This work is concerned with study of wh-questions in Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo, a dialect of Enuani.  It focuses on the kinds of wh-question words there and their intricate characteristics.  It further dispels the notion that Enuani dialect is a homogenous dialect of Igbo, employing a comprehensive body of data to show Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo’s distinctness from other dialects of Enuani. Chapter one is the general introduction, dealing with the background of study, methodology, scope, objective of study, a brief overview of the Enuani dialect, showing its heterogenousity, also discuses the Akwukwu-Igbo dialect of Igbo, showing its phonology, its pronominal characteristics, and its tonal patterns.  The theoretical framework is also discussed therein. Chapter two reviews relevant literature on questions in general, further looking at the types of questions.  The third chapter is concerned with the presentation of Data showing interrogative sentences, with wh-question words, in Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo. Chapter four deals with the analysis and syntactic behavior of these interrogative sentences, duly analyzed in tree diagrams in consonance with the Government and Binding paradigm.  The work is concluded in the fifth chapter with summary and conclusion.





Linguistic investigation began with a prescriptive approach. where the grammar of certain languages were imposed on others, other languages were interpreted as being primitive languages and were expected to structurally confirm with the structures of Latin, hence this approach was called prescriptive grammar, the assumption of its proponents that all languages were expected to function in some manner and the predetermination of the relationship between sentential components on the basis of the structure of Latin was its own undoing.  The obvious failure of that model of grammar led to the era of structuralism.

The proponents of structural grammar believed that each language needed to be studied in its own merit, with data drawn directly from the native speaker.  They insisted that each and every language can be analyzed in its own light without reference to any other language as a standard.

For linguists, grammar is simply the collection of principles defining how to put together a sentence.  Every language has restrictions on how words  must be arranged to construct a sentence.  Such restrictions are principles of syntax. The grammar of a language involves statements about word order, word structure, and syntax. The structuring of words to form sentences could result in a sentence which could be declarative, imperative, negative or interrogative.

According to Chomsky’s Transformational Generative Grammar of 1957, the rules for the formation of sentences are most often embedded in the minds of the native speakers of a language, such that they form grammatical sentences without any kind of defined or undefined learning.  So it would be almost pointless to asking a native speaker how he gets around forming the various sentences in his language (Radford, 1997:2). However, effort has been made in the description of these processes and rules formulated systematically in this regard, to show how sentences are formed in the mind of the native speaker.

Humans are naturally curious people, always seeking information about various concepts, this inquisitive ‘nature’ has differentiated humans from other mammals. They carry out this ‘inquisition’ by asking questions. There are particular sentences that are used to make inquires, and thus there are particular components that differentiate them from other sentences in the language. Thus this work is concerned with the phenomena of question words, or, I might say question-triggers.

The dialect of Igbo spoken in Akwukwu-Igbo Town will be the ‘language’ of focus as the study exposits descriptively, entirely on its own merit the phenomenon of WH-questions.

Questions are generally unique in their own way they are differentiated from other sentences (declarative, imperative, negative). Question formation is a very crucial aspect of the syntax of any language, and as such linguists have worked on the question formation process of various languages.

Questions are generally pre-empted by certain question words. As regards the nature of question words, the concern is with their intricate make up and movement.  The interaction of these WH-words with the sentences where they are found in will be considered in relation to previous works on them.

Sentences are with questions are interrogative sentences.

Interrogative sentences are “like asking a declarative sentence”.

The nature of these question words will be discussed, alongside their syntactic behaviours and peculiarities. The question words indicate interrogative sentences.  Ndimele (1994:32) posits that a questioner  uses question words to seek information regarding the identity of a particular entity or phenomenon.

1.2     Igbo Language and Its Dialects

Igbo is the dominant language in south-east Nigeria.  It is the native language of the Igbo people located in the South-eastern region of the country, and vestiges of them can be seen in the southern region of Nigeria. Igbo language is the third most populous language in Nigeria, and one of the three national languages of Nigeria.

The native speakers are found in the five Eastern States, viz:  Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo.  Native speakers are also found in the Southern States of Delta and Rivers. Igbo belongs to the Niger-Congo family of languages, the classification by Greenberg (1970) places it under the kwa group of the Niger-Congo family.  However, Bendor-Samuel (1989) classifies it as the new Benue-Congo family.  While Wiliamson and Blench (2000) by virtue of lexico-statistic evidence reclassifies Igbo as West-Benue Congo.

