BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
This research is a comparative study
of Enuani dialect of Igbo and the Igbo language spoken in Imo State
by Nkwerre people with the view of capturing the possible similarities and
differences found in the sound system of Enuani dialect of Igbo and the Nkwerre
dialect of Igbo.
According to Ikekeonwu (1987), there
are about 20 Igbo dialects and these dialects include Enuani, Nkwerre, Ngwa,
Orlu, Mbaise and so on. The project work
focuses on the phonetics and phonology of the Enuani and Nkwerre dialects of
Igbo. A comparative study of this nature
sets out to identify similarities or differences in the sound systems of these
dialects with the aim of determining the relationship between them.
Igbo Language and People
Nkamigbo (2010) claims that the Igbo
people occupy what is politically known as the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. The Igbo language is spoken in the core Igbo
States – Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo –
as well as some parts of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers
States all in the Southern region of Nigeria. “It is a recognized language in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon,
in the West and West Central Africa.
According to Austin Peter (2008), one
thousand languages: living, endangered,
and lost page 68; he said that the Igbo language has about “eighteen to
twenty-five million speakers”.
Igbo is a native language of the Igbo
people, an ethnic group primarily located in South-eastern Nigeria. There are about eighteen (18) to twenty-five
(25) million speakers or rather approximately 20 million speakers that are
mostly in Nigeria
and are primarily of Igbo descent. Igbo
is a national language of Nigeria
and it is written in Latin script, which was introduced by British
colonialists. There are over twenty (20)
Igbo dialects. There is apparently a
degree of dialect levelling occurring.
Before the 16th century,
the Igbo had an ideogram form of writing called “Nsibidi ideograms” (“Nsibidi”
is an ancient system of graphic communication indigenous to the “Ejagham people
of South-eastern Nigeria and
South-western Cameroon in
the Cross River region”). This form of writing was also used by other
neighbouring people like the Ibibios and the Efik. The form of writing was invented by the Ekoi
people for written communication. This
form died out most likely due to the fact that many of its users were members
of secret societies such as Ekpe, who then made “Nsibidi” a secret form of
communication and did not want to publicly discuss it.
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution and Oraka (1983), the
foundations of Igbo Studies, pp. 17, 13).
The first book to publish Igbo words
was Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen Bruder auf den Carabischen
(German: History of the Evangelistic Mission of the Brothers in the Caribbean), published in 1777. Shortly afterwards, in 1789, the interesting
Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave, featuring 79 Igbo
words. The narrative also illustrated
various aspects of Igbo life in detail, based on Olauah Equiano’s experiences
in his hometown in Essaka (Oraka, 1983:21; Equiano & Olaudah, 1789: 9).
In 1854, a German philologist named
Karl Richard Lepsius made a “Standard Alphabet” meant for all languages of the
world. In 1882, Britain enacted
an educational ordinance to direct the teaching of reading and writing only in
English. This temporarily inhibited the
development of Igbo, along with other languags of West
Africa and this was after the Igbo culture had been comprised by
British imperialism in 1807, after slavery was abolished. ‘Central Igbo’, the
dialect form gaining widest acceptance, is based on the dialect, of two members
of the Ezinihitte group of Igbo in Central
between the towns of Owerri and Umuahia, Eastern Nigeria. From its proposal as a literary form in 1939
by Dr. Ida C. Ward, it was gradually accepted by missionaries, writers, and
publishers across the 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 to cross-pollinate central
Igbo with words from Igbo dialects from outside the “Central” areas, and with
the adoption of loan words.
The wide variety of spoken dialects
has made agreeing on a standardized orthography and dialect of Igbo
difficult. The controversy over Igbo
orthography began in 1927 when the International Institute of African Languages
and Cultures (IIALC) published a pamphlet called “Practical Orthography of
African Languages”. The consonants /kw/,
/gw/ and /nw/ were added to represent Igbo sounds. The pamphlet used some symbols from the
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA), which brought a controversy with the
missionary society who had used Lepsius’ writing for almost 70 years. In 1929, the Colonial Government Board of
Education tried to replace Lepsuis’ with the International Institute of African
Languages and Cultures’ Orthography. The
Government, along with Roman Catholic and Methodist Missionaries, accepted and
adopted the new orthography; however other protestant missionaries opposed
it. A standard orthography which is the
current Onwu alphabet, a compromise between the older Lepsius alphabet and a
newer alphabet advocated by the International Institute of African Languages
and Cultures (IIALC) was agreed to in 1962.
A standard literary language was
developed in 1972 based on the Owerri (Isuama) and Umuahia (such as Ohuhu)
dialects, though it omits the nasalization and aspiration of those
varieties. Igbo, like many other West African
languages, has borrowed words from European languages, mainly English. Example of such loaned words include, the
Igbo word for ‘blue’ [blu] and ‘operator’ [opareto]. Proverbs and idiomatic expressions are highly
valued by the Igb people and proficiency in the languages means knowing how to
intersperse speech with a good dose of proverbs. Igbo is a tonal language with two distinctive
tones, high and low. In some cases a
third, down-stepped high tone is recognized.
