god of
the land”. The first church in Adim was built in the early 70’s as a
PresbyterianChurch after which other churches such as Catholics, Assembly of God
were built. In the mid 80’s Islamic religion was introduced. Presently(90%) of
them are Christians while the remaining (10%) are either Muslim or Idol
The occupation of the Adim people includes farming, hunting,
gold-smiting e.g palm oil production, garri making, and production of
groundnut. However, their major occupation is farming.
Since majority of the speakers are Christians and Muslims, their
festivals also go in line with the various religions they belong.Traditional
festivals are gradually fading out while some had gone into extinction. There
are two major types of festivals celebrated by the Adim people namely;
Iwon-erok “Yam festival” and they also celebrate masquerade festival.Ètàngata
and loboare the names of the few masquerades they have in Adim village.
In Adim tradition, a keg of palm wine is the only item taken along
when going to ask for a girl’s hand in marriage. After the decision has been
made, the groom goes to pay bride price and takes along some other things such
as kola nut, palm oil, yam and garri which will be given to the bride’s parent.
Before the wedding ceremony takes place, the bride would be kept
in the fattening room where she will be fed with all kinds food to make her
look more beautiful and attractive to her husband on the wedding day and also
to make her ready for the challenges in her matrimonial home.
Polygamy is allowed in Adim village, but their major practice is
Traditionally, the leader is “Obolopon”. He has absolute authority
over the people and he is unquestionable. He controls the administrative aspect
of the community and settles disputes. The council of eldersis called kèpol.
“Ókpéibìlì” is the name of the high priest in Adim village. The secret
societies that guide against external attack in Adim village are Abu secret
society, Okuwa secret society and Egup secret society.
1.3 Scope and Organization of the study
This long essay aims at studying aspects of Adim phonology. The
sound inventory of the language, the phonological process and tonal patterns
attested in language. This research work is divided into five(5) chapters.
Chapter one provides general information on the language and its
speakers. Also, the chapter contains the socio-cultural profile of the people
and the genetic classification of the language under study. A brief discussion
of the theoretical frame work used in the work as well the methodology adopted
for data collection and analysis is included in this chapter.
Chapter two discusses the sound system of the language as well as
the tonal and syllable structures. In chapter three, our attention and focus
was on the tonal processes attested in the Adim language with their
distributional patterns. In chapter four we discussed the phonological
Chapter five summarizes and concludes the work: We also give some
recommendation and observation.
1.4 Theoretical framework
The theoretical frame work used for this research is Generative
Phonology as propounded and explicated in Chomsky and Halle (1968).
According to Chomsky and Halle (1968:5), “Generative phonology
views speech as sequences of discrete segments which are complexes of a
particular set of phonetic features and the simultaneous and sequential
combination of these features and constraints”.
Generative phonology is apart of the linguistics theory which is
called “Transformational Generative Grammar(TG)” formulated by Chomsky (1957)
to address the inadequacies observed in classical (Taxonomic)theory of
phonological description (Fisher Jorgenson (1976:174). Generative phonology
gives the rule of generative phonology to express the relationship between
sound and meaning. It is pertinent to point out that generative phonology
accounts for some language phenomena like linguistic intuition, foreign accent,
speech error and others.
Hyman (1975:19) describes generative phonology as the description
of how phonological rules can be converted into phonological representation and
to capture the distinctive sound in contrast in a language.
Lyons(1979:18) opines that, the rules and structures generated
through generative phonology are “recursive”. Therefore, one can conclude that
generative phonology explains the grammar that is structured by means of a
finite number of recursive rules operating up on a finite vocabulary.
Recursiveness, according to Saheed (2003:10), “is a situation whereby
we have a repetitive embedding and coordination syntactic structure in
According to Chomsky(1965:7-9) recursiveness is one of the very
major achievements of generative grammar in which limited set of rules are used
by the native speaker to create infinite number of sentences from a finite
sentence through the rule called transformational rule.
1.5 Generative Phonology
Hyman (1915:80) says a phonological structure isan abstract
phonemic representation which postulates the rules that are derived from
various surface forms. It postulates the underlying forms at the systematic
phonemic level from which such have systematic relationship termed
“Linguistically Significant Generalization”. The structure is of three basic
levels, these are, Underlying representation (PR).