Languages are manifested in their dialects.  Hence, attempts have been made to classify the dialects of the Igbo language. Clara Ikekeonwu (1986) claims that Igbo dialects cannot be more than twenty (20) in number.  She makes this classification using phonological and morphological features of Igbo to classify the dialects into six dialect groups.  According to her, each dialect assemblage has a main dialect (MD) which has sub-dialects.

The dialect groups, according to Ikekeonwu (1986) are thus:

  1. Niger-Igbo: Speakers found in Delta State.
  2. Inland West Igbo: Spoken in Anambra State.
  3. Inland East Igbo: Speakers found in Abia and Imo States.
  4. Waawa Igbo: Spoken in Enugu and Ebonyi States.
  5. Riverine Igbo: Spoken in parts of Rivers State.
  6. Aro Igbo: Spoken by the people in Arochukwu.

However, G.I. Nwaozuzu (2008) proposes eight dialect groups:

  1. West Niger Group of Dialects (WNGD): Consists of the variety of Igbo language spoken in the present Delta State of Nigeria.  Some of the areas found under this dialect group are Ika, Oshimili, comprising Asaba, Ibusa, etc.
  2. East Niger Group of Dialects (ENGD): Consisting of the group of dialects found in Anambra State.
  3. East Central Group of Dialects (ECGD): Found mainly in Imo State and parts of Abia State.
  4. Cross-River Group of Dialects (CRGD): This includes all the dialects of Igbo spoken in Arochukwu, Bende and Igbere areas, and also in the present Ikwuano Local Government Area.
  5. South-Eastern Group of Dialects (SEGD): Dialects spoken in Isiala Ngwa North and South, Obioma Ngwa, Osisioma Ngwa, Ukwa East and West Local Government Areas.
  6. North Eastern Group of Dialects (NEGD): Spoken in parts of Ebonyi State.
  7. Northern Group of Dialects (NGD): Previously classified as Waawa (Ikekeonwu, 1986).
  8. Southern Western Group of Dialects (SWGD): Spoken in Ahoada, Etche, Tai, Afam, Eleme, Port-Harcourt, Onuoky, Andoni, Bonny, Akukutori, Bori, Okirika, Opoba, etc.


Worthy of note however, is that despite the various classifications by Ikekeonwu (1986) and Nwaozuzu (2008), both agree that these dialects are clusters of various dialects.  In other words, main dialects with various sub-dialects.

In 1936, M.M. Green observed:    “The uncentralized nature of Ibo social organization is parallel by that of their language, the two factors clearly reacting on each other mutually as cause and effect.  Each village group tends to have its own local form of speech but there is enough evidence to show that in certain cases the language spoken over a considerable area, though it varies from place to place may yet be considered as belonging to one dialect form”.

Toeing the same path, Ward (1939:8) agrees that the “Ibo dialect situation reflects to some extent the small unit organization of the Ibo people.  The individualism of their social organization has meant that widely differing (but mutually intelligible) dialects have developed in the country in the past”.

Igbo language is spoken in a fairly wide region, consisting of millions of speakers, and following the positions of Ikekeonwu (1986), Green (1939), Ward (1939) and Nwaozuzu (2008) the dialects of Igbo language, are quite numerous; often being equated with individual communities.


Enuani translated to English to mean “upland” is commonly referred to as Anioma.  The Enuani dialect is spoken by the Anioma people:  The term Anioma means “Good land” in Igbo, is an acronym derived from the four original local governments.  This coinage was made by Chief Dennis Osadebey in 1951.

“(A) for Aniocha, (N) for Ndokwa, (I) for Ika, (O) for Oshimili, M and A are common denominators found in the four local governments”.

This Enuani is an amalgam of Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ika and Oshimili, dialects, these dialects themselves have sub-dialects, in fact the Enuani situation presents an interesting case of dialect cluster.

Despite the fact (in consonance with Ward, 1939) that the dialects are differing (not so widely in this case).  Mutual intelligibility is realized.  This however, should not result in a situation whereby one amongst the myriad of dialects is chosen to serve as the “standard” Enuani dialect, without due recourse to the correct procedure.

