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Akan language

Akan language

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Akan, also known as Twi tɕɥi and Fante, is an Akan
Akan
Akan may refer to:*Akan people, an ethnic group in Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire**Kwa languages, a stock of dialects spoken by the Akan people.**Central Tano languages, a stock of dialects spoken by the Akan people....

 language that is the principal native language of Ghana
Ghana
Ghana , officially the Republic of Ghana, is a country located in West Africa. It is bordered by Côte d'Ivoire to the west, Burkina Faso to the north, Togo to the east, and the Gulf of Guinea to the south...

, spoken over much of the southern half of that country, by about 52% of the population, and to a lesser extent across the border in eastern Côte d'Ivoire
Côte d'Ivoire
The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...

. 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 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 languages
Akan languages
The Central Tano or Akan languages are languages of the Kwa language family spoken in Ghana and Ivory Coast by the Akan people*Akan language *Bia**North Bia***Anyin***Baoulé***Chakosi ***Sefwi **South Bia***Nzema...

 such as Anyi, Sefwi
Sefwi
The Sefwi are an Akan people.They live predominantly in the Ivory Coast....

, Ahanta
Ahanta
The Ahanta are an Akan people who live to the north of the Nzema. Ahanta literally means the land of Twins. The Ahanta land has been historically known as one of the richest areas on the coast of what is now Ghana....

 as well as the Guang languages
Guang languages
The Guang languages are languages of the Kwa language family spoken by the Guang people in Ghana and Togo:*South Guang: Awutu, Cherepon, Gua, Larteh...

.

The Akan people
Akan people
The Akan people are an ethnic group found predominately in Ghana and The Ivory Coast. Akans are the majority in both of these countries and overall have a population of over 20 million people.The Akan speak Kwa languages-Origin and ethnogenesis:...

 and those who have either lived around Akans or have absorbed Akan people into their population speak Kwa languages
Kwa languages
The Kwa languages, often specified as New Kwa, are a proposed but as-yet-undemonstrated family of languages spoken in the south-eastern part of Côte d'Ivoire, across southern Ghana, and in central Togo...

, of which Twi/Fante is just one. Twi–Fante consists of the following dialects:
  • Asante (Ashanti), which together with Akuapem is commonly called Twi
  • Akuapem (Akwapem)
  • Akyem
    Akyem
    The Akyem are an Akan people. The term Akyem is used to describe a group of three states: Akyem Abuakwa, Akyem Kotoku and Akyem Bosome. These nations are located primarily in the eastern regions of modern-day Ghana. The term is also used to describe the general area where the Akyem ethnic group...

  • Agona
    Agona
    Agona is a small town in Ghana. It is the capital of Sekyere South District....

     (commonly considered Fante)
  • Kwahu
    Kwahu
    Kwahu is a region in south-central Ghana, on the west shore of Lake Volta. There are two common spellings, Kwawu and Kwahu. The "w" spelling is the official spelling from the African Studies Centre, University of Ghana, and more resembles the pronunciation...

  • Wassa
  • Fante (Fanti or Mfantse:Anomabo, Abura, Gomua) - Spoken in east coastal Ghana.
  • Brong - Spoken in west central Ghana and along the border in Côte d'Ivoire
    Côte d'Ivoire
    The Republic of Côte d'Ivoire or Ivory Coast is a country in West Africa. It has an area of , and borders the countries Liberia, Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso and Ghana; its southern boundary is along the Gulf of Guinea. The country's population was 15,366,672 in 1998 and was estimated to be...



The Bureau of Ghana Languages
Bureau of Ghana Languages
The Bureau of Ghana Languages is an agency of the government of Ghana that focuses on Ghanaian languages, including publication of materials in them.It was founded in 1951, originally as the Vernacular Literature Bureau, and later given its current name...

 has compiled a unified orthography
Orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

 of 20,000 words.

The adinkra
Adinkra
Adinkra are visual symbols, originally created by the Akan of Ghana and the Gyaman of Cote d'Ivoire in West Africa, that represent concepts or aphorisms. Adinkra are used extensively in fabrics, pottery, logos and advertising. They are incorporated into walls and other architectural features. ...

 symbols are old ideogram
Ideogram
An ideogram or ideograph is a graphic symbol that represents an idea or concept. Some ideograms are comprehensible only by familiarity with prior convention; others convey their meaning through pictorial resemblance to a physical object, and thus may also be referred to as pictograms.Examples of...

s.

