Languages in Ghana

Topics: Ghana, Languages of Ghana, Kwa languages Pages: 9 (3261 words) Published: March 12, 2013
University of Puerto Rico
Rio Piedras Campus
Master of Arts in English

Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the course INGL 6466 – Studies in Bilingualism

Prof. Alicia Pousada

Stephanie Hernandez Reinat
First semester 2012-2013
Languages in Ghana
There have been linguistic studies prepared in order to understand the functions of multilingual countries. Ghana, being one of these multilingual countries, is very complex and complicated with many linguistic intricacies. It is also a highly multilingual country, with approximately fifty intelligible languages. Since the country is culturally and linguistically divided into two parts, Ghanaian languages are also divided into two subfamilies: Kwa and Gur. (Anyidoho & Kropp, 2008) This creates an interesting division between communities in Ghana; however, English has become their official language even though Ghana has been an independent nation for over forty years. So, the Ghanaian society has one language which unites them with each other and the rest of the world. English is the language used in Ghana for education, diplomacy, business, government and other technical matters. This paper intends to explore the different languages used in Ghana and demonstrate the use of these languages by the Ghanaian people. There are many Ghanaian’s who do not acquire English as their mother tongue. I will also be studying their functions in the Ghanaian society and which language is used in the educational system as their medium of instruction. Since, “in May 2002, Ghana promulgated a law, which mandates the use of English language (hereafter L2) as the medium of instruction from primary one (grade one) to replace the use of a Ghanaian language as the medium of instruction for the first three years of schooling, and English as the medium of instruction from primary four (grade four).” (Owu-Ewie, 2006) Also, the future of the languages used in Ghana will also be explored.

Multilingualism in Ghana
It is difficult to find an exact number of languages that are spoken in Ghana; however, many researchers agree that there are around fifty mutually intelligible languages. Moreover, the country is divided into two languages, linguistically and culturally. Thus, because of this division almost all of the Ghanaian languages are divided into the Gur and Kwa language subfamilies. Languages belonging to the Kwa subfamily are mostly found to the south of the Volta River, while those belonging to the Gur subfamily are found predominantly to the north. The Kwa group includes the Akan, Ga, and Ewe languages, which are also languages that have the status of government sponsored languages and contain about 75% of the country’s population. The Gur group includes the Gurma, Grusi, and Dagbani languages. The languages from the Gur group have the smallest amount of speakers. Even though it is not an official language, Hausa, is the lingua-franca spoken between Ghana’s Muslims, who contain about 14% of the population. For many of those who from a part of these groups English is acquired as a second language. (Anyidoho & Kropp, 2008) Historically, in both the north and south of the country there have been certain languages that have belonged and been the languages to expanding empires. Languages, such as Akan with its dialects (Asanti) have been expanding through urban areas as second languages. Another expanding language is the Ewe, which is the second largest spoken language in Ghana. Even though its close linguistic relatives are in the area of Togo, this language continues to expand from east to west at the expense of smaller dialects. Also, in the north the languages Gonja and Dagbon have belonged to expansionist kingdoms. However, Akan’s Asanti dialect defeated both these languages and today both Gonja and Dagbon are established in their home areas. Finally, recently reported as a trade language is Wali, the language of Wa. Although the Wa...

References: Anyidoho, A., & Dakubu, M. K. (2008). Ghana: Indigenous Languages, English, and an Emerging National Identity. Language & National Identity in Africa (pp. 141-157). New York: Oxford University Press.
Bodomo, A. B. (1996). On Language and Development in Africa: The Case of Ghana. Nordic Journal of African Studies, 5, 31-51. Retrieved October 13, 2012, from
Morris, L. (1998). The Function of English in Contemporary Ghanaian Society. African Diaspora Collection, 52, 1-23.
Owu-Ewie, Charles. 2006. The Language Policy of Education in Ghana: A Critical Look at the English-OnlyLanguage Policy of Education. In Selected Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference on African Linguistics, ed. John Mugane et al., 76-85.
Sherris, A. (2006). A Critical Analysis of Language and Education in the Republic of Ghana. Mason Academic Research, 1, 1-27. Retrieved October 22, 2012, from alysis_Ghana.pdf
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