Muhammad Mustapha Umar
Department of Nigerian Languages Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto Email: GSM: 08065466400


Contrastive analysis is a linguistic enterprise aimed at producing inverted (i.e contrastive not comparative) two valued typologies (a contrastive analysis is always concerned with a pair of languages), and founded on the assumption that languages can be compared (James,1980). This research is an effort to describe the similarities and differences between the sound systems of Hausa and Igbo with respect to their production and quality. The proposed areas of contrast include the consonant and vowel phonemes of the two languages.


The Hausa language is spoken approximately by forty three million people living mainly in Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Togo, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Sudan, Cameroon, Benin and Cote d’Ivoire. Hausa is a member of west Chadic language branch of Afro-Asiatic language family. It is regarded as a lingua franca in Northern Nigeria and even in non Hausa speaking cities in Nigeria and in some parts of west African countries. The major Hausa dialects are the eastern and western regional dialects. Hausa is a phonetic language i.e, it is written as it is pronounced and its orthography is based on Latin and Arabic scripts. However, it must be pointed out that in standard Hausa orthography, vowel length and tone are not represented.
Igbo is one of the eight major languages in the Benue-Congo of African languages (Williamson, 1989). It is spoken natively in south-eastern Nigeria in the present state of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo. In general, there are two major dialect zones in Igbo: Owere and Onica, although quite significant variations occur within each zone. It is written in an adapted version of the Latin Alphabet. It is spoken by approximately twenty four million people according to Wikipedia (2012).


Hausa has thirty phonemic consonant sounds which are produced through a single and double articulation. The double articulation relates to labialized and palatalized consonants. Consonants are formed by interrupting, restricting or diverting the airflow in a variety of ways. There are three ways of describing the Hausa consonant sounds.

2.1 Place of Articulation: Bilabial: /b, ~, ƒ,m/. Palatalized Bilabial: /ƒy/. Alveolar: /d,],l,r,s,t,ts,z/ Retroflex: /r/. Post Alveolar: /c,j,sh/. Palatal: /y/. Velar: /k,g,},/. Labio velar: /w/. Labialized velar: /kw, gw, }w,/. Palatalized velar: /ky,gy, }y/. Glottis: /h/. Palatalized Glottal: /‘y/
2.2 Manner of Articulation: Stop/Plosive: /b,d,k,g,gw,gy,k,kw,ky,t,’y/. Implosive: /~,]/. Ejective: /},}w,}y,ts/. Nasal: /m,n/. Fricative: /ƒ, ƒy,h,s,sh,z/. Affricate: /c,j/. Lateral: /l/. Trill/Roll: /r/. Approximant: /w,y/

2.3 State of The Glottis: Voiced: /b,~,d,],g,gw,gy j,l,m,n,r,w,y,z/. Voiceless: /c,ƒ, ƒy,h, k, }, kw, }w,ky, }y s,sh,t,ts/. Neutral: /’/, /‘y/


This section explains the articulation of the twenty eight Igbo consonants. They may also be classified along three major dimensions: Place of articulation, manner of articulation and state of the glottis.

3.1 Place of Articulation: Labial: /b,m,p/. Labio Dental: /f,v/. Alveolar: /d,l,n,r,s,t,z/ Palato-Alveolar: /c,j,sh/. Palatal: /y/. Velar: /k,g, gh/. Labio-Velar: /kp,gb,w/. Labialized velar: /kw, gw, nw,/ Glottal: /h/.

3.2 Manner of Articulation: Plosive: /b,t,d,k,g,kp, kw,gw, gb,p,/. Fricative: /f,gh,h,s,sh,v,z/. Affricate: /c,j/. Nasal: /m,n,ñ,nw,ny/. Trill: /r/. Lateral: /l/. Approximant: /y,w/.

3.3 State of The Glottis: Voiced: /b,d,g,gb,gh,gw,h,j,l,m,n,ñ,nw,ny,r,w,v,y,z/. Voiceless: /c,f,k, kw,p,s,sh,t/.


In standard Hausa, there are five pairs of single vowels in which five are short and five are long. A long vowel is often marked by either doubling it or following it with a colon e.g aa or a: (Sani, 2005:20). The ten Hausa short and long vowel phonemes are as follows: /a, aa, e, ee, i, ii, o, oo, u, uu/. A distinction is always made between short and long vowel in Hausa, and this distinction is phonemic, i.e it brings about change of meaning. (Yusuf, 2007:131).
In addition, three different diphthongs are found in Hausa. They are: /ai, au, ui/


Tongue Position a aa e ee i ii o oo u uu ai au ui
Front - - + + + + - - - - + - -
Central + + - - - - - - - - - - -
Back - - - - - - + + + + - + +
High - - - - + + - - + + - - +
Mid - - + + - - + + - - - - -
Low + + - - - - - - - - + + -
Lip Position a aa e ee i ii o oo u uu ai au ui
Rounded - - - - - - + + + + - + +*
Unrounded + + + + + + - - - - + - +*


