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1.1 Background to the Study

This study focuses on describing the sound system of Jaba. The research comes under the purview of phonology which is a branch of language study. Language is a major cultural phenomenon in the human society and therefore, an important regulator of individual consciousness and social interaction. It is vital in human existence that there is hardly any situation or human function where language is not required. Language as a means of communication is essential in all speech communication. There is power in language (speech). It is in recognition of this fact that Omachonu (2011) cited a philosopher, Daniel Webster who once remarked that, “If all my talents and power were to be taken away from me by some inscrutable providence, and I had my choice of keeping but one, I would unhesitatingly ask to be allowed to keep the power of speaking; for through it, I will quickly recover all the rest”

The above philosophically sums up the efficacy and indispensability of language. Language is the facilitator of human essence. All inventions and achievements ever recorded in human existence have their roots in language as a veritable instrument of thought and an indispensable channel or a tool for communication. Many scholars have given different definitions as to what language is. Prominent among these, is that which was put forward by Edward Sapir as quoted in Omachonu (2011) which states that “language is a purely human and non-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of a system of voluntarily produced symbols”. In other words, language is simply a system of communication.

Omachonu (2011) defines linguistics as “the scientific study of language(s)”. This short but precise definition will lead to the question of what does it mean to do a scientific study of language or study language scientifically? In attempting this question, one will have to consider the role(s) of science in the study of language. By the scientific study of language, it is meant that linguistics as a discipline seeks “to study language through investigations by means of controlled and empirically verifiable observations, and with reference to some general theory of language structure” (Lyons, 1998). Science, after all, is that body of knowledge obtained or acquired through observations and testing of facts. To say that linguistics is scientific, “it means that linguistic study, in a nutshell, is characterized by three major phenomena or principles; these are explicitness, systematicity and objectivity” (Omachonu, 2011)

Objectivity, in the opinion of Okolo and Ezikeojaku (2010), suggests that “the procedures for linguistic investigations as well as the results obtained from such investigations are verifiable and the techniques used are valid.” Omachonu (2011) is of the view that systematicity as a principle or phenomenon is inherently a characteristic of language. Every language operates three basic systems namely: a system of sounds, of structures, and a system of meaning. For instance, with regards to the system of sounds, one could not but notice that only particular sounds are used by speakers of any language, and these sounds can only be combined in particular ways. Also, there is a network of patterned structural relationship constituting the organization of language. Language as a whole therefore, is characterized as a system and preferably a hierarchically ordered arrangement of systems.

The latter, that is systematicity, is important to the study of this work. Since language is composed of systems of structures which could be studied at different levels, the researcher shall be looking at language study from the level of sound (phonetics and phonology) where there shall be a discussion of the syllable and its structures with examples from Jaba. The systematic study of any language can be carried out under three levels of analysis viz a viz the levels of sound (phonetics and phonology), form (morphology and syntax) and meaning (semantics and pragmatics)

From a layman point of view, phonetics and phonology are concerned with the distinctive sounds of a language(s) and how these sounds combine to form words. This study focuses on phonology as an aspect of language study with a central concern on the sound system of Jaba language.

Phonology as a subfield of linguistics is a broad base discipline that focuses on the various aspects of the sound system of a language. It is divided into phonemics, phonotactics and prosody. Phonemics studies the individual sounds of a language; phonotactics examines the permissible and non-permissible rules that govern the combinations of the individual sounds to form words; while prosody studies the supra-segmental aspects of sound such as tone, intonation, stress, syllables, etc. The aim of this study is to examine the soundpatterns of Jaba as a way of studying the sound system of the language. There is lack of sufficient data as regards the study language all because the languages of Southern Kaduna are undoubtedly minority languages and as such, understudied. Minority because they are each estimated to have fewer than one million native speakers. They are also considered to be endangered because of pressure from Hausa which for long has been the lingua franca in the north of the country. However locally, these languages remain in use.

