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Word-final consonant epenthesis in Northeastern Nigerian English 1


L2 speakers of Nigerian English in parts of northeastern Nigeria occasionally insert an alveolar coronal stop [t] or fricative [s] following another alveolar coronal pre-pausally and phrase-internally. The article discusses this typologically unusual phenomenon for the Nigerian English of speakers whose L1 is the Adamawa language Bena (ISO 639-3: yun). I also consider comparable cases of word-final consonant epenthesis in several other varieties of English, both the so-called New Englishes and Inner Circle varieties, and provide an account of the details of epenthesis with respect to which they differ. At first sight, hypercorrection of the tendency for word-final consonant cluster simplification in Bena English may seem an obvious explanation. However, I argue that hypercorrection alone falls short of explaining the observed pattern. In addition, we need to call on phonetic properties of Bena L1 such as pre-pausal glottalisation and lengthening of consonants to be able to account for both the actuation of the hypercorrection and the phonologisation of the epenthesis. Although the availability of a clear phonetic explanation makes this sound pattern conceivable as a natural rule, its typological rarity in non-contact lects highlights the positive bias induced by hypercorrection as a necessary part of the mix in creating the conditions for a reanalysis.

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The present article results from a joint project with Mark Van de Velde on the description of Bena. Our main Bena consultants come from the village of Dumne, Adamawa State (N 9°47′ E 12°23′). This work is situated within the projects AdaGram (programme ‘Émergence(s)’ of the city of Paris) and LC2 ‘Areal phenomena in northern sub-Saharan Africa’ of the Labex EFL (programme ‘Investissements d'Avenir’ overseen by the French National Research Agency, reference: ANR-10-LABX-0083). Special thanks with respect to the present article are due to Mark Van de Velde and Yuni Kim. I am also very grateful for feedback and comments from the editor Patrick Honeybone and the anonymous reviewers.

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English Language & Linguistics
  • ISSN: 1360-6743
  • EISSN: 1469-4379
  • URL: /core/journals/english-language-and-linguistics
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