There are eight vowels in Igbo: /a, e, i, ï, o, ö, u, ü/ It will be observed that the order here is strictly alphabetical in that dotted vowels follow their undotted counterparts. The dotted phonemes are marked with script dot under them or with umlauted dot placed at the top of the vowel. Furthermore, in Igbo, there is a phonological pattern in which vowels within a given domain are required to agree in properties such as vowel height or backness, vowel roundness and tongue root position. In this situation, there are constraints on what vowels may be found near each other, or occur together, but will not occur with others in a word. In Igbo, vowels are divided into two harmonic sets: Set I /a, ï, ö, ü/ set II /e, i, o, u/


Tongue Position a e i ï o ö u ü
Front + + + + - - - -
Central - - - - - - - -
Back - - - - + + + +
High - - + + - - + +
Mid - + - - + + _ -
Low + - - - - - - -
Lip Position a e i ï o ö u ü
Rounded - - - - + + + +
Unrounded + + + + - - - -


karanta wannan


1. The two languages share these consonant phonemes: /b,c,d,g,h,j,k,l,m,n,r,s,sh,t,w,y,z/.
2. Hausa and Igbo share some features in the place of articulation. The similar areas include: Bilabial, alveolar, palatal, velar, labio- velar, labialized velar and glottal.
3. Hausa bears a striking similarity to Igbo in respect of manner of articulation, as in: Plosive, fricative, affricate, nasal, trill, lateral and approximant.
4. Hausa has voiced sounds resembling similar phonemes in the Igbo language as in: /b,d, g,gw,j,l,m,n,r,y,z/ They also share these voiceless phonemes: /c,f,k,kw,s,sh,t/.
5. The vowel phonemes /a,e,i,o,u/ are basically common in the two languages.
6. For tongue position, in the articulation of monophthongs, both languages have the same vowel backness.
7. For lip position, in the articulation of monophthongal vowels /o/ and /u/, roundness is present in both Hausa and Igbo.
1. Hausa has thirty consonant sounds, while Igbo has twenty eight. These Hausa consonants are not present in Igbo: /~,],gy,},ky,}w,}y,ts,’y/ and the Igbo phonemes /gb,gh,kp,ñ,nw,ny,p,v/ are absent in the Hausa Language.
2. In place of articulation, these do not occur in Igbo: Palatalized bilabial, retroflex, post alveolar, palatalized velar, while labio dental is not available in Hausa.
3. In manner of articulation, Hausa has implosive and ejective but they are not present in Igbo.
4. The Hausa voiced sounds /~,],gy,w/ are absent in Igbo, and Igbo voiced sounds /gh,nw,v/ are absent in Hausa. Furthermore, Voiceless phonemes /ky,},}w,}y,ts/ available in Hausa, do not exist in Igbo. And the Igbo voiceless phoneme /p/ is not present in Hausa. And the Hausa neutral sounds /’/ and /’y/ are absent in Igbo.
5. The number of vowel phonemes is twelve for Hausa, whereas in Igbo this number is eight. There are no diphthongs in Igbo at all.
6. The dotted vowels in Igbo / ï, ö, ü/ are not present in Hausa, while long vowels are absent in Igbo.


Contrastive analysis is the study and comparison of two languages. This is done by looking at structural similarities and differences of the studied languages. This study reveals the differences between Hausa and Igbo phonemes, the differences that may be used to find the relationship between the two languages, in order to create a linguistic family tree, and for the aim to aid second language acquisition. It is hoped that this study will provide the motivation for a much wider comparison which will fully establish the interrelationships of languages.

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Echeruo, M.J.C. 2001. Igbo-English Dictionary: A Comprehensive Dictionary of The Igbo Language With an English-Igbo Index. Lagos: Longman Nigeria Plc.
James, C. 1980. Contrastive Analysis. England: Longman.
Sani, M.A.Z. 1989. An Introductory Phonology of Hausa (with exercises), Kano: Triumph Publishing Co. (Nig) Ltd. Gidan Sa’adu Zungur.
Sani, M.A.Z. 1999. Tsarin Sauti da Nahawun Hausa Ibadan: University Press.
Williamson, K. 1972. Dictionary of Onicha Igbo: Second Editor, Blench, R. (ed.) United Kingdom: Ethiope Press.
Yusuf, O. 2007. Basic Linguistics For Nigerian Teachers, Port Hartcourt: Linguistic Association of Nigeria, M & J Grand Orbit Communication Ltd, And Emhai Press.
Zsiga, E.C. 1997. Features, Gestures And Igbo Vowels: An Approach to The Phonology-Phonetics Interface. In Language, Vol. 73, No. 2 Pp. 227-274.