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Journal of African Languages and Linguistics

Ed. by Ameka, Felix K. / Amha, Azeb

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Volume 27, Issue 2


An overview of the tone system of Urhobo

Rose Aziza
Published Online: 2007-02-14 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/JALL.2006.007


Urhobo is a Southwestern Edoid (SWE) language of the West Benue-Congo sub-branch of the Niger-Congo family (Williamson and Blench 2000). It is spoken by some two million people in Delta State, Nigeria. The tone system of Urhobo has been studied by linguists like Kelly (1969), Welmers (1969, 1973), Elugbe (1973, 1977, 1989) and Aziza (1997). All of them agree that Urhobo operates a terraced-level tone system with two basic tones (low and high), and two gliding tones (high-low (falling) and low-high (rising)), which are derived from the level tones. They all also recognize the existence of a third pitch, which is found only after the high tone. While Kelly, Elugbe and Aziza regard this pitch as a non-automatic downstep, Welmers regards it as a mid tone. This paper aims to present further evidence that the third pitch in Urhobo is a downstep and not a mid tone and that the basic tone principle in this language is the preservation of the high tone at the expense of the low tone and the downstep.

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Published Online: 2007-02-14

Published in Print: 2006-11-20

Citation Information: Journal of African Languages and Linguistics, Volume 27, Issue 2, Pages 113–126, ISSN (Online) 1613-3811, ISSN (Print) 0167-6164, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/JALL.2006.007.

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