This study attempts to find out the phonological problems of
Edem Secondary School students in the English language. In achieving this goal,
61 students out of a total of 242 students were sampled using descriptive
survey design, because it is aimed at collecting data on features and facts
about a given population and describing it in a systematic manner.
A self-made competence test (Phonological reading passage) was
used as instrument for data collection.
The findings reveal that Edem students have phonological problem
of using /t/ sound for // sound, /d / sound in place of /ð/ sound and /n/ sound
for /l / sound. Hence London is pronounced Nondon. In Edem dialect of Igbo it
has been discovered that both /l/ and /n/ are found in their dialect but they
cannot make the distinction between the two.
Again, they insert vowel sounds in between consonants, and each
word with consonant ending they put a final vowel.Finally, the irregularity
in English pronunciation affect Edem students greatly.
Background of the Study
is the major tool of communication in human society and speech occupies a major
position in most discussions of language as a communicative medium. One of the
major characteristics of man, according to Mgbodile (1999), is his ability to
use language to send messages about objects, events and situations around him.
Speech is what distinguishes man from other animals. Speech is paramount to any
language and knowledge of the English Language cannot be appreciably good
without effective manipulation of the speech sounds, for linguistics
competence, according to Chukwuma,H and Otagburuagu,E(1997), is based
mainly on oracy. So, the mastery of English is highly connected to the mastery
of the spoken form of it.
early age, a normal child responds to the sounds which his elders use to
communicate with him. In his bid to communicate and get his needs identified
and satisfied, the child begins to imitate the sounds which he has heard from
his elders. His dire need to communicate with the adult community and his
constant hearing and imitation of the language make it possible for him to
acquire his mother tongue or his first language. Ogbuehi (2003) asserts that
every normal child acquires the sound system and the speech patterns of his
mother tongue in a normal way through imitation of sounds from adult group.
other hand, learning to speak a second language or foreign language usually
involves some rigours and challenges because the learner has to learn the sound
systems and the prosodic features of the second language against the already
firmly consolidated first language in the mind of the learner. The problem is
partly that some languages are tonal and syllable-timed and others are
stress-timed and various speech sounds have distinctive acoustic properties.
The adjustment to these differences may lead to a mismatch and therefore the
learner may produce sounds that cannot be understood by other users of the same
language. Onuigbo (1990) asserts that learning to speak a second language is
psychologically demanding because the learner already feels comfortable towards
the phonological systems of his native language. Mackey (1965) agrees that a
person who has been using only one language since early childhood has habits
and thoughts which are closely tied to his habits of language, and that
language is a part of his experience. He concludes that in learning a second
language, the learner has to adjust his speech habits to accommodate those of
the target language. This according to Otagburuagu and Okorji (2002) is because
languages have their individual peculiar phonological and phonemic features
which must be mastered and used by the learner for mutual intelligibility with
the native speakers and other users of the language.
learners of a second language cannot make this adjustment successfully. They
approximate the phonological features of the second or target language with
those of their mother tongue. Put in another way, they allow the
speech habits of their mother tongue or their first language to interfere with
the speech habits of the target language. This phenomenon, according to
Akindele and Adegbite (1999), is known in the language register as phonological
Phonological interference is a term which refers to a linguistic occurrence in
which two different languages over lap and the linguistic system of one of the
languages is transferred into the other in a process of producing the latter
which is the second or target language. Interference, according to Baldeh
(1990) is the major obstacle in the teaching of the English language and it
constitutes a great problem to the learning of a second language for it can
hinder mutual understanding and intelligibility and consequently affects
performance in target language. This has resulted in the variety of English
language in Nigeria called “Nigerian English”. Mgbodile (1999) is of the view
that mother tongue interference is a great problem to second language learners
of English. The Nigerian child should be taught to perceive and produce correct
pronunciation, stress and intonation in the target language, which in Nigeria
correct pronunciation, stress, and intonation to Nigerian children may be
difficult as Nigeria is a multilingual country. William (1990) observes that
teaching English to students that have different mother tongues other than
English is complicated and difficult, and worse still when the learning environment
is multilingual. This problem is compounded when one considers the fact that
for many students, English is not really their second language but third or
even the fourth language. Teaching correct pronunciation, stress and intonation
becomes more complex when in a class, Student ‘A’ may have a problem of
distinguishing the /l/ from /r/ sounds, but this may not be the problem of
Student ‘B’ whose speech difficulty is with the pronunciation of words
like ‘live’ and ‘leave’ so that they sound differently. Student ‘C’s own
difficulty may be that he cannot help inserting a vowel sound in a consonant
cluster. From the spoken English of many Nigerians, one can identify from which
area they come from. This is because different speech communities have different
phonological and interference problems. Ogbuehi (2003) points out:
“Today, there are many “Shibboleths (speech signs) for identifying people from
different areas of Nigeria”.
