How Ghanaian Is Ghanaian English? a Preliminary Study from a Phonetician

Topics: English language, Lingua franca, Vowel Pages: 17 (5793 words) Published: June 28, 2013
How Ghanaian is Ghanaian English? A preliminary study from the perspective of a phonetician INTRODUCTION
Background to the study
English language came to Ghana around the second half of the 15th Century through a group of English merchants who arrived in the Guinea coast to trade in gold dust and spices (Sey, 1973). According to Sey, by the 18th Century, British have attempted to establish schools in the Gold Coast. In 1788, a school for twelve children was established in Cape Coast whilst around the same period a number of Ghanaians were sent to Britain to be educated. Among the pioneers who received British education was Philip Quarcoo who returned to the Gold Coast as a missionary of the Anglican Church, a schoolmaster and a catechist. He is believed to have served from 1965 to 1816 (Sey, 1973). The rise of the English language in Ghana could also be attributed largely to the vigorous activities of missionaries and the active sponsorship of the government during the 19th Century. Many Christian missionaries came to the Gold Coast to spread and propagate the word of God using the Bible. They established churches and later schools where English was taught. Prominent among these missionary organizations were the Methodist, Anglican, Catholic and later Basel (Presbyterian) missions. Sey (1973:5) observes, “The study of the Bible was actively encouraged, and church attendance was obligatory for all schoolchildren. The Bible, even at the present, plays a major role in the pupil’s first acquaintance with the English language.” The first newspaper believed to have appeared (in English) in the Gold Coast was entitled the Royal Gold Coast Gazette and Commercial Intelligencer. It appeared in Cape Coast, dated Tuesday 2nd April 1822 whilst the first known Ghanaian novel in English is Joseph Ephraim Casley-Hayford’s political novel Ethiopia Unbound published in 1911 as well as R.E. Obeng’s Eighteen Pence in 1943. Apart from the novel, Kobina Sekyi is recognised for writing first ever-modern African drama in Ghana. His work is entitled, The Blinkards, which goes back to 1905. At independence, the leaders of the new nation Ghana thought it was feasible to adopt the English language as its official and, in fact, lingua franca to cater for the multiplicity of languages spoken by the people. The English language was then given further boost to entrench itself in this part of the world. Ghana has produced many literary scholars after independence some of whom are Ayi Kwei Armah, Ama Ata Aidoo and many others. In spite of the widespread use of indigenous Ghanaian languages in Ghanaian society, no single Ghanaian language has yet emerged as the country’s dominant language. This is partly because there is no single language, which is spoken and understood by an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians. It is also because there does not appear to be a single indigenous language that an overwhelming majority of Ghanaians would be willing to adopt. The Ghanaian language situation is thus one in which a multiplicity of languages co-exist. Each language is used by its native speakers for most of their everyday communicating activities. Because of the multiplicity of languages in Ghana, inter-ethnic communication is not that easy. The English language, therefore, fills a huge communication gap. It helps to facilitate contact between Ghanaians of diverse language backgrounds. Today, Ghana as a former British colony teaches English as a second language. Kachru (1985) observes, “English in Ghana is considered as a symbol of modernization, a key to expand functional role and extra hand for success and mobility in culture and linguistically complex and pluralistic societies.” Sey (1973:6) also writes, “The English language established itself very early as the official language of Ghana. It has since the beginning of British administration been the language of government, law, education and the newspapers.” The current Teaching Syllabus for English...


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