Analysis Of The Problems Of English Pronunciation Among Yoruba Speakers, Of English

Project and Seminar Material for English Language

Analysis Of The Problems Of English Pronunciation Among Yoruba Speakers, Of English


Language learning practice often assumes that most of the difficulties that learners encounter in the study of language are consequences of the degree to which the native languages differ from the English of the native speakers.

This research work is basically analyzed problems of pronunciation among the non-native speakers of English, especially the Yoruba People. The Yoruba Speakers of English encounter problems in pronouncing some English sounds because they are not aware that some English Phonemes exist. Some are aware but do not know where and how to use them.

Examples of these sounds are: /θ, ð, Ʒ, z, J, ٨, Ʒ: ǝ/. Therefore, they replaced the listed sounds with the familiar ones in the Yoruba phoneme system for example: /d/ for / ð /. Thus, a Yoruba speaker substitute the sound /d/ for / ð / in the word ‘father’. Hence, the word ‘father’/fa: ðәr// is then realized as ‘/fa:dӕ/.

This project analyzed some factors responsible for the mispronunciation of the English sound system and suggest ways those problems can be reduced if not curbed.

Chapter One

General Introduction

1.1 Background to the Study

In learning to speak a second language, one’s goal is usually to be as competent as the native speakers of that language; and if not, one will strive to be intelligible to any speaker of that language. Depending on when one’s attempt at bilingualism starts, it is often possible before the age of puberty to acquire near-native competence in a second language.

Most speakers of English around the world today are second or foreign language users. Estimates of the number of speakers of English globally range between seven hundred million and eight hundred million, about three hundred million of whom speak the language as native users. These are people who use the language as their first language are made up of speakers in the United States of America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Most of the speakers in the formal British territories of Africa, India, the Caribbeans and Asia speak English as a second language. That is, these speakers acquire a native language first before they come to learn English. A considerable numbers users merely use the language as a window on the world as foreign speakers.

Native speakers are those who have acquired the language naturally as their first language during childhood and who are said to be norm generating; second language users are those who have acquired the language after acquiring another language but who make almost daily use of the second language for intercommunal functions because of the multilingual nature of their societies. For most of the users of English as second language in Africa and Asia, the English language is also their official language, that is, the language of government, of the judiciary, of business and inter-ethnic communication. For all these users to keep to the norms of the native English speakers, influences or inferences phenomena from their native languages environment make them develop new norms that may not be consistent with native norms. The third category of speakers are foreign speakers; those who learn and use the language for no real need for it except for travel and access to English culture, but can do without using the language in their daily lives. For these users, the goal of learning is that foreign users come close to this goal.

Received pronunciation (RP) in second language situations especially in former British territories, the dialect of the English language is usually taught is so­-called RP as described by A.J Ellis (1896: 23)

Received Pronunciation all over the country, not widely differing in any locality, and admitting a certain degree of variety, may be considered as the educated pronunciation of the metropolis, of the court, the pulpit and the bar.

Second language user of English has a number of difficulties in the pronunciation of utterances of English, difficulties arising mainly from interference of the sound patterns of their native languages on the sound systems of English orthography and difficulties arising from their mode of learning the English language. As an example of the first type of difficulty, most Nigerian speakers of English substitute /t/ for /θ/ in thin /tin/ and /d/ for /ð/ as in this /ðis/ because most Nigerian languages do not have dental fricative; the closest to these English sounds in their native languages are thus substituted for these sounds. Others substitute /s/ for /θ/ and sound /z/ for sound /z/ because there is no one on one correspondent of English letters to English sounds. Most Yoruba’s pronounce the words: says, victual, bomb, cupboard, sing, wanted danced, Greenwich, honour, come, boys, as /seis, vik ʃ uæl, bomb, kopᴅd, sing, wanted, danzd, grinwis, hᴅna, kᴅm, bᴅis/ instead of /sez, vitl, bᴅm, k˄bᴐd, siᵑ,wᴅntid, danst, grinwit ʃ , ᴅn∂, k˄m, bᴐ :z/respectively.

