SYLLABIFICATION, GLIDE FORMATION AND THE MORA IN EDUCATED URHOBO ENGLISH

Don Chukwuemeka Utulu (PhD), Godwin Avwerosuoghene Ivworin

Abstract


Educated Urhobo English (EUE) is a variety of Nigerian English accent used by literate Urhobo native speakers in Delta State, southern Nigeria. Early studies have reported some EUE segmental patterns motivated by the native Urhobo sound system. However, Glide Formation (GF), which has invariably become fossilised in the accent, is yet to be studied. GF is a process whereby underlying high vowels /i/ and /u/ are realised on the surface as[j] and [w] respectively, if immediately followed by a non-high vowel. Thirty-six recorded speech samples purposively collected from 15 Urhobo native speakers of English pronunciation show a conversion of intervening /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ in Standard British English (SBE) triphthongs as /j/ and /w/, a curious type of GF. Thus, the SBE triphthongs /eɪə/, /aɪə/, /ɔɪə/, /əʊə/ and /aʊə/ in the respective items, ‘layer’, ‘liar’, ‘loyal’, ‘lower’ and ‘power’ are pronounced /leja/; /laja/; /loyal/; /lowa/ and /pawa/. This study, couched in Moraic theory (Hyman 1985; Hayes 1989), aims at examining the Urhobo indigenisation of SBE triphthongs and provide explanation on why the quality of the SBE vowels changed in EUE accent. The insights of the mora revealed three indigenised pronunciation patterns: (1) /ɪ/ and /ʊ/ gliding as /j/ and /w/ respectively, (2) mora reduction/deletion, and (3) adjustment of syllable count, in which the SBE one-syllable word is rendered as one with two syllables. This study argues that a transfer of the core ‘weight profile’ of the native Urhobo syllable structure into SBE motivates GF in the EUE accent.


Keywords


Glide formation, Educated Urhobo English, Standard British English, Triphthongs, Mora.

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