In a contrastive study of
English and Nigerian languages, Chukwuma and Otagburuagu (2002),
discovered that the Yorubas realize /v/ as /f/, e.g. ’very’ becomes
‘fery’, / z / does not exist in Yoruba so it is substituted with
/s/ e.g. ‘zeal’ is pronounced, ‘seal’, issue is pronounced ‘izzue’.
Akindele and Adegbite (1999), also found out that the absence of English sounds
such as the voiceless bilabial plosive /p/, voiceless and voiced
labio-dental fricative / ѳ/ and /ð/ and
the long vowels /I:/, /U:/ and /a:/ in Yoruba, for instance, make it difficult
for Yoruba English bilingual to acquire such sounds. Hence, Yoruba English
bilingual will produce ‘pat’ as /kpæt/, ‘fever’ as /fifa/, and ‘think’ as
‘tink’. The obligatory /h/ are also dropped hence,
is wrongly pronounced
In addition, the Hausa
learners of English substitute /v/ for /b/, ‘very good’ is pronounced ‘bery
good’, /kw/ is substituted for /k/. So, ‘go’ is pronounced ‘kwo’, ‘come’
is pronounced ‘kwom’, whereas ‘problem’ is pronounced as ‘froblem’. Some
times /v/ is dropped in words like’government’ which they pronounce as
(1990), observed that a second language learner of English that has Igbo as his
first language can produce ‘pit’ with relative ease, but the same learner
may experience some difficulties in producing ‘split’ or ‘spit’ because these
words have consonant clusters, but the Igbo language has no consonant cluster.
Because of this, the Igbo learners of English insert vowel in the midst of the
consonants. Onuigbo generalizes that Nigerian languages have no consonant
clusters . In the English language, there is a regular occurrence of
consonant clusters unlike the Igbo language that has no cluster but has
virtually regular and unchanging pattern of (consonant vowel, consonant vowel
(CVCV). Folorine (1975) has the same view with Onuigbo that problematic
consonant clusters are the major problem which Igbo students encounter in the
pronunciation of words. In his article, “The Problems of Students’ English’, he
states that learners’ problems may be that the learner either leaves out one
element of the problematic cluster or inserts a vowel within the consonant
cluster as in ‘penalty’ which they put an additional syllable in the word as
Group ‘B’ is the correct English pronunciation of the word in
column ‘A’wheas group ‘C’ is the wrongly pronounced Igbo form of group ‘A’.
C.U (2001) points out that the vowel harmony in Igbo words are transferred to
the pronunciation of English words, thereby realizing a final vowel pronounced
in words with consonant ending as in these groups:
Group ‘B’ is the correct English pronunciation of the words in
column A whereas group ‘C’ is the Igbo version of group ‘A’.
outstanding phonological problem according to Ugorji (2007) is that some
English consonant sounds are not present in the Igbo language e.g. /θ/, /ð/ and
/3/. Because of this, the Igbo learners of English substitute /t/ for / θ/, /d/
for /∫/ and /s/. Consequently, Igbos wrongly pronounce these words thus:
Group ‘B’ is the correct English pronunciation of group ‘A’ but
group ‘C’ is the wrong Igbo pronunciation of group ‘A’. Some Igbo speaking areas
of Nigeria interchange the liquid /r/ with the lateral /l/ thus producing such
funny pronunciation like
Also the long and the short vowel contrast is rarely made in
Igbo as in ‘bed,’ /bed/ and ‘bird’ /bЗ:d/. These
two words are pronounced alike by Igbo learners of English. The /ǽ/ in ‘cat’
and /a: / ‘cart’ is also pronounced alike.