According to Blench (1992), “Jaba belongs to the Platoid group found under the Benue-Congo sub family of the Niger-Congo shown in family/phylum.  The language Jaba is seen as a means of communication in the market and also used for worshiping at the church. The Jaba language is spoken in towns like Pari, Kizachi, Makama, Kachia, Kwei, Chawai, Rahama Chawai etc.” (94) The speakers of this language, that is the Jaba people, are known for the preservation of their culture despite much influences and threats from the western world and the Hausa language respectively.

1.2 Statement of the Problem                                                                            

In analyzing the linguistic features of a language, one could study the phonological, syntactic and semantic aspects of the language. The phonologicalstudy of a language may prove difficult to comprehend especially the sound system of Jaba because of lack of existing written records of the language. This research is an attempt to study the sound system of Jaba; so as to add to the existing written records of the language.

1.3 Scope and Delimitation

One cannot exhaust any area of language study in its entirety. This research will focus on the sound system of Jaba with emphasis on the syllable structure, tonology and some elements of prosody. The major focus will be to describe the sound system of the Kwei dialect of Jaba with the aim of adding to the existing written records of the language.

1.4 Purpose of the Study

The purpose of the study is to describe the sound system of Jaba with a view

to describing the phonological features of the language, and adding to the existing written records of the language.

1.5Significance of the Study

The significance of this study is based on the fact that Jaba is a little known indigenous minority language on the verge of extinction. This study draws attention to the language by bringing it to the fore of linguistic analysis or description. The Jaba speakers may find this research useful as it describes the structures of its phonology and this is useful for posterity.

Furthermore, studies in the Jaba language are limited. This research may be a stepping stone for those who will wish to delve into the study and the description of the language in terms of its phonological components. Essentially, any effort(s), no matter how little, contributed towards studying and developing any of the minority languages in Nigeria is in itself very significant, hence the need for this study.

 1.6 Definition of Terms

Certain words or technical terms have been used which may not be self-explanatory to the readers who are outside the domains of this field of study. These are as follows:

1.     Syllabification: it refers to the division of a word into syllables.

2.     Family Tree: this is used to refer to a diagrammatic representation of language on a tree which shows the source from which they have descended or evolved.

3.     Syllabic Consonants: this refers to the ability of clusters of consonants to stand alone and form a syllable without the help of a vowel.

4.     Onset: this refers to the initial consonant of a syllable.

5.     Peak: this is also called nucleus. It refers to the part of a syllable which carries the vowel sound.

6.     Coda: this refers to the final segment in a syllable which is equally a consonant. It is also called closure.

7.     Constraints: these refer to the non-permissible rules that govern the combination of sound in a language.

8.     Prosody: this refers to that branch of phonology which studies transcend beyond the study of individual sound. It deals with features such as stress, intonation, rhythm, syllable, tone etc.

9.      Diacritics: these refer to marks or symbols used for detailed information on pronunciation, thus showing that there is variation in the sound.

1.7 Methodology

This study is a descriptive analysis of the sound system of Jaba. The data

was elicited from live utterances of interviewed Kwei Jaba speakers living within the researcher’s environment, coupled with introspective evidences from the researcher as a native speaker. To elicit the data, a questionnaire of Englishwords was given to the Jaba speakers and they were required to translate it to Jaba. This elicited data for the analysis of the tone, consonant and vowel, and other elements of prosody.

1.7.1 Area of Study

Finding native speakers of Jaba in Abuja is never an arduous task as the FCT shares boundary with the Southern Kaduna people. The study areas are situated within Kwali and Gwagwalada Area Councils respectively. Jaba speakers living within these communities constituted the study population for this study.

1.7.2 Research Design and Technique

This study adopts the data elicitation method of data gathering because it provides the researcher with the opportunity to sample a wide audience using a research instrumentation that meets the limited time frame within which the study is conducted. Also, this method enabled the researcher to interact with Jaba speakers and also apply introspection to elicit the required information from data gathered.

