Skip to main content

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.

Hide All

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.

Hide All
Blevins Juliette. 2007. Consonant epenthesis: Natural and unnatural histories. In Good Jeff (ed.), Language universals and language change, 79107. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Blevins Juliette. 2017. Between natural and unnatural phonology: The case of cluster-splitting epenthesis. In Claire Bowern, Laurence Horn & Raffaella Zanuttini (eds.), On looking into words (and beyond): Structures, relations, analyses, 3–15 (Empirically Oriented Theoretical Morphology and Syntax 3). Berlin: Language Science Press.
Broselow Ellen. 1984. Default consonants in Amharic morphology. In Speas Margaret & Sproat Richard W. (eds.), Papers from the January 1984 MIT Workshop in Morphology, 1532. Cambridge, MA: Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, MIT.
Buizza Emanuela & Plug Leendert. 2012. Lenition, fortition and the status of plosive affrication: The case of spontaneous RP English /t/. Phonology 29 (1), 138.
Cheung Kwan Hin. 1986. The phonology of present day Cantonese. PhD thesis, University College London.
Childs Becky & Wolfram Walt. 2008. Bahamian English: Phonology. In Schneider Edgar W. (ed.), Varieties of English, vol. 2: The Americas and the Caribbean, 239–55. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Clarke Sandra. 2008. Newfoundland English: phonology. In Schneider Edgar W. (ed.), Varieties of English, vol. 2: The Americas and the Caribbean, 161–80. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Crosbie David. 2012. Comment on John Wells's phonetic blog: No (audible) release. (accessed 6 August 2014).
Cruz-Ferreira Madalena. 2005. Past tense suffixes and other final plosives in Singapore English. In Deterding David, Brown Adam & Low Ee Ling (eds.), English in Singapore: Phonetic research on a corpus, 2636. Singapore and New York: McGraw Hill.
Deterding David & Sharbawi Salbrina. 2013. Brunei English: A new variety in a multilingual society. Dordrecht and New York: Springer.
Faraclas Nicholas G. 1996. Nigerian Pidgin. London and New York: Routledge.
Fourakis Marios & Port Robert. 1986. Stop epenthesis in English. Journal of Phonetics 14, 197221.
Gut Ulrike B. 2008. Nigerian English: Phonology. In Mesthrie Rajend (ed.), Varieties of English, vol. 4: Africa, South and Southeast Asia, 3554. Berlin and Boston: Mouton de Gruyter.
Gut Ulrike. 2009a. Non-native speech: A corpus-based analysis of phonological and phonetic properties of L2 English and German. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Gut Ulrike. 2009b. First language influence and final consonant clusters in the new Englishes of Singapore and Nigeria. World Englishes 26 (3), 346–59.
Holm John. 1988. Pidgins and creoles, vol. 1: Theory and structure. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Iwata Ray, Sawashima Masayuki & Hirose Hajime. 1981. Laryngeal adjustments for syllable-final stops in Cantonese. Annual Bulletin of the Research Institute of Logopedics and Phoniatrics 15, 4554.
Labov William. 1966. The social stratification of English in New York City. Washington, DC: Center for Applied Linguistics.
Labov William. 1989. The child as linguistic historian. Language Variation and Change 1, 8597.
Lee Sook‐hyang. 1991. The duration and perception of English epenthetic and underlying stops. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 89 (4B), April. doi:10.1121/1.2029835.
Michaud Alexis. 2004. Final consonants and glottalization: New perspectives from Hanoi Vietnamese. Phonetica 61 (2-3), 119–46.
Minkova Donka. 2014. A historical phonology of English. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.
Morley Rebecca L. 2012. The emergence of epenthesis: An incremental model of grammar change. Language Dynamics and Change 2, 5997.
Newman Paul. 2000. The Hausa language: An encyclopedic reference grammar. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
Newman Roxana Ma & Van Heuven Vincent J.. 1981. An acoustic and phonological study of pre-pausal vowel length in Hausa. Journal of African Languages and Linguistics 3, 118.
OED Online. 2014. against, prep., conj., adv., and n. Oxford University Press. (accessed 23 June 2014).
Ohala John J. 1986. Consumer's guide to evidence in phonology. Phonology Yearbook 3, 326.
Ohala John J. 2003. Phonetics and historical phonology. In Joseph Brian D. & Janda Richard D. (eds.), The handbook of historical linguistics, 669–86. Oxford: Blackwell.
Recasens Daniel. 2012. The phonetic implementation of underlying and epenthetic stops in word final clusters in Valencian Catalan. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 42 (1), 6590.
Setter Jane & Deterding David. 2003. Extra final consonants in the English of Hong Kong and Singapore. Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Phonetic Sciences, Barcelona, August, 1875–8.
Simo Bobda Augustin. 2007. Some segmental rules of Nigerian English phonology. English World-Wide 28 (3), 279310.
Tagliamonte Sali A. & Temple Rosalind. 2005. New perspectives on an ol’ variable: (t,d) in British English. Language Variation and Change 17 (3), 281302.
Thomas Erik R. 2008. Rural Southern white accents. In Schneider Edgar W. (ed.), Varieties of English, vol. 2: The Americas and the Caribbean, 87114. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Tillery Jan & Bailey Guy. 2008. The urban South: Phonology. In Schneider Edgar W. (ed.), Varieties of English, vol. 2: The Americas and the Caribbean, 115–28. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.
Ugorji C. U. C. 2010. Nigerian English phonology. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Van de Velde Mark & Idiatov Dmitry. 2017. Morphological classes and gender in inline-graphic ná-Yungur. In Kaji Shigeki (ed.), Proceedings of the 8th World Congress of African Linguistics, 5365. Tokyo: Research Institute for Languages and Cultures of Asia and Africa, Tokyo University of Foreign Studies.
Vaux Bert. 2002. Consonant epenthesis and the problem of unnatural phonology.
Warner Natasha & Weber Andrea. 2001. Perception of epenthetic stops. Journal of Phonetics 29 (1), 5387.
Yoo Isaiah WonHo & Blankenship Barbara. 2003. Duration of epenthetic [t] in polysyllabic American English words. Journal of the International Phonetic Association 33 (2), 153–64.
Żygis Marzena. 2010. Typology of consonantal insertions. Papers from the Linguistics Laboratory, ZASPiL 52, 111–40.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

English Language & Linguistics
  • ISSN: 1360-6743
  • EISSN: 1469-4379
  • URL: /core/journals/english-language-and-linguistics
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 2
Total number of PDF views: 23 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 160 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 12th September 2017 - 20th January 2018. This data will be updated every 24 hours.