The language came to the Caribbean
Caribbean
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...

 and South America
South America
South America is a continent situated in the Western Hemisphere, mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the Northern Hemisphere. The continent is also considered a subcontinent of the Americas. It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east...

, notably in Suriname
Suriname
Suriname , officially the Republic of Suriname , is a country in northern South America. It borders French Guiana to the east, Guyana to the west, Brazil to the south, and on the north by the Atlantic Ocean. Suriname was a former colony of the British and of the Dutch, and was previously known as...

 spoken by the Ndyuka
Ndyuka
Ndyuka , also called Aukan, Okanisi, Ndyuka tongo, Aukaans, Businenge Tongo, Eastern Maroon Creole, or Nenge is a creole language of Suriname, spoken by the Ndyuka people. Most of the 25 to 30 thousand speakers live in the interior of the country, which is a part of the country covered with...

 and in Jamaica
Jamaica
Jamaica is an island nation of the Greater Antilles, in length, up to in width and 10,990 square kilometres in area. It is situated in the Caribbean Sea, about south of Cuba, and west of Hispaniola, the island harbouring the nation-states Haiti and the Dominican Republic...

 by the Jamaican Maroons
Jamaican Maroons
The 'Jamaican Maroons are descended from slaves who escaped from slavery and established free communities in the mountainous interior of Jamaica during the long era of slavery in the island. African slaves imported during the Spanish period may have provided the first runaways, apparently mixing...

 known as Coromantee, with enslaved people from the region. The descendants of escaped slaves in the interior of Suriname and the Maroons
Maroon (people)
Maroons were runaway slaves in the West Indies, Central America, South America, and North America, who formed independent settlements together...

 in Jamaica still use a form of this language, including Akan naming convention
Akan name
The Akan people of Ghana and the Ivory Coast frequently name their children after the day of the week they were born and the order in which they were born....

, in which children are named after the day of the week on which they are born, e.g. Akwasi (for a boy) or Akosua (girl) born on a Sunday. In Jamaica and Suriname the Anansi
Anansi
Anansi the trickster is a spider, and is one of the most important characters of West African and Caribbean folklore.He is also known as Ananse, Kwaku Ananse, and Anancy; and in the Southern United States he has evolved into Aunt Nancy. He is a spider, but often acts and appears as a man...

spider stories are well known.

Relationship to other Akan languages


According to work done by P K Agbedor of CASAS, Mfantse (Fante), Twi (Asante and Akuapem), Abron (Bono), Wassa, Asen, Akwamu, and Kwahu belong to Cluster 1 of the speech forms of Ghana. Clusters are defined by the level of mutual intelligibility.

Cluster 1 may better be named r-Akan, which do not explicitly have the letter “l” in their original proper use. On the other hand l-Akan, refers to the Akan cluster comprising Nzema, Baule, and other dialects spoken mainly in the Ivory Coast, whose use of the letter “r” in proper usage is very rare.

Phonology


Because the Akan dialects' phonologies differ slightly, Asante dialect will be used to represent Akan. Asante, like all Akan dialects, involves extensive palatalisation, vowel harmony
Vowel harmony
Vowel harmony is a type of long-distance assimilatory phonological process involving vowels that occurs in some languages. In languages with vowel harmony, there are constraints on which vowels may be found near each other....

, and tone terracing
Tone terracing
Tone terracing is a type of phonetic downdrift, where the high or mid tones, but not the low tone, shift downward in pitch after certain other tones...

.

Consonants


Before front vowel
Front vowel
A front vowel is a type of vowel sound used in some spoken languages. The defining characteristic of a front vowel is that the tongue is positioned as far in front as possible in the mouth without creating a constriction that would be classified as a consonant. Front vowels are sometimes also...

s, all Asante consonants are palatalized
Palatalization
In linguistics, palatalization , also palatization, may refer to two different processes by which a sound, usually a consonant, comes to be produced with the tongue in a position in the mouth near the palate....

