BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
This research is a comparative study of Enuani dialect of Igbo and the Igbo language spoken in Imo State by Nkwerre people with the view of capturing the possible similarities and differences found in the sound system of Enuani dialect of Igbo and the Nkwerre dialect of Igbo.
According to Ikekeonwu (1987), there are about 20 Igbo dialects and these dialects include Enuani, Nkwerre, Ngwa, Orlu, Mbaise and so on. The project work focuses on the phonetics and phonology of the Enuani and Nkwerre dialects of Igbo. A comparative study of this nature sets out to identify similarities or differences in the sound systems of these dialects with the aim of determining the relationship between them.
1.1 The Igbo Language and People
Nkamigbo (2010) claims that the Igbo people occupy what is politically known as the South-Eastern part of Nigeria. The Igbo language is spoken in the core Igbo States – Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo – as well as some parts of Bayelsa, Delta and Rivers States all in the Southern region of Nigeria. “It is a recognized language in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, United States in the West and West Central Africa.
According to Austin Peter (2008), one thousand languages: living, endangered, and lost page 68; he said that the Igbo language has about “eighteen to twenty-five million speakers”.
Igbo is a native language of the Igbo people, an ethnic group primarily located in South-eastern Nigeria. There are about eighteen (18) to twenty-five (25) million speakers or rather approximately 20 million speakers that are mostly in Nigeria and are primarily of Igbo descent. Igbo is a national language of Nigeria and it is written in Latin script, which was introduced by British colonialists. There are over twenty (20) Igbo dialects. There is apparently a degree of dialect levelling occurring.
Before the 16th century, the Igbo had an ideogram form of writing called “Nsibidi ideograms” (“Nsibidi” is an ancient system of graphic communication indigenous to the “Ejagham people of South-eastern Nigeria and South-western Cameroon in the Cross River region”). This form of writing was also used by other neighbouring people like the Ibibios and the Efik. The form of writing was invented by the Ekoi people for written communication. This form died out most likely due to the fact that many of its users were members of secret societies such as Ekpe, who then made “Nsibidi” a secret form of communication and did not want to publicly discuss it.
(“Nsibidi”: National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution and Oraka (1983), the foundations of Igbo Studies, pp. 17, 13).
The first book to publish Igbo words was Geschichte der Mission der Evangelischen Bruder auf den Carabischen (German: History of the Evangelistic Mission of the Brothers in the Caribbean), published in 1777. Shortly afterwards, in 1789, the interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave, featuring 79 Igbo words. The narrative also illustrated various aspects of Igbo life in detail, based on Olauah Equiano’s experiences in his hometown in Essaka (Oraka, 1983:21; Equiano & Olaudah, 1789: 9).
In 1854, a German philologist named Karl Richard Lepsius made a “Standard Alphabet” meant for all languages of the world. In 1882, Britain enacted an educational ordinance to direct the teaching of reading and writing only in English. This temporarily inhibited the development of Igbo, along with other languags of West Africa and this was after the Igbo culture had been comprised by British imperialism in 1807, after slavery was abolished. ‘Central Igbo’, the dialect form gaining widest acceptance, is based on the dialect, of two members of the Ezinihitte group of Igbo in Central Owerri Province between the towns of Owerri and Umuahia, Eastern Nigeria. From its proposal as a literary form in 1939 by Dr. Ida C. Ward, it was gradually accepted by missionaries, writers, and publishers across the region. In 1972, the society for Promoting Igbo Language and Culture (SPILC, a nationalist organization which saw central Igbo as an imperialist exercise, set up a standardization committee to extend central Igbo to be a more inclusive language. Standard Igbo aims to cross-pollinate central Igbo with words from Igbo dialects from outside the “Central” areas, and with the adoption of loan words.
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