Phonology of Igbo Morpho-syntactic Clitics

Boniface Mbah, Evelyn Mbah, Modesta Iloene


This paper examines the morphosyntactic clitics in the Igbo language. It studies the phonological features that characterise them. It describes their phonological shape, types, environments, patterning, attitude towards vowel harmony, and tonal features. Data were collected through observation and introspection. The research design is purely descriptive. The paper finds out that the majority of the clitics possess a consonant and a vowel (CV) syllable structure, which may be found in clusters, the order being dependent on the desired meaning the speaker wants to achieve. The clitics are grouped into two according to whether or not they obey the vowel harmony rule (VHR). One group obeys VHR while the other group violates it. Using the tonal criterion, the Igbo clitics are classified into three: host dependent, specific and the obligatory contour principle (OCP) compliant clitics. The host dependent clitics copy the preceding tone of a tone bearing unit (TBU). Tone specific clitics maintain their peculiar individual tone pattern wherever they are found. On the other hand, OCP compliant clitics bear different tone patterns from their preceding TBU. These phonological elements combine to make this study worthwhile.

Keywords: clitic, syllable structure, clitic cluster, vowel harmony, tone.

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ISSN (Paper)2224-5766 ISSN (Online)2225-0484

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