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Among Igbo linguistic researchers, determining whether absolute synonymy exists in Owere–Igbo, a dialect of the Igbo language predominantly spoken by the people of Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria, has become a thorny issue. While some linguistic scholars strive to establish that absolute synonymy exists in the lexical structure of natural language, others invest much vigorous effort to debunk the claim. This researcher, therefore, conducted an empirical research to provide a factual clue to the question of whether absolute synonymy exists in the lexical structure of Owere–Igbo or otherwise. With 200 copies of questionnaire administered and retrieved from 200 Research Collaborators, who are also fluent native speakers, the research was conducted. The researcher also interviewed native speakers of the dialect. The study found out that in each pair of synonyms investigated slight, but detectable differences were always invariably present. This conclusion was drawn based on the observation that synonyms in Owere-Igbo cannot substitute for each other in all contexts, i.e. set of lexemes can substitute for each other in one context, but in another context they cannot substitute without a change in meaning.. This researcher employed various tests such as substitution or interchangeability method, contrastive method and statistical method to test for absolute synonymy in Owere-Igbo. An examination of all illustrative samples of possible candidates for absolute synonymy given by Owere-Igbo speakers revealed that none of the pairs of synonymous lexeme investigated satisfied the criteria used.
Key words: absolute synonymy, partial synonymy, lexemes, lexical structure, language