Title Page i

Certification ii

Dedication iii

Acknowledgements iv

List of Symbols Used vi

List of Charts/Tables and Diagrams vii

Table of Contents viii



Historical Background of the Kofyar of People1

Colonial History3

Socio-Cultural Profile3



Cultural Festivals4

Food Items5

Tourist Attraction5

Socio-Linguistics Profile5

Genetic Classification of Kofyar Language7

Statement of Research Problems8

Aims and Objective of Study8

Scope and Organization of Study8

Data Collection10

Data Analysis11

Theoretical Framework12

The Structure of Generative Phonology13

Phonetic Representation14

Underlying Representation15

Phonological Rules16




Phonology and Phonetics19

Phonemes and Allophones21

The Phoneme and its Realities22

Phoneme as a Phonetic Reality22

Phoneme as a Phonological Reality23

Phonemes as a Psychological Reality23

Principles of Phoneme Identification24

Principle of Minimal Pair24

Principle of Complementary Distribution25

Principles of Analogous Environment26

Principle of Free Variation27

Phonological Processes27



Insertion (Epenthesis)30




Vowel Harmony33

Partial or Incomplete Vowel Harmony36


Syllable Structure39



Vowel System of Kofyar Language41

The Oral and Nasal Vowel Chart in Kofyar Language42

Distribution of Vowels in Kofyar Language43

The Distribution of Oral Vowels in Kofyar Language43

Distribution of Nasal Vowels in Kofyar47

Phonetic Distinctive Feature Matrix50

Distinctive Feature Matrix for Kofyar Vowels50

Justification for the Distinctive Features Used for Vowels in Kofyar Language51

Segment Structure Constraints for Kofyar Vowels52

Consonant Sounds in Kofyar Language54

Phonetic Consonants Chart of Kofyar Language55

Distribution of Consonants in Kofyar56

Distinctive Features Matrix of Kofyar Consonants68

Justification for the Features Used71

Segment Redundancy of Kofyar Sounds74

Tones in Kofyar Language78

Functions of Tone in Kofyar83

The Syllable Structure of Kofyar84

Closed Syllable in Kofyar Language86

Open Syllable in Kofyar Language86

Mono-Syllable Words87

Di-Syllabic Words88

Tri-Syllabic Words89

Quadric Syllabic Words90




Phonological Processes in Kofyar92


Vowel-Vowel Assimilation92

Consonant Vowel Assimilation94 Labialization in Kofyar 94 Palatalization in Kofyar 95

Nasalization in Kofyar96

Vowel Harmony98

4.1.4 Insertion 101

4.1.5 Deletion 102




5.1 Summary 104

5.2 Recommendations 105

5.3 Conclusion 105

Bibliography 107




This  research  work  focuses  on  the  phonology  of  Kofyar  Language. Kofyar language is spoken in Plateau State of Nigeria. It is spoken in fairly sizeable area of Qua’an pan local government area of plateau state. In this chapter, we shall discuss the historical, socio-cultural profile, socio-linguistic profile and the genetic classification of the Kofyar Language. We shall also

discuss the scope and organization of study, aims and objectives of study, the theoretical framework we intend to use, method of data collection and analysis.

Historical Background of the Kofyar of people.

Kofyar  is  Afro  Asiatic  and  it  is  spoken  in  the  Qua’an  pan  local government area of plateau state, Nigeria. The estimated population of the Kofyar  speakers  is  about  109,943  (Wikipedia,  the  free  encyclopedia,  P.3). Kofyar is a good illustration of how colonial authorities become unwittingly enmeshed    in    local    politics,    in    sustainable    subsistence    agricultural production  in  crowded  areas;  in  successful  self  directed  development  of market oriented agriculture and the use of “traditional” cultural resources to prosper modern Nigeria.

The migration of a large group of people believed to be of the same stock has been ascribed to oral tradition as taking its root from the North East at or around Kanem Borno. Dafyar, from whom the Kofyar and other groups owe their descent is said to have procreated with his sister Nade as they were the only survivors of a cataclysm  they viewed as the collapse of the  sky  attended  by  fire  and  brimstone.  It  is  believed  that  all  mankind

perished due to sins committed which attracted the wrath of God. Dafyar and  Nade  migrated  for  years  and  latter  hide  themselves  in  a  cave  on  a promontory called chor in Kofubum near present day Kofyar. A casual study shows that one of the may chains of volcanoes in the area of Kanem Borno may have activated, causing the cataclysm the viewed as the sky collapsing with fire and brimstone.

