Tone Assimilation in Igbo: A Phonological Description
Past studies of assimilation in Igbo focus attention on segmental phonemes without relating assimilation to supra-segments (tone in particular). This paper re-investigates assimilation in Igbo with the aim of establishing that tone assimilation exists in the language. Data for analysis are obtained from both the primary and secondary sources. While the primary data are from Ogbunike Igbo variety, the secondary data are from existing literatures. The data are analysed using descriptive method. The results reveal that tone assimilation exists in Igbo. For example, in connected speech, where the first noun ends in a downstep tone and the second noun begins with any tone, the downstep tone of the final vowel of the first word assimilates the high pitch of the initial vowel of the second word. Also, where the first word is in its infinitive form with a H ↓H tone sequence and the second word has a H H tone sequence, the high tone of the initial vowel of the second word drops its high pitch and completely assimilates the reduced high pitch of the final vowel of the first word. Tone assimilation could be regressive or progressive.