The syllable is a fundamental unit in phonological analysis as it is one of the most important aspects of the phonology of any natural language. They are considered to be the pivot on which the phonological analysis of any language hinge on. They are also units of organization for sequences of speech sounds. Syllable structures vary from language to language. Some languages have complex structures while others are simpler in their complexity. This research explores the syllable structure of Khana language with insights on the different combinations of consonants and vowels to form several syllable structures. Data for this research was gotten from informants in Warife in Oruk Anam local government area of Akwa Ibom State through elicitation. The Summer Institute of Linguistic Comparative African Wordlist was distributed to the informants who gave the equivalents in Khana. Upon analysis of the data, it was discovered that Khana has thirty one sounds. Twelve vowels and nineteen consonants and these sounds can be combined in different systematic ways to form several syllable structures. This includes V, N, CV, CVC, CVV, GV and GVV. It was also discovered that Khana exhibits both heavy and light syllables which are joined together to form feet. The different feet identified include Iambus, Dactyl, Spondee, Anaptest, Tribach and Trochee. The syllables are organized into different foot structures or feet according to their weight parameters.  


1.1                                    GENERAL   INTRODUCTION

The syllable is a unit of pronunciation higher than that of a phoneme or sound segment and yet smaller than a word or morpheme Gimson (1992). It is the organizational unit for the operation of supra segmental features such as stress and pitch in most languages. Several attempts have been made by leading phoneticians and philologists to explicate the term syllable but no satisfactory and generally accepted definition has yet been given.  Sommerstein (1997) for instance notes that perhaps the main reason for the reluctance of GP (Generative phonology) to operate with the syllable concept has been the apparent difficulty of pinning down the concept itself. Also Lyons (1981) observes that:

What is more controversial is whether there are in all or indeed any natural languages with such purely phonological syntagms as syllables… Linguists are still divided as to the possibility, further, the necessity of postulating syllables and other purely phonological synatagms in the structure of English and other languages (p.96-97)

               Syllables are often considered the phonological building blocks of words which serve as the anchor on which a number of segmental and supra- segmental phenomena hinge and which can influence the rhythm of any natural language. Syllable writing began several hundred years before the first letters. The earliest recorded syllables are on tablets written around 2800 BC in the Sumeren City of UR. The shifts from pictograms to syllable have been called the most important element in the history of writing.

              Different phonetic approaches to the syllable have been postulated such as the motor or pulse theory which views the theory from the articulatory effect needed in order to produce the syllable and the prominence theory which places prominence on the peak of the syllable. However, the approach that would be used in this work is the phonological approach which takes into consideration two classes of sounds which are the vowels (V) and the consonant (C) categories and their combinatory potentials. The syllable from the phonological perspective is a minimal pattern of phoneme combination which has the constituents, onset, nucleus and coda where the onset refers to the opening segment of the syllable, the nucleus been the center or central segment and the coda being the closing segment. The bulk of present day phonological theories argue that the syllable has hierarchical structure rather than linear structure. It is conventionally marked with a small Greek Sigma [σ].Just as in grammar; we can parse a grammatical structure, in phonology, we parse a hierarchical syllable structure from a sequential arrangement of Cs and Vs.

              Languages differ in the type of syllable structures they exhibit. The CV structure is a universal pattern and beyond that, each language has its own peculiar structure (Robin 1990) notes that: “some languages like Arabic, do not allow any syllable not beginning with a consonant; others like Fijan and Hawaian do not permit any syllables ending in CC sequences … English and German allow a good deal of consonant clustering both initially and finally …’’ (’p.132’). Ibibio does not permit a syllable starting with the voiceless bilabial plosive /p/. English does not allow any syllables beginning with the velar //, whereas, this distribution is permitted in Ibibio. In Italian, no syllables end in CC sequences word finally.

               This work intends to analyze ineptly the syllable structure of Khana, the rules governing the combination of sounds in Khana, and if Khana language has any consonant clusters or phonotactic constraints. Lastly, it intends to find out how many syllable structures khana exhibits relating how Khana segments combine to function as sequences within given syllable structures.


 Khana is an Igbani language meaning “our house”. It is spoken in a community known as Warife in Oruk Anam local government area of Akwa Ibom State. This name came about when the Europeans occupied the area near Imo River for trade. Warife is of the Ibesit Nung Ikot clan but they understand and speak the language of their neighbours (Anaang). Other neighbours of the people include Ikot Asute, Ikot Otu, Ikot Akpa Nsit.