 (or labio-palatalized
Labio-palatalization
A labio-palatalized sound is one that is simultaneously labialized and palatalized. Typically the roundedness is compressed, like , rather than protruded like . The symbol in the International Phonetic Alphabet for this secondary articulation is , a superscript , the symbol for the labio-palatal...

), and the plosives are to some extent affricated. The allophone
Allophone
In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

s of /n/ are quite complex. In the table below, palatalized allophones which involve more than minor phonetic palatalization are specified, in the context of the vowel /i/. These sounds do occur before other vowels, such as /a/, though in most cases not commonly.

In Asante, /ɡu/ followed by a vowel is pronounced /ɡʷ/, but in Akuapem
Akuapem
The Akuapem are an Akan people who predominantly occupy the Eastern region of Ghana.-History:The original inhabitants of the Akuapern Hills were predominantly Guan. The towns of Akuapem are in the Eastern Region of Ghana and situated between longitude 0°15 W - 0°00 and latitude 5°45 - 6°00 N...

 it remains /ɡu/. The sequence /nh/ is pronounced [ŋŋ̊].

The transcriptions in the table below are in the order /phonemic
Phoneme
In a language or dialect, a phoneme is the smallest segmental unit of sound employed to form meaningful contrasts between utterances....

/, [phonetic
Allophone
In phonology, an allophone is one of a set of multiple possible spoken sounds used to pronounce a single phoneme. For example, and are allophones for the phoneme in the English language...

], ⟨orthographic
Orthography
The orthography of a language specifies a standardized way of using a specific writing system to write the language. Where more than one writing system is used for a language, for example Kurdish, Uyghur, Serbian or Inuktitut, there can be more than one orthography...

⟩. Note that orthographic ⟨dw⟩ is ambiguous; in textbooks, ⟨dw⟩ = /ɡ/ may be distinguished from /dw/ with a diacritic: d̩w. Likewise, velar ⟨nw⟩ (ŋw) may be transcribed n̩w. Orthographic ⟨nu⟩ is palatalized [ɲᶣĩ].
labial
Labial consonant
Labial consonants are consonants in which one or both lips are the active articulator. This precludes linguolabials, in which the tip of the tongue reaches for the posterior side of the upper lip and which are considered coronals...

alveolar
Alveolar consonant
Alveolar consonants are articulated with the tongue against or close to the superior alveolar ridge, which is called that because it contains the alveoli of the superior teeth...

dorsal
Dorsal consonant
Dorsal consonants are articulated with the mid body of the tongue . They contrast with coronal consonants articulated with the flexible front of the tongue, and radical consonants articulated with the root of the tongue.-Function:...

labialized
voiceless plosive /p/ [pʰ] ⟨p⟩ /t/ [tʰ, tçi] ⟨t, ti⟩ /k/ [kʰ, tɕʰi~cçʰi] ⟨k, kyi⟩ /kʷ/ [kʷ, tɕᶣi] ⟨kw, twi⟩
voiced plosive /b/ [b] ⟨b⟩ /d/ [d] ⟨d⟩ /ɡ/ [ɡ, dʒ, dʑi~ɟʝi] ⟨g, dw, gyi⟩ /ɡʷ/ [ɡʷ, dʑᶣi] ⟨gw, dwi⟩
fricative /f/ [f] ⟨f⟩ /s/ [s] ⟨s⟩ /h/ [h, çi] ⟨h, hyi⟩ /hʷ/ [hʷ, çᶣi] ⟨hw, hwi⟩
nasal stop
Nasal consonant
A nasal consonant is a type of consonant produced with a lowered velum in the mouth, allowing air to escape freely through the nose. Examples of nasal consonants in English are and , in words such as nose and mouth.- Definition :...