According to Onuigbo (1990), diphthongs are also reduced to
single vowels by the Igbo learners of English since the Igbo phonemes are
always single. They consequently pronounce, snake / Sneik/ as /Snek/.
Phonological problems are not peculiar to Nigerians. It is a
common problem to second language users of English from other parts of the
world. The Indians for instance, according to Ogbuehi, pronounce words
beginning with ‘v’ as ‘w’. They pronounce vice- chancellor as ‘wice- chancellor’.
A Cantonese learning English also encounters some problems in phonology.
Hensman (1969) asserts that the absence of initial /b/, /d/, /g/, and /z/ from
the range of Cantonese consonantal phonemes and the fact that their voiceless
equivalents are highly aspirated as in French, constitute difficulties for the
Cantonese student in hearing and producing.
a distinction between such pairs as ‘pin’ and ‘bin’ ‘tried’ and
‘died’, ‘card’ and ‘guard’, ‘fine’ and ‘vine’, ‘sink’ and ‘link’. The absence
of /θ/ from the range of Cantones speech sounds constitutes problem for them.
Also, because one Cantonse sibilant is a spirant which bridges the contiguous
marginal allophones of English consonantal phoneme- /s/, /ð/, /s/, the average
Cantonese student has considerable difficulty in differentiating between these
consonantal phonemes of English both in speech and in aural comprehension. As a
result, there is a confusion between ‘said’ and ‘shed’, ‘same’ and ‘shame’,
‘suit’ and ‘shoot’, ‘theme’ and ‘seem’, ‘thinking’ and ‘sinking’. Apart from
the above, they substitute /f/ for /θ/ before /r/. So ‘three gifts’ is said as
Phonological problem does not only exist due to mother tongue
interference (inter-lingual problem). Phonological problem can also be
intra-lingual. This is the problem that is inherent in the English language
itself. Intra-lingual problems result from faulty or partial learning of the
target language rather than from language transfer. It is caused by
inconsistencies of the target language itself. The English language in itself
has different varieties. There are the American English varieties (AmE), the British
English variety the Australian English variety which Ugorji (2007) identifies
as English dialects. These different dialects have different ways of
pronunciation, and this pose a great problem to the learners. The word
‘schedule’ for instance, is pronounced ‘∫edju:l/ by the British but it is
pronounced /skedju:l/ by Americans. The internal inconsistencies in English
language hinder learning and usage by second language learners and users. This
can also be seen in a situation where different spellings may occur in words
but in production they are pronounced alike. The long /i:/ vowel sound, for
instance, can be realized from different spellings e.g.
‘e’ as in
‘ea’ as in
‘i’ as in
‘eo’ as in
One may ask, why are all these realized as a single sound /i:/
when they have different spelling symbol
Also the long vowel sound /כ:/ can be realized in these
al as in
aw as in
ar as in
oar as in
or as in
‘ore’ as in
‘oor’ as in
‘ou ‘ as
in bought .
The problem worsens as some words have the same spelling at a
particular position but different pronunciation, words like ‘food’, ‘look’,
flood’, ‘blood’ ‘good’, ‘poor’. Although these words have double ‘o’ the double
o’s ’ are pronounced differently e.g.
‘poor’ is realized as /כ:/ in /pכ:/
‘food’ is realized as /u:/ in /fu:d/
‘cook’ is realized as /u/ in /cuk/
‘flood’ is realized as /Λ/ in /flΛd/
‘blood’ is realized as /Λ/ in /bLΛd/
‘good’ is realized as /u/, in /gud/.
language learner may just know how to pronounce ‘good’, and may over generalize
that every word with the spelling ‘oo’ is pronounced as /u/ which is wrong.
