Ghanaian Pidgin English : in search of diachronic, synchronic, and sociolinguistic evidence


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Ghanaian Pidgin English : in search of diachronic, synchronic, and sociolinguistic evidence
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ix, 205 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.
Amoako, Joe K. Y. B
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Pidgin English -- Ghana   ( lcsh )
Languages -- Ghana   ( lcsh )
Popular culture -- Ghana   ( lcsh )
Linguistics thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Linguistics -- UF
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1992.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 199-203).
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Also available online.
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by Joe K.Y.B. Amoako.

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Copyright 1992


Joe K. Y. B. Amoako


I would like to express my sincere gratitude to

Professor John Lipski, the cochair for this dissertation, who spent a lot of his time in helping me with his very good suggestions especially on the theoretical aspects. Professor Allan Burns, the chair for this dissertation, gave me a lot of encouragement as well as guidance, especially on the socioliguistics part of this work and he deserves my gratefulness. Special thanks go to the other members of the dissertation committee, Professors Chauncey Chu, Norman Markel, and Goran Hyden, for suggestions that have brought about the completion of this work. I owe thanks to Professor Florence Dolphyne of the Department of Linguistics at the University of Ghana, who brought my attention to the fact that no formal studies had been done on the pidgin English situation in Ghana. It was through Professor Kofi Anyidoho of the University of Ghana, who was also one of my informants, that I corresponded with Professor Ian Hancook of the University of Texas who directed me on how to do the research on the pidgin English in Ghana. I am indebted to both of them for their assistance. I must express my thanks to Joyce Adjorlolo and Amoako-Atta for their asssistance in the distribution and collection of the questionnaire. I thank the following informants for their time and information: Mr. Akweyena and George Danyare of Institute of Adult Education; Dan Amakye-Dede, leader of Apollo High King


Band of Ghana; Georgina Amankwah and Anthony Pegah of Kumasi Polytechnic; Asiedu-Yirenkyi, first P.N.D.C. secretary for Culture and Tourism and a lecturer at the University of Ghana; Mr. Ayeh, managing director of CEREDEC; Nana-Benyin and Ernest Sarfo-Baidoo of Third Eye Band; Kofi Sammy of Okukuseku International Band; Gustav Baidoo and Agnes Ewusiamah of Achimota Primary School; Mr. Torkonoo of the "Ghanaian Times"; Job Enning of the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission Primary School; Ms. Salamatu; Ms. Serwah-Awuku; Monica Addo and Rebecca Djadu; Kofi Ntiamoah of Homotta comics; H.T.K. Bobobee; Alhassan of Commonwealth Hall at Legon; and the other numerous informants without whose help this work would not be successful. Special thanks should go to Ms. Hellen Odamtten, a former worker of the Ghana Broadcasting Corporation and a senior research fellow at the University of Ghana for contributing to the history and syntax parts of this work. I wish to express my thanks to Mr. Simbo Odunaiya for his computer guidance that enabled me make the beautiful graphics in this work. Finally, I thank my wife, Doris Boateng, for her patience and encouragement. Needless to say, I am solely responsible for any errors or imperfections in this work. All I can say is "Na God go tank de pipul wey dem help mi. Wey de monin k=k de krow mek yu sabi sey i bi Joe de tank yu =." ("It is God who will thank the people who helped me. When the morning rooster crows, you should know that it is Joe thanking you all.").




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ................................... iii

ABSTRACT.................................................. v


1 DEFINITION OF PIDGIN .................... 1

Introduction..... ..................-o...... 1
Social and Structural Criteria.. ............1
Nonnative SpeakerCriterio............ ...o- 3
Definition of Creole.,.....o..........oo..... ..4
Etymology of "Pidgin"........o...... ....-...5
Etymology of Creole....................... ....6
Summary.....................................o. 7


Introduction... ........o...... ............. ...9
A Step-by-Step History of Pidgin English in
West Africa... o............. -........ ... 9
The Portuguese... ......................10
The Dutch............. ................... 13
The British..... ....o....... ..........o.... o. 15
Principal Pidgin English Varieties in West
Africa. ..................o.....o..... ........18
Nigeria.... ....... .......... o............21
Sierra Leone ....o.........o...... ....o......oo....23
Liberia ........... ....... -o............28
Cameroon............oo.... ................... 31
Summary...... o............................... 33

AND HISTORICAL EVIDENCE ........................ 35

Research Background................ ...... .... 35
Methiodologyr..... ....... .......-...........36
History of Ghanaian Pidgin English... ..........39
Colonial Settlement .................... 39
Second World War...................-o.......43


News Media .................44
Current Emergence of Ghanaian Pidgin English. 46
Contact with other West African States .......48 The NigerianlInfluence....................... 48
Other Factors................................ 51
Summ ry ... .... ... ... ... .... ... ... ... 52


Introduction.............................. .. 54
Phonology ..................................... 57
Vowels of GPE.............................. 57
Consonants of GPE............................ 58
Syllable Structure of GPE.................... 59
Tone. .. .............................. 60
Vowel Harmony ............................. 61
Morphology..................................... 64
Reduplication ....................... ...... 64
Word Compounding in GPE ................... 70
Synrtax......................................... 71
The Basic Sentence Structure .............. 71
Tense-Modal-Aspect ........................ 71
Negation..................................... 76
Imperative................................... 78
Interrogative........................... 78
Exclamations and Emphasis.................... 80
Personal Pronouns ............................81
Possessives.................................. 81
The Articles................................. 82
Prepositions and Postpositions ...............83
Complementizer "sey"...................... ....... 84
Comparative / Superlative Expression.... .....84
Semantics of Some G.P.E. Words,... ........ 86
Words from other Languages..... ...............96
Orthography.......................... ..... 96
Sumamary.... -........... ... .. ... ... .97


Introduction .................. ... .......o... ...99
Speakers and Places of GPE. ....o...............10
Age Groups......o.............. ...... ......106
Male and Female Speakers.,.......o.........106
Teachers........... ......... ...... ..... ... 108
Family Members and Friends... ...............109
Traders and Farmers .....o.......o... ........109
Ordinary Workers .................. .......o.....110
Government Officials ......o o..... o.......110
Drivers ................ .................... 111
Priests ....... ....... ................11
Students ................. .................112


Others.... . . .. . . .. . . 113

Uses of Ghanaian Pidgin English................ 114
Written Usage................................. 114
Literature.................................. 115
Entertainment............................ 118
Newspapers.................................. 119
Spoken Usage.................................. 121
Communication............................... 122
Simplicity of GPE.......................... 123
Socialization and Fun...................... 124
Politics.................................... 125
Entertainment............................... 126
People's Attitudes Toward GPE.................. 129
Summary'........................................ 142

6 CONCLUSIONS............................. 147


A RESEARCH QUESTIONNAIRE......................... 151

B LANGUAGE MAP OF GHANA.......................... 155


A Conversation Between Two Students About a
Future Date..................................... 158
A Song by Okukuseku International Band ....... 160 Interview with Kofi Sammy...................... 161
A Song by Apollo King International Band .......162

Gyato Magani.................................... 164
Baba Dogo....................................... 176
Super Mugu Yaro................................. 186

REFER~EN'CES................................................. 199

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH....................................... 204


Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Joe K. Y. B. Amoako

December 1992

Chairperson: Allan Burns
Major Department: Linguistics

Considerable misinformation has been circulated about

Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE). Some Ghanaians attribute the worsening of standard English to the emergence of GPE. But GPE is serving a very important purpose which many critics overlook. It serves as an important medium of communication. It is used on a wide scale at many places, in popular songs, on political platforms, and on many occasions. It is used by both literate and illiterate people. Most importantly, pidgin English is becoming the lingua franca in English speaking West Africa countries.

There has not been much formal attempt to study the

pidgin English situation in Ghana, and because of this, some linguists do not believe that there is a pidgin in the country. In a personal letter to me, Professor Ian Hancock, a creolist at the University of Texas, expressed the need for a research on Ghanaian Pidgin English: "It is heartening to learn that serious scholarly attention is


being given to Pidgin in Ghana, the one West African nation for which least information is available on the local pidgin English." The above observations, among other things, prompted me to do a research on the language so that it will open the way for other linguists to know that there is a pidgin in Ghana.

The study consists of six chapters which deal with the definitions and etymologies of pidgin and creole, the history of West African Pidgin English, the methodology of the research, history of GPE, a detailed linguistic analysis of GPE, the sociolinguistics of GPE, as well as conclusions on the survey.

Data were collected on GPE over a period of nine

months. Out of the 400 copies of questionnaire distributed, 304 were retrieved. This period was also used in taperecording interviews, conversations, and songs, as well as collecting magazines and newspapers. The informants who consisted of both sexes ranged from school children to a secretary of state.