1.7.3 Instrumentation and Sources of Data

This study adopts Primary data from Jaba speakers residing in the FCT within Kwali and Gwagwala Area Councils. The instruments for data collection are the questionnaire, tape recorder, interview and introspective evidence.

1.7.4 Methods of Data Collection

The method used for gathering data is the giving out of questionnaires to Jaba informants which elicited relevant information for the study. A total of 50 questionnaires was share out and retrieved after the informants filled them up instantly. The informants were also interviewed to elicit relevant information from using introspective evidence. The interviews are tape recorded for further use during the analysis of data.

1.7.5 Methods of Data Analysis

The questionnaires retrieved and the recorded interviews were transcribed out and the phonological evidences from these sources were analyzed using introspective linguistic knowledge and evidences in their analysis as they relate to the syllabic structure of Jaba.



2.0. Introduction

A work of this nature cannot be complete without first reviewing some published related literatures. The discussion in this chapter covers areas such as:an overview of phonology, historical background of the Jaba language and the syllabic structure in language.

2.1. Phonology: An Overview

Linguistic analysis involves three broad levels of related studies; the speech sound level, the structure level and the meaning level. The study of speech sounds is undertaken in phonetics and phonology.

Yule (1997:54) defines phonetics as “the general study of the characteristics of speech sounds while phonology is essentially the description of the systems and patterns of speech sounds in a language. It is, in effect, based on the theory of what every speakers of a language unconsciously knows about the sound patterns of that language.”

The study of structures in languages is undertaken in morphology and syntax whereas meaning goes into semantics where an attempt is made to convey and classify experience (s) through language as man gives verbal expressions to his thoughts. This shows that language is a highly well-structured and patterned system which is composed of structures, and its component structures can be studied or analyzed at different levels of language or linguistic analyses. The concern of this research is to study the Jaba language at the phonological level of language study. It is noteworthy that though phonetics and phonology dwell or operate on the same terrain in terms of linguistic analysis and object of study, remarkable differences still exist between the two in spite of the overt similarities or relatedness. They are two sides to the same coin as their object of study is the human speech sound.

Phonetics as defined by Robins (1996: 6) is “the scientific study of speech sound”. In a related development, Lyons (2002) describes the study of phonetics “as giving the phonetic description or instrumental analysis of substances where sounds are to be regarded as physical entities, which can be described or analyzed without reference to any specific language.”Agreeing with the above definitions, they place sounds as the focus of phonetic study; however, phonetics does not study any kind of sound but the human speech sounds.

In the same vein, Wells and Colson (1993) view phonetics as “the study and description of pronunciation. That is, it is concerned with studying the principles and processes that determine pronunciation; what we pronounce and how we

pronounce it.”

Similarly, in an attempt to give a concise and precise definition to phonetics and with a view to showing its object(s) of study, Lyons, Todd, Yusuf, and Roach unanimously describe phonetics in terms of production (ariculatory), transmission (acoustic) and perception (auditory) of speech sounds.It is in similar line of thought that Ikekeonwu (1996) clearly defines phonetics “as being concerned with the study of speech sounds from the parameters of its production, physical properties and perception”.

According to Omachonu (2011), the study of phonetics using the three points of views or dimensions; production, transmission and reception or perception consequently and correspondingly, yields to the three branches of phonetics traditionally identified as articulatroy, acoustic and auditory phonetics.

Articulatory phonetics is defined by Yule (1997) as the study of how speech sounds are made, or articulated. On the other hand, he views acoustic phonetics as dealing with the physical properties of speech as sound waves ‘in the air’, while auditory (or perceptual) phonetics, deals with the perception, via the ear, of speech sounds. Yule identifies forensic phonetics, as another branch of phonetics, which deals with the applications in legal cases involving speaker identification and the analysis of recorded utterances.                                                                     Above all, in trying to know the what, how and why of speech sound production, the basic or the fundamental job of a phonetician is to try to find out what people do or are doing when they talk or listen to speech. Omachonu (2011) is of the opinion, therefore, that the most precise and acceptable definition of phonetics is to describe it as the study of pronunciation, that is, a medium used in the speaking of all languages spoken medium) and the phonic medium as used in all styles of speech (37).

