By Okoro Mark Ogbonnaya (Maazị Ogbonnaya)
Over the years, grammatical anomalies have been committed regarding ways to write some Igbo names or words. Between last year and this year, series of “nma” and “mma” challenge have taken place. Many people opined that their dialect pronounce “nma”, others said no, it is “mma”. Some said “mma” means mother while “nma” means beauty. They are phonologically unexposed to know the importance of tone marking in Igbo heteronyms. Others say “mma” is knife while “nma” means beauty. Let me first initiate the idea that “nma” is anglicised form of mma which does not follow the phonotactic rules of the Igbo language. In Igbo language, “M” and “N” are consonants. But unique in a way. They are syllabic nasals. In Igbo phonotactic rule, there is no consonant cluster. That is why Nsukka, Onitsha, Owerri are wrong. They are not Igbo. But “M” and “N” can come together to form a meaningful word. This time, the repeated “M” or “N” is no longer a consonant cluster but as one stands for syllabic nasal (myiriụdaume), another one stands for consonant. The first one can take tone mark but the second one cannot. Eg: Mma Mmanụ Mmadụ Mmemme Mmọnwụ Mmịmmị Mmegbu, Mmakọ Mmemmadụ. The first “m” stands for a syllabic nasal. It takes tone mark. But the following “m” stands for consonant, it does not take tone mark. Coming to “N”, the same rule goes. Eg: Nne Nnenna Nnedi Nnamdị Nnọrọ Nna. The first “n” is not functioning as a consonant but syllabic nasal. It takes tone mark; while the following “n” is a consonant. It does not take tone mark.
THIS IS THE CONCRETE RULE: Igbo phonotactic rule states that: 1. “M” cannot meet with “N” to form a word. Like “Mna” “Mnadụ” “Mnegbu”. 2. “N” cannot meet with “M” to form a word. Like: Nma Nmadụ Nmenme Nmegbu Nmanya, etc. What we have are these: * “M” goes with “m” eg: Mmá =beauty Mmà= knife Mmanya Mmanụ Chidịmma * “N” goes with “N” eg: Nneka (not Nmeka) Nnanna Nnadi Nnọrọ, etc. Another point that disproves “Nma” is this. The place of articulation of “M” and the place of articulation of “N” is not the same. While “M” is a bilabial speech sound (the upper and lower lips emerged together to produce it) then “N” is produced when the tongue rise up to the hard palate and clenched with the upper teeth. Though both are nasalised voice sounds, that is why they are called syllabic nasal only when they function as vowels as enumerated above. What we are discussing here is Igbo izugbe and rules of writing Igbo. Those of you claiming that Chidịmma is Chidịnma, you are failing the Igbo grammatical rules of word formation. Those of you writing mmegbu as nmegbu, you are failing the grammatical rules of the Igbo language. The aforementioned points are the reason why “Nma” is wrong. it does not go at all. Some people say: ” that is what we have been pronouncing since”. They can even be telling you that “n” came first before “m”. Yes! Ihe ọjọọ gbaa afọ ọ bụrụ omenala. When an evil thing persist, it turns to tradition. That you have been pronouncing this for long does not make it to be right. And some people asked: “who made the rules? Were they not Igbo like me?” These same people are hypocritically hunting for new English grammar books to learn new grammar and how to speak and write well. They never questioned those who made the English grammatical rules they obey. The truth is, no one made any linguistic rule. Grammatical rules can be proven. Language has stand. From its nature, we see the rules naturally made before anyone say them out or put them down. Please you are not Chidịnma you are Chidịmma. “Nma” is not Igbo but “Mma” is.
Thinking my thinkings
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