This paper discusses nasal vowels in Esan. It re-evaluates prevailing assumptions about their status and proffers phonetic as well as phonological basis to justify the possibility that these so-called ‘nasal vowels’ may be a consequence of a diachronic phenomenon in the language. The postulation in this work is that the nasality of these ‘nasal vowels’ is not inherent, as currently believed (Ejele 1982, 1986, 1994, 2003; Kamelu 2003), but acquired from nasal consonants, which may have become redundant in the language.
This re-appraisal of nasal vowels in Esan is carried out within the background of general linguistic theory and, more specifically, within the auto-segmental model of phonological analysis (Goldsmith 1976). The conclusions reached in this work would have implications for the linguistic history of Esan, as well as other Edoid languages, whose current phonologies feature these nasal vowels.