Phonology, on the other hand, is the study of the systems and patterns of those units of sound form in a language (Omachonu; 37). Hyman quoted in Omachonu, sees phonology as the study of the sound systems of a language. The goal of phonology according to Hyman, therefore, is to study the properties of the sound systems, which speakers must learn or internalize so as to be able to use the language for the purpose of meaningful communication. Sommerstein (1991) agrees with this when he refers to phonology as “functional phonetics“.

Katamba (2001) describes phonology as “the branch of linguistics which investigates the ways in which sounds are used systematically in different languages to form words and utterances”. It is this systematic functioning and structural pattering of speech sounds in different or specific languages that Ikekeonwu had in mind when he described phonology as a branch of linguistics which concerns itself with the study of speech sounds already identified and studied, to establish their functions and distributional patterns. The importance of function and structure of speech sounds in language, he noted, it emphasized in almost all the definitions of phonology.

Phonology as a branch of linguistics studies the entire sound systems of languages. It is the description of the system and patterns of sounds that occur in a language. It is concerned with the organization of sounds into a system of contrasts, analysed in terms of phonemes, distinctive features or other such phonological units. It aims at demonstrating the patterns of distinctive sounds found in a language, and makes general statements about the nature of sound systems in languages. This is why it is referred to as “functional phonetics”.

According to Uzoezie (1996), different phoneticians have defined phonology in different ways but the substance of the different definitions remains essentially the same. It means therefore that every definition points to the fact that the sound patterns that make up the phonemic inventories of a language are the concerns of phonology.

As stated before, phonetics and phonology share some forms of relationships. As Omachonu (2011) rightly noted, “the object of the study of both phonetics and phonology is the human speech sound which means that the two belong to the same level of linguistic analysis. They are pre-occupied with the study of speech sounds.” (38) It is also worthy of not that phonetics identifies and describes the pool of sounds in human languages which phonology processes into utterances. This goes to confirm that phonology is related to phonetics since the latter serves as its informant; that is, phonetics provides the needed raw materials for the study of phonology. In other words, the output of phonetics is the input in phonology. It does appear that phonetics serves as the prerequisite for the study of phonology and one wonders aloud if, it is possible to study phonology effectively and adequately without the knowledge of phonetics.

Despite the overt and/or obvious relationship between phonetics and phonology, there still exist basic differences between the two. Sommerstein (1991) asserts that phonology begins where phonetics leaves off. This, in essence, points to the notion that the end of phonetics marks the beginning of phonology. In other words, the output of phonetics is the input of phonology. Ikekeonwu (1996), for instance, clearly identifies the basic differences between the two in the following words: “Phonetics studies the speech sound from the parameters of its production, physical properties and perception. In phonology the speech sounds already identified and described are studied, to establish their function and distributional patterns” (33).

In addition, it is noted that phonetics identifies the pool of sounds in human

language while phonology then systematizes the specific language(s). Sequel to the above, Ikekeonwu (1996) asserts that the expression “sound systems” used in distinguishing between phonetics and phonology is crucial in this consideration. According to this linguist; “Phonetics does the groundwork of identifying the articulatory and acoustic parameters that could be utilized for speech; phonology is concerned with ‘sound systems’ or speech patterns that could arise using these articulatory and acoustic parameters.”

Besides, unlike phonology, “phonetics, it is noted, deals with the spoken rather than the written medium. This characteristic of phonetics, according to Omachonu becomes obvious in views of its pre-occupation with phonetic symbols rather than letters of the orthography as it relates to the examination of speech features-tone pitch, stress intonation, duration, syllable and other prosodic features” (Ikekeonwu,39).

