Aspects Of The Phonology Of Kofyar Language

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à      Arrow notation ‘becomes’

/         Environment

____  Place of occurrence

[ ]       Surface/Phonetic Representation

~        Tilde [nasalization symbol]

Æ      Empty/Null Element

+       Morpheme boundary

[/]       High tone

[-]       Mid tone

[\]       Low tone

V       Rising [contour] tone

Ù       Falling [contour] tone


Genetic Classification Tree

Oral Vowel Chart

Nasal Vowel Chart

Vowel Distinctive Features Matrix

Phonetic Consonant Chart

Consonant Distinctive Features Matrix


List of  Symbols Used

List of Charts/Tables and Diagrams

Table of Contents

CHAPTER ONE: GENERAL INTRDOUCTION                                 

1.0     Introduction

1.1     Historical Background of the Kofyar of People

1.1.1 Colonial History

1.2     Socio-Cultural Profile

1.2.1  Religion

1.2.2 Occupation

1.2.3 Cultural Festivals

1.2.4 Food Items

1.2.5 Tourist Attraction

1.3     Socio-Linguistics Profile

1.4     Genetic Classification of Kofyar Language

1.5     Statement of Research Problems

1.6     Aims and Objective of Study

1.7     Scope and Organization of Study

1.8     Data Collection

1.9     Data Analysis

1.10   Theoretical Framework

1.10.2 The Structure of Generative Phonology Phonetic Representation Underlying Representation Phonological Rules


2.0     Introduction

2.1     Phonology

2.1.1 Phonology and Phonetics

2.2     Phonemes and Allophones

2.2.1 The Phoneme and its Realities Phoneme as a Phonetic Reality Phoneme as a Phonological Reality Phonemes as a Psychological Reality

2.3     Principles of Phoneme Identification

2.3.1 Principle of Minimal Pair

2.3.2 Principle of Complementary Distribution

2.3.3 Principles of Analogous Environment

2.3.4  Principle of Free Variation

2.5     Phonological Processes

2.5.1 Assimilation

2.5.2 Deletion

2.5.3 Insertion (Epenthesis)

2.5.4 Metathesis

2.5.5 Nasalization

2.5.6 Coalescence

2.5.7 Vowel Harmony Partial or Incomplete Vowel Harmony

2.6     Tone

2.7     Syllable Structure


3.0     Introduction

3.1     Vowel System of Kofyar Language

3.1.1 The Oral and Nasal Vowel Chart in Kofyar Language

3.1.2 Distribution of Vowels in Kofyar Language The Distribution of Oral Vowels in Kofyar Language Distribution of Nasal Vowels in Kofyar

3.2     Phonetic Distinctive Feature Matrix

3.2.1 Distinctive Feature Matrix for Kofyar Vowels

3.2.2 Justification for the Distinctive Features Used for Vowels in

Kofyar Language

3.2.3 Segment Structure Constraints for Kofyar Vowels

3.3     Consonant Sounds in Kofyar Language

3.3.1 Phonetic Consonants Chart of Kofyar Language

3.3.2 Distribution of Consonants in Kofyar

3.4     Distinctive Features Matrix of Kofyar Consonants

3.4.1  Justification for the Features Used

3.4.2 Segment Redundancy of Kofyar Sounds

3.5     Tones in Kofyar Language

3.5.1  Functions of Tone in Kofyar

3.6     The Syllable Structure of Kofyar

3.6.1  Closed Syllable in Kofyar Language

3.6.2  Open Syllable in Kofyar Language

3.6.3  Mono-Syllable Words

3.6.4  Di-Syllabic Words

3.6.5  Tri-Syllabic Words

3.6.6 Quadric Syllabic Words

3.7     Summary


4.0     Introduction

4.1     Phonological Processes in Kofyar

4.1.1 Assimilation Vowel-Vowel Assimilation Consonant Vowel Assimilation Labialization in Kofyar Palatalization in Kofyar

4.1.2  Nasalization in Kofyar

4.1.3 Vowel Harmony

4.1.4 Insertion

4.1.5 Deletion


5.0     Introduction

5.1     Summary

5.2     Recommendations

5.3     Conclusion




1.0 Introduction

This research work focuses on the phonology of Kofyar Language. Kofyar language is spoken in Plateau State of Nigeria. It is spoken in fairly sizeable area of Qua’an pan local government area of plateau state. In this chapter, we shall discuss the historical, socio-cultural profile, socio-linguistic profile and the genetic classification of the Kofyar Language. We shall also discuss the scope and organization of study, aims and objectives of study, the theoretical framework we intend to use, method of data collection and analysis.