The survey shows that there is a pidgin English in Ghana, and that it has been influenced by the substrate languages. It is spreading fast, especially among the youths because it is being used not only as a means of communication but also as a means of solidarity.




This chapter is devoted to a literature review on the definition and etymology of pidgin and creole. I will cite some of these definitions to acquaint ourselves with these two concepts are. This will help decide whether what is being discussed in this work is a pidgin or creole, or it is none of them.

Social and Structural criteria

"Pidgin" has been defined with different criteria by various authors. Two of these are social and structural. The social criterion states the need for a language as a means of communication when people who do not have a common language come together; and the structural criterion is the reduced structure of such a language that would evolve to serve as a means of communication.

John Lyons defines pidgin languages as:

Specialized languages used for trade or similar
purposes by those who have no other common language.
It is characteristic of pidgin that they have a
simplified grammar and a highly restricted vocabulary in comparison to the language or languages, upon which
they are based. (Lyons 1981:30-31)



For Holm, "a pidgin is a reduced language that results from extended contact between groups of people with no language in common; it evolves when they need some means of verbal communication, perhaps for trade" (Holm 1988:4). Todd has the following to say about the definition of pidgin.

A pidgin is a marginal language which arises to fulfil
certain communication needs among people who have no
common language. In the initial stages of contact the communication is often limited to transactions where a detailed exchange of ideas is not required and where a
small vocabulary, drawn almost exclusively from one
language, suffices. The syntactic structure of pidgin is less complex and less flexible than the structure of
languages which were in contact. (Todd 1974:1-2) Hall claims that a new pidgin is likely to arise

whenever a guide meets a tourist, or a shopkeeper meets a customer, and the two do not share a common language. He further states that a pidgin will draw its minimal vocabulary from both languages. He again states that the phonology and syntax will be reduced and the pidgin is suitable only for minimal and specialized communication (Hall 1954).

Apart from the communicative approach, Wardhaugh has

added function to his definition of pidgin. He writes that 11pidginization generally involves the simplification of a language, e.g., reduction in morphology (word structure) and syntax (grammatical structure), tolerance of considerable phonological variation (pronunciation), reduction in the number of functions for which the pidgin is used, and extensive borrowing of words from local mother-tongues"


(Wardhaugh 1990:59). He argues that one usually does not attempt to write novels in a pidgin.

NonNative Speaker Criterion

Another criterion which has been used to define pidgin in addition to the social and structural criteria is that pidgin does not have native speakers. Hall writes that "by definition, a pidgin language is one with two special charateristics: (1) it is native to none, or virtually none, of those who speak it; (2) it is sharply reduced in structure and vocabulary, as contrasted with the language from which it is derived" (Hall 1954:20). He uses Pidgin English as an example of his definition for pidgin. "Pidgin English is any one of several kinds of reduced language, based on but differing from English, used by various parts of the world as a lingrua franca among speakers of different languages but native to none of them" (ibid 23).

Wardhaugh, in using the nonnative speaker criterion,

defines pidgin as "a language with no native speakers: it is no one's first language but is a contact language" (Wardhaugh 1990:57).

Fasold has combined all the three criteria, social, structural, and nonnative speaker, to define pidgin.

Roughly, a pidgin language is generally understood to
be a "simplified" language with a vocabulary that comes
mostly from another language, but whose grammar is
different. Pidgins, in the stereotypical case, are
formed when speakers of one language engage in trade
with speakers of another, or work on plantations
managed by speakers of another, and neither knows the


other's language. Pidgins are no one's mother tongue.
(Fasold 1990:180)
David De camp is another writer who has used the three

criteria to define pidgin. He also states that it is a


A pidgin is a contact vernacular, normally not the
native language of any speakers. It is used in trading
or in any situation requiring communication between
persons who do not speak each other's native language.
It is characterized by a limited vocabulary, an
elimination of many grammatical devices such as number
and gender, and a drastic reduction of redundant
features. (De Camp 1971)

Definition of Creole

The most general popular account states that creoles

arise when a pidgin becomes the native language of a new

generation of children. In other words, pidgin becomes a

creole when it acquires native speakers (Fasold 1990:83;

Hall 1954:21; Todd 1974:3; Hymes 1971:3; DeCamp 1971:15;

Wardhaugh 1990:58; Muhlhausler 1986:7; Holm 1988:6).

This occurs, for instance, when parents from different linguistic backgrounds communicate among themselves and
with their offspring in a makeshift pidgin, which is
elaborated and adopted as a means of intercommunication
by the next generation. Thus the children in this
situation: are exposed to imperfect, reduced language
input; elaborate this input using new grammatical
devices gleaned from internal resources, that is, by
appealing to their innate linguistic knowledge; and
eventually speak a language that is both quantitatively
and qualitatively different from that spoken by their parents and, in many cases, not intelligible to them.
(Muhlhausler 1986:7)

The appeal of children to the innate linguistic

knowledge in the acquisition of creole suggested by

Muhlhausler is related to Bickerton's definition of creole:


"creoles are reflections of a natural bioprogram for human language which is activated in cases of imperfect language transmission" (Bickerton 1981).

Bickerton suggests that "the essential difference

between pidginization and creolization is that pidginization is second-language learning with restricted input and creolization is first-language learning, also with restricted input" (Bickerton 1981).

Etymology of "Pidgin"
There have been many proposals as to the etymology of the term "pidgin". The more widespread of these proposals include the following taken from Mhlhausler (1986:1):


1. the definition given by the Oxford English Dictionary
(OED) of a "Chinese corruption of English "business"; 2. a Chinese corruption of the Portuguese word ocupaco:

3. Hebrew Didiom: "exchange, trade, redemption";

4. Yago (a South American Indian language spoken in an area
colonized by Britain) pidian: "people";

5. South Seas pronunciation of English "beach" (beachee)
from the location where the language was typically used
(Muhlhausler 1986);
6. derived from pequeno portugu~s, roughly "little

7. derived from Baixo portugues "low Portuguese" (Holm 1988)

Of all the above proposals, the OED theory enjoys the most popular support. In a paper presented at the 1990


Linguistic Society of America (LSA) conference, Dingxu Shi used phonological evidence to support the OED theory.

The word for "business" is found in a Chinese Pidgin
English phrase book that was popular around Canton in
the early 19th century. It is represented by two Chinese characters pronounced as (pitsin] with an unaspirated voiceless stop [p) and an unaspirated
affricate [ts). The two consonants are the closest a
Cantonese speaker can get for [b] and [z). The English
speakers in turn would pronounce the two Cantonese
sounds as [ph] and [dz]. The insertion of vowel after a syllable-final consonant is common in Chinese Pidgin
English. (Shi 1990)

Etymologyv of Creole

The term "creole" originated in one of Portugal's

colonies in the sixteenth century. Both form and meaning suggest an etymology criar "to nurse, breed, nourish" (Valkhoff 1966:34). According to Muhlhausler, "originally the meaning of criolho was 'slave in European employment, particularly around the house, white man or woman originating from the colonies"' (Muhlhausler 1986:6).

The word "creole" has adopted a number of meanings. Webster's Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary gives the following meanings to it.

1. white person born in the colonies

2. a person of European descent born especially in the
West Indies or Spanish America

3. a white person descended from early French or
Spanish settlers of the U.S. Gulf states and preserving
their speech and culture

4. a person of mixed French or Spanish and Negro
descent speaking a dialect of French or Spanish


5. a language based on two or more languages that
serves as the native language of its speakers
(Merriam-Webster 1984:305-6)

According to Holm, Crioulo, which is a Portuguese word "with a diminutive suffix, came to mean an African slave born in the New World in Brazilian usage. Its meaning was then extended to include Europeans born in the New World. The word finally came to refer to the customs and speech of Africans and Europeans born in the New World. It was later borrowed as Spanish criollo,, Dutch creol, and English creole" (Holm 1988:9).


In this chapter, we have attempted to deal with the

definitions of pidgin and creole languages. Pidgin evolves when people who do not understand each other's language meet and they want to communicate verbally. This is the social definition of pidgin. The structural definition states that pidgin has a reduced language structure which means that its phonology, morphology, syntax, and semantics are simpler than those of the language or languages that it may evolve from. By definition pidgin does not have native speakers. Pidgin becomes creole when it acquires a native speaker. The linguistic structure of a creole is more complex than that of pidgin. Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) which is the topic of this work has no opportunity of being creolized in the near future, because the Ghanaian children have access to one or more of the 45 Ghanaian local languages.


moreover GPE is not a popular language in the homes of its speakers. This means GPE will remain a pidgin for a long time to come.