The offspring’s of Dafyar had fanned out into many other sub –groups and  sojourned  or  inter  married  thereby  producing  a  much  wider  cultural mix.  The  colonial  expedition  visit  on  Latok  following  the  demise  of  Her Majesty’s  Administration  officer  Mr.  Christopher  Matthew  Barlow  in  the early  1930s  sent  many  descendants  of  Dafyar  away  from  home  into communities  thereby  further  widening  the  cultural  mix  within  the  sub region and there about.

Colonial History

The   population   known   as   the   Kofyar   actually   comprises   three different “tribes” as designated by British colonial officers; the Doemak [or

Dimmuk],  Kwalla’s  and  Mernyang.  However,  the  three  groups  have  a common language, economic pattern and origin myth. In the 1940s, they came together in a union called the “Koffyer Federation”. Anthropologists, see them as a single group or groups.

When first encountered by early British colonial authorities, they lived in  the  rugged  hills  in  the  south  eastern  corner  of  the  Jos  Plateau  and  in settlements around the Plateau base. Their subjugation by the British was largely  non-violent  until  1930,  when  a  young  Assistant  District  officer named Barlow was killed in the hill village of Latok by a rock thrown at his head. After this the residents of Latok and neighboring villages were forced out of the hills and made to live on the plains below for nine years. In an award winning study, anthropologist Robert Netting explained how Barlow had been unknowingly used in a local political dispute.

Socio Cultural profile


Majority  of  the  Kofyar  speaker  are  Christians,  with  few  Islamic  and Traditional followers. Christianity which is the predominant religion of the Kofyar  people,  in  which  about  50%  of  the  population  are  Christians,  and

mostly Catholic, reason being that, the catholic missionaries were the first to pay a visit to the Kofyar area with the aim of Christianizing the people in the early 20th century. 30% are traditional worshippers while 20% are Muslims of Ahamadiya. The existence of Islam among the people was as a result of uthman dan fodio’s jihad crusade.


Except  for  the  educated  Kofyars,  who  occupy  various  positions  in administration, politics and the educational sector or academic intellectuals employed  in  multi  –national  companies  and  the  likes,  most  Kofyars  are farmers  and  local  hunters.  You  can  hardly  look  around  without  seeing millet, guinea corn plants, yam and cassava which are their main plants in the land.

Cultural festivals:

The Kofyar people observe two major festivals the shikaam and Kwa Kwa  festival.  The  annual  festival  which  is  traditionally  called  “SHIKAAM” festival comprises all the speakers of Kofyar home and abroad, far and near, present at the ceremony. These festivals are done once in a year, usually in the  first  quarter  of  the  year.  During  this  occasion,  a  lot  of  activities  are

usually lined up. The entire Kofyar people as well as their supporters and neighbors participate in the activities lined up. Such activities include “Sual” a social dance which men engage in which the women dance around them chanting songs along. “Koem” a social dance with its music derived from dry corn   stalks   and   a   lot   more   activities.   The   second   festival   which   is traditionally called the “KWA KWA” festival is observed by districts and each district has its peculiar way of observing its festival ceremony. Also a lot of activities are usually show cased for the entertainment of the audience that grace the occasion.

Food Items:

The  Kofyar people  have  several forms  of food  oils other  than those derived   from   animal   fats.   They   are   muorbang   [palm   oil],   muorkom [groundnut  oil],  muorpaat  [oil  from  pie],  muorteem  [oil  from  mahogany], muorlem [oil from benni seed], muorseer [melon oil] and several others.

Tourist Attraction

Kofyar federation can be said to be a tourism centre because people from different part of the country come to kofyar to look at the rugged hills and a lot of ancient things of interest.

Socio linguistics profile:

The Kofyar speakers, also known as Kofyar people are speakers of a very  unique  and  dynamic  indigenous  Nigerian  Language  in  the  North Central  of  Plateau  State  with  the  slogan  “Home  of  peace  and  tourism”. Kofyar  speakers  are  known  by  those  in  the  neighboring  communities around Doemak, Kwalla and Mernyang as Kofyar speakers even officially.

Kofyar are  mostly  bi  -lingual, using Kofyar Language as  their  native language and Hausa Language as their target language. Hausa language is usually use as a means of communication when trading with other towns, in short, Hausa language is the language use in commerce. Kofyar language is use  in  the  kindergarten,  pre-  nursery,  nursery  and  primary  section  along with  Hausa  language.  While,  Hausa  and  English  language  is  used  at  the secondary  level.  Kofyar  language  is  use  for  religious  purpose  and  as  a means of communication in homes and public places. The older generations are  not  as  fluent in English language  as the  younger ones, who  through western education are able to speak it well than the older generations.