The language’s tonal system was given by John Goldsmith as an example of
suprasegmental phenomena that go beyond the linear model of phonology laid out
in ‘The sound Pattern English’. Due to
this tone system a word in Igbo pronounced with a slightly different tone will
result in an entirely different meaning. Igbo language features vowel harmony with two
sets of vowels distinguished by pharyngeal cavity size described in terms of
retracted tongue root (RTR).
Igbo is classified in the kwa subgroup
of the Niger Congo family. Igbo language
was consequently spread by enslaved Igbo individuals throughout slave colonies
in the Americas
which was as a result of the Atlantic slave trade. These colonies include the United States, Dominican
Belize, Barbados and the Bahamas among many other colonies.
1.2 Enuani: The Origin, People and Language
According to Monye (1989), he stated
that “among the Igbos who live on the West bank of the River Niger are the
Enuanis who make up the present Aniocha Local Government Area in Bendel State
of Nigeria. The major dialect spoken by this people is
the Enuani dialect which is quite intelligible to their Igbo neighbours in
Oshimili, Ndokwa and Ika Local Government areas in Bendel
State and also across the Niger.
Ikekeonwu (1987) presents a
classification of the Igbo dialects into clusters using both the phonological
and grammatical criteria. On the basis
of these criteria, she grouped Igbo dialects in five clusters namely:
The Niger Igbo
Inland West Igbo
Inland East Igbo
Waawa Igbo/Northern Igbo
noted that the Niger Igbo cluster is found in areas on the West of River Niger in what is currently known as Delta State. She also claims the Niger Igbo has two main
dialects namely, Ika Igbo and Aniocha (Enuani) Igbo. Aniocha has Asaba, Ibusa, etc as satellite
dialects while Ika has Agbor, Ukwani as satellite dialects”.
According to Wikipedia (the online
encyclopedia), Enuani is an Igbo dialect spoken in Nigeria by the Anioma people
of Delta State, Onitsha, Obosi, and Ogbaru in Anambra State and Ndoni in Rivers
State. This dialect is one of the
hundreds of Igboid languages inherited from the Igbo people. Enuani also typifies tonality in sound but
like the rest of Igbo dialects in Anioma, peculiarly differs from the standard
Igbo pronunciation. This language is
sometimes referred to as Delta Igbo (Wikipedia, 2011).
Enuani is a West Niger Igbo
upland dwelling Igbo-speaking people West of the River Niger, who are found in
the present Aniocha (North/South) and Oshimili (North/South) Local Government
Areas of Delta State of Nigeria
constituted the defunct colonial Asaba Division. Forde and Jones (1950:48) note that they are
described as Enuani or highland people by their neighbours. The Enuani are thus made up of two related
groups namely, the Aniocha (whiteland) and the Oshimili (riverain) groups,
respectively. The Enuani are commonly
referred to as the “Ika Igbo”, a term popularized by Talbot (1969:39). In Forde and Jones’ classifications,
(1950:48), these two groups fall within the larger “Northern Ika Igbo”
group. The name Enuani is a
topographical construct, which is derived from the physical feature of the area
occupied by the people, namely “Enu” (up or high) and “ani” (land). Enuani, an Igbo name, as Henderson (1972:36)
rightly observes, thus means “highland” or “upland dwellers”, or those who live
on the hill, on higher grounds than their neighbours, the latter inhibiting
“the low lying area south” (Nwabua, 1994:40) and east of the Niger. The naming of the area to reflect its
geographical features is in keeping with the Igbo pattern of naming their
settlements to reflect their geographical peculiarities. For instance, another Igbo-speaking group to
the South of Enuani calls themselves “Ukwani”, a term which means lowland
dwellers (Okolugbo, 2004:3).
Enuani culture pervades the area
between “Ika civilization to the West, and Anambra and Nri civilization to the
east and Ndosimili – Ukwani civilization to the south. Like other groups whose habitations are not
defined by obvious natural boundaries, they tend to merge into neighbouring
boundaries to the west (Ika civilization) and south (Ndosimili-Ukwani
civilization), but are separated from their eastern neigbours by the river Niger. With the passage of time, the people of
Enuani have come to develop a distinct civilization known as AKWA OCHA (white
cloth civilization). The people of
Enuani are conscious of their history which is why they internalized their
group solidarity in the closing years of the nineteenth century in the famous
Ekumeku Movement against British colonialism (Igbafe, 1971).