1.5.1 Underlying Representation
According to Oyebade (1998:13) “underlying representation is the
non-predictable, non-rule derived part of words”. It is a form with abstract
representation existing in the linguistic competence of all utterances and it
exists in the mental dictionary. At this level, items with variant meanings
have identical representation. For instance, the different forms of negation
prefix in English likeŋ-(ŋkɔrɛkt), im-(impossible),
in-(intolerable), il-(illegal), ir-(irregular) have the same meaning, Oyebade
1.5.2 Phonetic Representation
Kantoszwich (1994:8) states that the phonetic level indicates “how
the lexical items are to be realized in speech”. It is at the level after
phonological rules have been applied to the underlying representation.
According to Hyman (1975:19), “phonetic representation represents
possible pronunciation of forms in the realization of speech and the surface
level”. Generative phonology considers phonetics representation as a level that
is some what trivial and not worth too much attention, except, perhaps,
justification of the proposed underlying representation (Oyebade 1998:21).
1.5.3 Phonological Rules
These are directives which map underling forms unto the surface
forms. They show the derivational sequence or path of an item in its journey
from the underlying level to the phonetic level (Oyebade1998:15).
As Hyman (1975:26) points out, they are derivational sequences of
phonetic level. Phonological rules are predictablerules; examples of
phonological rules are the rules that assimilate a nasal segment to the place
of articulation of the following segments e.g
n → m ─ b :[+ nas ] → + ant +ant
n → n t :[+ nas ] → + ant +ant
n→ n g : [ + nas ] → + ant +ant
These rules can be captured by one rule:-
[± nas ] → α ant α ant
β cor β cor
1.6 Distinctive Features
Distinctive features are “sets of [articulatory and acoustic]
features sufficient to define and distinguish one from the other, the great
majority of speech sounds used in the languages of the world ”(Halle and
Clement 1983:6). The theory of phonological features is concerned with the
discovery of generalization about the phonological behavior of phonological
segment, both in isolation, in sequence or as a member of a system. There are
two major criteria that potential features must meet to be admitted as
distinctive features, they are:
(i) Phonetic Specific ability
(ii) Morphophonemic relevance (Oyebade, 1998:25)
The features are used in describing all linguistic phenomena
occurring in languages. Some of the features are: labial, anterior, nasal and
1.7 Data Collection
The data for this research work was collected through the help of
language helper (informant method). The 400 wordlist of basic items was used
for this exercise. We also used the frame technique. This is a template that
shows different structural position which a word can occur. This goes beyond
looking at words in isolation. It was used to get relevant information that cannot
be gotten by means of lexical items only. Thus, it helped in making
illuminating significant generalization. The information concerning the
informant in this research is given below:
NAME:Mr. Edet Usánì Éyòng
ADDRESS: Sam Ethan Air force Base, Ikeja, Lagos.
LANGUAGE SPOKEN: Adim
MARITAL STATUS: Married
AGE: 51 Years
YEARS LIVED IN ADIM TOWN: 20/21 Years
1.8 Data Analysis
With the view of capturing linguistically significant generation
in the language, the analysis of the corpus will be carried out by transcribing
the entire linguistic corpus collected accurately in order to discover the
sounds that are attested in the language in addition to some other
supra-segmental features in the language. This data will be organized to bring
out all inventories of the distinctive phonemes and their features.
The classification of this data can be done through parts of
speech, nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, pronouns, determiners
and conjunctions found in Adim language.
The distribution of the data is also determined alongside the
syllable structure,tonal processes and also the phonological processes.
1.9 Genetic Classification
. These similarities are either phonetically, phonologically,
semantically or syntactically. The genetic classification of languages makes
two things obvious; that language are indeed related to each other i.e they
share the same ancestor and how these languages are interrelated are shown in
the form of a branching diagram.
Adim language is a Cross-river language which is a Benue-Congo
language family under Niger-Congo language family.Genetic classification is the
grouping of languages into families based on shared similarities in their
Niger- Congo Kordofanian
Mande Gur Kwa Adamawa Benue CongoWest Atlantic
BantuPlateau Benue CongoCross- River Jokonous Benue Congo
Cross River Delta CrossUpper CrossLower Cross
Source: Greenberg (1970:306) and Kenneth Katzner (1995: 7)