The Kofyar people live in the rugged hills in the South eastern corner of  the  Jos  Plateau,  and  in  settlements  around  the  plateau  base.  Kofyar

actually means “the settlement is big”. Although, most Kofyars now live in the  Benue  Valley  [or  in  cities]  the  Jos  Plateau  homeland  is  still  inhabited largely  because  of  the  Kofyars  efforts  to  maintain  it  as  a  cultural  and economic resources. Many Kofyar who live elsewhere still keep secondary homes in the homeland.

Genetic classification of Kofyar Language

Afro Asiatic


ImageBerber Chadic          Cushictic        Egyptian          Semitic Omitic


Bumandara East Chadic Masa West Chadic


West Chadic A West Chadic B

Hausa Gumandara Bole tangale Angas Proper Rowfier

Yiwon Angas


Jorto Mernyang


Source: Lewis, M. Paul [ed.], 2009 Ethnologue: Languages of the world, Sixteenth edition. Dallas Tex: Sil international.

Statement of Research Problems

The  focus  of  this  research  work  is  to  identify  the  phonemes  and phonological  processes  in  Kofyar  Language.  This  study  will  discuss  the various  phonological  rules  that  may  be  attested  in  Kofyar  language  and attempt a significant generalization of such rule

Aims and Objective of Study

The following are the aims and objectives of the study:

i. Through the use of the principles of phonemic identification

ii. To critically examine the phonological processes such as: assimilation, dissimilation, insertion, deletion, nasalization, metatheses among others.

iii. To show evidence of relationship between the phonological form through phonological rules.

iv. To show a detailed study of supra segmental features such as: tone and syllable structure in Kofyar.

Scope and organization of study

This research work shall extensively discuss the phonology of Kofyar language. First, the phonemic and the phonetic sounds of the language shall be unveiled. It will examine the phonological processes attested in Kofyar language. Thus, the analysis and the exemplification of the sound system of Kofyar language will form the focus of this research work. Chapter one will take a cursory look at the general background of the study, the historical background, socio cultural profile: religion, occupation, cultural festival, food items and tourist attraction. We shall also examine the socio linguistic profile, genetic classification, statement of research problem, method of data collection and analysis, aims and objective of the study of Kofyar language. It shall also include a review of the chosen theoretical framework [generative phonology].

The subsequent chapter two will focus on the basic phonological concept. Definitions of phonology, concept of phoneme and allophone, phonemic identification etc.

Chapter three shall look at the sound inventory of Kofyar language [the consonants and vowels] alongside their distribution. A diagrammatic chart showing the phonetic position of these sounds shall also be schematized. The distinctive features and the binary principles shall also be looked at, alongside the tones and syllable patterns of Kofyar language.

Chapter four shall attempt a phonological processes attested in the language with the phonologically significant generalizations that are pertinent to Kofyar language.

Chapter five shall house the summary and the concluding part of the research work, after making recommendations based on our findings.

Data collection

The technique employed in collecting data for this research work is direct data elicitation. The direct data for this research were collected with the assistance of language informants through the use of the” Ibadan 400 word list of basic items”. The information concerning the informants used for this research work is given below:

Informant 1

Name: Mrs. Regina Poechigoer Kwapnoe Age: 52years

Language Spoken: Hausa, English, Kwallak, Gamai& Doemak. Years spent in Kofyar: 20 years

Religion: Christianity

Occupation: Teaching [Head Mistress]

Marital status: Married

Informant 2:

Name: Mohammed Suleiman Dani Age: 49years

Language spoken: Arabic and Hausa Years spent in Kofyar: 49 years.

Religion: Islam Occupation: Farming Marital status: Married

Data Analysis

The analysis of the data will be carried out by first transcribing all the linguistic data collected in order to discover the sounds that are attested in the language and how they are distributed. By this, we shall be able to establish orthography for the language. The data will then be described using the generative phonology theory.

