Ghana : When you learn Akan – whose language do you learn?

Difficulty in defining languages

Anything to do with ‘Akan’ seems popular on this blog. But have you ever thought about what exactly is meant by the term? There is a great article on which appeared as a forum comment by Akyeame-Kwame. It delineates the difficulties in defining languages.


The name ‘Akan’

When you learn Akan – whose language do you learn?
The word ‘Akan’ designates quite different groups of people depending on the period of time at which it was used and on the context in which it was or is being used. Roughly, we can distinguish between its traditional native use, its use as a scientific classificatory term, and its (modern) socio-political use.

From Wikipedia: Akan, also known as Twi [tɕɥi] and Fante, is an Akan language that is the principal native language of Akan lands in Ghana, spoken over much of the southern half of that country, by about 58% of the population, and among 30% of the population of Ivory Coast. Three dialects have been developed as literary standards with distinct orthographies, Asante, Akuapem (together called Twi), and Fante, which despite being mutually intelligible were inaccessible in written form to speakers of the other standards. In 1978 the Akan Orthography Committee (AOC) established a common orthography for all of Akan, which is used as the medium of instruction in primary school by speakers of several other Akan languagessuch as Anyi, Sefwi, Ahanta as well as the Guang languages.

The Akan people and those who have either lived around Akans or have absorbed Akan people into their population speak Kwa languages, of which Twi/Fante is just one. Twi–Fante consists of the following dialects:

  • Asante (Ashanti), which together with Akuapem and Akyem is commonly called Twi
  • Akuapem (Akwapem)
  • Akyem
  • Agona (commonly considered Fante)
  • Kwahu
  • Wassa
  • Fante (Fanti or Mfantse:Anomabo, Abura, Gomua) – Spoken in east coastal Ghana.
  • Brong – Spoken in west central Ghana and along the border in Ivory Coast
Categories: AFRICA, Ghana, LINGUISTICS

Post navigation