/m/ [m] ⟨m⟩ /n/ [n, ŋ, ɲ, ɲĩ] ⟨n, ngi⟩ /nʷ/ [ŋŋʷ, ɲᶣĩ] ⟨nw, nu⟩
geminate
Gemination
In phonetics, gemination happens when a spoken consonant is pronounced for an audibly longer period of time than a short consonant. Gemination is distinct from stress and may appear independently of it....

 nasal
/nn/ [ŋː, ɲːĩ] ⟨ng, nyi, nnyi⟩ /nnʷ/ [ɲɲᶣĩ] ⟨nw⟩
other /r/ [ɾ, r, ɽ] ⟨r⟩ /w/ [w, ɥi] ⟨w, wi⟩

Vowels


The Akan dialects have fourteen to fifteen vowels: four to five "tense" vowels (Advanced tongue root, or +ATR), five "lax" vowels (Retracted tongue root, or −ATR), which are adequately but not completely represented by the seven-vowel orthography, and five nasal vowels, which are not represented at all. (All fourteen were distinguished in the Gold Coast script
Gold Coast script
The Gold Coast alphabet was a Latin alphabet used to write the Akan language during British colonial rule of the Gold Coast, now Ghana. It differed from the current Akan alphabet in several ways, of which the most fundamental was in vowel notation.-Vowels:...

 of the colonial era.) An ATR distinction in orthographic a is only found in some subdialects of Fante, though not in the literary form; in Asante and Akuapem there are harmonic allophones of /a/, but neither is ATR. The two vowels written e (/e̘/ and /i/) and o (/o̘/ and /u/) are often not distinguished in pronunciation.
Orthog. +ATR −ATR
i /i̘/ [i̘]
e /e̘/ [e̘] /i/ [ɪ~e]
ɛ /e/ [ɛ]
a [æ~ɐ] /a/ [a]
ɔ /o/ [ɔ]
o /o̘/ [o̘] /u/ [ʊ~o]
u /u̘/ [u̘]

ATR harmony


Twi vowels engage in a form of vowel harmony
Vowel harmony
Vowel harmony is a type of long-distance assimilatory phonological process involving vowels that occurs in some languages. In languages with vowel harmony, there are constraints on which vowels may be found near each other....

 with the root of the tongue.
  1. −ATR vowels followed by the +ATR non-mid vowels /i̘ a̘ u̘/ become +ATR. This is generally reflected in the orthography: That is, orthographic e ɛ a ɔ o become i e a o u. However, it is no longer reflected in the case of subject and possessive pronouns, giving them a consistent spelling. This rule takes precedence over the next one.
  2. After the −ATR non-high vowels /e a o/, +ATR mid vowels /e̘ o̘/ become −ATR high vowels /i u/. This is not reflected in the orthography, for both sets of vowels are spelled , and in many dialects this rule does not apply, for these vowels have merged.

Tones


Twi has three phonemic tones, high (/H/), mid (/M/), and low (/L/). Initial syllable may only be high or low.

Tone terracing


The phonetic pitch of the three tones depends on their environment, often being lowered after other tones, producing a steady decline known as tone terracing
Tone terracing
Tone terracing is a type of phonetic downdrift, where the high or mid tones, but not the low tone, shift downward in pitch after certain other tones...

.

/H/ tones have the same pitch as a preceding /H/ or /M/ tone within the same tonic phrase, whereas /M/ tones have a lower pitch. That is, the sequences /HH/ and /MH/ have a level pitch, whereas the sequences /HM/ and /MM/ have a falling pitch. /H/ is lowered (downstepped) after a /L/.

/L/ is the default tone, which emerges in situations such as reduplicated prefixes. It is always at bottom of the speaker's pitch range, except in the sequence /HLH/, in which case it is raised in pitch but the final /H/ is still lowered. Thus /HMH/ and /HLH/ are pronounced with distinct but very similar pitches.

After the first "prominent" syllable of a clause, usually the first high tone, there is a downstep
Downstep (phonetics)
In phonetics, downstep is a phonemic or phonetic downward shift of tone between the syllables or words of a tonal language. It is best known in the tonal languages of West Africa, but the pitch accent of Japanese is quite similar to downstep in Africa. Downstep contrasts with the much rarer upstep...

. This syllable is usually stressed.

Important Words and Phrases

  • akwaaba – welcome
  • aane – yes
  • daabi – no
  • da yie – good night (lit. sleep well)
  • Ete sen? – How are you?
  • me da wa se – thank you
  • me pa wo kyew – please/excuse me

External links