A Phonological Description of the Spoken English Forms of Educated Ikale and Ibadan Speakers of Nigerian English
- Background to the Study
Nigerian languages are not marked for number in ways similar to English (There is a general absence of plural inflection). For example, Yoruba marks plural contextually, semantically, and morphologically using the 3rd person plural pronoun awon and the low toned won (Ajiboye, 2010). Igbo employs reduplication of nouns and syntactically determined plural markers, including the 3rd person singular pronoun ha, quantifiers, numerals, and special inherent plural words such as ndi (Nweya, 2016). Andrew-Ogidi (2006) notes that Igala language uses derivational processes instead. These differences are veritable problem areas for L2 learners of English plurals.
According to Ayeomoni (2011:124), the phenomenon called language, especially human language, is not static or unvarying in form. Usage of every language changes from group to group and from individual to individual (Balogun, 1998:31; Kreidler, 2004: 1-4 & Ayeomoni, 2011:124). This is exactly the case with the English language used in Nigeria which is distinct from the varieties used in other parts of the world.
According to Jowitt (1991:27), the form of English found in Nigeria has a lot of varieties which could be aptly named ‘Nigerian English’. The consensus among scholars such as Brosnaham (1958), Bamgbose (1971), Odumuh (1984), Akinjobi (2002), Igboanusi (2002), Adegbija (2004), Ojo and Atolagbe (2004), Udofot (2004), Bamisaye (2006), Ayeomoni (2011) and many more is that Nigerian English is a reality.
Nigerian English also has ‘geo-tribal’ varieties such as Yoruba English, Igbo English, Hausa English, etc. This is because the form of English used by one ethnic group is different from that used by the other. Each of these groups has sub-groups whose forms of English also vary.
For instance, Yoruba has sub-groups such as Ikale, Ondo, Ijesa, Egba, Ekiti, Owo, Akure, Akoko, Ife, Igbomina, Egun, Ilorin, Oyo, Ibadan and so on. The label ‘Nigerian English’ is not a single entity; it varies according to the languages and dialects of the speakers (Soneye, 2008:402). This then suggests that the forms of English used by these sub-groups are not unvarying, and the variation is usually more predominant in the phonological aspect than in other aspects of the English language.
A Phonological Description of the Spoken English Forms of Educated Ikale and Ibadan Speakers of Nigerian English
Using educational parameter, Brosnaham (1958) and Banjo (1971) identify four varieties of Nigerian English, which they label as varieties I-IV. Brosnaham’s variety I is the variety spoken by those without any formal education, variety II is spoken by those with only primary education, III by those who have completed secondary education, while variety IV is spoken by university graduates.
In Banjo’s classification, variety I is spoken by semi-literate people and those with primary education; it is claimed that this variety is highly influenced by the phonological system of the mother tongue. Variety II is spoken by secondary school leavers who do not show much influence of the sound system of the mother tongue, but who do not make phonemic distinctions.
Variety III corresponds to the one used by university graduates, making phonemic distinctions and enjoying national and international acceptance and intelligibility. Then variety IV is similar to Standard British English, which is internationally acceptable but nationally unacceptable because it sounds affected.
However, Udofot (2004:109) classifies the varieties of the English language spoken in Nigeria into three. Her variety I is spoken by primary school leavers, some secondary school leavers, some second year undergraduates, holders of OND and NCE certificate and primary school teachers.
This variety, according to her, is characterised by a lack of phonemic distinctions, tendency to accent almost every syllable and preference for the falling tune. She sees this variety as a non-standard variety owing to its weaknesses.
Her variety II is spoken by third and final year university undergraduates, university graduates, university and college lecturers, secondary school teachers of English, holders of HND, and other professionals. She accepts this as a standard variety possibly because of the speaker’s ability to make phonemic distinctions, their ability to make fluent speeches and their preference for both the falling tune and rising tune. She, however, claims that this variety is fraught with many stressed syllables.
She recommends this variety as the standard for Nigerian English because it is the variety spoken by most educated Nigerians. Her variety III is spoken by lecturers in English and Linguistics, graduates of English and the Humanities and those who had lived in places like America and England for a long time, or who were born and bred there. This variety, according to her, is a sophisticated variety.
From a geo-tribal angle, Jowitt (1991:38) identifies varieties of Nigerian English using the three major Nigerian languages. However, there are as many varieties and sub-varieties of Nigerian English as there are languages and dialects in Nigeria. Each variety is named on the basis of the linguistic group in which it is found.
1.2 Statement of the Research Problem
Many researchers have focused their attention mainly on the phonological description of the varieties of Nigerian English spoken by the three major ethnic groups such as Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo, which have resulted in Yoruba English, Hausa English and Igbo English respectively.
However, as Jowitt (1991:71) comments, there is little available information on the spoken English of Nigeria’s smaller ethnic groups. This shows that only very few researchers have taken into account the forms of English spoken by Nigeria’s smaller groups and sub-groups. Scholarly works on Nigerian English from the perspectives of the three major Nigerian indigenous languages abound, with little attention paid to the spoken English of Nigeria’s dialectal groups.
