A description of some phonetic and phonological aspects of the Acholi Language
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The purpose of this study was to provide a phonetic and phonemic analysis of segments of Acholi sounds. Specifically, the study looks at the Gulu Variety of Acholi (henceforth GVoA). The study took into account distinctive features of the segments. To determine the phonemes and allophones of the GVoA, both the consonants and vowels were subjected to a minimal pair test in word-initial, word-medial and word-final positions. Tone was considered to be one of the major determinants of word pairs. The study was conducted using a descriptive design. Data was collected in June, 2017 using both audio and video recordings from focus group discussions, and from reading of texts in Acholi. I purposefully recruited 52 participants from the four divisions of Pece, Layibi, Bardege and Laroo in Gulu Municipality. Out of the 52 participants recruited, 49 participated in the exercise, after obtaining information about their origin, age, social and educational background. To limit the study to the Gulu Variety of Acholi, only speakers of Acholi who had lived in Gulu Municipality for more than 10 years were involved. The study was also based on articulatory phonetics while some aspects of acoustic phonetics were employed to establish the vowel sounds and also to examine two sounds which were quite similar, in order to determine the exact sound used in the Acholi language. The study established 21 consonant sounds used in the GVoA, of which 16 are distinct phonemes while 5 are allophones of some phonemes. It also established 9 vowel sounds considered the primary vowel sounds of the Acholi language, of which 4 have [+ATR] values and 5 have [-ATR] values and, determined the lexical functions that tone plays in the language. To promote correct use of sounds in words, the study recommends that the sounds of Acholi be updated and taught to its speakers at all levels of learning including teacher education, to enable them to teach correct concepts and pronunciation. This will inspire more research into other salient features of the Acholi language by the native speakers. The study also suggests that the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) should include some aspects of phonetics and phonology in the present Acholi syllabus taught in schools.