Fudge (2003) described phonetics, in Omachonu (2011), as that which gives an account of the total resources of sound available to the human being who wishes to communicate by speech, adding that phonetics in its essence is independent of particular languages; phonology on the other hand, gives an account of specific choices made by specific languages within this range of possibilities. Phonology, therefore, is concerned with the sound systems of a single language. Fudge’s contribution largely agrees with Fischer Jorgensen who observed that phonetic study is prone to changes and advances compared to phonology.                  Phonology has two main components: the segmental which analyses speech into discrete segments such as phonemes, and supra-segmental which analyses features which extend over more than one segment such as intonation contours. Another distinction made within phonology is between diachronic and synchronic phonology. The former studies patterns of sound change in the history of a language while the latter studies sound patterns regardless of the process of historical change.

Phonology is studied under the sub-branches of phonemics, phonotactics and prosody. According to Omachonu, phonemics is the study of the individual phonemes of a language. For instance: the /p/, /t/, /g/, etc. in English and the /kp/, /gb/, /kw/, etc. in Jaba form the individual phonemes of the two languages, respectively. Phonotactics, on the other hand, studies the permissible and non-permissible rules of combining the individual phonemes of a language. For instance in Jaba language, it is not permissible to have a combination of the /k/ /m/ or /m/ and /d/phonemes in such a sound. This is because of certain constraints in the rules of combination and this is what phonotactics concerns itself about. Prosody studies the supra-segmental or non-segmental features of word(s) or connected speeches such as speeches, tone, intonation, syllable, etc.

The focus of this research is on the sound system of Jaba where the study

shall concentrate on the syllable as a prosodic feature of Jaba language. From the study so far, it could be deduced that language is made up of a system of structures which could be studied at different levels. The consonants, vowels and tones are a part of the features or aspects of phonology that could be studied under the linguistic level of sound analysis. The Jaba language shall now be discussed so as to discover its sound system but the research will first have to take a look at the ethno-linguistic background of the language under the next section.

2.2 Historical Background of Jaba Language

The Online Wikipedia gives a historical background on the Jaba people and their language. According to this online medium, there are 57 languages spoken as first languages in Kaduna State. Gbari and Hausa are major languages; most other languages are small and endangered minority languages, due to the influence of Hausa. The language of study, Jaba is a language spoken by the Jaba people of Southern Kaduna specifically in Jaba LGA, Kaduna State.Kaduna State forms a portion of the country’s cultural diversity because representatives of the six major ethnic groups in the country are found in the state. Apart from this fact, there are also present over twenty other ethnic minority groups, each with its language and art or religion different from the other.

The works of art and pottery (e.g. the “Nok Terracotta”) found in the

southern parts of Kaduna State suggest that it is a major cultural centre. Among the major ethnic groups are Kamuku, Gwari, Kadara in the west, Hausa and Kurama to the north and Northeast; “Nerzit” is now used to describe the Jaba (study language), Kaje, Koro, Kamanton, Kataf, Morwa and Chawai instead of the derogatory term “southern Zaria people”. Also, the term “Hausawa” is used to describe the people of Igabi, ikara, Giwa and Makarti LGAs, which include a large proportion of rural dwellers who are strictly “Maguzawas.”

In the north, the Hausa and some immigrants from the southern states practise Islam and majority of the people in the southern LGAs profess Christianity. The major Muslim festivals are the “Salah” celebrations of “ldeIfitri” and “ldeIkabir”, while Christmas, New Year and Easter are observed by the Christians. Two traditional festivals of significance are the “Tukham” and “Afan” in Jaba and Jama’a LGAs respectively. Prominent among the traditional arts, are leather works, pottery and in-dig-pit dyeing with Zaria as the major centre.

The 2006 census provisional result puts the population of Kaduna State at 6,066,562. Although majorities live and depend on the rural areas, about a third of the state’s population is located in the two major urban centres of Kaduna and Zaria.The state is divided into 23 Local Government Areas. Jaba is one of the 23 Local Government Areas of Kaduna State with its headquarters in Kafanchan. Jaba Local government has an area of 2,810 km² and a population of 170,008 (2006 census). The Jaba people are known to be hospitable, helpful, industrious and peace loving. When one knocks on the door of a Jaba person at any hour of the day, one is assured of a warm welcome. This is why they are usually regarded as one of the most peace loving people of Kaduna State. Another aspect of their culture is their ability to be able to dance. This has been passed down from generation to generation. They are very good dancers and in fact they are one of the best in the whole of Kaduna State.