This chapter contains two subsections. The first section deals with the step-by-step history of pidgin English in West Africa; we will discuss how Portuguese, Dutch, and British have contributed toward pidgin English in West Africa. The second section deals with an enumeration of the principal pidgin English varieties in West Africa, which are Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Cameroon.

A Step-by-Step History of Pidgin English in West Africa

The exact date of the development of an English-based pidgin in West Africa cannot be determined. It probably began with the first contacts with the British in the sixteenth century (Mafeni 1971:97; Spencer 1971:8). Before the British built their first English fort at Cormantine on the Gold Coast in 1631, the Portuguese, who were followed by the Dutch, had traded with the people of West Africa and had made some impact on the linguistics of this area. In this section, I will discuss, chronologically, how these three European nations contributed toward the evolution of pidgin English in West Africa.



The Portuguese

There was a pidgin Portuguese which was used in parts of Africa throughout the 16th and 17th centuries (Naro 1978:334). Naro states that the history of pidgin Portuguese is divided into two temporally and geographically distinct phases. The first phase is the period of formation in Europe, beginning around the 1440Os, and the second phase is the period of transfer and establishment in West Africa of the resultant "acquired code," beginning around 1500.

The captains of Prince Henry the Navigator of Portugal reached Cape Verde in 1444, Sierra Leone in 1460 and the Gold Coast (now Ghana) in 1471 (Spencer 1971:7). They colonized the Cape Verde Islands and used them as a base for settlements south along the coast. They built the fort of

Sao Jorge de Mina' in the Gold Coast. They set up a station at Gwato, the port of Benin, and colonized the island of Sao Thome as a center for their Niger-Cameroons trade. They established settlements, forts and trading stations down the western and up the eastern sub-equatorial coasts of Africa, and they reached Goa and Calicut and the Malabar coast of India, as well as Malacca on the Malayan peninsular (ibid.8).

Native speakers of West African languages were captured and taken to Portugal, where, at the orders of Prince Henry the Navigator, they were taught Portuguese so that they could be used as translators on future voyages (Naro


1978:314). A pidgin Portuguese which Naro calls "reconnaisance language" evolved in Europe, first between those Africans who were sent there and the Portuguese, and then later on among the Portuguese and other nationalities who were in Portugal. "The purpose of the reconnaissance language, from the Portuguese point of view, was to facilitate linguistic comprehension when necessary; it could be used in speaking to persons of any social standing and of any nationality, under appropriate circumstances (ibid:326).

The Portuguese settlers and traders who set up

permanent households, usually with African women, in West Africa might have been the means of transfer of the reconnaissance language from Europe to Africa. These setllers had direct linguistic contact with the Africans in their daily life.

The major linguistic significance of the Portuguese voyages and trade is the traces of Portuguese vocabulary that are found in some African languages and especially in pidgin and creole languages. In the Akan language of Ghana, some Portuguese words, which have been phonologically assimilated into the Akan language, are still in use. Portuguese carta ("letter") has become Akan krataa ("a letter or paper"). Porco ("pig") has become prako with the same meaning. Portuguese camisa ("shirt") has become Akan kamisa ("a woman's one-piece undergarment"); conta

("accounting, reckoning") is konta in Akan with the same meaning; Portuguese coco ("coconut") is kube2 in Akan; and Portuguese sapato ("shoe") has become the Akan word sepatere with the same meaning (Amoako 1988:4).

Many linguists have discussed the Portuguese vocabulary items in pidgin English. We will provide the discussions by Schneider and Spencer because they deal specifically with West African Pidgin English.

A few high frequency vocabulary items are a legacy from
Portuguese Pidgin which held on into the 17th century
and constitutes a vocabulary substratum in West African
Pidgin English. Examples: P-E /pikin/ from
[pequenino] PORT. 'child / little one'. P-E /dsh/
from [dache] PORT. 'gift' or 'tribute' and extended to
cover a broad semantic field of meaning. P-E /gabi/
from [saber] PORT. 'know'. P-E /Dalaba, from [palavra]
PORT. 'conference', 'discussion' and in Portuguese 'word', The forms--dash, Dikin, palaver and savvy-appear in many historical sources and 'dialect'
conversations of 19-20th century writers. (Schneider

The Portuguese exploration has bequeathed to the world as well as to West African Pidgin English many of the prominent place-names which lie recorded in the portulans of the 15-16th century sources. Examples of these place-names are Guinea, Elmina, Lagos, Cape Verde, Cape Palmas, Porto Novo, Sierra Leone, Luanda, Cross River, Fernando Po, and Cameroons (ibid.7).

Writing about the early voyages and trade of the

Portuguese, Spencer also writes on the Portuguese influence on Pidgin vocabulary:


From these early centuries date some of the most
characteristic Pidgin words, known and used by almost
everyone, English or African, who has lived in the coastal areas of West Africa: dash, n and v, '(to
give) a gift, bribe, tip or commission'; Pickin, n, 'a
young child'; palaver, n, 'talk, argument, trouble', and compounds such as mammy-palaver, 'woman (or wife)
trouble', belly-palaver, 'stomach trouble'; choR n and
v, 'food' and 'eat', and its recent extensions in
phrases such as 'small chop, 'cocktail eats', chop box,
'food box for use on trek, originally for head
loading', etc. (Spencer 1971:11) The Dutch

In 1581 the northern Dutch provinces declared their

independence from Spain and successfully defended it. The Dutch, from that time, embarked on a worldwide commercial enterprise. By the middle of the seventeenth century they had built a vast Dutch empire which circled the planet with outposts from what is today New York to the Caribbean, Brazil, Africa, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan, and Japan (Holm 1989:322). They took over all of Portugal's possessions in West Africa by 1642. They made some few settlements on the Gold Coast (now Ghana) and traded with its people between 1595 and 1869 (Ward 1948). They captured the Elmina castle on the Gold Coast in 1637.

One remarkable thing about the Dutch is that there are very few linguistic remnants of the vast empire that they built. Negerhollands (D 'Negro Dutch) is a creole once widely spoken in what became the United States Virgin Islands; it is extinct today (Holm 1989:325). Berbice Creole Dutch is one of the two nearly extinct Dutch-based creoles spoken in Guyana (ibid.329). Skepi is also a Dutch-


based creole which was once widely spoken along Guyana's Essequibo river (ibid.333). Afrikaans, which is spoken in the Republic of South Africa, is a standardized language that descended from seventeenth-century dialects of Dutch.

Dutch was never a su~erstrate nor a susrt to any

language in West Africa. "This seems unusual for the Dutch were trading in West Coast waters for over two centuries and practically monopolized the trade for 60 years" (Schneider 1967 :8). Only some few Dutch words which have been phonologically assimilated are found in the Akan language of Ghana. Dutch klaar ("ready to do something") is the Akan word krado with the same meaning. Dutch doek ("piece of cloth") is the Akan word duk meaning "headscarf" or "handkerchief." Some Akans pronounce the Dutch word kalkoen ("turkey") as krakuun while others pronounce it kurokurokoko, because of some semantic extension that has been associated with the noise made by the turkey (Amoako, 1988:6). It is no wonder that these Dutch words are still used in the Akan language for the Dutch traded with the Akans for a long time especially during the slave trade. It is also because of this long contact between the Dutch and the Akans that the Negerhollands has a predominantly Twi substrate (Holm 1989:325). Twi is a dialect of Akan.

Some of the reasons that have been attributed to the lesser impact of the Dutch in linguistic terms are that


"they were usually neither the first nor the only Europeans to arrive in the areas they colonized, and in most cases they did not remain as long as the British and the French" (ibid. 322). Their own attitudes may have undermined the spread of their language. It is claimed that "till the middle of the nineteenth century the Hollanders regarded their language as a sort of caste-language and heard unwillingly its employment by their inferiors" (quoted by Reinecke 1937:443). Another probable contributing factor is the traditional proficiency of the Dutch in more widely spoken languages; "the Dutch seem linguistically to have been the most accommmodating traders . they, in contrast to the British and French, must have made full use of the Portuguese Pidgin or Creole" (Le Page & Tabouret-Keller 1985:29). In fact, the Dutch tended to be polyglots. It has also been observed that "the emphasis was on the commercial. No settlement, no assimilation (inter-marriage, miscegnation, fraternization), no religous fervor or attempt to Christianization, no culture contact. The Dutch confined themselves to their ships and establishments" (Schneider 1967:9).

The British

The following account of the contribution made by the British toward West African Pidgin English is the one given by Schneider (1967). His account is a summary of other accounts given by various writers (Holm 1989, Spencer 1971.)


