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This study seeks to examine in detail various aspects areas of lexical semantics in the Urhobo language. We will look in general term at lexical relations i.e. the meaning relationships words have with one another, the semantic features that help to differentiate one from the other and also at how lexical negations are realized i.e. if a morpheme is added to negate it or if an entirely different word is used.


Semantics is a branch of linguistics studies, and has been defined by different scholars. Okolo and Ezikeojiaku (1999:175) defined semantics as “the study of meaning”. Radford (1997:27)defined semantics as “the linguistics aspect of meaning”. Fitch (2010:120)“semantics is the branch of linguistics studies that is constantly in shoulders with philosophy. This is because the study of meaning raises a host of problems that are the traditional stomping ground of philosophy”. Charles (1955:202) “linguistics semantics is the study of how language organizes and expresses meaning.” Semantics is like a coin with two aspects: lexical and post-lexical semantics. Lexical semantics the subject of this study deals with the meaning of words. It’s a linguistics theory that investigates word meaning. Iloene and Iloene (2013:4) “word meaning in language are atoms that are intricately interconnected in a web-like fashion, in which some concepts have been differentiated into two fundamental types: i) the ones that necessarily involve a relationship with other concept ii) the ones that are just seen to be independent units.” Mowarin (2010:57) “lexical semantics deals with the study of lexis, it focuses on lexical universals. It is observed that the denotation of a word is not studied in isolation”. Saeed (2007:53) reinforces this fact where he states that “…the meaning of a word is defined in part by its relation with other words in language.”


Urhobo is a south western edoid language spoken in Delta State. Ukere (1990) “Urhobo is spoken in Ethiope, Okpe, Ughelli, Sapele and Warri local government areas. Urhobo belongs to the kwa sub-group of the Niger-Congo phylum in Greenberge’s (1963) classification of African languages. Urhobo is found in the south western edoid (SWE) branch of the genetically related languages and dialects referred to as the “Edoid group of language” in Elugbe’s (1989) classification. The diagram below shows Urhobo in the proto-edoid family Fig. 1: The Edoid Family Tree showing the Urhobo and related languages. (Elugbe 1986) Key: PDE: proto -delta edoid (Egene, Degema, Epie-Atisa) PNCE: proto-north central edoid (Glotua, Uweme, Yekhee, Ora-Emai-Iuleha, Esan, Edo). PNWE: proto-north western edoid (PSNWE; Okpomberi, Emahe, Oloma, Okpe-Akuru-Idesa, PO; Ukue, Ehuene, Uhame). PSWE: proto-south western edoid (Uvwie, Isoko, Eruwa, Urhobo, Okpe). As the figures above shows edoid language is divided into four and SWE is further divided into five languages including Urhobo. According to Ukere (1990) there are twenty-two clans within Urhobo speaking community namely; Agbarho, Awrata, Agbarha, Arhavwarien, Agbon, Agbassa, Ephro-oto, Eghwu, Erwreni, Idjerhe, Ogo, Oghara, Okere, Olomu, Okpe, Orogun, Okparebe, Ughievwen, Ughelli, Udu, Uvwie and Uwheru. Based on Rolle (2013) “there are eighteen (18) dialects of Urhobo; Agbarho dialect being its standard form. Although the language is widely spoken, Ojaide (2007:3) reports that many of the urban dwellers in Effurun, Sapele, Ughelli and Warri do not use or speak the language. On the population of speakers, Lewis (2009) suggests that the minimum population is approximately 500 000, while Mowarin (2004) estimates that the maximum population is approximately 1.5 million.


This study methodology will be divided into two parts; data collection and data analysis. 1.2.1 DATA COLLECTION This study will use two methods in the data collection. They are the primary and secondary methods.Primary data: this was collected from 5 native speakers purposefully selected based on their availability to partake in the study. The data was elicited via oral interviews using a self-structured word list of common lexical relations. Secondary data: this comprises data drawn from several sources including Rolle (2003) “phonetics and phonology of Urhobo” and “A concise dictionary of Urhobo language.


This study will entail the descriptive method of analysis. Descriptive theories are theories about what languages are like. They are theories about what tools we need in order to provide adequate descriptions of individual languages. According to Himmelmann (1995:1), ‘much of the work that is labeled ‘descriptive’ within linguistics comprises two activities i.e. the collection of primary data and an analysis of these data’.

To the best of my knowledge, there are not many studies on lexical semantics. Hence this project was carried out with the aim of proving and identifying some of the existence of lexical relations in the language, with the objectivity to; i) shade more light on the aspect of lexical semantic relations and negation ii) distinguish semantically the notion of lexical negations (marked or unmarked) iii)show  how meanings of words are interrelated in the language iv) show the different senses of words in the language  v) Give examples of senses of words that are used in different context
Lexical semantics is an aspect of linguistics studies which has generated a lot of interest among linguists. Many people have attempted to work on lexical relations and negation; some have been bold enough to tackle it while others have circumvented. Some authors have gone further than merely defining these terms. They have been able to identify the various types, and the number varies from one author to another. This work will be productive as it will; i)add to the volume of literature available on lexical semantic relations ii) provide useful information to both speakers, learners and teachers of the language on its lexical aspect iii) Encourage further research on the not just lexical relation in Urhobo but lexical semantics as a whole.

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