The Jaba people are predominantly farmers i.e. about 80% of the population though there are few who engage in other income generating ventures. Among the crops of cultural importance is the finger Millet popularly known as ‘tamba’, ‘acha’ or just millet. Just few of them engage in trading, fishing, craft making and bee keeping which also are income generating ventures for the community. Religion is a vital part of life of the people and to this end; there are two major religions in the chiefdom namely Christianity and Islam. However, some Jaba people are adherents of traditional religion popularly called ‘dodo’.

Among the people of Jaba, the marriage institution is contracted in stages such as: step I is when the dowry is paid and then followed by the second step which is the marriage ceremony proper. On the wedding day, the groom presents gift items like palm oil, groundnut oil, ram etc. to the bride’s family after which he is permitted to take his bride home. Names are given to children on the very day they are born but celebrations are postponed to the convenience of the parents.

The people of Southern Kaduna are also referred to as Nerzit. While they speak many different languages and see themselves as separate peoples, their unity as a group is also quite apparent to them. Hausa, an Afro-Asiatic, Chadic language, is the lingua franca of Northern Nigeria, and this holds true all over Kaduna State where over 57 languages are spoken. Benue-Congo languages, particularly those of the Plateau variety, are the mother tongues spoken by the indigenes. Of these, some of the languages are as mentioned below: Fantsuam (Kafanchan), Gong (Kagoma), Gworok (Kagoro), Jju (Kaje), Koro, Tsam (Chawai), Hyam (Jaba) the study language, and Tyap (Kataf).

There is lack of sufficient data as regards the study language all because the languages of Southern Kaduna are undoubtedly minority languages and as such, understudied. Minority because they are each estimated to have fewer than one million native speakers. They are also considered to be endangered because of pressure from Hausa which for long has been the lingua franca in the north of the country. However locally, these languages remain in use.

According to Blench (1992), “Jaba belongs to the Platoid group found under the Benue-Congo sub family of the Niger-Congo shown in family/phylum. The language Jaba is seen as a means of communication in the market and also used for worshiping at the church. The Jaba language is spoken in towns like Pari, Kizachi, Makama, Kachia, Kwei, Chawai, Rahama Chawai etc.” (94) The speakers of this language, that is the Jaba people, are known for the preservation of their culture despite much influence and threat from the western world. For instance, among these people, a child is not allowed to greet an elderly person in the western wayor manner.

2.3 The Syllable Structure in Language

Supra-segmental phonology cannot be broken up into discrete units of utterances. The basis of operation for the supra-segmental features is the syllable, many of which will combine to make up utterances. One fact about the syllable, according to Ladefoged (1989), is that it is a necessary unit in the mental organization and production of utterances. It is for this fact that people believe that, even if they cannot define the syllable, they can count the number of syllables in any given word or sentence. If they are asked to do this, according to Roach (2009), they often tap their fingers as they count, which illustrates the syllable’s importance in the rhythm of speech. They are able to do this simply by identifying the vocalic elements(s) i.e. vowels in such a word or sentence or at times by considering the peaks of prominence of sounds making up the word or sentence. It becomes apparent therefore that two categories of segmental phonemes i.e. consonant and vowel combine to form the syllable.                                                               Although it has been noted that the definition of the syllable presents some problems such that an accurate definition becomes difficult, however, there are several theories in phonetics and phonology which have tried to clarify matters in an attempt at providing a precise definition of the syllable.

