Phonological rules are rules that control how sounds changes during vocal communication be it spoken or written. Trask (1996) views phonological rules as “any rule which in some analysis is posited as involved in the deriving a pronunciation”.According to Hayes (2009), phonological rules are generalizations about the different ways a sound can be pronounced in different environments. From his definition, phonological rules simply describe how speakers go from the abstract representation stored in their brain to the actual sound they articulate while speaking.
Smith (1995) on the other hand, recognized phonological rules as mappings between two different levels of sound representation which is the underlying and surface level. From Smith’s definition, phonological rules start with the underlying representation of a sound which is the phoneme that is stored in the speaker’s mind and then yield to the final surface form which is what the speaker actually pronounces.
In English for instance, the plural maker ‘-s’ is realized in three forms – (s) in cats, [Z] in stones, and [iz] in fishes. These forms [s, z, iz] are stored mentally as /s/ but the surface pronunciations which are derived through are different phonological processes which occur in a syllable. What really is a syllable? Though there is no acceptable definition of the syllable, some linguists have proposed certain definitions as to what syllables are.
From Kenstowicz’s (1994) point of view, the syllable is a very important concept for understanding the phonological structure. Roach (2009) describes the syllable as occupying the centre that has little or no obstruction to airflow. Gimson (1994) simply put that the syllable is a unit of pronunciation higher than the phenomenon and yet smaller than a word or morpheme.
From the above definitions, it can be deduced the syllable in an essential constant feature in all spoken languages. Each language has its own rules about what kinds of syllable are allowed and this is made possible by the phonotactics of that language.
A syllable has three (3) parts; the onset, nucleus and coda. Consonants occupy the onset and coda position while vowels and syllable nasals occupy the nucleus position. Though the onset and coda can be optional, the nucleus is obligator since it is the most needed element in a syllable.
This work aims at studying the syllable structure of Ekid language and look into what phonological rules governs them. The phonological rules will be applied to restructure the syllable in order to conform to the phonotactics of the Ekid language.
This work will be done by making use of Generative theory. Generative phonology is the application of generative grammar of phonology. Chomsky and Halle (1968) are the major proponents of this theory. The goal of this theory is to make precise and explicit the ability of native speakers to produce and perceive or understand utterances of a particular language. It is therefore the task of phonological rules to account for the predictable aspects of pronunciation whether they relate to alternative pronunciations of the same basic morpheme or different phonetic forms that a sound can take.
Generative phonologists who have worked extensively with phonological rules work on the basic assumption that every speaker has a mental lexicon full of abstract entries of phonological forms in his or head. These abstract stored entries are underlying representations ad serve as input for the phonological rules. These underlying forms then undergo a derivational process which is defined by the phonological rule. The output of that process is the phonetic representation of the pronunciation (Iman, 2005).
The phonological rules which govern the Ekid syllable structure will be written out in a specialized notation that codifies the ways in which a sound or group of sounds is altered by appearing in a specific linguistic context. Let’s consider an example in Ibibio, a related language to Ekid. The word ‘ke inwañ’ becomes ‘kinwañ’. What happens now is that the sound /e/ is being deleted leaving the space for /i/ to dominate. A phonological rule for this process can be illustrated thus:
[ " Ø / - +[ This state that a non-high vowel is deleted in an environment where it occurs but a high vowels.
This same notational rules will be used in discussing the phonological rules in Ekid syllable structure.
1.2 Background Information on the Esit Eket People and Languages
1.2.1 History of Esit Eket
Esit Eket was part of Eket in Cross River State until the creation of Akwa Ibom State in 1986. It was created in 1989 with its headquarters at Uquo and since then, it has been among the 774 Local Government Areas (L.G.A) in Nigeria. It is made up of two clans – Eket Affioing and Eket Afaha which are held together by common tradition, custom and ancestral relationship. By 2006 traditional rulers’ law, there are about 66 villages.
The L.G.A is situated at the extreme south of Akwa Ibom State and it extends across the south eastern shores of the Atlantic Ocean sharing boundaries with Ibeno, Eket and Nsit Ubium L.G.As. (2006).
1.2.2 The People of Esit Eket
From the 1991 census projection, the L.G.A has a projected population of about 117,300 people and it has one distinct ethnic group – Esit Ekid. This group is put under the jurisdiction of Uquo customary court area. The people live in large families and communities. They are homogenous, dynamic and very resourceful. Their major dialect is Ekid.
The people are predominantly of the Christian faith but some forms of traditional African religion are still practiced by a few people.
The socio-cultural, cultural, and traditional life of the people is well displayed in dances, songs, plays and mythologies, oracles, cult and festivals. These are manifested in masquerade, traditional dances, storytelling, and plays. There are many other types of plays which are mere pastimes. Some are associated with worship, some with warfare, while others are pure cultic.
There are also deities in Esit Ekid. Each of these presides over a number of patterns and has a messenger popularly called nsongedoho. Even though deity worship is minimal, some people still regard these deities as the pervading and guiding spirit in the community.
They still have observable market days life afana and uruanbaukpo. Their cuisines include ekpang with atong, aba afang and emong etc..