There are still other words that have no double ‘o’ but the sound is realized
as /u:/ as in ‘pull’, full’ to mention but two.
still words that are exactly the same in pronunciation but their spellings are
different. Oluikpe, Anasiudu, Otagburuagu, Ogbonna and Onuigbo (1984) advise
that words like these need to be consciously learnt by second language teachers
and distinctly taught to second language learners of English. These pairs of
word are pronounced alike but they are spelt differently:
‘ /kכ:s/, ‘courses’ /Kכ:s/
‘alter’ /כ:lt∂/, ‘alter’ /כ:lt∂/
These pairs of words pose problems to the second language
learners. These internal inconsistencies in the English language pose a great
problem to both the second language learners and the native speakers of the
phonological inconsistencies in English have become so pervasive to both native
and second users of the language that Ogbuehi (2003:30) citing Spencer points
The phonology of a second language will almost always receive
some imprint from the phonology of the mother tongue …. It is a common problem
with second language users of English from other areas and even with those that
speak English as a first language.
This problem is compounded as some languages in themselves have
different varieties called dialect. In Igbo language for instance, the extent
to which Edem dialect post phonological problems to the learners of the English
language that come from the area has remain a matter of wide speculation.
There are about two hundred dialects, of Igbo, of which Edem dialect is one of
Statement of the Problem
has been a public out cry about the standard of performance of the graduates of
our educational institutions. The consensus appears to be that the level of
performance in spoken and written English has fallen remarkably.
been observed by West African Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination
(WASSSCE) Chief Examiners’ report 2001, 2002, and 2003) that most students
score little or nothing in the oral part of the English language examination.
It has also been observed that the oral communicative strength of Igbo learners
of English is very low. Some students find it difficult to communicate
effectively, while others shy away from discussions in English. In a school
excursion carried out by Comprehensive Junior Secondary School, Edem to
Saint Teresa’s College, Nsukka in May 2006, it was discovered that the students
from Edem were not only shy but were unable to communicate well in
English. Most of them got intimidated when they were called up to speak
or answer questions in English.
wonders what the problem could be. In pursuit of the possible cause of this
poor performance in oral aspect of the English language, the phonological
problems of Edem Secondary School Students are examined.
Purpose of the Study
Basically, the purpose of this study is to find out the phonological problems
of secondary school students of Edem origin when they speak the English
Specifically, this study attempts to:
out a contrastive study of English and Edem dialect of Igbo.
out Edem-Igbo dialect sounds that do not exist in English and English sound
that do not have a corresponding Igbo sound segment.
out how the Edem Igbo speakers of English annex or approximate their dialect
sound that do not have corresponding equivalent in English sound to English
out possible solutions to these problems.
Significance of the Study
result of this study will provide the students with the information on the
differences that exist between the Edem – Igbo dialect and the English language
and bearing this in mind, they will be able to check their progress in English.
Planners and designers may profit from this study because it could guide them
on areas to place emphasis on in planning curricula in order to improve the
overall performance of those who use the language. Publishers of books on
the English language may find this work helpful because it could help them to
identify the problem areas for the Igbo users of English so that they can focus
attention on such areas in their publications. If these problems are
systematically and judiciously addressed, learners and users of English as a L2 will
make tremendous improvement in the language.
teachers of English, the result of this study will provide an invaluable
insight into the nature of the problems and the different ways they manifest
themselves, so that they will know how to manage them.
modest endeavour will be a positive move in the direction of increasing the
corpus of knowledge and of scholarship in the
all, this study may stimulate the minds of scholars to explore more
comprehensively the issues and findings that have been brought to the fore with
a view to tackling decisively the problems of phonology in English of Nigerian
users of the language.
Scope of the Study
will be carried out in Edem in Nsukka Local Government Area of Enugu State, and
it will use students of the senior secondary II. The study will focus only on
the segmental phonemes leaving off the supra-segmental for proper management.
The following research questions will guide the study:
1. To what
extent does the annexing or approximating of English segmental absence in Igbo
affect the Edem students’ performance in spoken English?
2. To what
extent does the differences in the speech symbols of Edem students studying
English affect their performance in oral English?
3. To what
extent does the absence of consonantal clusters in the Igbo language affect the
Edem learners of English proficiency in the oral aspect of English?
4. To what
extent does the intra-lingual problem in English affect the performance of Edem
students of English in their oral production of the English language?