British privateers or "fortune seekers" engaged in

smuggling, "high-jacking" and irregular slaving were working the Atlantic ever since the sixteenth century. The great colonial powers were engaged in a highly competitive Atlantic trade, the business of buying slaves on the African West coast. The struggle was long and England and France remained after the Dutch were forced to give up their empire and concentrate efforts at strategic places. The treaty of Utrecht in 1713 between England and France divided the West African Coast. "By 1713 the French had replaced the Dutch as the strongest European power on the shores of Upper Guinea, and the English were strongly established in competition with the Dutch on the Gold Coast" (Fage 1961:67).

The British receive credit for carrying the bulk of

African products and slaves during the eighteenth century. This very fact demanded closer contact of cultures, developing of new methods, and exchange of opinions and ideas, and much closer association. The very foundations were being laid for the development of West African Pidgin English. All along the African West Coast the local indigenous authorities made agreements with individual and independent traders. During the eighteenth century this pattern was drastically revised by the companies in what is known as the "factory system". The "factory" was in reality a trading post where "factors" lived and conducted the


details of large companies. The "factor" himself usually

had a fairly free hand to buy and sell in his own name. He

received a commission for his efforts and was entrusted with

the goods of the company. The larger stores and shops in

Cameroon are still referred to as faktri.

West African Pidgin English became firmly established

through the entire coastal area and there is some evidence

that the slaves of the early nineteenth century, recaptured

and off-loaded at Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Fernando Po

were communicating in pidgin English.

Schneider gives the following as the major reasons why

pidgin English emerged and survived in West Africa.

Firstly: Pidgin-English began to develop during the 17th century. These developments are documented by
Dutch sources of the West Coast. Pidgin-English
competed with Pidgin-Portuguese and perhaps a
smattering of Dutch but by the 18th century had gained
the greater part of the West Coast as its arena of

Secondly: The ascendancy of Britain as the chief
carrier of slaves and later as the organizer of West
Coast trade set the pattern for the spread and
development of Pidgin-English. This was greatly facilitated by the "factory" and the attempts to
monopolize the trade through such procedures as the
"trust", creation of a hierarchy of middlemen, the
employment of Africans as factors, the incentives of
gifts, security and bonuses for effort.

Thirdly: The English traders, artisans and sailors
were ordinary men. Many had little formal education.
They had no fixed opinions about language, no visceral reactions when their dialect was "pounded and battered.

This type of contact situation was excellent soil in
which the seeds of Pidgin-English could thrive.
(Schneider 1969:14-15)


We conclude this section by recognizing that history

has influenced the evolution of pigins in West Africa,

especially pidgin English. Pidginization of European

languages in West Africa began with Portuguese and now

pidgin English is spoken in many West Africa countries.

Principal Pidgin English Varieties in West Africa

English-based pidgins and creoles are spoken in West

Africa from the Gambia to the Cameroon. They are spoken in

countries where English is an official language. These

countries are Gambia, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, Nigeria,

and Cameroon. Spencer has the following to say about the

role of the English language in West Africa.

In West Africa English exists alongside a multitude of other languages which constitute the mother tongues of
practically all the peoples of those states which
retain English as an important auxiliary, or sometimes
as an explicitly national, language. As these
societies develop, as their populations become socially
and geographically more mobile, as institutions and
organizations spread and multiply, and as group
interacts with group in the process of modernization, so the place of English gets more interwoven with the lives of more and more people. It is normally through
English that an individual breaks the bonds of West
African traditional life and enters into some kind of
relationship with the westernized sectors of the
society. Through English he obtains the education
which is the road to the kind of success which awaits him beyond the village or the tribe. Through English
of one kind or another he communicates with fellow
citizens from language groups other than his own, or
with foreigners. English is the language of
institutions implanted by colonialism: the law, largescale business, formal education beyond the first two
or three years of primary school, science and
technology, central administration and politics.
(Spencer 1971:3)


Standard English is the type of English that Spencer is talking about in the above quotation. on the other hand, if one listened to children in the playground, or to students on educational campuses, one might hear another language, closely related in some ways to English, but certainly unintelligible to native English speakers from outside West Africa: Pidgin English (ibid.5). The social stigma that people associate with pidgins, and for that matter pidgin English, is discussed by Spencer:

Where it existed as a lingua franca in local community
life it was forbidden in classroom and hopefully, in
playground and dormitory too. It was frowned upon by the schoolmaster and swept under the carpet by almost
all colonial educationists. Many Africans who made use of it were also made ashamed of it. From the point of
view of formal education Pidgin, as well as Krio, the
creole language of Freetown, lived an "underground"
existence. (ibid.5)

For the sake of simplicity, Holm divides the Englishbased pidgin and creole in West Africa into three major groups: Krio, including nonnative and emigrant varieties, in Sierra Leone; Liberian, with similar divisions; and West African Pidgin English, as spoken in Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon. "Because of their interconnected histories, Krio and Pidgin share a number of features and there is considerable mutual intelligibility between their speakers, although neither group can understand much Liberian" (Holm 1989:409).

This is how Schneider has defined Pidgin English as it is related to West Africa:


Pidgin-English is the most common name given to a
lingua franca spoken throughout West Africa from Sierra
Leone to the Gabon. It is a meduim of communication
for African peoples who have no first language in
common, for white men of various ethnic backgrounds and for the West African working man, trader and transient
peoples. Pidgin-English is not a mere simplification
of English, but a separate and describable language.
Its vocabulary is predominantly English-based, but the
lexical forms have changed their meaning to fit into
the value system and world view of the African
people. (Schneider 1966:2)

According to Barbag-Stoll, the term West African Pidgrin English (WAPE) is a linguist's invention which covers different, often mutually unintelligible varieties spoken on the West African Coast (Barbag-Stoll 1983:37). Barbag-Stoll has listed a number of names that are used in referring to WAPE:

It is often referred to as Bastard English, Broken
English, Funny English, Vulgar English (value judgement
labels), Kitchen English, Factory English, Market
English, Trade English (institution labels), Coast
English, West African Negro English, Liberian English,
Sierra Leone English (dialect labels), etc. (ibid.37) The above value judgement and institution labels have come about because of the assumed relationship between WAPE and standard English. This has happened because of the language contact between Europe and West Africa which began,as already stated above, with the arrival of the Portuguese on the West African coast in the fifteenth century (Schneider 1967:4; Spencer 1971:7; Holm 1989:268). The Portuguese were followed by the Dutch who in turn were followed by the English. They all contributed to carve the


pidgin English in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cameroon, and Ghana.


The area that is now coastal Nigeria never had forts built by the Europeans for the slave trade. Although the Portuguese began the traffic in slaves in this area early on, much of the coast from Nigeria to Cameroon was relatively ignored by the Europeans, partly because of its difficult conditions (Tonkin 1971:143). However, the growing demand for slaves in the eighteenth century drove slavers further eastward to the lagoons of what is today Lagos and the creeks of the "Rivers" at the mouth of the Niger. Here the Europeans could anchor their vessels for the brief period needed to load the slaves that the African traders kept ready for them (Osae et al. 1973:180). By the end of the eighteenth century Bonny and Calabar on the Bight of Biafra had become two of the most important trading ports.

The British made the slave trade illegal in 1807, and their navy patrolled this area to enforce the new law; however, trade in palm oil and other goods remained important. Protestant missionaries from England and Sierra Leone began coming to this area in the 1840s and were welcomed as teachers of arithmetic and English (Tonkin 1971:144). Britain annexed Lagos in 1861, the Rivers in 1885, and then all of Nigeria in 1900. Although Nigeria


retained English as its official language after independence

in 1960 and a knowledge of the standard variety is essential

for higher education and socioeconomic advancement, Pidgin

still plays a major role in interethnic communication in

linguistically heterogeneous urban centers, particularly in

the south (Mafeni 1971:99).

Nigerian Pidgin English is a lingua franca for many,

and thus a true pidgin in Hall's sense; it is also a mother

tongue for a number of families in certain areas and

communities, and as such might in these cases be defined as

a creole language (ibid.95). Mafeni describes how the

creole English has emerged in Nigeria like this:

Inter-tribal and international marriages have become
increasingly common in urban society. In many such
cases husband and wife may not share a common
indigenous language, and as a result will often use
Pidgin as their chief medium of communication in the
home; or, of course, Pidgin alongside standard English.
Children brought up in such homes naturally speak
Pidgin, sometimes alongside standard English, as their
first language, although they may also speak the native
language(s) of either or both parents. The children
therefore learn to operate several linguistic systems,
of which Pidgin is one of them; and in many cases it may be the primary and predominant system. However,
even where both parents speak the same native language,
many urban and partially detribalized children learn Pidgin very early although it is not the language of
the home. Often several families live in the same
compound, and if they differ in linguistic background
Pidgin serves as a convenient lingua franca. The children in such compounds and neighborhoods find
Pidgin an efficient means of communication among
themselves, and may also use it at home even though
their parents may not approve. (ibid.98)

According to Mafeni, some Nigerians have two types of

pidgin. The majority of servants employed by European


families use two quite different varieties of pidgin; one, a minimal variety, which they use to their employers--and which is the only kind of pidgin which most Europeans come across--and a fuller variety, pidgin proper, which they use elsewhere. Many Nigerians, although use pidgin as a register in certain, especially familiar, contexts, are nevertheless ashamed to be associated with the language in public. This is probably a result of the influence of parents and school authorities, who have often discouraged its use because they consider it a debased form of English and not a language in its own right (ibid.99).