               The place (Warife) has four main streams which include: Mataye, Mamue, Makparatan and Maamienwaa. The community has five original families. The founder of the community Mene Bene represents the first family. The rest are Omotor, Mene Ogu, Gbene Mene Bene and Loewi.

               The selection of the Village Head is done mainly by the family heads with few elders and women. Chiefs are hereditarily selected and other intelligent members of the decision making council are picked by appointment. The people of Warife are given to farming which is done by rotation. They have a five year farming rotation; these are Wiizor, Wiikebue, Wiinyor, Wiikegba, and Wiiakpa. Khana language belongs to the Lower Cross group of languages.


          The syllable represents a level of organization of the speech sounds of a particular language. What we mean when we say particular languages means that languages vary in the type of syllable structures they exhibit. The universal syllable structure common to all languages is the CV structure (that is consonants and vowels).  However, this structure can be modified to accommodate other structures such as CVV. CVC, CVVC etc. Some languages have as many as seventeen types of syllable structures though this number depends on the complexity of the language. Lower Cross languages have less number of syllable structures. The number of syllable structures in Khana is yet to be known. Furthermore, these segments have to be combined to form given syllable structures. How are Khana segments combined to form several syllable structures. What are the permissible strings of segments in Khana. Some languages permit the occurrence of glides in their syllable structures such as the Ibibio language. Are there glides in Khana language? What is their position and status? How is the language syllabified?


1.        To examine the distribution/Phonotactics of sounds in Khana language

2.         To examine the basic structures of Khana syllables.

3.        To develop a schema for Khana syllable structure

4.        To examine syllable weight in Khana


1.        How are sounds in Khana language distributed?

2.       What are the basic structures of Khana syllables?

3.       Does Khana language exhibit both heavy and light syllables?

4.       What is the schema of Khana syllable structure?


     The syllable structure of Khana will be dealt with at the phonological (structural) view point and not the phonetic (performance) viewpoint. i.e phonemic  rather than phonetic representation of data will be used for the study.

    The syllable will be studied at the lexical level and would not extend to the post lexical levels of description, i.e words rather than sentences would be used in this research.

    The study is limited to segments (consonants and vowels) and does not extend to supra segments, (i.e tone, intonation and stress).


By examining the syllable structure of the language, the work will serve as a contribution to language analysts and speech pathologists. The work will also serve as a reference material to students and researchers who are interested in different areas of language structural description..


          Research in a layman’s understanding can be said to be systematic answers to questions or solutions to problems. It is also a search for new and useful information on a particular topic. Thus it would not be wrong to define research methodology as a systematic way to solve a problem or a science underlying how research is to be carried out.

          The major research tools employed in this project is field work where data was collected from the chief and elders of Warife in Oruk Anam Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State.


This research project will be grounded on descriptive research design since the interest of the researcher is to find out the different sound combinations in Khana. In this case, the data for this research will be explicitly analyzed to determine the different syllable structures of Khana language.


The estimated number of houses in Warife is twenty four with at least four people in a compound. Thus, the estimated target population equals to the estimated number of people in a compound multiplied by the estimated number of houses which is twenty four multiplied by four. Thus the estimated target population is ninety six.


Here, the data collection procedure that was employed was that of elicitation. Four informants were chosen randomly from the accessible population based on their duration of stay in the speech community and age precisely a minimum of thirty years and a native speaker of the language. The researcher consulted four informants. Three males and one female who are indigenes of Warife and whose mother tongue and first language is Khana. The males were aged fifty seven,  thirty three and thirty six. Their names are, Chief Barakai Lee Iniabe (fifty seven, Mr Savior James, (thirty three) and Mr Abraham Gideon Iniabe (thirty six). The only female was a fifty one year old woman who has spent her entire life in Warife and her name is Agnes Titi.


          The instrument for collection of the Khana data includes rough sheets, books, pens, tape recorders, and pencils.


The Summer Institute of Linguistic Comparative African Wordlist (SILCAWL) was distributed to all researchers to be carried to the field. This wordlist had the language universals such as parts of the body, natural elements such as sun, sky, trees, and others. These words were read out to the informants in English while they gave us the equivalents in Khana. This method of data collection is known as elicitation method.

Apart from these, the key informant method was adopted where the information about the history of the place was derived (this method of data collection involves interviewing the most important persons in the fields such as the chiefs and elder


First, the sounds that are present in the language were drawn out. This includes the consonants and vowels that are available in the language. Then, their combinatory potentials were scrutinized to discover the acceptable ones. After this, a schema of the Khana syllable structure was drawn. The procedure for data analysis involved a step by step analysis of the segments in Khana language to discover the permissible and impermissible strings of consonants and vowels. This was to discover their combinations.