Ìletlégbàku/Pigbaye dialect

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Pigbaye is the Ìletlégbàku rendering of the Naəgbum Lukpanic word Pigwaea, a compound formed from pigwa 'lake' + ea 'stop'. This name reflects how Pigbaye began, as a small trading post between the city of Naəgbum and the Wañelinlawag Empire on the Wañelin lake. Over the centuries it grew into a thriving city, eventually surpassing Naəgbum in power and becoming the one of the chief land-oriented cities on the Lukpanic coast.

The Pigbaye dialect has a mix of features from all over the immediate area; since the city was a trading post a variety of different languages have left their mark on it. It is most fundamentally a descendant of eastern dialects of the Ìletlégbàku continuum; it has also been influenced heavily by the Ìletlégbàku of Naəgbum, the Ishoʻu ʻOhu of Isi, and the Šetâmol of the Wañelinlawag Empire.

Sound changes

In -900 BP, the dialects which the dialect of Pigbaye had a few differences from Ìletlégbàku:

  • Former /xʷ ɣʷ/ are reflected as /ɸ β/.
  • /s z/ never merged.
  • /x/ and /ɬ/ are not voiced intervocalically.
  • All clusters with /ɬ/ merge into the affricate /tɬ/.

Pigbaye, however, was not around then; it was only a fully-developed city by around -300 BP. By then the language had changed quite a bit:

  • Adjacent identical vowels collapse into a long vowel. The tone resolves into rising, falling, or a static tone.
  • High-tone vowels shift as follows: [ɛ] > [e], [ɑ] > [a], [u] > [o], [i] > [ɪj], while low-tone vowels lengthen.
  • [ɬ] becomes [l] intervocalically.
  • Diphthongs beginning with [i] (not [ɪj]) have this [i] turn into [j], while the second vowel is lengthened and gains a tone contour from the previous vowel's tone and its own. The same happens with [u] (not [o]), which turns into [w].
  • Other diphthongs (except [ɪj]) monophthongise to long vowels, but acquire a tone contour based on the combination of the two tones. Normally the quality is that of the first vowel, but [ai] or [aɪj] monophthongises to [eː] while [ɑu] or [ɑo] monophthongises to [oː].
  • High and mid-tone vowels are lost word-finally, while low-tone vowels are shortened (long vowels arising from vowel sequences are not shortened, suggesting that these may have initially been longer than the low-tone lengthened vowels). However, high-tone vowels are not lost in words with less than three syllables. Initially, only mid-tone vowels are lost and no shortening occurs. Adjacent vowels acquire tone contours. [ɪj] is not affected.
  • [g] becomes [ɣ] and [gb] becomes [β].
  • Labial-velars become labialised consonants initially, and plain labials finally.
  • Long vowels are de-lengthened when another long vowel is in the previous syllable. (persistent rule)
  • Non-long vowels are lost when a reasonable cluster can be formed, but there is some irregularity. Generally, a max of 2 vowels are dropped per word. Adjacent vowels acquire tone contours based on the vowel that was dropped's tone. The clusters that are forbidden are:
    • All geminates and clusters of two consonants identical except for voicing
    • Clusters where the consonants have differing voice and each are distinguished phonemically by voice. Clusters like /bʃ/, where voice is not phonemic on an obstruent, assimilate to have the voicing of the consonant with phonemic voicing: [bʒ].
    • /pf bv pm bm pw bw kx kɣ kŋ/
    • /tts dts ttɬ dtɬ ttʃ dtʃ ts dz tɬ dɬ tʃ dʃ/
    • /tstʃ tss tsz tsɬ tsʃ tsx tsɣ tsn tʃts tʃs tʃz tʃʃ tʃx tʃɣ/
    • /tɬ/ followed by any consonant other than /m n ŋ j w/
    • /fx vɣ fm vm fw vw xk ɣk xs ɣz xʃ ɣʃ xŋ ɣŋ ʃj tʃj/
    • /sts zts sɬ zɬ sʃ zʃ sx zɣ ʃs ʃz ʃx ʃɣ/
    • /ɬs ɬz ɬx ɬɣ ɬl lɬ/
    • /mt md mk mts mtɬ mtʃ mf mv mx mɣ ŋp ŋb ŋt ŋd ŋts ŋtɬ ŋtʃ ŋf ŋv ŋx ŋɣ/
    • /np nb nk nf nv nx nɣ/
    • Word-initially, all clusters were disallowed except /pj bj tj dj tw dw kw xw ɣw ŋw/. Word-finally, no clusters were allowed.
  • [e ɪj] become [ej].
  • [ɛː ɑː] merge into [aː].
  • High tone merges into mid tone, except on monosyllables, where it becomes rising tone. This creates phonemic new vowels /ej a o/.
  • Low tone merges into mid tone, except on monosyllables, where it becomes falling tone. This creates phonemic long vowels /aː iː uː/.
  • All vowels with a contour tone become long (unless a long vowel is in the next syllable), making the long/short distinction irrelevant on these vowels.

The most striking result of these changes was the simplification of the tone system. Only a few syllables carried distinctive tone, which was based on rising/static/falling rather than high/low/mid. This may be due to Pigbaye's status as a trading centre, where many people with non-tonal languages were present.


Bilabial Alveolar Lateral Palatal Velar
Voiceless plosive p /p/ t /t/ k /k/
Voiced plosive b /b/ d /d/
Affricate c /ts/ tl /tɬ/ ch /tʃ/
Voiceless fricative f /ɸ/ s /s/ ł /ɬ/ sh /ʃ/ x /x/
Voiced fricative v /β/ z /z/ g /ɣ/
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ ng /ŋ/
Approximant l /l/ y /j/ w /w/

(Labial-velars apart from /gb/ were still around, but only intervocalically, and can be analysed as clusters).

As for the vowels:

Front Back
Close i /i/ u /u/
Mid e /ɛ/ o /o/
Open ä /a/ a /ɑ/

There is also a common dipthong ei /ei/, and three long vowels: ii /iː/, uu /uː/, aa /aː/, plus a long version of the diphthong éi /eːi/. Note that /ei/ is distinct from /ɛj/. Long vowels never appear before another long vowel in the next syllable.

There are three possible tones: rising, indicated by an acute, falling, indicated by a grave, and static, unmarked. Most vowels are static. Tone is usually lower in final syllables than in previous ones, when static.

The Pigbaye dialect permits much more consonant clusters than Ìletlégbàku.

Some example words:

  • Ìletlégbàku > Íltleivák [ĭltɬejβăk]
  • Pigbaye > Pivay [piβɑj]
  • Nugbù > Nuvu [nuβu]
  • lukpài > łukpá [ɬukpă]