Nigerians use their pidgin in variety of ways, in spite of the traditional attitudes of disapproval towards the language. Many Nigerian novelists, playwrights, advertising agents, trade unionists and even politicians have realized and are exploiting the great potentialities of the language as a medium of mass communication. The various broadcasting corporations in Nigeria have done much to popularize pidgin by allowing its use in advertisement; the NBC radioserial "Save Journey" has been running with great success for a number of years; Achebe and other writers have used pidgin in their novels and poems (ibid.100). Sierra Leone

Holm (1989:413) states that it seems both pidgin and creole English were spoken in the area around Freetown before it was settled from Britain and the New World in the


late eighteenth century. The English might have been influenced by the Portuguese that was spoken by the traders and their Afro-European descendants in this area. The Portuguese reached the peninsula on which Freetown now stands around 1460 and named the area Serra Lyoa or "Lion Mountain" (ibid.413). From the late fifteenth century onward European ships stopped regularly in this area to trade manufactured goods for slaves and ivory. The English established a fort on an island near the Sierra Leone peninsula in 1663; a number of English privateers settled on the offshore islands from this period onwards and they and their Afro-European descendants helped establish various forms of restructured English there. "These mulattoes merged with the Afro-Portuguese to form a group of about 12,000 by the end of the eighteenth century . [that] may have formed the 'indigenous' nucleus of the Creole-type society that was to emerge in the nineteenth century" (Jones 1983:16).

Slavery was abolished in Britain in 1772, and the

American revolution began in 1776. At this time the British offered freedom to any American-owned slave who would escape to fight for the crown, and thousands of slaves did this (Hancock 1971a:12). Some of these soldiers ended up in England where they and others called the Black Poor were felt to be a social problem. Some of these were settled in Africa. In 1787 some four hundred persons (330 blacks and


70 white prostitutes) arrived in Sierra Leone and founded what was to become Freetown. However, many died of disease and in 1790 the Temne destroyed most of what remained of the colony. The settlement was revived the following year by the Sierra Leone Company, which was sponsored by British opponents of the slave trade. In 1792 some 1,100 former American slaves who had won their freedom by fighting for the British were brought from Nova Scotia, where they had been temporarily resettled after the British lost their more southerly American colonies in 1783. In 1800 these "Settlers" were joined by some 550 Jamaican Maroons. Because of a disturbance in 1796 the British government had the entire population of a settlement deported from Jamaica to Nova Scotia; however, so many died from the cold that the survivors were resettled in Sierra Leone (Le Page and DeCamp 1960:100).

In 1807 Britain outlawed the slave trade and in 1808

took over Freetown from the financially troubled company to use it as a naval base for anti-slavery patrols to intercept non-British slave ships. Between 1808 and 1864 tens of thousands of captives on intercepted slave ships were settled at Freetown, bringing a great many languages with them from all over West Africa and the Congo-Angola area (Koelle 1854). Krio became the lingua franca among these recaptives and the first language of their descendants, who joined those of the Settlers and Maroons as members of the


Creole society. Singler suggests that "tthe most important phase of the development of Krio was the creolization (or re-creolization) that occurred with the wave upon wave of Liberated Africans who washed ashore in Freetown (Singler 1984:35). In summary "the Sierra Leone settlement consisted of the following groups of people: The Black Poor, the Maroons and Nova Scotians, and the West African recaptives. The last were by far the most numerous, their arrival being spread over a number of years" (Jones 1971:67). Jones describes the language Krio as:

Krio is an English-based lingua franca used throughout
Sierra Leone as an inter-tribal language of trade and social communication. It is the mother tongue of the
descendants of freed men who settled in the Sierra
Leone peninsula between 1787 and the early years of the nineteenth century. It is a second language for other residents in this same area whose mother tongue is one
of the Sierra Leone languages. It has also spread
throughout the country principally in the more urban
areas as an additional language. (ibid. 66)

In describing the usage of Krio in Sierra Leone today, Jones says it is recognized as a useful language of intertribal communication and as such a medium of news dissemination. He says the official news bulletin put out daily over the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service by the Ministry of Information, as well as other important government statements, are broadcast in Krio as well as English, Mende and Temne. (The other languages of the country usually have weekly broadcast in them.) Krio is also used widely in public speeches all over the country as well as at inter-tribal religious services. In talking


about the negative response that the usage of Krio receives Jones has this to say:

It is not however encouraged in the schools because of
its supposedly harmful effects on the learning of
English, the language of education, and is not widely
used in its written form, although there have been
sporadic bursts of good writing in it. Its register
Krio remains largely intimate and oral. It is used as
the normal means of communication in Creole homes but
even among educated Creoles outside their homes it
tends to be used only as means of intimate
conversation. Educated Creoles on first meeting other
educated Creoles tend to use English, this being
thought the more polite language. Coversation mellows
into Krio as acquaintanceship grows, although it is apt
to fade into English as topics veer into the more
technical fields. The appropriate occasions for Krio
in Sierra Leone society can involve delicate nuances of
etiquette. (ibid.68)

Some varieties of Krio are spoken in some parts of West Africa. Gambian Krio (locally called Aku or Patois) is spoken as a home language by some 3,500 Creoles in Banjul and by others as a second language (Hancock 1969a:8). A more conservative form of Krio is preserved in several small enclaves in French-speaking Guinea and Senegal, where Sierra Leone traders formed their own Krio-speaking communities (ibid. 9). The same thing happened in such English-speaking countries as Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon (Reinecke et al. 1975:365). A form of Krio called Fernandino or Porto3 (Lipski 1992:1) is spoken on Bioko (formerly called Fernando Po). This island, which lies just off the coast of Cameroon in the Gulf of Guinea, forms part of Equitoral Guinea (Holm 1989:418).



Holm (1989:421-426) writes about the Liberian

Creole/Pidgin English in terms of how the speakers of the language came in contact with English speakers. The Portuguese reached what is now Liberia in 1416; because of the trade in pepper that developed in this area, it came to be known as the Grain Coast. As the British took over more of the slave trade in the eighteenth century, their ships began stopping along the Grain Coast to take on crews to man their ships and act as middlemen with other Africans as they proceeded down the coast to trade for slaves. Their ships would stop again on their return journey to drop of f the sailors (Singler 1981:4). These were called Krumen (earlier Krooboys) from the ethnic name of Kru (Klao). They enjoyed a favored position with the white traders and were largely excempt from slave raiding (Reinecke 1937:617). Holm in quoting Reinecke suggests that it seems likely that the Krumen had been using pidgin English for at least a century when an observer noted in 1856 that "Three-fourths of the male population of the Kru country speak imperfect, but intelligible English" (ibid.618).

Holm quotes Tonkin, Jones, and Reinecke to describe how the Krumen have contributed towards the spread of Pidgin English in West Africa. The Krumen "must have been important diffusers and standardizers of Pidgin English, for their employers included slavers, traders, explorers, and


English Navy ... African pidgin speakers such as these became the main agents of language transmission" (Tonkin 1971:143). Jones suggests that the Kru probably helped spread Krio features in West African Pidgin English since they were present in Freetown by the 1790s and by 1820 their numbers there matched those of the settlers and maroons (Jones 1971:67). By the end of the nineteenth century the Krumen had brought a knowledge of Pidgin English as far south as the Congo River (Reinecke 1937:619). At this time the largest group of Krumen worked in Nigeria, but by the end of the First World War the Gold Coast (modern Ghana) had become their primary venue (Holm 1989:422).

It could be seen from the above paragraphs that Pidgin English was spoken along the Liberian coast before the arrival of the Afro-American settlers. One of the officials of these settlers noted in the 1820s that "every head man around us, and hundreds of their people speak, and can be made to understand our language without an interpreter" (quoted by Singler 1984:39).

The Americans wanted to "get rid of the masses of

blacks that loitered about the city streets, making them unsafe, but there was also the humane wish to give them a homeland of their own" (quoted by Holm 1989:423). This was after the slave trade. In 1821 the American Colonization Society bought land at the present site of Monrovia and in 1822 the first group of freed American slaves arrived.


