Aspects Of Ìjà-Kórò Phonology

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Chapter One


1.0       General Background

Kórò is a name of the main language, Ija is the name of the town that the speakers of Kórò live. The speakers are known as Kórò-Ija, sometime they are called Ìjá-Kórò. Majority of the speakers of this language resided at Ija, southern part of Abuja (FCT). The Ìjá-Kórò people are about 900,000 in population (This is from the head count of the year 2000 census population).

Kórò as a language has three dialect, Ìjá-Kórò, Kórò-Shako and Kórò-Kaffin. Kórò-Shako and Kórò-Kaffin are spoken in Niger State, at small town called Shako and Kaffin respectively. But their dialects are not so different from each other, both speakers (Shako and Kaffin) can speaks Ìjá-Kórò. But Ìjá-Kórò speakers cannot speaks Kórò-Shako and Kórò-Kaffin because, they are far from them.

Ìjá-Kórò people exist with two neighboring tribes Ija Gwari and Bwari. Therefore, Ìjá-Kórò speakers are multilingual, i.e. they speaks Hausa, Gwari and Ìjá-Kórò.

1.1       Historical Background

Ìjá-Kórò migrated from Zùbà as a result of fertile land for farming. Zùbà is the largest town, where so many farmers has occupied the land, so Kórò people move to Ija in 1814. They settled at Ìjá-Kórò and starts farming till date.

1.2       Socio-Cultural Profile

The Ìjá-Kórò people like many other tribes have their own unique cultural lifestyle. The Ìjá-Kórò people have some unique way of life that are discussed below:

1.2.1    Dressing Mode

Before the invention of the whites, in time past the Ìjá-Kórò people wears leaves and animal skin, but after the invention of the whites, Ìjá-Kórò people started wearing cloth, meanwhile they are found of native and their major mode of dressing now is native both the men and the women.

1.2.2    Religion

Before the invention of the whites Ìjá-Kórò people were idol worshippers, but after the invention of the white Christianity and Islamic religion became the religion of the Ìjá-Kórò’s but Islamic religion is the dominant religion of the Ìjá-Kórò people.

1.2.3    Marriage System

In Ìjá-Kórò in time past just like in some other cultures too, parent chooses wife for their son. But now in this jet age, the story as change. The man chooses the woman of his choice, after the agreement between the man and the woman to marry each other, the parent of man will prepare echi (rice) and big kolanut to give to the bride’s parent which they will accept. After that the mother of the man will come back at night with the bride price to give to the bride’s parent and to take the bride home to her husband’s house.

In Ìjá-Kórò, marriages are done between families, in which the man in family A marry the woman in family B and also the man in family B will marry from family A, its just like an exchange marriage system. Ìjá-Kórò people do not have a particular age they get married it all depends on the financial capability of the man and the maturity of the woman.

1.2.4    Naming Ceremony

In Ìjá-Kórò, like many other places in the world. When a child is born the naming ceremony commences on the seventh day.

Their naming ceremony is usually a fun filled one or interesting one, the unique thing about their naming ceremony is that the grand father and the grandmother of the father of the new baby will prepare the food and bush meat for the ceremony, and send some of it to the house of the grandfather and grandmother to the mother of the new baby. The naming ceremony is usually a cultured one, very lively and filled with merriment.

1.2.5    Burial Ceremony

Another unique feature of the cultural profile of the Ìjá-Kórò that must not be left unmentioned is the way burial arrangement are carried out. There is celebration for Ìjá-Kórò man or woman that dies between the age of 50 years and above, because they believed they have gone to rest with their God. Therefore, there will be eating and drinking for 7 days at the front of the deceased house, and beating of drums and celebration for good 4 to 5 days, all this happens after the deceased has been buried. However, if a person dies in the evening the burial will commence the next day, it is after the burial that there is continuous dancing for 4 to 5 days.

Meanwhile, if the deceased is below the age of 50 years, there will be no celebration because the person is not of age.

1.2.6    Festivals

Ìjá-Kórò people celebrates the common or usual festival of Ileya and Christmas yearly. But they also have their own peculiar festival which is called ekoo in their native language, which is done in recognition of the dead, this festival is celebrated every ten years or decade in order to remember their dead especially the emment people in their land that has gone to meet their ancestors.

Moreover, they also celebrates another festival called oduti in their language, this festival is done yearly after their harvest from farm. This festival is done as a result of their harvest to thank God for the blessings.

1.7.7    Traditional Administration

Before the advent of the whites, Ìjá-Kórò like any other communities has a method of administration. Ozah is the village head and every family has a representative in the governing council of the town. The youth leader bridges the gap between the Ozah (village head) and the youth in the community. It makes communication easy for them.

If there is problem the people in the family we report to the head of the family and if the problem continue, the family head must report the matters to the Ozah (the head of the village).

1.2.8    Economic Activities

The major occupation of Ìjá-Kórò people is farming, they have though, other minor occupation like hunting, trading for woman and farming also for men and women. Farming still proves to be their major occupation. They farm yam, banana, elchi and ejah.

1.2.9    Geographical Location

Ìjá-Kórò is located in the southern part of Abuja at Bwari District of Gurara Local Government Area. Ìjá-Kórò belong to the Niger Congo family along Niger road, from Niger state, it is just a few kilometers to Abuja.

1.3       Scope and Organization of the Study

This long essay aims at studying aspects of Ìjá-Kórò phonology. It will cover the general introduction of the study, the sound inventory of the language, the phonological process and tonal features attested in the language. This research work is divided into five chapters.