1.1 Historical Background of the Kofyar of people.

Kofyar is Afro Asiatic and it is spoken in the Qua’an pan local government area of plateau state, Nigeria. The estimated population of the Kofyar speakers is about 109,943 (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, P.3). Kofyar is a good illustration of how colonial authorities become unwittingly enmeshed in local politics, in sustainable subsistence agricultural production in crowded areas; in successful self directed development of market oriented agriculture and the use of “traditional” cultural resources to prosper modern Nigeria.

The migration of a large group of people believed to be of the same stock has been ascribed to oral tradition as taking its root from the North East at or around Kanem Borno. Dafyar, from whom the Kofyar and other groups owe their descent is said to have procreated with his sister Nade as they were the only survivors of a cataclysm  they viewed as the collapse of the sky attended by fire and brimstone. It is believed that all mankind perished due to sins committed which attracted the wrath of God. Dafyar and Nade migrated for years and latter hide themselves in a cave on a promontory called chor in Kofubum near present day Kofyar. A casual study shows that one of the may chains of volcanoes in the area of Kanem Borno may have activated, causing the cataclysm the viewed as the sky collapsing with fire and brimstone.

The offspring’s of Dafyar had fanned out into many other sub –groups and sojourned or inter married thereby producing a much wider cultural mix. The colonial expedition visit on Latok following the demise of Her Majesty’s Administration officer Mr. Christopher Matthew Barlow in the early 1930s sent many descendants of Dafyar away from home into communities thereby further widening the cultural mix within the sub region and there about.

   1.1.1Colonial History

The population known as the Kofyar actually comprises three different “tribes” as designated by British colonial officers; the Doemak [or Dimmuk] , Kwalla’s and Mernyang. However, the three groups have a common language, economic pattern and origin myth. In the 1940s, they came together in a union called the “Koffyer Federation”. Anthropologists, see them as a single group or groups.

When first encountered by early British colonial authorities, they lived in the rugged hills in the south eastern corner of the Jos Plateau and in settlements around the Plateau base. Their subjugation by the British was largely non-violent until 1930, when a young Assistant District officer named Barlow was killed in the hill village of Latok by a rock thrown at his head. After this the residents of Latok and neighboring villages were forced out of the hills and made to live on the plains below for nine years. In an award winning study, anthropologist Robert Netting explained how Barlow had been unknowingly used in a local political dispute.

1.2    Socio Cultural profile

1.2.1   Religion:

Majority of the Kofyar speaker are Christians, with few Islamic and Traditional followers. Christianity which is the predominant religion of the Kofyar people, in which about 50% of the population are Christians, and mostly Catholic, reason being that, the catholic missionaries were the first to pay a visit to the Kofyar area with the aim of Christianizing the people in the early 20th century. 30% are traditional worshippers while 20% are Muslims of Ahamadiya. The existence of Islam among the people was as a result of uthman dan fodio’s jihad crusade.

1.2.2   Occupation

Except for the educated Kofyars, who occupy various positions in administration, politics and the educational sector or academic intellectuals employed in multi –national companies and the likes, most Kofyars are farmers and local hunters. You can hardly look around without seeing millet, guinea corn plants, yam and cassava which are their main plants in the land.

1.2.3 Cultural festivals:

The Kofyar people observe two major festivals the shikaam and Kwa Kwa festival. The annual festival which is traditionally called “SHIKAAM” festival comprises all the speakers of Kofyar home and abroad, far and near, present at the ceremony. These festivals are done once in a year, usually in the first quarter of the year. During this occasion, a lot of activities are usually lined up. The entire Kofyar people as well as their supporters and neighbors participate in the activities lined up. Such activities include “Sual” a social dance which men engage in which the women dance around them chanting songs along. “Koem” a social dance with its music derived from dry corn stalks and a lot more activities. The second festival which is traditionally called the “KWA KWA” festival is observed by districts and each district has its peculiar way of observing its festival ceremony. Also a lot of activities are usually show cased for the entertainment of the audience that grace the occasion.

1.2.4    Food Items:

The Kofyar people have several forms of food oils other than those derived from animal fats. They are muorbang [palm oil] , muorkom [groundnut oil] , muorpaat [oil from pie] , muorteem [oil from mahogany] , muorlem [oil from benni seed] , muorseer [melon oil] and several others.

1.2.5    Tourist Attraction

Kofyar federation can be said to be a tourism centre because people from different part of the country come to kofyar to look at the rugged hills and a lot of ancient things of interest.

