International Journal of Language & Linguistics

ISSN 2374-8850 (Print), 2374-8869 (Online) DOI: 10.30845/ijll

A Cognophonetic Study of H-Epenthesis by Educated Yoruba-English Bilinguals
Mercy A. Bankole, Bunmi O. Esan

H-epenthesis in h-less words is reportedly a common characteristic of Yoruba-English bilinguals. This study investigated the possible cognitive motivation for h-epenthesis in Educated Yoruba-English speakers, with a view to identifying the constraint that is responsible for the realisation. Optimality Theory was employed as the theoretical basis. Thirty Educated Yoruba English speakers participated in the study by reading a text which contained several grammatical and content words that are peak-initiated. This was used alongside structured questionnaires. Recorded data were analysed perceptually and phonologically. Several words which would be meaningless to native speakers were derived. Where meaningful wordswere derived, the meaning of the new words altered the meaning of the entire sentences. H-epenthesis results from a high-ranking constraint, ONSET [h], which requires that syllables begin with the specified consonant – h. This constraint, which accounts for unconscious insertion of [h] by the participants, ranks higher than DEP.Newly derived words were unfaithful to native speakers’ input. This may contribute to communication failure between native speaker and Educated Yoruba English speakers.

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