1.0General Background

This research work focuses on the phonology of Adim language spoken in Akankpa Local Government Area of Cross-river State, Nigeria. Adim lies in the Northern part of the forest belt of Southern Nigeria. Adim shares boundary with Ugep in the North and Idomi in the east, both in Yakkur Local Government Area.

       Adim is the official name of the language and the native speakers also call themselves Adim. Another name for Adim language is Orun or Arun. Adim speakers are widely spread across the other areas with Cross-river State of Nigeria such as Calabar, Ekoni, Yakhur and Idomi. In this chapter will be focusing on the historical background,socio-cultural profile, scope and organization of the study, theoretical framework and the genetic classification of Adim language.

1.1               Historical Background

According to oral tradition as related by my informants, the Adim people migrated from a village called Edem Omere Akapa as a result of war and threat from the neighboring  village. The first place the Adim people settled after migrating from Edem Omere Akapa was Idomi, an area confronted with hills, some left while others stayed back. The second place they settled after Idomi was Ugep, some spread to Adim while some were found in Ekoni. All of these places are in the present Cross-river State.

       The Adim people were together until the advent of the British Colonial masters who came to introduce them to western education that then opened the gate for civilization. The Adim people share many things in common with some other tribes around them, such as the Yakkur, Abi, Idómi, and Ekoni. 

1.2               Socio-cultural profile

        According to Yule (1975:239), “Sociolinguistics is the interrelationship between language and society”. It studies how society influences the use of language.In his own definition, Olaoye (2002:98) states that, “Sociolinguistics deals with the study various social, political, cultural, and linguistic situationwithin a given speech community that gives how language choice and use reveal the values, cultural beliefs and practices of the community”. This shows that cultural beliefs, ways of life etc. cannot be separated from language. In other words, language and culture are inseparable.

Most Adim people including the younger generation are bilingual, using Adim locally and Efik regionally. Efik is the medium of instruction in schools, especially Primary schools, while English is learnt as a second language. The older like the younger generations are fluent in Efik. Through western education, the younger generation holds position in the administrative and public service, which in turn make them tri-lingual, using Adim, Efik and English languages. While we may refer to the younger generation as being tri-lingual we will refer to the older generation as being bilingual, we can hardly find someone who is monolingual among Adim speakers; they all communicate in at least two languages. Adim is basically used as a means of communication.

1.2.1    Dressing

       The Adim people have different outfits for different special occasion. They have traditional attires that are very rich, but with the advent of modernization, they also put on modern clothes.

       In the primitive age, men used animal skin to cover their private parts, while women used leaves and animal skin to cover their private parts. They used leaves to cover their private parts in front. Uniquely, they always make signs on the animal skin in order to attract young men.

1.2.2    Religion

       Initially the Adim native speakers were idol worshippers before the arrival of white missionaries, who introduced Christianity to the Adim people. One of the gods they worshipped is called Obolose which means “god of the land”. The first church in Adim was built in the early 70’s as a PresbyterianChurch after which other churches such as Catholics, Assembly of God were built. In the mid 80’s Islamic religion was introduced. Presently(90%) of them are Christians while the remaining (10%) are either Muslim or Idol worshippers.

1.2.3    Occupation

        The occupation of the Adim people includes farming, hunting, gold-smiting e.g palm oil production, garri making, and production of groundnut. However, their major occupation is farming.

1.2.4    Festival

        Since majority of the speakers are Christians and Muslims, their festivals also go in line with the various religions they belong.Traditional festivals are gradually fading out while some had gone into extinction. There are two major types of festivals celebrated by the Adim people namely; Iwon-erok “Yam festival” and they also celebrate masquerade festival.Ètàngata and loboare the names of the few masquerades they have in Adim village.

1.2.5    Marriage

In Adim tradition, a keg of palm wine is the only item taken along when going to ask for a girl’s hand in marriage. After the decision has been made, the groom goes to pay bride price and takes along some other things such as kola nut, palm oil, yam and garri which will be given to the bride’s parent.

        Before the wedding ceremony takes place, the bride would be kept in the fattening room where she will be fed with all kinds food to make her look more beautiful and attractive to her husband on the wedding day and also to make her ready for the challenges in her matrimonial home.

        Polygamy is allowed in Adim village, but their major practice is monogamy.

1.2.6    Administration

        Traditionally, the leader is “Obolopon”. He has absolute authority over the people and he is unquestionable. He controls the administrative aspect of the community and settles disputes. The council of eldersis called kèpol. “Ókpéibìlì” is the name of the high priest in Adim village. The secret societies that guide against external attack in Adim village are Abu secret society, Okuwa secret society and Egup secret society.

1.3   Scope and Organization of the study

 This long essay aims at studying aspects of Adim phonology. The sound inventory of the language, the phonological process and tonal patterns attested in language. This research work is divided into five(5) chapters.

Chapter one provides general information on the language and its speakers. Also, the chapter contains the socio-cultural profile of the people and the genetic classification of the language under study. A brief discussion of the theoretical frame work used in the work as well the methodology adopted for data collection and analysis is included in this chapter.

      Chapter two discusses the sound system of the language as well as the tonal and syllable structures. In chapter three, our attention and focus was on the tonal processes attested in the Adim language with their distributional patterns. In chapter four we discussed the phonological processes.

      Chapter five summarizes and concludes the work: We also give some recommendation and observation.

1.4       Theoretical framework

The theoretical frame work used for this research is Generative Phonology as propounded and explicated in Chomsky and Halle (1968).

      According to Chomsky and Halle (1968:5), “Generative phonology views speech as sequences of discrete segments which are complexes of a particular set of phonetic features and the simultaneous and sequential combination of these features and constraints”.