1.3    Socio linguistics profile:

The Kofyar speakers, also known as Kofyar people are speakers of a very unique and dynamic indigenous Nigerian Language in the North Central of Plateau State with the slogan “Home of peace and tourism”. Kofyar speakers are known by those in the neighboring communities around Doemak, Kwalla and Mernyang as Kofyar speakers even officially.

Kofyar are mostly bi -lingual, using Kofyar Language as their native language and Hausa Language as their target language. Hausa language is usually use as a means of communication when trading with other towns, in short, Hausa language is the language use in commerce. Kofyar language is use in the kindergarten, pre- nursery, nursery and primary section along with Hausa language. While, Hausa and English language is used at the secondary level. Kofyar language is use for religious purpose and as a means of communication in homes and public places. The older generations are not as fluent in English language as the younger ones, who through western education are able to speak it well than the older generations.

The Kofyar people live in the rugged hills in the South eastern corner of the Jos Plateau, and in settlements around the plateau base. Kofyar actually means “the settlement is big”. Although, most Kofyars now live in the Benue Valley [or in cities] the Jos Plateau homeland is still inhabited largely because of the Kofyars efforts to maintain it as a cultural and economic resources. Many Kofyar who live elsewhere still keep secondary homes in the homeland.

1.5   Statement of Research Problems

The focus of this research work is to identify the phonemes and phonological processes in Kofyar Language. This study will discuss the various phonological rules that may be attested in Kofyar language and attempt a significant generalization of such rule

  1.6   Aims and Objective of Study

The following are the aims and objectives of the study:

  1. Through the use of the principles of phonemic identification
  2. To critically examine the phonological processes such as: assimilation, dissimilation, insertion, deletion, nasalization, metatheses among others.
  • To show evidence of relationship between the phonological form through phonological rules.
  1. To show a detailed study of supra segmental features such as: tone and syllable structure in Kofyar.

1.7     Scope and organization of study                            

This research work shall extensively discuss the phonology of Kofyar language. First, the phonemic and the phonetic sounds of the language shall be unveiled. It will examine the phonological processes attested in Kofyar language. Thus, the analysis and the exemplification of the sound system of Kofyar language will form the focus of this research work. Chapter one will take a cursory look at the general background of the study, the historical background, socio cultural profile: religion, occupation, cultural festival, food items and tourist attraction. We shall also examine the socio linguistic profile, genetic classification, statement of research problem, method of data collection and analysis, aims and objective of the study of Kofyar language. It shall also include a review of the chosen theoretical framework   [generative phonology] .

The subsequent chapter two will focus on the basic phonological concept. Definitions of phonology, concept of phoneme and allophone, phonemic identification etc.

Chapter three shall look at the sound inventory of Kofyar language [the consonants and vowels] alongside their distribution. A diagrammatic chart showing the phonetic position of these sounds shall also be schematized. The distinctive features and the binary principles shall also be looked at, alongside the tones and syllable patterns of Kofyar language.

Chapter four shall attempt a phonological processes attested in the language with the phonologically significant generalizations that are pertinent to Kofyar language.

Chapter five shall house the summary and the concluding part of the research work, after making recommendations based on our findings.

1.8    Data collection

The technique employed in collecting data for this research work is direct data elicitation. The direct data for this research were collected with the assistance of language informants through the use of the” Ibadan 400 word list of basic items”. The information concerning the informants used for this research work is given below:

Informant 1

Name: Mrs. Regina Poechigoer Kwapnoe

Age: 52years

Language Spoken: Hausa, English, Kwallak, Gamai& Doemak.

Years spent in Kofyar: 20 years

Religion: Christianity

Occupation: Teaching [Head Mistress]

Marital status: Married

Informant 2:

Name: Mohammed Suleiman Dani

Age: 49years

Language spoken: Arabic and Hausa

Years spent in Kofyar: 49 years.

Religion: Islam

Occupation: Farming

Marital status: Married

1.9   Data Analysis

The analysis of the data will be carried out by first transcribing all the linguistic data collected in order to discover the sounds that are attested in the language and how they are distributed. By this, we shall be able to establish orthography for the language. The data will then be described using the generative phonology theory.

1.10 Theoretical framework

1.10.1  The theoretical framework will be the generative phonology as in Chomsky and Halle’s[1968] publication of the sound pattern of English[SPE] , phonemes are represented as underlying representation that consist of underlying units each defined by a distinctive feature matrix. In the SPE model, there are phonological rules that apply to URS and then convert these into one or more surface phonetic forms. Generative phonology is intended by phonemicistss, to stand part of the wider theory of language, and phonological description as part of grammar. Grammar encompasses the word well – formedness of the sentence of a language; syntactic and semantic components. It is made up of two levels: the phonemic and phonetic levels, and in between these two levels, we have what we call phonological rules.