During the first 25 years of immigration, 70% of the American blacks came from Virginia, Maryland, and North Carolina. Later immigrants came more often from Georgia and South Carolina, the origin of over 60% of those arriving immediately after the American Civil War (Singler 1989). These "Settlers" were joined by liberated Africans, delivered by United States Navy. Over the period of twenty years some 5780 liberated Africans were settled in Liberia (ibid.). Some 15,000 American freedmen eventually immigrated Liberia, as well as some 350 settlers from Barbados, who arrived in 1865 (Singler 1981:6). These settlers were outnumbered by the indigenous Africans.

There happens to be some kind of classifications in the language spoken by the Liberians because of the different groups of people who inhabit the area. The speech that the Settlers brought from America was the creolized ancestor of modern Black English vernacular (Holm 1989:424). For broadcasting and other official purposes there exists a standard variety of Liberian English which differs little from standard English elsewhere in West Africa except in its phonology, which is more American than British (Hancock 1970). Singer (1984:69-71) postulates three distinct basilects. The first is that of Settler English (called Merico by Hancock). This has features that are largely confined to American Black English and the North American varieties.


The second language varieties of Liberian English have two different basilects (both quite distinct from the Settler basilect) that have separate historical origins: (1) the variety that developed from Kru Pidgin, spoken along the coast; and (2) the variety that developed from a Mandeinfluenced pidgin, spoken in the interior. Interior Pidgin developed among the military and on plantations, where the Mande dominated. Both Interior and Coastal Pidgin reflect the phonology of the speaker's first language. Both of them are typical of speakers with little or no Western schooling. The following paragraph from Holm summarizes the varieties of English in Liberia.

Liberian English encompasses several restructured
varieties. There is a creole spoken as a home language
by the descendants of settlers from the United States (3% of the total population of 2,180,000 in 1984) who
live largely in and around the capital, Monrovia
(306,000 inhabitants). There are also second-language
varieties of this speech used as a lingua franca
throughout the rest of the country. One of these, Kru
Pidgin English, is more similar than the other
varieties to West African English because of its
distinct historical origins. All of the varieties in
Liberia have influenced one another and appear to form
a continuum rather than discrete entities. (Holm


Cameroonian Pidgin English grew out of the eighteenthcentury Pidgin English used around Calabar on the Bight of Biafra (Hancock 1969a:17). After the British occupied Fernando Po in 1827 to stop the trading of slaves in this area, merchants and missionaries from Britain and Sierra Leone began coming to what is now coastal Cameroon (Holm


1989:430). Between 1845 and 1887, 36% of these missionaries were creole speakers: 22 spoke Krio (18 from Sierra Leone and four from Fernando Po) and six spoke Jamaican English (Todd 1984:94). In 1858 the largely Krio-speaking Baptist mission on Fernando Po was expelled by the Spanish and reestablished at what is now Limbe on the Cameroonian coast. The Pidgin spoken in this area today is more similar to Krio than are other Cameroonian varieties (ibid.97). The British set up trading posts near the coastal town of Douala. When German firms joined the British in the 1860s and in 1884 Cameroon was officially annexed by Germany as a colony, restructured English was already so well established that the Germans had to use that instead of their own language in dealing with the local people.

The German colonization of Cameroon led to the spread

of the Pidgin English into the interior, because the Germans set up plantations that drew laborers from the interior grasslands. They returned to their villages with their knowledge of Pidgin. Other laborers were also brought from Liberia, Togo, Dahomey (modern Benin), and Nigeria. Pidgin English was the lingua franca on the plantations as well as in the colonial German army (ibid.94).

The Germans were driven out of Cameroon by the Allies in 1916, and in 1919 the country was divided into mandates under the British (west part near Nigeria) and the French (east part). English (West) and French (East) became the


official languages of Cameroon. This led to an increasing influence of English--and Nigerian Pidgin--in the west, and the further isolation of the English-based Pidgin in the east, where it began to draw on French when further lexicon was needed (Holm 1989:431). The eastern regions maintain more Krio features while the western regions are closer to Nigerian Pidgin.

Cameroon Pidgin English is presently widely used along the East Cameroon Coast, especially in the Douala area. Though it has little official recognition, it is still an important medium of communication for Cameroon's political, social, religious, and economic life (Barbag-Stoll 1983:38).


We have discussed how the Portuguese have influenced

the linguistics of West Africa, especially in pidgin. They traded with the people of the area, and through the orders of Prince Henry the Navigator some West Africans were taken to Portugal to learn Portuguese. This was the beginning of pidgin Portuguese which was called the reconnaissance language. These Africans were returned to West Africa to serve as interpreters for the Portuguese traders. The major transfer of the reconnaissance language to West Africa was done by the Portuguese traders and settlers who settled in the area among the Africans, especially the women.

The Dutch followed the Portuguese as the next European traders with the people of West Africa. They did not make


much impact on the linguistics of the area because they did

not sttle among the people they traded with. The British

who followed the Dutch had more impact on the linguistics of

West Africa because they were in closer contacts with the

people of this area than their two predecesors. They traded

with the people in products and slaves, settled among them,

and therefore had close contacts with their culture. The

major linguistic legacies of the British contact with West

Africa are standard English and pidgin English which is

spoken in the Gambia, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria,

and Cameroon.

1. The fort of Sao Jorge de Mina is now known as the Elmina Castle.
2. Semantic extension has contributed to the phonology of the Akan word kube which was derived from the Portuguese word "coco" which is pronounced /ko'ku/. In Akan, the root /be/ means "palm tree", and as the coconut tree looks like the palm tree, the derivation began with the addition of /be/ to the Portuguese /ko'ku/ to become /kokube/. The first syllable was deleted, hence /kube/. Akan vowel harmony system changed the final /e/ to /e/. The derivation would be the following:

/ko'ku/ Portuguese
kokube semantic extension
kube first syllable deletion
kube vowel harmony
3. Through a personal communication, John Lipski who has done some studies on the pidgins on Fernando Po, told me that the pidgin English on the island is no longer known as Fernandino or Porto. The only current terms are Pichinglis or the shortened Pichi. The term Fernandino is applied to the descendents of the original Sierra Leoneans who settled there.


Research Background

Considerable misinformation has been circulated about Ghanaian Pidgin English. Some Ghanaians attribute the worsening of standard English to the emergence of pidgin English. An evidence of this can be read from Suzanne Romaine's 1988 publication.

As recently as 1986 the Times Higher Education SuRRlement (17 Jan. 1986) carried a report of a
newspaper in Ghana complaining about the use of Pidgin
English on Ghanaian campuses and recommending that
stern measures be taken against it. The report notes
that in no other case do the future leaders of the
country talk a 'mixture in which all the tenses are
thrown to the wind, and words are picked from far and
wide, making no sense to the listener.' (Romaine

But pidgin English is serving a very important purpose which many critics overlook. It serves as an important medium of communication. It is spoken on a wide scale in educational institutions, work places, airports, seaports, drinking places, markets, on the radio, in popular songs, on political platforms, and on many occasions. It is spoken by both literate and illiterate people. Most importantly, pidgin English is becoming the lingua franca in English speaking West Africa countries.



There has not been any formal attempt to study the

pidgin English situation in Ghana. Sey (1973:3) observed that the ideal conditions for a pidgin did not exist in Ghana in 1973, but in 1984 it was observed that pidgin English was, and continues, to be spoken in Ghana.

The above observations, among other things, prompted us to consider doing a research on Ghanaian Pidgin English in 1984.


Research Period over a period of nine months, data were collected on Ghanaian Pidgin English (G.P.E.), from April, 1984 to January, 1985. This period was used in distributing and collecting questionnaires, tape-recording interviews, conversations, and songs in Ghanaian Pidgin English. The period was also used in collecting magazines and newspapers in which Ghanaian Pidgin English have been used. I was the major researcher during this period. Since I did not have any funding for the research, I could not afford a research assistant. I relied on the help of friends for both the recordings and the distribution as well as collection of the questionnaires.

Questionnaire. Four hundred questionnaires were

distributed in Accra in the Greater Accra Region, Aburi and Abetifi in the Eastern Region, Winneba in the Central Region, Kumasi in the Ashanti Region, Sunyani in the Brong Ahafo Region, and Ho in the Volta Region. Even though all


the regions of Ghana were not surveyed the informants who were of different ages, sexes, educational backgrounds, occupational backgrounds, and social classes consist of people from all the regions of the country. Three hundred and four responses were received. Table 3.1 and 3.2 show the sex and age distributions respectively. Refer to Appendix A for a copy of the questionnaire. Figures 3.1 and

3.2 are further illustrations on the age and sex distribution of the population surveyed.