Theoretical framework

The theoretical framework will be the generative phonology as in Chomsky and Halle’s[1968] publication of the sound pattern of English[SPE], phonemes are represented as underlying representation that consist of underlying units each defined by a distinctive feature matrix. In the SPE model, there are phonological rules that apply to URS and then convert these into one or more surface phonetic forms. Generative phonology is intended by phonemicistss, to stand part of the wider theory of language, and phonological description as part of grammar. Grammar encompasses the word well - formedness of the sentence of a language; syntactic and semantic components. It is made up of two levels: the phonemic and phonetic levels, and in between these two levels, we have what we call phonological rules.

The goal of generative phonology is to express the link between sound and meaning [Chomsky: 1965], it gives the rule of how the mind perceives sounds, and how those sounds are produced with the interpretation of utterances. Generative phonology accounts for linguistics intuition, foreign accent, speech error and language acquisition among others.

In 1959, Chomsky and Halle worked on generative phonology with the knowledge of the sequential constraints, which are responsible, for the fact that speakers of a language have a sense of sounds in their native language.

Generative phonology, sees grammar as consisting of a set of infinite rules which operates upon a finite vocabulary, and capable of generating an infinite set of grammatical constructions [sentences]. Hyman [1975:19] states that” generative phonology is the description of how phonological rules can be converted into phonological rules can be converted into phonological representation and the capturing of the distinctive sounds in contrast in a language.

Discrete segments which are complete set of phonetic features by a distinctive feature matrix. The basic goal of generative phonology is to express the link between sound and meaning Chomsky [1965]. This theory of language is interested in exploring the linguistic knowledge of a speaker, which Chomsky refers to as the competence.

The structure of Generative phonology

Oostendrop [2005:89] defines phonological structure as a” score of individual instruments, roughly corresponding to the articulatory organs, which plays alongside the same beat”. In postulating underlying forms at the systematic level from which surface alternates are derived, the tacit knowledge that speakers have of general or systematic relationships, termed linguistically significant phonological structure is relevant according to Oyebade [1998:12], Generative phonology assumes three very crucial

components: the underlying representation, the phonetic representation and the rules which link the two together. The three components are discussed below:

Phonetic Representation

Kentowicz [1994:8], cited in Oyebade [1998:21], says that phonetic representation indicate how lexical item is to be realized in speech. It is characterized by a degree of narrowness such that at the very least, any two sounds that distinguished in any human sound are differently represented sommerstein [1977:115]. It is the surface level,  identical with what is perceived aurally, since it chacterizes…”all the set of instructions issued by the central nervous system to the articulatory apparatus” sommerstein [1977:115]. As further explained by him, the phonetic representation preserves every feature of every segment, even at the risk of entertaining redundancies.

According to Oyebade [1998:21], Generative Phonology seems to consider the level as being somewhat trivial and ”not worth too much attention… except, perhaps as a source of verification and justification of the proposed underlying Representation”.

Underlying Representation

Sommerstein [1977:115] says that this 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. It is the form which is always seen at the

surface realizations. Oyebade [1998:13], explain that the underlying representation accounts for so much; first, it accounts for why native speakers consider the prefix [im] possible, [in] tolerable and [iȠ] complete to be the same even though, at the surface, the form of the prefix differs from one utterance to the other. At the underlying level, the form of the prefix is invariant. Secondly, he explained, the assumption of an underlying level where there is no one to correspondence between form and meaning and which is exactly the same from one competence speaker to another, explains the puzzling reaction in children. Since the child shares the same competence [and therefore the same underlying representation] as the adult, it is logical to assume that the child will expect the same output as the adult will. Thirdly, he explain further that the assumption of an underlying representation account for the rapid processing of defective input. But interlocutors have a shared competence which is accurate and invariant; the decoder participant thus has a protype with which he can restructure the defective utterance of the decoder. The underlying representation has the property of being encoded in distinctive features. The assumption is motivated by that language seems to target these features in making its choices rather than segments.

Phonological Rules

Oyebade [1998:15] defines phonological rules as directives which maps underlying forms on the surface forms. They show the derivational sequence or path of

an item on its journey from the underlying level to the phonetic level. Phonological rules have to precise in a scientific account of linguistics phenomena. It was therefore suggested that rules should have a format:

A B⁄C D [Oyebade, 1998:18].

Oyebade [1998:18] interpreted this as follows: “the focus [A] to the left of the arrow defines the input to the alternation, the matrix [B] to the right of the arrow which indicates the feature changes introduced by the rule, the structural change [SC]: the slant “\”is read in context of”. The accompanying environmental dash [also called the underscore] “─” locates the focus relative to the conditioning context [Kentowicz 1994:21] as cited in Oyebade [1998:17].



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