Examples of the type of learners’ difficulty arise largely because most of those who teach English language as a second language are themselves not very competent in the language. The same source of difficulty is responsible for most Nigerian speakers of English not distinguishing between high tense and lax vowels in seat and sit, pool and pull when these contrasts are operative in some of their first language.

Some of learners’ difficulties are more important than others as capable of interfering with intelligibility. Cues for intelligibility are hierarchical in English. Intonation comes first, followed by consonant sounds while vowel sounds come lowest. We shall therefore look at learners’ difficulties with these in mind. Therefore, pronunciation among- the Yoruba speakers of English has been identified as a problem which we are set to investigate and proffer possible solutions which would help the audience to pronounce English wopdis better.

1.2 Aim of the Study

Our aims of undertaking this project include but not limited to the following:

  1. To practically carry out a careful test in order to establish which of the factor(s) is/are responsible for the wrong pronunciation of sounds.
  2. To conscientizing our readers that some of the already existing factors might be proved wrong based on the practical analysis that will be carried out from the respondents’ response.
  3. To aid a further study on the teaching of the phonological segment and suprasegmentals to student at all levels of learning in Nigeria

In this research, the Received Pronunciation (RP) will be used as the norm or the standard pronunciation model for the explanation of the deviation noticed in the variants of the sound segments. This is chosen due to its prestigious position as a dialect that is taught in the public school and its relevance to our field. Therefore, the study will serve as a check on the performance of the English sounds.

1.3 Scope of the Study

The scope of the study is the spoken/pronunciation of selected words ill English language by the Yoruba speakers of English.

1.4 Significant of the Study

The significant of this research work is to emphasis on the wrong pronunciation of sounds especially those that are as a result of background factors, which cannot yet be determined until the final stage of this research is reached. The research therefore assures us that all factors that are likely to be responsible for the wrong or right pronunciation of the sounds will be drawn and looked into. It was noticed that the Yoruba speakers of English often transfer their mother tongue knowledge of alphabets or letters to English words. Example are: ‘fever’ pronounced as ‘fifa’ by a Yoruba speaker instead of /fi:v∂/ ‘church’ is pronounced as ‘shurch’. The speaker substitutes /ʃ/ for /tʃ/ sound, ‘check’ is also pronounced as ‘sheck’ e.t.c

1.5 Statement of the Problem

The problem to be analyzed in this research is the problem of pronunciation by the Yoruba speakers of English. The research work is meant to test and see if truly the transfer of Ll to L2 (that is, the Yoruba phonetic system and the English phonemic system) are the major causes of the problem of pronunciation by the Yoruba users of English sounds in attaining the Received Pronunciation standard. Other factors that would be examined as part of the problems include, educational background, level of exposure, status e.t,c. The mispronunciations of the English words have been identified as a problem which would help our respondents to pronounce English words better.

1.6 Theoretical Framework (Phonology)

Phonology is a level of linguistic organization of significant sounds for which it provides rules not only of their phonetic realization but also of their distribution. According to Fromkim and Rodman (1974), it is also the term used to refer to the kind of knowledge that speakers have about the sound patterns of their particular language. It can therefore be summarized that phonology of a language is the system and pattern of the speech sounds and the tacit knowledge that the speakers have of the sounds. Phonology will answer the following questions:

  1. What are the peculiar sounds of this language?
  2. How are they joined together to form meaningful units
  3. What are the rules that affect sound protection and structuring in the language?

The basic unit of phonology is the phoneme, usually defined as the minimal unit in the sound system of a language that can keep utterances apart. To establish the phonemes of any language, a number of principles are used namely:

  • Contrast
  • Complementary distribution
  • Phonetic similarity

Adetugbo (1997) defines phonology “as the study of speech sound which constitutes a system in any language”.

Yule (1996:56) defines phonology “as the description of the systems and patterns of speech sounds in a language. The perception of phonology from this stand point places it as a branch of linguistics that deals with the mental recognition of the speech sound of language.