The goal of generative phonology is to express the link between sound and meaning [Chomsky: 1965] , it gives the rule of how the mind perceives sounds, and how those sounds are produced with the interpretation of utterances. Generative phonology accounts for linguistics intuition, foreign accent, speech error and language acquisition among others.

In 1959, Chomsky and Halle worked on generative phonology with the knowledge of the sequential constraints, which are responsible, for the fact that speakers of a language have a sense of sounds in their native language.

Generative phonology, sees grammar as consisting of a set of infinite rules which operates upon a finite vocabulary, and capable of generating an infinite set of grammatical constructions [sentences] . Hyman [1975:19] states that” generative phonology is the description of how phonological rules can be converted into phonological rules can be converted into phonological representation and the capturing of the distinctive sounds in contrast in a language.

Discrete segments which are complete set of phonetic features by a distinctive feature matrix. The basic goal of generative phonology is to express the link between sound and meaning Chomsky [1965] . This theory of language is interested in exploring the linguistic knowledge of a speaker, which Chomsky refers to as the competence.

1.10.2     The structure of Generative phonology

Oostendrop [2005:89] defines phonological structure as a” score of individual instruments, roughly corresponding to the articulatory organs, which plays alongside the same beat”. In postulating underlying forms at the systematic level from  which surface alternates are derived, the tacit knowledge that speakers have of general or systematic relationships, termed linguistically significant phonological structure is relevant according to Oyebade [1998:12] , Generative phonology assumes three very crucial components: the underlying representation, the phonetic representation and the rules which link the two together. The three components are discussed below:      Phonetic Representation

Kentowicz [1994:8] , cited in Oyebade [1998:21] , says that phonetic representation indicate how lexical item is to be realized in speech. It is characterized by a degree of narrowness such that at the very least, any two sounds that distinguished in any human sound are differently represented sommerstein [1977:115] . It is the surface level, identical with what is perceived aurally, since it chacterizes…”all the set of instructions issued by the central nervous system to the articulatory apparatus” sommerstein [1977:115] . As further explained by him, the phonetic representation preserves every feature of every segment, even at the risk of entertaining redundancies.

According to Oyebade [1998:21] , Generative Phonology seems to consider the level as being somewhat trivial and ”not worth too much attention… except, perhaps as a source of verification and justification of the proposed underlying Representation”.   Underlying Representation

Sommerstein [1977:115] says that this is assumed to be an abstract representation existing in the linguistic competence of the native speaker. At this level, items with invariant meaning have identical representation. It is the form which is always seen at the surface realizations. Oyebade [1998:13] , explain that the underlying representation accounts for so much; first, it accounts for why native speakers consider the prefix [im] possible, [in] tolerable and [iȠ] complete to be the same even though, at the surface, the form of the prefix differs from one utterance to the other. At the underlying level, the form of the prefix is invariant. Secondly, he explained, the assumption of an underlying level where there is no one to correspondence between form and meaning and which is exactly the same from one competence speaker to another, explains the puzzling reaction in children. Since the child shares the same competence [and therefore the same underlying representation] as the adult, it is logical to assume that the child will expect the same output as the adult will. Thirdly, he explain further that the assumption of an underlying representation account for the rapid processing of defective input. But interlocutors have a shared competence which is accurate and invariant; the decoder participant thus has a protype with which he can restructure the defective utterance of the decoder. The underlying representation has the property of being encoded in distinctive features. The assumption is motivated by that language seems to target these features in making its choices rather than segments.   Phonological Rules

Oyebade [1998:15] defines phonological rules as directives which maps underlying forms on the surface forms. They show the derivational sequence or path of an item on its journey from the underlying level to the phonetic level. Phonological rules have to precise in a scientific account of linguistics phenomena. It was therefore suggested that rules should have a format:

A             B⁄C              D [Oyebade, 1998:18] .

Oyebade [1998:18] interpreted this as follows: “the focus [A] to the left of the arrow defines the input to the alternation, the matrix [B] to the  right of the arrow which indicates the feature changes introduced by the rule, the structural change [SC] : the slant “\”is read  in context of”. The accompanying environmental dash [also called the underscore] “─” locates the focus relative to the conditioning context [Kentowicz 1994:21] as cited in Oyebade [1998:17] .

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