The phonological features of the spoken English of Nigeria’s dialectal groups are either just glossed over or not mentioned at all. The variety of Nigerian English termed Yoruba English has been sufficiently identified by scholars such as (Jowitt, 1991; Akinjobi, 2005; Soneye, 2008) and a host of others.
But then, at the dialectal level, there are bound to be varieties of Yoruba English. In other words, just as Nigerian English has variations, Yoruba English also tends to have dialectal variations which have not received sufficient mention in literature. This paucity of information about the spoken English of each dialectal group of the Yoruba tribe was the springboard for this study.
The forms of English spoken by educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English are two of those sub-varieties of Nigerian English that have either been trivialised or completely ignored.
There is a need to single out the features of the spoken English of speakers of the dialects of each Nigerian indigenous language for a phonological analysis, showing how they too have contributed to the evolution of Nigerian English features since the standard varieties per se are not the sole contributors. Therefore, a phonological description of the spoken English forms of educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English has been attempted in this study.
1.3 Aim and Objectives
This study investigated the forms of English spoken by educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English in order to single them out for a phonological analysis and propose a dialectal approach to the study of Nigerian English. To this end, an attempt was made to;
Find out if educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English mispronounce speech sounds such as /p/, /θ/, /ð/, /ʧ/, /ʃ/, /v/, /z/, /i:/, /a:/, /ᴐ:/, /ʌ/, /ə/, /ᴣ:/ and certain diphthongs.
Find out if educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English realise /r/ in every word in which it is orthographically represented.
Find out if educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English use the linking /r/ in their English utterances.
Find out whether educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English simplify consonant clusters in their English utterances.
Find out if educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English elide /w/ from consonant clusters.
Find out whether the spoken English forms of educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English are characterised by spelling pronunciation.
Find out if educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English apply the main stress on words correctly.
1.4 Research Questions
This research was guided by the following research questions;
Do educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English mispronounce sounds such as /p/, /θ/, /ð/, /ʧ/, /ʃ/, /v/, /z/,/i:/, /a:/, /ᴐ:/, /ʌ/, /ə/, /ᴣ:/ and certain diphthongs?
Do educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English realise /r/ in every word in which it is orthographically represented?
Do educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English use the linking /r/ in their English utterances?
Do educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English simplify consonant clusters in their English utterances?
Do educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English elide /w/ from consonant clusters?
Are the spoken English forms of educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English characterised by spelling pronunciation?
Do educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English apply the main stress on words correctly?
1.5 Research Design
A quantitative method was employed in carrying out the research. The responses of the subjects were transcribed, and statistically analysed.
1.6 Research Methods
1.6.1 Data Collection Procedure
Fifty subjects from each of Ikale and Ibadan were used to collect data for the research. The subjects, who were graduates and undergraduates, were made to read a prepared text containing the features being tested into a voice recorder. That their voices were being recorded was not hidden from them.
However, the items being investigated were not disclosed to them. The text was prepared in such a way that the subjects could not realise the particular language items being tested; items not relevant to the study were also included in the text used in order to hide the items being tested from the subjects.
This was done with a view to gaining access to their natural way of speaking the English language. Their responses were transcribed and statistically analysed.
1.6.2 Method of Data Analysis
The data collected was statistically analysed based on the features perceived to be realised by the subjects. The frequency of occurrence of the features which approximated to Standard English and frequency of their non-occurrence were noted. Percentages of these were taken, and the features with the highest percentage were regarded as the usual features of the spoken English of educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English.
1.7 Scope of the Study
The study made use of two dialectal groups of Yoruba. Fifty subjects from each of Ikale and Ibadan were used to gather data for the research. Moreover, the subjects used were graduates and undergraduates from various universities and colleges in Nigeria. This study accommodated only segmental features of phonology and one supra-segmental feature- stress.
1.8 Limitation to the Study
Only two dialectal groups were studied for this research. These were educated Ikale and Ibadan people. The other Yoruba dialectal groups were not considered in this research because of the time and complexity that would be involved in studying all of them at a time.
Moreover, the attention of this study was focused only on the segmental features of phonology and one supra-segmental feature-stress. Other supra-segmental features were not studied.
1.9 Significance of the Study
Yoruba English has been sufficiently recognised as a variety of Nigerian English. Only the standard variety of this language has been used to describe this brand of Nigerian English. However, the spoken forms of the English of most of the dialectal groups of Yoruba have not gained the recognition they really deserve.
The recognition given to the spoken English forms of educated Ikale and Ibadan speakers of Nigerian English in this work is significant; the study has the potential to fire the interest of scholars to begin to study the phonology of Nigerian English from a dialectal perspective.
Moreover, the findings of this investigation could help to identify areas that pose a challenge to learners from these tribes. Teachers of phonology can concentrate the greater part of their attention on these areas when dealing with learners from these areas.