Table 3.1
Sex Distribution of Informants

Male Female No Response Total
163 137 4 304

53.6% 45.1% 1.3% 100%

Sex Distribution of Ifrat


0 m.


Figure 3.1. Sex Distribution of Informants


Table 3.2
Age Distribution of Informants (Years)

15-25 26-30 31-40 41-50 50+ No Response Total

167 84 40 7 3 3 304

54.9% 27.6% 13.2% 2.3% 1.0% 1.0% 100%

The ages in table 3.2 begin at 15 because we decided

that informants below that age might not be properly able to complete the questionnaire. Many people over 40 did not return the questionnaires because they did not want to be associated with pidgin, thus pointing to the strong attitudes about pidgin in Ghana.

Age Distribution of Ifrat


0 1.

I52 3.90 $140 4140 so. wO REP.
3.n A 0 E (YEA 8AX )

Figure 3.2. Age Distribution of Informants

Materials used. Tape recorders were used in interviews with informants who ranged from school children to a secretary of state. Some of the recording was done during


the 1984 New Year School which was held at the University of Ghana, Legon. This is a one-week school attended by people from all walks of life and from all parts of Ghana. It is held between Christmas and New Year's Day. The participants discuss national issues like Aging, Education, Culture, and The Environment. This was a good opportunity to gather views from people across the whole spectrum of life in Ghana.

Both spontaneous and organized recordings of pidgin

were made, including songs sung in pidgin. We interviewed some of the singers as well as writers of Ghanaian Pidgin English. Magazines and newspapers in which GPE has been featured, especially in the areas of comics and cartoons were also collected.

The data in this dissertation were obtained from the questionnaires and some responses from interviewees have also been included. The discussions on the phonology, morphology, syntax, semantics, the lexicon and the sociolinguistics of the language as well as the data in the appendices were taken from some of the organized and spontaneous conversations of the informants. Some were also taken from the magazines.

History of Ghanaian Pidgin English Colonial Settlement

The Portuguese explored the coast of West Africa around the middle of the fifteenth century, establishing outposts


in what are today Guinea-Bissau, Ghana and Nigeria before the end of the century. But their trade was taken over first by the Dutch and then the English (Holm 1989:410). The English took over part of the slave trade by establishing forts in West Africa. "The first was built in 1631 at Cormantine in what is today called Ghana" (Spencer 1971:8). In 1672 the British seized from the Dutch a number of forts for trading for slaves on the Gold Coast and Slave Coast--modern Ghana, Togo, and Benin (Fage et al. 1959 quoted by Holm 1989:426). Restructured English was brought to this area from the late eighteenth century onwards by Krumen and Sierra Leonean Krio speakers.

In 1821 the British forts on the Gold Coast were taken from the Africa Company and placed under the crown in the form of the Governor of Sierra Leone. After the British defeated the Ashanti in the Sagrenti War of 1874, the Gold Coast and Lagos became the Gold Coast Colony and were administratively separated from Sierra Leone. "By the end of the century new medicines made life in the tropics safer for Europeans, and British-born administrators, teachers, etc. began taking over the positions previously filled by Sierra Leoneans" (Trutenau 1975:21-23 quoted by Holm 1989:427). The low-level jobs were the only ones that were left for the Africans. The demand was largely for unskilled labor, which were first filled by Ghanaians and then by Krumen from Liberia.


English has been the official language of Ghana since Britain colonized the Gold Coast (now Ghana) by the bond of 1844. This was the bond which made the Gold Coast a British colony. English was imposed as the language of administration by the British; their immediate practical aim being to bring together the separate political units which they had won either by conquest or treaty (Boadi 1971:49). After Ghana had its independence from the British rule in 1957, English is still a cohesive force internally. The adoption of one of the 45 local languages as the lingua franca has not been easy and is not envisaged. This has made the English language the most obvious choice for both internal and external uses (ibid. 50). We may distinguish between educated and uneducated varieties of English in Ghana even though there is a graded continuum between them. The least educated one is the least internationally acceptable and the most educated one is the most widely understood in the English-speaking world (ibid. 51). Pidgin English is one of the varieties that is associated with the uneducated varieties of English in Ghana.

Ghanaian Pidgin English dates from the time the British set foot on the coast of the Gold Coast. It was limited to a relatively small and identifiable section of the population, mostly illiterate workers of various categories, almost exclusively from the northern sector of the colonial territory. These workers were mainly those who served in


various capacities directly under mostly English but also some Ghanaian and other African "masters" who needed some means of communication with them.

Pidgin gradually arose through simplifications of the structure of standard English and adaptation to native languages among these categories of workers. They tried to reproduce what they heard and retained of the fast speech of the English masters, or the Ghanaian and Asian masters.

The categories of people who learned this kind of simplified English were:

Police corporals. They were employed as guards at the courts, offices, parliament, "people's" houses, and other government places. "People" in this sense means the expatriates and high-ranking government officials who qualified to employ a guard.

Watchmen. These were employed in government departments and private houses. They were security officers who watched the houses and office buildings of the government as well as those of some private individuals.

Laborers. They were employed in government departments

-usually daily rated--like Public Works Department, Water Works, Electricity, and Housing.

Domestic staff. The domestic staff, who in those days were invariably male, were cooks, steward boys, and garden boys. They were usually called "small boys" by their employers. They in turn called their employers "masters",


hence the popular expression in Ghana: "Yes sa, masa.11 ("Yes sir, master.") It was usual for a visitor to ask: "Masa dey?" (Is your master present?), and the reply: "I dey" (He's present) or "I no dey.11 (He isn't present).

The reason for the employment of these categories of workers from the northern part of Ghana was to promote the undivided loyalties to their employer, since they did not have their families with them in the south; even in the north, they could be far away from their own villages.

In the northern part of Ghana, the people were late in receiving formal education. That is why the employees from the North were some of the first speakers of Ghanaian Pidgin English.

Second World War

In our survey, sixteen informants, or 5% Of the

respondents, mentioned the second World War as one of the events that have contributed to the emergence of pidgin English in Ghana. This is especially true of the older respondents because of their association with the war.

Soldiers of the Gold Coast Regiment fought alongside their British counterparts during the Second World War (1939-1945). They served as porters for the British soldiers. These porters were illiterates,* hence in their efforts to communicate with their British counterparts Pidgin English evolved. These soldiers returned to Ghana with the Pidgin English. Some of them joined the Armed


Forces and others retired to live among the civilian population.

A retired soldier informed us that formerly every

soldier was made to learn pidgin English since it is the language used to drill soldiers on parade and training grounds. A police officer at a training depot also told us that police recruits are made to learn pidgin for the same reason. The trainers are illiterates and the English they know is the pidgin type. This training started with those who went to the Second World War.

There is a story in Ghana about a laborer who was

brought before the colonial courts in the early months of the Second World War on a charge of sedition. The charge was that he had said Hitler would win the war, impressed by the astounding blitz of the advancing German forces. In his defence he made the following statement in Pidgin English: "If I talk say Hitler go win the war, na my mouth be gun" (Eyi-Acquah 1985)? (tf a t~k sey Hitler go win de wD, na mfi m~f bi g~n?") ("If I say that Hitler will win the war, is my mouth a gun?")

News Media

Pidgin English has been used in the Ghanaian news media since the 1950s. There was a column in the "Evening News"an evening newspaper--which was strictly reserved for the use of pidgin English. It was used to present vernacular jokes.


There was a radio program done in pidgin English in the 1950s called "Isa Abongoll by the late Leo Riby-Williams. In the 1960s there was a television comedy series also done in pidgin English. These were comedy programs meant to entertain the rank and file mostly illiterate workers who would be expected to understand or speak pidgin English and so appreciate such programs in pidgin.

Contrary to the assumption that the majority of

illiterate workers from all over the country spoke and understood pidgin English and so would welcome such programs, it turned out that pidgin English was limited to only a small section of the population and that the rest would better enjoy programs in one of the local Ghanaian languages. The radio and television programs were therefore withdrawn after a short run; and eventually, through audience research survey, programs like Variety Show Case in Akan, Ga, Ewe, and other Ghanaian languages were substituted. These were and are much enjoyed by all sections of the population.

Sey (1973:3) says that with many educated people in the large towns it was not necessary for the illiterate people to deal directly with the English speakers for bilingual educated Ghanaians were always at hand to act as interpreters and "letter-writers" for the uneducated ones. This was one of the reasons why Ghanaian Pidgin English could not spread.


Current Emergence of Ghanaian Pidgin English: Factors

Within the past ten or twenty years, that is, from the early 1970s, it has been noticed by the informants in this survey that more Ghanaians are speaking pidgin English than in the 1950s and 1960s. This can be seen from table 3.3 and figure 3.3.

