Phonological Adaptation of Loanwords into Ma da : An Optimality Theory Account

Greg Obialamu, Linda Nkamigbo


This paper, using Optimality Theory (OT) as a framework, investigates the
phonology of loanwords in Mad a, a Benue-Congo language spoken in
Nasarawa state, North Central Nigeria (Williamson & Blench, 2000). Data
for the study were obtained from two sources: Mad a- English dictionary and
audio recordings of relevant corpus from three native speakers of Mad a. The
standard OT view of loanword phonology assumes that it is the host
language grammar that acts on the foreign words by selecting the right
output form from a vast majority of candidates. The paper examines the
strategies that Mad a adopts in the process of adapting words borrowed from
other languages into it as well as the constraints hierarchy preferences. The
results show that the phonological changes which foreign words undergo
when borrowed into Mad a are evident in a range of phonological processes
such as vowel deletion, coda simplification, cluster simplification, structure
preservation, and syllable deletion. In all, it is observed that, to a large
extent, the loanwords violate the syllable structure and Mad a phonotactics;
but in order to preserve its structure, Mad a uses constraints that require
the output material to be independent of input.


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