Anioma is bounded on the East by Anambra State, South-east by Imo and Rivers states, South by Bayelsa State, South-West by Isoko West  by Urhobo, North-West by Edo State, and North by Kogi State.

The Enuani dialect therefore consists of four main Dialect groups:  Aniocha, Ndokwa, Ika, Oshimili.





Akwukwu-Igbo town is located in Oshimili North Local Government Area of Delta State.  Akwukwu-Igbo occupies an area of about 300 square meters on the western flank of the River Niger.  Its neighbouring town in the north is Illah, in the West it shares common bonders with Ukala town, and Onicha Olona, by the eastern axis is Ugbo Olu, while in the South, it has Atuma as its neighbor.

The land at Akwukwu-Igbo is arable and very fertile hence the name “Akwukwu” which means ‘a great farmland’.

Tradition has it that the fertility of Akwukwu-Igbo soil is still a great asset for agricultural activities and the red soil located at strategic centres in the town is a great potential for the construction industry.  Therefore, the major profession of the inhabitants is farming and hunting.

There are various accounts concerning the history of Akwukwu-Igbo, however from available evidence, the most plausible is that the Akwukwu-Igbo people originated from Nri.  The settlements which included Ibusa, Ogwashi, Akwukwu-Igbo, were introduced by a movement which started in the mid-1500 A.D. in 1571, Okolie Agu one of the many children of Eze Nri Agu, an accomplished native doctor and one of the sons of Nri who controlled the mystic powers decided to travel northwards and founded Agukwu-Igbo, now called Akwukwu-Igbo.



The dialect of Igbo spoken in Akwukwu-Igbo has the following sounds:

1.4.1  Consonants

/p/     as in “pe”           /p/                             small

/b/     as in “mbe”           /mbe/                              toitoise

/t/      as in nta                /nta/                               small/little

/d/     as in ndida           /ndida/                           distance

/k/     as in oku              /ɔkυ/                              fire

/g/     as in ogu              /ɔgυ/                              fight

/kw/  as in okwu           /okwu/                           talk

/gw/  as in ogwu           /ogwu/                           thorn

/kp/   as in okpu            /okpu/                            cap

/gb/   as in mgbo           /mgbo/                           bullet/projectile

/f/      as in afo                /afo/                               stomach

/s/      as in asi                /asi/                                lie

/z/     as in nzu              /nzu/                               native chalk

/r/      as in ojegho           /odʒe ﻻɔ/                       he did not go

/h/     as in hoputa         /hɔpυta/                         select

/ŋ/      as in nkata             /ŋkata/                            basket

/m/     as in oloma            /oloma/                           orange

/n/      as in nna                /nna/                               father

/∫/       as in onya              /ɔa/                                trap

/ŋw/   as in onwu             /ɔŋwυ/                            death

/l/      as in efele             /efele/                            plate

/j/      as in òyì                /ɔji/                          friend

/w/    as in weta             /wetǝ/                            bring

/dʒ/   as in oji                 /ɔdʒi/                              kolanut

/t∫/     as in oche              /ot∫e/                               chair

/∫/      as in Ishoko ashoko  /Iɔkɔ aɔkɔ/               to be messy








Manner of Articulation Place of Articulation
Bilabial Labio-Dental Alveolar Palato-Alveolar Velar Labio-Velar Glottal Palatal
Stop p   b t          d k   g kw  gw
Implosives kp  gb kp gb
Fricatives F s z h
Affricates t∫  dʒ
Nasal m N ŋ ŋw V


Lateral L
Approximant w


1.5.3  Vowels

/i/      as in ite                 /ite/                      pot

/I/      as in mkpi            /mkpI/                  he-goat

/u/     as in ute               /ute/                     mat

/υ/     as in usu               /υsυ/                     bat

/o/     as in ogonogo      /ogonogo/            long

/ɔ/     as in okpukpu      /ɔkpυkpυ/            bone

/a/     as in akpa             /akpa/                   bag

/e/     as in ede               /ede/                     cocoyam


1.5.4  Vowel Chart

I                                                     u

I                              υ


c                           o


ǝ                                ɔ



Nwaozuzu (2008)



According to Nwaozuzu (2008) the schwa /ǝ/ which is found in the WNGD occurs in initial positions in words in which they occur.  He says that it is most seen in Ukwuani and Asaba dialects, Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo is most closely related to the Asaba variety of Enuani.