The pulse (or motor) theory was suggested by the psychologist, R.H.Steetson (1892-1950). It attempts to define the syllable of a language on the basis of the articulatory effort needed in order to produce them. Steetson argued that each syllable corresponds to an increase in air pressure, air from the lungs being released as a series of chest pulses. In other words, in any utterance there are a number of chest pulses, that is, muscular activity controlling lung movement accompanied by increases in air pressure, which determines the number of syllable uttered. In this therefore, the syllable rather than the sounds is the basic unit of speech.

Consonants form the boundaries of syllable end and beginning; the pulse is then audible, with the vowels in the middle as in the English word cat /kæt/. It is true that while this can readily be measured, particularly in emphatic speech, it is nevertheless difficult to detect such a pulse in adjacent syllables, as when two vowels (v v) co-occur which gives us a syllable structure of cvvc. For instance, in the following Jaba words;

Kwain with syllable structure ccvvc /kwaiŋ/

ɠoin with syllable structure cvvc /gɔiŋ/

In the word ‘Kwain’ for example, there are two evident chest pulses but usually said in a single muscular effort. Moreover, there is no consonant to form the boundary between them. Surely certain problems remain.

The syllable has been subjected to various definitions from the point of view of articulatory, acoustic, physiological and psychological. Theorists have argued, however, that the syllable may be defined or described using two broad theories (collapsing the four points into two): the phonetic and the phonological or linguistic approach.

In defining the syllable phonetically, an appeal is made to two sub-theories namely: the prominence and the chest pulse theory. The prominence theory holds that there are some sounds which are more prominent than others; these loud sounds form the peaks of the respective syllables. But the chest pulse theory claims that in any utterance, there are a number of chest pulses accompanied by increase in air pressure. These increases determine the number of syllables in a word.

The phonological theory, on the other hand, views the syllable as being based on the type of phoneme sequence that is permissible in a particular language. This is sometimes referred to as the linguistic approach to the definition of the syllable.However one may define the concept “syllable”, the fact still remains that the sound segments of any language can be perceived by the ear as being roughly divisible into syllables. It is in line with the second theory-the phonological theory that Gimson (1991) defines the syllable as: a unit of a higher level than that of a phoneme or sound segment, yet distinct from that of a word or morpheme.In the same vein, Crowther (1997) sees the syllable as; “… any of the units into which a word may be divided usually consisting of a vowel sound with a consonant before and/or after it” (67).

Collapsing these definitions, therefore, one may describe the syllable as an intermediate level of phonological organization; that is, intermediate between individual segmental units (consonants and vowels) and their combination into words. Put differently, a syllable refers to a pronounceable unit at a higher level than that of a phoneme, but distinct from that of a word or morpheme. It was noticed by Omachonu (2011) that the notion syllable from many indications, is a psychological real unit. For instance, according to Clement and Keyser, speakers of unwritten languages, if asked to divide a word into its constituent parts, will usually divide it into syllables rather than individual sound segments e.g. education will be /e-ʤu-kei-∫η/ i.e. four syllables.

According to them, it may even prove difficult to convince such speakers that further syllabifications or divisions are possible. This, they assert, was true of English speaking children before the introduction of the alphabetic writing system.The combinatory sequence of syllabic segment(s) which a language permits is referred to as the syllable structure of the language. It could be CV pattern CVV, CCV,VC, and so on.Every language places a constraint(s) as to the pattering of its syllable structure. Structurally, a syllable may be divided into three parts; the peak, the Onset, and the Coda.The onset consists of all segments that precede the peak and are tauto-syllabic with it.Sounds in this position are always consonants. The Coda, on the other hand, consists of all the tauto-syllablic segments that follow the peak. The Coda, therefore, is the consonant sound after the nucleus. Lastly, the peak of a syllable is as well the nucleus of that syllable-the core.

Below is the structural representation of the syllable as demonstrated by Hyman (1975)


onset                                                               core


peak                                       coda

(vowel)                                    (consonant)

It should be noted however, according to Omachonu (2011) that the structure may not apply to all English words or syllables, let alone other languages. For instance, syllables like “ǝu” as in open /ǝupn/ or ”ǝ” as



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