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2018 | 99 | 15-33
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Vowel Harmony in Úwù

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Úwù is one of the many endangered languages in Nigeria {(Abiodun (2004, 2007); Choon (2012)}. The language is spoken by an estimated population of about 3000 people in a small community known as Àyèré in Ìjùmú Local Government Area (LGA) of Kogi State, Crozier and Blench (1992). There is an ongoing controversy over the status of the language as to whether it is a dialect of Yorùbá or a distinct language. This is due to the lexical and structural similarities between the two linguistic codes. This paper describes the vowel harmony system of Úwù with a view to showing its level of relatedness to Yoruba, and by implication documents this aspect of the language for posterity. Harmonic constraint in Úwù is based on tongue root positions where ATR mid-vowels do not interact with RTR mid-vowels in a phonological word. Harmonic principle in Úwù is most reflected in words of VCV and CVCV structures. The analysis of selected data is premised on the Autosegmental Theory of Phonology {see (Hulst and Smith 1985); (Goldsmith 1990)}. The study reveals that Úwù operates a seven vowel system that manifests a partial harmony system, comprising of seven oral and five nasal vowels. Apart from this, the language operates a root-controlled assimilation process, and the direction of harmonic spread in Úwù is leftward, since affixes in Úwù are mainly prefixes. Although, there are few instances that suggest that neutral vowels are both opaque and transparent in Úwù, the paper concludes that neutral vowels are actually opaque in the language.
Physical description
  • Department of Linguistics & Nigerian Languages, Ekiti State University, Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria
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