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Consonats

consonants, differences, sounds, articulation

CONSONANT SYSTEM

Both English and Kamba have in most instances similar consonants. However these consonants differ considerably which Abercrombie, D (1991) captures very well when he states that,
‘it is impossible to have a common consonant system of human speech sounds in general. Therefore we have to form a theory of the consonant phenomena peculiar to one particular language with which the grammarian is concerned.’

There are consonants that occur in English but are not present in the Kamba language. These include [x], [ ], [ ], [ ], [ f ],[ ],[h], [p], [r], [z] like in the English words ‘manage’, ‘pack’, ‘ship’, ‘rat’ and ‘zebra’.

The sound [ ] is realized as [ky] in most Kamba dialects whereas other sounds like [z] occur with [n] as [nz] like for the Kamba word ‘nzau’ (bull).

Just like the existence of of [z] while combined with [n], most consonants that occur alone in English occur in combination with other consonants in Kamba. That is they don’t occur alone. Consider the following combination:

/b/ will always occur with /m/ as /mb/ for instance in words like ‘mbaitu’ (our clan), ‘mbua’ (rain), ‘mbui’ (goat) and ‘mbaka’ (cat).
/d/ will always occur with /n/ as /nd/ for instance in words like ‘ndaka’ (mud), ‘nduu’ (friendship), ‘nduuka’ (madness) and ‘ndala’ (bird’s nest).

As exemplified above, for honesty purposes it is indeed plausible to say that /b/, /d/ and /z/ are not consonants in kamba language but /mb/, /nd/ and /nz/ are. However such claims need to be reaffirmed at intervals as has been done above. Furthermore, the consonant-vowel /y/ occurs in most Kamba words as /ny/ unlike in English where it occurs always alone.

Whereas /b/, /d/ and /z/ can not occur solely in Kamba language i.e must selectively take another co-consonant as in /mb/, /nd/ and /nz/, /m/ and /n/ can either occur alone or selectively take a co-consonant. This is evident in Kamba words as ‘mundu’ (person) realized as / / and ‘mbua’ (rain) realized as / /, ‘nai’ (sin) realized as / / and ‘ndaka’ (mud) realized as / /.

The Kamba English learners have a problem in articulating sounds in English that have /b/ , /d/ and /z/ as in words like ‘boy’ (/b i/) which is articulated as /mb i/ and ‘zebra’ which should be pronounced as /zebr / but most of these learners produce it as /nzembr /. Research has further provided that most Kamba English learners will articulate /d/ in English words as /nd/. Consider words like ‘dog’ which is mostly produced as /nd g/, ‘do’ which is mostly realized as /nd /.

Such ‘wrong’ articulations are justified since Wolfgang, K (1986) in his book Second Language Acquisition puts that,
‘The second language learner is already in command of his first language and it is perfectly ‘natural’ for him to learn consciously or unconsciously on his knowledge of this language. This is where the first language may exert an influence upon the second resulting to phenomenon such as transfer, interference e.t.c (pg 43)’.

For fairness to Kamba language, there are also sounds that in Kamba language but are non-existent in the English language. These sounds include, / / as in Kamba word ‘ngali’ for ‘car’, ‘ngite’ for ‘dog’, ‘ngoo’ for ‘heart’ etc. /ny/ is also a sound that is non-existent in English but used in Kamba as in words like ‘nyamu’ for ‘animal’, ‘nyumba’ for ‘house’ etc. Noticeably these sounds do not have any effect in the course of a Kamba native speaker learning English simply because they are not ‘mis-used’ but are foreign (additional) sounds to English.

Aside from these differences between Kamba and English consonants, the former has proved to accept some of the latter’s consonants hence minimizing problems in articulation. These shared consonants include, /t/, /s/, /v/, / /,/w/ and / /. Examples of these corresponding sounds in both English and Kamba languages can be gotten from the following words;

Common sound Kamba word with the sound. English word with the sound.
/s/ Sati / / and Soko / / Sky / / and Small / /
/t/ Tata / / and taka / / Talk / / and Try / /
/v/ Vaa / / and vata / / View / / and vet / /
/ / Ng’ombe / / Hang / /
/ /

References
Wolfgang, K (1986). Second Language Acquisition: London, Cambridge University press.

Abercrombie, D.E (1991). Fifty Years in Phonetics: London, Cambridge University Press.

Published: 2009-03-14
Author: Aggrey Nzomo

About the author or the publisher
I am a graduate of Moi university kenya in Linguistics and Foreing languages. I am aged twenty two and a good narrative and descriptive writer. i currently write with an online company the Allwriting.net. i have with me finished poems and short stories. i also write sex episodes and i have four episodes so far. i am a single male of an African origin.

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