As regards the bunds of the Akwukwu-Igbo dialect, they differ slightly from the sounds of the “standard dialect of Igbo” differing in the absence of the following phonemes in the phonology of Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo /ʒ/, /v/, and /r/, which are found in the standard dialect of Igbo.  The vowel chart of Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo and the ‘standard Igbo’ vowel chart differ only in the presence of the schwa in the Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo vowel chart.


1.6     TONE

Tone is one of the phonological features of the Igbo language.  All dialects of Igbo therefore use tone to distinguish two otherwise identical lexical or syntactic structures.  In WNDG as in any other Igbo dialect, only two basic tones can be observed, a high tone and a low tone, the third tone known as the down step is not basic (Nwaozuzu, 2008).

The two basic tones are thus:

  1. High Tone []
  2. Low tone [`]

The third tone is perceived as a down stepped high tone, and it is referred to as a grammatical tone:

  • Mid Tone [-]

1.7     PRONOUN

Pronouns in the Akwukwu-Igbo dialect follow the same pattern as was enunciated by Emenanjo (1975).  Although he attempted to account for the dialectal variations, a rather valiant effort, it however left a little more to be desired.

The pronouns are thus:


                                      Dependent                    Independent

1st person                       e/a                                  mmu, mu, m

2nd person                      i/i                                   iyu

3rd person                      o/o                                 ya


1st person                                                             anyi

2nd person                                                            unu

3rd person                      wa                                  wa

Some of these forms can occur both in subject and object position.



The objective of this project work is to provide a succinct description of WH-movement in Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo, this is because the Enuani dialect of which Akwukwu-Igbo Igbo is a sub-dialect is a concatenation of dialects, erroneously thought to be one dialect, and ascribed certain features that do not reflect its multi-dialectal nature.

Studies in Igbo language have grown from the more or less anthropologically – based descriptions to general linguistic descriptions, of all these works the dialects have been marginalized.  It is of great importance that for the much desired “standard-Igbo” to be realized all or a good number of the dialects need to be studied so as to give room for the standard to evolve “naturally” not “mechanically”.

Oluikpe (1979) posits that the only systematic approach for the realization of our dream dialect is one based on the following procedures:

  1. A comprehensive survey of Igbo dialects.
  2. A description of the various dialects of the language based on the most representative speech pattern of the dialect.
  3. Segmentation of the common core from all the dialects described.
  4. Standardization of variants grammatical and lexical.
  5. Compilation of a standardized wordlist of Igbo – an arduous procedure, but our only guarantee for the best result.

In addition, it is also pertinent that the syntactic/morpho-syntactic processes should be considered.

In the light of the above position by Oluikpe (1979) a comprehensive study of Igbo dialects is necessary, undermining this issue will be detrimental not only to the people whose dialect is relegated and consigned to oblivion, but to Igbo language as a whole which might have benefited from the study of such a dialect.

Enuani dialect as has been said above is not just a homogenous dialect, rather it is what Ikekeonwu (1986) refers to as a main dialect (MD) with sub-dialects.  Thus, a study of Enuani is a study of the dialects.  A situation whereby a study about a phenomenon in Enuani is studied, and one amongst the numerous dialects is used as a representative dialect is unacceptable, and must be vehemently opposed whenever such an anomaly is noticed.

Ukwajiunor (2011) (Question formation in Enuani dialect of Igbo) presents a perfect scenario, in the research Ukwajiunor studies Enuani as a homogenous dialect making little or no allusion the complexity of the dialect in the representation of the phenomenon of Questions in Enuani.

This work therefore is not to discredit the painstaking work of another, but to shed more light on the phenomenon of the WH-question in Enuani, the greater objective being to draw attention to this dialect of Igbo and its many sub-dialects, while trying to present a better case for the study of  WH-questions in Enuani, for what it really is; a study of WH-questions in an Enuani dialect.

This said, and in consonance with Oluikpe (1979), a comprehensive Enuani dialect nay Igbo dialect will only come to existence when the “dialects” are studied.  Hence, Ukwajiunor’s research, for example, will be only appropriately titled when the sub-dialects have been fully studied and then we would achieve (b) of Oluikpe’s position.


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