• Chibunma Amara Bright-Ajoku
  • Franca Okumo
Keywords: Ukwuani, Igbo, Igboid, high tone, low tone, falling contour, peculiarities.


This paper compares the tones of Igbo and Ukwuani (Igboid languages) with a view to highlighting the peculiarities and differences between them. Using a descriptive approach,  we drew data from competent native speaker collaborators using SIL Africa Area Word List, alongside some structured sentences. We found out that both Igbo and Ukwuani employ the use of tones for lexical and grammatical functions. While Igbo has two level distinctive tones comprising a high and low tone and a grammatical downstep, Ukwuani has three distinctive tones consisting of a high, low and falling contour. After a low tone in Igbo, a two way distinction exists; which are Low-Low and Low- High  and after a high tone, there is a three way distribution: High-High, High-Low and High-Step. Whereas for Ukwuani, a three way contrast occurs after a low tone as: Low-Low, Low-High and Low-Falling. After a high tone, a two way distribution occurs: High-High and High-Falling. For tone classes of nouns, both Igbo and Ukwuani have high tone for monosyllabic nouns and five for disyllablic. In other words, while they both have the HH LH LL in common, the HL and HS are peculiar to Igbo while the HF and LF are peculiar to Ukwuani. For monosyllabic verbs, Igbo has high and low tone patterns while Ukwuani has high and rising tones. For the verbal derivatives, the simple verb stem takes a high or low tone, the infinitive and the noun derivative take a high tone prefix while the reduplicated verb stem in the gerund, has a low tone for low tone verbs and high tone for high tone verbs. Similarly, for Ukwuani, the simple verb stem takes the high or falling tone, the infinitive takes a high tone while the verb stem is a falling tone. The noun derivative takes a low tone prefix and a falling verb stem while the reduplicated verb stem in the gerund has a high tone for high and the rising verbs. This study contributes to the field of Igboid phonology with particular interest in showing the unique features of these two related languages. The study will serve as a reference material for further studies in Ukwuani and Igbo.   


Author Biographies

Chibunma Amara Bright-Ajoku

Alvan Ikoku Federal College of Education, Owerri, Imo State

Franca Okumo

Federal University Otuoke, Bayelsa State