Four broad groups can be identified in
the Enuani area. The first and largest
group claims a definite Benin
origin. This is the Ezechima group, which makes up over ten
communities east and west of the Niger. Among this group are Obior, Issele-Uku,
Onicha-Ugbo, Onicha Olona, Onicha Ukwu, Obomkpa, and Ezi in Enuani area. The second group claims origin from Nri and
Nri-related communities or the Igbo groups east of the Niger. They are found in Akwukwu-Igbo, Asaba, Ibusa,
Isheagu, parts of Ubulu-Ukwu, Issele-Ukwu, and Illah, among others. A third group claims origin from neighbouring
communities but still strives to link its founders to Benin. Notable in this regard is the Ubulu clan of
Ubulu-Ukwu, Ubulu-Uno and Ubulu-Okiti, Ashama and Adonta. The fourth group claims origin from Yoruba
and Igala areas of the southwest and the Niger-Benue confluence of Nigeria. These are found in Ugbodu, Ukwunzu, Ebu and
Illah, Ubulubu, Obamkpa, Okpanam, Okwe and Oko.
Enuani today typically refers to the
language of the Aniocha/Oshimili people of the Anioma in Delta
State of Nigeria. Although, this dialect is hardly written as
much as it is spoken but it is adjudged very easy for such adoption since the
dialect is spoken close to Igbo dialects and it has been quite standardized.
Dialect: The Origin, People and Language
Nkwerre is a town in Imo State. Imo State is one of the 36 States in Nigeria and it lies to the south of Nigeria with
Owerri as its capital and largest city.
Imo state came into existence in February 3rd, 1976 along
with other new states created under the leadership of the late military ruler
of Nigeria, Murtala
Muhammad, having been previously part of East-Central State. The state is named after the Imo River. Part of Imo state was split off in 1991 as Abia State,
and another part became Ebonyi state.
The main cities in Imo state are Owerri, Orlu, Okigwe. The Orashi River
has its source in this state. Imo state
was created at Ngwoma and the local language is Igbo. Imo state lies within latitude, 4o
45’N and 7o 15’N and longitude 6o 50’E and 7o25’E
with an area of around 5,100sq.km. It is
bordered by Abia State
on the East, by River Niger
and Delta State
on the West, by Anambra State to the North and Rivers State
to the South. Other major towns besides
Owerri are Isu, Okigwe, Oguta, Orlu, Mbaise, Mbano, Mbieri, Orodo and
Orsu. Imo State
is made up of twenty-seven local government areas: Aboh Mbaise, Ahiazu Mbaise,
Ehime Mbano, Ezinihitte, Ideato North, Ideato South,Ihitte/Uboma, Ikeduru,
Isiala Mbano, Isu, Mbaitoli, Ngor Okpala, Njaba, Nkwerre, Nwangele, Obowo,
Oguta, Ohaji/Egbema, Okigwe, Onuimo, Orlu, Orsu, Oru East, Oru West, Owerri
Municipal, Owerri North, Owerri West.
Imo State is a predominantly Igbo speaking state, with Igbo people
constituting a majority of 98%, with an estimated population of 4.8 million and
the population density varies from 230 – 1400 people per square kilometer.
Nkwerre is a local government area in Imo State, Nigeria. Its headquarters are in the town of Nkwerre. Simply put, Nkwerre is both a local
government area and a town in Imo
State. It has an area of 38km2 and a
population of 50,152 at the 2006 census.
Nkwerre is located at the Western part of Imo State. Nkwerre people of Imo State
are Igbos and they speak Igbo. Nkwerre
has about twenty (20) villages, which include Umunyen, Umueze, Umunachi,
Alaekwe, Umunubo, Umukabia and so on.
Nkwerre is surrounded by other towns like Amaigbo, Eziama-Obaire,
Owerri-Nkwoji and Umudi. Nkwerre is
located in Orlu senatorial zone and has existed for about five hundred (500)
This research will present sound
systems in the two Igbo dialects of interest in the work – Enuani and Nkwerre.
It will identify the possible similarities and differences between the sound
systems of these dialects with the aim of showing their peculiarities as far as
their sound systems are concerned.
This work focuses on the comparative
study of the phonology and phonetics of Nkwerre and Enuani dialects of
Igbo. We would examine the sounds of
these dialects and this will be done by comparing words in these dialects to
know the sounds that makes one distinct from another.
of Data Collection
This work was gathered from native
speakers of the dialect of study using the Ibadan four hundred (400) list.
This work is a contrastive study which
would entail comparison. The comparative
study of these languages will be done from a linguistic point of view using the
“Mass Comparison” approach by Greenberg (1963), brought to fusion in his book
titled “Languages of Africa.1
Greenberg observed that other scholars had a solid idea of what
languages to compare and that idea was based on shared similarities among the
languages. Greenberg reasoned that it
should be possible to determine the family trees of linguistic groups on the
basis of shared resemblances. As a result, he began to employ a method that
systematically compared the vocabulary of languages word for word and sound for
sound. The “MASS” in “mass comparison”
refers both to the number of words in the sample and the number of languages
He said that the more systematic and
more frequent those resemblances were, the more closely the languages were
related. Since in this work, we are
trying to get obtainable similarities and differences in their sound systems,
this approach will help this work move better.