Vowel Harmony – Word Spelling

A Group

a – ị ọ ụ

E Group

e – i, o, u

In Igbo, vowel harmony is the set of vowel pattern combinations that are usually found in one Igbo word. So for example,  there are two different vowel harmony groups in Igbo: an A group and an E group. The A group consists of the vowel a, and all of the dotted Igbo vowels: ị , ọ, and ụ.  The E group consists of the vowel e, and the non-dotted Igbo vowels (not including A): i, o, and u.

(Remember, the dotted and non-dotted vowels have slightly different pronunciations in Igbo.)

This means that Igbo words with the vowel A in them need to be paired with the dotted ị , ọ, and ụ vowels. Even without the A in a word, all of the dotted vowels should be paired together.

nkta– dog [A paired with ị]

nwa – moon  [A paired with ọ]

akwkwọ – school [A paired with ụ]

l – house [ ọ paired with ụ ]

 

Similar, Igbo words with the vowel E in them need to be paired with the non-dotted vowels i, o, and u. And even without the E in a word, all of the non-dotted vowels except for A should be paired together.

echi – tomorrow  [E paired with i]

oke – rat [E paired with o]

ewu – goat [E paired with u]

obi – heart [O paired with I]

 

Vowel Harmony – Pronoun and Verb agreement

Vowel harmony also refers to a set of rules you need to follow to match the vowels in verbs with their proper pronoun forms. Usually, only the dependent singular subject pronouns (m, i/ị, o/ọ) are impacted by these vowel harmony verb rules.

Subject pronouns refer to pronouns that act as subjects and not as objects. And the single subject pronouns I am referring to here are: I, you, she, he, or it. The vowels in these subject pronouns must harmonize with the vowels at the end of the stem verbs they correspond to.

Examples:

Verb: bịa (come) – [Use A group vowel harmonization because of the a and ị. Use “Ị” for the second person singular or “Ọ” for third person singular. Put an “a” in front of the verb for present continuous, future tense, and present perfect. For first person singular past tense, add an “a” before the verb when the pronoun “m” comes after the verb.]

A na m abịa. – I am coming. (present continuous)

A bịara m. – I came. (past tense)

A ga m abịa. – I will come. (future tense)

 

na-abịa. – You are coming (present continuous)

ga-abịa. – You will come. (future tense)

 

Ọ na-abia. – She is coming. (present continuous)

ga-abia. – She will come. (future tense)

 

Verb: ny(give) – [Use E group vowel harmonization because of the e. Use “I” for the second person singular or “O” for third person singular. Put an “e” in front of the verb for present continuous, future tense, and present perfect. For first person singular past tense, add an “e” before the verb when the pronoun “m” comes after the verb. ]

A na m enye. – I am giving.  (present continuous)

nyere m. – I gave.  (past tense)

A ga m enye. –  I will give. (future tense)

 

na enye. You are giving.  (present continuous)

I ga enye. – You will give. (future tense)

 

na enye. She is giving.  (present continuous)

O ga enye.   – She will give. (future tense)  

 

 

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