Chapter one is the general background of the people, the statues of the language and the historical background of the people. Also, in chapter one, the socio-cultural profile of the people and the genetic classification of the language are examined. The chapter also gives a brief discussion of the theoretical framework to be used in the work and explains the mode data collection and analysis.

Chapter two discusses the formal system of the language as well as the tonal syllable and the consonants and vowels in Ìjá-Kórò language are mention as well.

In chapter three, attention is focused on the phonological process attested in the language. And chapter four addresses the tonal processes with their distributional patterns.

Chapter five summarizes the work, gives some recommendations and concludes the study.

1.4       Data Collection

The data for the research work was collected through the help of language helper (informant method) with the use of the “Ibadan list of 400 basic items” (400 word list). It also used the frame technique. This is a template that shows different structural positions which a word can occur in. This goes beyond looking at words in isolation. It was used to get the relevant information that cannot be got by means of lexical items only.

The information concerning the informants in this research is given below:

Name:  Mr. Ibrahim Gata

Address:          Block 35, Bridge Lodge Sobi Barracks Ilorin, Kwara State.

Language Spoken:      Ìjá-Kórò, Hausa, Gwari and English

Religion:          Islam

Years lived in Ìjá-Kórò:          22 years

Occupation: Military

1.5       Genetic Classification

Genetic classification of a language could be inform of a tree diagram showing the origin of language and how it is genetically related to other languages. Ìjá-Kórò belongs to west platoid, under the Benue Congo group of Niger Congo language family. This is represented below:

Niger Kordofanian



Niger Congo                                                                                      Kordofanian


West   Mande            Kru     Benue Congo                        Adamawa Eastern    Kwa    Gur


Platoid                        Jukunoid                    Bantoid                      Cross River


Torokoid Beromic Southern Ndunic         Alumic           Ninzic            West   East     North


Yeskwa          Gyongic         Kórò   Hyamic          Jju                   Tyap   Irigwe


Kaffin Kórò                                       Shako Kórò                           Ija Kórò


Adapted from Roger Blench (2006).

1.6       Data Analysis

Generally speaking, data are analysed based on different adequacies, they are observational and adequacy, descriptively adequacy and explanatorily adequacy.

Observationally adequacy deals with the concrete perception of data based on the intuitive knowledge of the native speaker of that language and explanatorily adequacy deals with the explanation of language phenomenon based on the general theory governing human languages. All the data used in this work can be said to be analyzed based on these adequacies.

1.7       Review of Theoretical Framework

The theoretical framework to be used for this research is generative phonology as in Chomsky and Hale (1968).

Generative phonology constitutes part of the linguistic theory which is called Transformational Generative Grammar (TG) formulated by Chomsky (1957) to Cater for the inadequacy observed in classical (taxonomic) theory of phonological description (Jorgenson 1975: 174). It gives the role of how the mind perceives sound and how the sounds are produced with the interpretation of utterances. The goal of generative phonology is to express the link between sound and meaning Generative phonology accounts for some language phenomena like: linguistic intuition, foreign accent, speech error etc.

Hyman (1970: 19) describes generative phonology as the description of how phonological rules can be converted into phonological representation and to capture the distinctive sounds in contrast in a language. Generative phonology focuses on grammar as consisting of a set of finite set of sentences. According to Lyons (1979: 50) “the rules and structure generated through generative phonology are like in syntax recursive”.

One can say that generative phonology explains the language structure by means of a finite number of recursive rule operating upon a finite vocabulary.

1.7.1    Structure of Generative Phonology

Hyman (1975: 80) says that, the phonological structure is an abstract phonemic representation, which postulate the rules that are derived from various surface forms. It postulates the underlying form at the systematic phonemic level from which surface alternates have systematic relationship termed linguistically significant generalization.

The structure is of there basic levels these are underlying representation (UR) phonological rules and phonetic representation (PR).







Adapted from Hyman (1975: 81).

According to Oyebade (2008: 12), underlying representation is assumed to be an abstract representation existing in the linguistic competence of the native speaker. At this level, items with invariant meaning have identical representation” for instance;




The basis of all utterances exists in the mental dictionary representation suffix in English language [s] changes in the areas of occurrence as above. The cups, cubs and churches are the underlying representations.

1.7.2    Phonological Rules

Oyebade (2008: 15) claims that phonological rules are directives which map underlying forms on surface forms. They show the derivational sequence or path of an item in its journey from the underlying level to the phonetic level.

Hyman (1975: 60) points out that they are derivational sequence of items from an underlying level to a phonetic level. Phonological rules are predictable rule. Example of phonological rules are rules that assimilate the voiceless alveolar fricative [s] , as a plural marker in English language, changes place of articulation as a result of areas of occurrence e.g.

+ ant                                                 + cons

+ cor                    [-voiced]               – voiced      ___________

+ cont

+ strid

+ ant                                                 + cons

+ cor                    [+voiced]              + voiced     ___________

+ cont

+ strid


Obviously, the two rules are referring to the same process of assimilation and leaving them as two separate rules leads to a less of this linguistically significant fact. It is therefore necessary to collapse the two rules into one, with the use of alpha notation [a] , this symbol is a device to represent the variable value [+ or -] .

+ ant                                                 + cons

+ cor                    [avoiced]              a voiced     ___________

+ cont

+ strid

1.7.3    Phonetic Representation

According to Hyman (1975), phonetic representation represents possible pronunciation of forms in the realization of speech and at the surface level. Oyebade (1998:21). Citing (1994:8), states phonetic level indicates “……….. how the lexical items are to be realized in speech”.

cups     à                    [k^ps]

cubs     à                    [k^bz]

churches          à        [t∫^t∫iz]


It is at these level, after phonological rules have been applied to the underlying level that we now have phonetic representation.

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