The Obolo language is spoken by over 100,000 people living in a riverine area of about 630sq.km on the south South coast of Nigeria. Obolo is a Benue Congo Language of the Lower Cross subgroup of the Cross River group of languages.
There are six major dialect groups in the language, namely: (from west to east): Ataba, Unyeada, Ngo, Okoroete, Iko and Ibot Obolo. Ataba dialect is spoken in all the towns and villages of Ataba while Unyeaba dialect is spoken in all Unyeada and Asarama towns and villages, and in Egendem. Ngo dialect is spoken in all the towns and villages on the Island ( I.e Uyangala, Egwede, Agana, Agwot-Obolo, etc. except Okoroboile) and the adjacent islands from Oronja through Akaradi to Ebukuma.
Okoroete dialect is spoken in Okoroboile. Okoroinyong, Ibot Ama Jaaba (except Okorobilom), Obianga, Emeroke, Amadaka Okoroete, Okoromkho and Okoroiti. Iko dialect is spoken in Iko, Atabrikang I, and Ikonta, while Ibot Obolo dialect is spoken in Ibot Obolo. Ntafit, Atabrikang II, Elile and Okorobilom.
The first professional linguistic analysis of Obolo was done between 1981 and 1983 by Dr. Nickolas Faraclas, of the University of California, Berkeley who was directed to Obolo by Prof. K. Williamson of the University of Port Harcourt and the Rivers Readers Project, to work with the then Obolo language committee. Faraclas analyzed the language and wrote an extensive description of the phonology and grammar to the language, and helped to design the Orthography.
The Obolo consonants segment range between twenty one and twenty seven. Phonetically, Obolo has twenty seven phonetics consonant sounds according to the following groupings: ten stops, four nasals, eight fricatives, one trill, 1 tap and three approximants.
There are no nasalized vowel phonemes in Obolo, but all vowels may become slightly nasalized in the environment of a nasal consonant, According to Faraclas Obolo does not permit consonant clustering in a word. Instead of clustering to occur, and epenthesis vowel is usually inserted to break the clustering.
Obolo alphabet comprises single letters and digraphs. The language also makes use of diacritics to enable adequacy in their writing system. The Obolo letters of the alphabet are arranged as follows:
Aa, Bb, CH ch, Dd, Ee, Ff, Gg, GB gb, GW gw,Hh, Jj, Kk, KP kp, KW kw, Ll li, Mm, Nn, NW nw, NY ny, Ññ, Oo
Ọọ, Pp, Ss, Tt, Uu, Ww, Yy, Zz.
THE OBOLO VOWELS
Obolo has six phonemic vowels which are written as follows:
· a [a] as in tap “put”
· e [e] as in ebek “neck”
· i [i] as in ifet “beard
· o [o] as in lom “bite”
· ọ [ọ] as in ọkpọlọk “throat”
· u [u] as in utọñ “ear”
THE OBOLO VOWELS LENGTH
Along with the six vowels, there are also six corresponding contrastive long vowels. Some examples are illustrated below:
· aa [a:] as in ataat “saliva
· ee [e:] as in mbeek “request”
· ii [i:] as in niiñ “quench”
· oo [o:] as in sook “shoot”
· ọọ [ɔ:] as in sook “squat”
· uu [u:] as in fuuk “breathe
Digraphs refer to a sequence of two letters which manifest as one unit of phoneme. Examples of digraph in obolo include:
· ch /ts/ as in chien – eye
· gb as in gbang -listen
· gw as in gwen – call
· kp as in ikpa – book
· kw as in kwek – prevent
· nw as in nwa
· ny as in nya- my
Refers to symbol that gives extra information about a particular sound. Diacritics in obolo include:
· (~) -nasalization
This information is subject to subtraction and addition of ideas.
By Steven Clifford