1.7 Methodology

Our methodology shall be segmented into two main parts. We shall be having the mode of our respondents and the mode of our date collection as well as sources of our information.

In our mode of respondents, we shall be having respondents being represented from a selected secondary school and the Lagos State University. In other words our respondents shall constitute the class of undergraduates including ‘professionals’. The reason for ibis cannot be far fetched, though the non-students or students belong to undergraduate level will also be used for this analysis but for the purpose of clear analyses, we have decided to make use of majority of the undergraduate the Lagos State University.

In our mode of data collection, we shall be adopting the interview method of analyses as to alternate the questionnaire method. This method has been strongly chosen because much of what we shall be doing in our research work shall involve practical. We have decided interview method be used in our data collection. The method of our interview shall be a one – one discussion with our respondents. Some words will be written out for our respondents to be pronounced. This will be the last lap of our interview with our respondents.

Our research work is going to be mainly of field work; however, we are going to review some relevant materials on the research work. In other to do this, we shall be relying on library as our source of information.

1.8 Conclusion

This chapter has introduced this research; we embark on with the background to the study, problem of research, objective, scope and theoretical framework of the research. This has established our research and paved way for smooth progression and we hope to arrive at concrete findings at the end of this research work.

Chapter Four

Summary, Conclusion and Recommendations

4.1 Summary

The first chapter of this work introduced us to the entire work with the topic “Mother Tongue Interference in pronunciation of English Newscast with a case study of Kwara Television news”. In this chapter, the purpose of the work was given; the justification and the scope were considered. Also, the methods that were employed for the success of the work were highlighted and some key terms in our broad topic defined.

We have focused on the review of relevant works in interference, language acquisition, bilingualism / multilingualism, phonological interference in chapter two. This was done to relate this work to the existing literature in the language field.

The chapter three of this work has focused on the analysis of our data. Four phonological phenomena which are: Under-differentiation, Substitution, Hypercorrection and Epenthesis; have been used because the errors in the work fell under these four aspects.

The last chapter, chapter four, includes the summary, the conclusion and the recommendations to the problems identified in chapter three.

4.2 Conclusion

Based on the work that has been done, here are the conclusions reached:

Mother Tongue interference pronunciation is evident in the broadcast of the news on our various channels and especially on our selected Kwara Television. Evidence of this abound in how some words were pronounced wrongly.

There were cases of substitution of sounds. For instance, pronouncing /tʃ/ as/ ʃ/, /v/ as /f/, the over-emphasis of other salient consonants.

Another conclusion reached based on the research that has been carried out is that the presence of Mother Tongue Interference in utterances sometimes leads to mis-interpretation. For instance, “Hall of the main building was gutted by fire” instead of All of the main building was gutted by fire. The statement above was taken from one of the sentences that were read on air and lead to erroneous interpretation.

The speaker inserted /h/ thereby pronouncing /hɔl/ for /ɔ:l/ making it sound like only the hall was gutted by fire instead of the real situation which claimed all the main building.

4.3 Recommendations

No broadcast media transmits without a license. In the same vein, the first recommendation towards getting out of the problems identified is to ensure that only those who studied English language in the universities cast the English news on any channel. It is almost certain that such person will have attained a level of proficiency that mediocre cannot boast of. Until the role of English newscast stops being an all-comers affair, delivery will keep suffering from mother tongue interference.

Another recommendation is the one that goes back to the acquisition of the language (English language) and the teaching of the language in schools especially in our universities in Nigeria.Most of our language teachers even at the tertiary level are learners themselves. So this work will recommend the English language immersion programme for both the teachers and the students of the English department; an overseas trip to an English speaking country where they will be exposed to the native speakers completely. This is usually the case with French under-graduates who for a matter of course must have some months of practical training as part of their curriculum. The upcoming newscasters must then be required to present evidence of all these in addition to their paper qualification before becoming newscasters.

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