      Generative phonology is apart of the linguistics theory which is called “Transformational Generative Grammar(TG)” formulated by Chomsky (1957) to address the inadequacies observed in classical (Taxonomic)theory of phonological description (Fisher Jorgenson (1976:174). Generative phonology gives the rule of generative phonology to express the relationship between sound and meaning. It is pertinent to point out that generative phonology accounts for some language phenomena like linguistic intuition, foreign accent, speech error and others.

      Hyman (1975:19) describes generative phonology as the description of how phonological rules can be converted into phonological representation and to capture the distinctive sound in contrast in a language.

      Lyons(1979:18) opines that, the rules and structures generated through generative phonology are “recursive”. Therefore, one can conclude that generative phonology explains the grammar that is structured by means of a finite number of recursive rules operating up on a finite vocabulary.

      Recursiveness, according to Saheed (2003:10), “is a situation whereby we have a repetitive embedding and coordination syntactic structure in languages”.

      According to Chomsky(1965:7-9) recursiveness is one of the very major achievements of generative grammar in which limited set of rules are used by the native speaker to create infinite number of sentences from a finite sentence through the rule called transformational rule.

1.5       Generative Phonology

Hyman (1915:80) says a phonological structure isan abstract phonemic representation which postulates the rules that are derived from various surface forms. It postulates the underlying forms at the systematic phonemic level from which such have systematic relationship termed “Linguistically Significant Generalization”. The structure is of three basic levels, these are, Underlying representation (PR).

1.5.1    Underlying Representation

According to Oyebade (1998:13) “underlying representation is the non-predictable, non-rule derived part of words”. It is a form with abstract representation existing in the linguistic competence of all utterances and it exists in the mental dictionary. At this level, items with variant meanings have identical representation. For instance, the different forms of negation prefix in English likeŋ-(ŋkɔrɛkt), im-(impossible), in-(intolerable), il-(illegal), ir-(irregular) have the same meaning, Oyebade (1998).

1.5.2    Phonetic Representation

Kantoszwich (1994:8) states that the phonetic level indicates “how the lexical items are to be realized in speech”. It is at the level after phonological rules have been applied to the underlying representation.

      According to Hyman (1975:19), “phonetic representation represents possible pronunciation of forms in the realization of speech and the surface level”. Generative phonology considers phonetics representation as a level that is some what trivial and not worth too much attention, except, perhaps, justification of the proposed underlying representation (Oyebade 1998:21).

1.5.3    Phonological Rules

These are directives which map underling forms unto the surface forms. They show the derivational sequence or path of an item in its journey from the underlying level to the phonetic level (Oyebade1998:15).

      As Hyman (1975:26) points out, they are derivational sequences of phonetic level. Phonological rules are predictablerules; examples of phonological rules are the rules that assimilate a nasal segment to the place of articulation of the following segments e.g

n → m  ─ b :[+ nas ] →    + ant                  +ant

­ cor ­ con

n → n t :[+ nas ]  →  + ant             +ant

­cor                              ­cor    

                  n→ n         g : [ + nas ] →  + ant +ant

 ­ cor                    ­cor

            These rules can be captured by one rule:-

 [± nas ] →    α ant α ant

β cor           β cor

1.6          Distinctive   Features

Distinctive features are “sets of [articulatory and acoustic] features  sufficient to define and distinguish one from the other, the great majority of speech sounds used in the languages of the world ”(Halle and Clement 1983:6). The theory of phonological features is concerned with the discovery of generalization about the phonological behavior of phonological segment, both in isolation, in sequence or as a member of a system. There are two major criteria that potential features must meet to be admitted as distinctive features, they are:

(i)    Phonetic Specific ability

(ii) Morphophonemic relevance (Oyebade, 1998:25)

The features are used in describing all linguistic phenomena occurring in languages. Some of the features are: labial, anterior, nasal and syllabic.

1.7          Data  Collection

The data for this research work was collected through the help of language helper (informant method). The 400 wordlist of basic items was used for this exercise. We also used the frame technique. This is a template that shows different structural position which a word can occur. This goes beyond looking at words in isolation. It was used to get relevant information that cannot be gotten by means of lexical items only. Thus, it helped in making illuminating significant generalization. The information concerning the informant in this research is given below:

NAME:Mr. Edet Usánì Éyòng

ADDRESS: Sam Ethan Air force Base, Ikeja, Lagos.

RELIGON: Christianity




AGE: 51 Years


1.8       Data   Analysis

With the view of capturing linguistically significant generation in the language, the analysis of the corpus will be carried out by transcribing the entire linguistic corpus collected accurately in order to discover the sounds that are attested in the language in addition to some other supra-segmental features in the language. This data will be organized to bring out all inventories of the distinctive phonemes and their features.

The classification of this data can be done through parts of speech, nouns, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, prepositions, pronouns, determiners and conjunctions found in Adim language.

 The distribution of the data is also determined alongside the syllable structure,tonal processes and also the phonological processes.

1.9   Genetic  Classification

. These similarities are either phonetically, phonologically, semantically or syntactically. The genetic classification of languages makes two things obvious; that language are indeed related to each other i.e they share the same ancestor and how these languages are interrelated are shown in the form of a branching diagram.

          Adim language is a Cross-river language which is a Benue-Congo language family under Niger-Congo language family.Genetic classification is the grouping of languages into families based on shared similarities in their features.


                Niger- Congo      Kordofanian

Mande     Gur    Kwa   Adamawa   Benue CongoWest Atlantic                                     

 BantuPlateau Benue CongoCross- River  Jokonous Benue Congo   

    Cross River    Delta CrossUpper CrossLower Cross

            έkónì          Yakkur         Idómì           Adim

Source:    Greenberg (1970:306) and Kenneth Katzner (1995: 7)

Fig 1.0




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