Graphonological Study of Gĩkũyũ: An Optimality Approach
Kuria, Peter Mburu
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This is a graphonological study of the Gĩkũyũ graphemic structure. The study sought to examine the extent to which the criteria for designing an orthography is observed, account for the graphemic structure of Gĩkũyũ using the Correspondence Theory, a sub-theory of Optimality Theory (OT), and evaluate the consequences of underrepresentation and overrepresentation of the orthography criteria on speakers and readers of Gĩkũyũ. Data was generated by respondents drawn from the five dialects of Gĩkũyũ, namely Gĩcũgũ, Mathĩra, Ndia, Northern Gĩkũyũ and Southern Gĩkũyũ. Each dialect produced six respondents, three males and three females, thus, a total of thirty respondents. They wrote translations of selected items from English to Gĩkũyũ to provide graphemic data. They then read their translations thus providing phonemic data. The phonemes and graphemes were pitted against the Principles of Orthography that underlie each criterion used in designing an orthography. To account for the graphemic structure, the data were analysed against OT constraints which were derived from the aforementioned principles. The findings include: the identification of hitherto unidentified vocalic concatenations; discovery of OT constraints that had not been used before; and, the establishment of Gĩkũyũ orthography as a deep orthography. The study recommends a phonetic study to establish the vowel space of Gĩkũyũ vowels, a revision of the Gĩkũyũ graphemic inventory so as to include the additional graphemes examined in this research, and, lastly, similar studies on Kenyan Bantu languages with a view of harmonizing their orthographies.