Research Article

Tonal Adaptation Strategies in Èwùlù and Ùrhòbò Loanword Phonologies


  • Utulu, Don C. Department of Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State, Nigeria
  • Ajiboye, Emuobonuvie Department of Languages and Linguistics, Faculty of Arts, Delta State University, Abraka, Delta State, Nigeria
  • M. and Ajede, Chika K. Department of Linguistics and African Languages, Faculty of Arts, University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Nigeria


Studies on tonal adaptation strategies in English loanwords of the Nigerian languages (NLs): Yoruba (Y), Hausa (H), Bini (B) and Emai (E) commonly translate the prosodic structure of the loanwords into native prosodic configurations. Translation of pitch melody of borrowed words in the NLs tends to be determined by the position of English word stress. Comparative/typological studies that independently examine such tonal adaptation in Nigerian smaller languages are scanty. Consequently, this paper examines the pattern of word stress adaptation into tone in English loanwords in Èwùlù (Igboid) and Ùrhòbò (Edoid), with a view to revealing the Èwùlù and Ùrhòbò tonal adaptation features common to Y, H, B and E but specific to Èwùlù and/or Ùrhòbò. The empirical observations of data are explained with Autosegmental Theory (Goldsmith, 1976), which formally expresses the relations that hold between the tone loans, tone bearing units and CV nodes operating at different tiers. Findings of this study show/confirm that the English citation pitch accent H*L% basically governs the domain of adaptation of (H)igh tone and (L)ow in loans. Moreover, findings reveal that inserted vowels in CC-clusters in Èwùlù and Ùrhòbò loans are inherently toneless, acquiring their tones from adjacent tones. However, the study identifies two salient peculiar patterns: (1) Ùrhòbò assigns low tone on intervening V element in CC-cluster, a domain characteristically assigned H tone in Èwùlù, Y, H, B, and E. (2) Ùrhòbò regularly simplifies source H*L% as /H/ in adapted source CVC, a context where Èwùlù and the aforementioned NLs rather adapt /H.L/ melody to realise vowel doubling. To this end, the current researchers recommend further comparative or typological studies on English loanwords in other NLs to further identify patterns of tone adaptation and resyllabification rules in loanwords similar to those of Urhobo in particular.

Article information


International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation

Volume (Issue)

3 (9)





How to Cite

Utulu, Don C., Ajiboye, Emuobonuvie, & M. and Ajede, Chika K. (2020). Tonal Adaptation Strategies in Èwùlù and Ùrhòbò Loanword Phonologies. International Journal of Linguistics, Literature and Translation, 3(9), 87–96.


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Èwùlù, Ùrhòbò, loanword, tonal adaptation, English stress