Table 3.3
Number of Years Speakers Have Spoken Ghanaian Pidgin English Years: 0 -1 1-5 6-10 11-15 16-20 21+ No Res

Speakers: 44 23 90 70 22 8 0 47

:14.5 7.6 29.6 23.0 7.2 2.6 0.0 15.5

Year of Speaking G.P.E.


Figure 3.3. Years of Speaking G.P.E.

It should be noted that 23% of the speakers have spoken pidgin English for the past ten years, and that 29.6% have spoken it for the past five years. This shows an increase of


6.6%. Just 7.6% had spoken it for less than a year during the research period. These ratios are due to the current attitude of people toward the GPE.

Table 3.4 and figure 3.4 offer further statistical data and an illustration to show the consensus that Pidgin English is spreading fast in Ghana.

Table 3.4
Rate of The Spread of Ghanaian Pidgin English

Slowly Fast Dying Out Not Found Other No Response

21 258 6 0 1 18
6.9% 84.9% 2.0% 0.0% 0.3% 5.9%

Rate of the Spread of G.P.E.



j 0

Figure 3.4. Rate of the Spread of G.P.E.

Whereas 84.9% of the respondents said that the Ghanaian Pidgin English is spreading fast, only 6.9% said that it is spreading slowly.


Contact with Other West African States

The main reason given for the fast spreading of the

Ghanaian Pidgin English within the past twenty years is the recent increase of contacts between Ghanaians and other West African states where pidgin English is spoken on a wider scale. These countries are Liberia, Sierra Leone, and especially Nigeria. This increase is evidenced by the responses of informants to the question: "Which events have contributed toward the introduction and spread of pidgin English?" Out of 304 questionnaires, 236 informants responded to that question, 77.6% of the total survey. out of the 236 respondents 127, that is, 53.8% mentioned immigration of Ghanaians to other West African countries. The Nigerian Influence

Of the 127 respondents who mentioned immigration as a factor to the current spread of Ghanaian Pidgin English, 105, that is 82.6%, said that Nigeria has been responsible. Pidgin English is spoken everywhere in Nigeria. The writer spent three months in Lagos in 1981, and found that Nigerians speak standard English only on rare occasions in private conversations. Otherwise, they speak either one of the Nigerian languages or pidgin English.

The oil boom brought economic improvement to Nigeria in the early 1970s, and people from many countries, including Ghana, immigrated there. Both skilled and unskilled Ghanaian workers went to Nigeria to look for green pastures.


They spent their holidays in Ghana, and often took whatever they acquired to Ghana. One important thing they brought back to Ghana was pidgin English.

In the early 1980s, many Ghanaians and other foreign nationals were expelled from Nigeria. These returnees raised the use of pidgin English in Ghana to its ascendancy. The writer taught a boy in elementary school, middle form four, in 1972. The boy spoke no pidgin English at that time. After sojourning in Nigeria, he formed a guitar band, and in 1981 sang his first song in pidgin English, titled: "To Be a Man Na Wah"' (It is a struggle to be born a man). His second album, which caught the attention of many Ghanaian music fans was "Jealousy." The following is part of the song:

JEALOUSY (a song)

if aduma tin If Idomy thing
mek yu no jel~s Don't be jealous
if aduma tin If Ido mything
mek yu no jel::s Don't be jealous
jelnDst go .4he(m) The jealous one will be ashamed
wayo go Ahe(m) The trickster will be ashamed.
jel=)si go dhe(m) The jealous one will be ashamed
wayo tu go ge(m) The trickster too will be ashamed

There was a Ghanaian woman who never spoke pidgin

English when she was in Ghana. After staying in Lagos for one year, she wrote a letter which contained both pidgin English and standard English, using the pidgin English as a joke. The sample below is an unedited part of a letter she wrote to the writer. The Yoruba words are underlined.


Well 2ga I dey happy I received your letter, but as you dey tell me to come home, wetin I fit take
to enter motor? I dey hear your advice goun and I dey
trowey thanks for you for your advice.

Well, big man, I was happy when I received your letter,
but as you are telling me to come home, what thing
(money for transportation) can I use to enter a
vehicle? I have heard your advice very well and I give
you thanks for your advice.

One of our interviewees, a nurse, gave this explanation for the current spread of Ghanaian Pidgin English: "Another reason for this pidgin English is because of these people going down to Nigeria. When they come, you see, I know a teacher, my first husband, you know, he was to leave Saturday for Nigeria. And this man, a teacher, you know, when he came he started speaking that sort of English."

A thirteen year old primary school boy said he learned his pidgin English from a ten year old Nigerian boy whom he had known for two years. They live close to each other, and the Nigerian boy had been in Ghana for only two years.

A primary school female teacher said she started

speaking pidgin English after she had been to Nigeria. When asked why she thinks some Ghanaians speak Pidgin English, she answered: "Well, we were speaking it formerly, but I think to the greater extent it was during the time the Ghanaians were asked to come from Nigeria. That was the peak of the pidgin English in the country."

In a pidgin English conversation in Kumasi, a woman claimed she could speak pidgin English because she had a Nigeria friend.


Man: So yu, haw kam wey yu fit spik ptjtn English
lak dat?
(So you, how come that you can speak pidgin
English like that?)
Woman: A get sDm Nigerian fren.
(I have a Nigerian friend.)

Other Factors

one important factor which has contributed to the

spread of GPE is illiteracy. In 1980, only 30% of the adult population in Ghana were literate and 69% of school age persons were literate. Yet only 20 out of the 236, that is

8.5%, respondents attributed the spread of GPE to illiteracy and lack of formal education. Nonetheless, this is an important factor, since a small country like Ghana (Area: 238,537 sq. km.) with nearly 14 million people has 44 languages (refer to Appendix B for the Ghana Language Map) and none of them is the national language. This fact compels people to use English as the means of communication in inter-language conversation. The illiterate ones, therefore, have to recourse to pidgin English.

military regimes in Ghana have also contributed to the spread of pidgin English. Ghana has had four long-term military regimes in the country's history. The 12 respondents (5% of the group) who mentioned this factor said that the military regimes have brought the soldiers into the streets and involved them in the day-to-day life of the civilian population. The civilians have therefore been imitating the pidgin English which most of the soldiers speak.


Other factors for the spread of GPE are trade, boarding schools, urbanization, prisoners, and the increasing number of magazines which feature pidgin English, and the increasing interest in reading such magazines.


After being prompted by the emergence of pidgin English in Ghana in 1984 and having realized that no formal detailed linguistic work had been done on it, we started a research on the language. Within nine months, we sent out 400 questionnaires and received 304 of them responded to. We used audio tape recorders to interview informants; we recorded songs, and collected magazines and books which contain Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE).

From our informants and books, we learned more about the history of GPE and the reasons for its current emergence. GPE dates back from 1631 when the British built their first fort at Cormantine in the then Gold Coast and traded with the people. The second world war which saw members of the Gold Coast Regiment fighting alongside the British soldiers also contributed to the spread of GPE. The soldiers who were mostly illiterates returned from the war with the language. It became the language of the military as well as the police service. The increase of contacts between Ghanaians and the people of some West African states where pidgin English is spoken is a major factor in the current emergence and the fast spread of GPE. Other factors


are illiteracy, military regimes in Ghana, urbanization, boarding schools, increase in the number of magazines that feature GPE, and increase in its use for fun.



Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) can be classified into two types: educated pidgin and uneducated pidgin. The uneducated pidgin is also called houseboyy pidgin" or "'motorpark pidgin". It is called uneducated pidgin because its speakers have not had any formal literacy education. Some of these uneducated people, who are mostly men, work in the houses of educated English speakers where they are called "houseboys". It is the type of pidgin that they speak that has been named after them. It is this same type of pidgin that is spoken at the car and lorry stations where passengers who do not own vehicles go for transportation to travel with, hence the pidgin spoken there is called motorpark pidgin.

The other pidgin type is called educated pidgin because its speakers have had formal literacy education. Some people call it "intellectual pidgin" because of the same reason. This is the pidgin that is spoken by young people, especially the students of Ghana. Intellectual pidgin has been influenced by standard English. Over a range of continuum of the types of English spoken in Ghana, 54


intellectual pidgin will be the closest to standard English whereas houseboy pidgin will be the farthest from standard English.

We should note that nowadays there is not too much

difference between houseboy pidgin and intellectual pidgin because most of the GPE speakers have had some form of formal education because of the compulsory free education policy of the late 1950's. The GPE that is being spoken these days is not as close to the houseboy pidgin that was spoken in the early 1950's. It is a little bit inclined towards intellectual pidgin but not close to standard English. This has made some people think that Ghana does not have a pidgin that is original, but like any other language, GPE has been there for many years; it has just changed. The type of GPE that will be analyzed in this chapter is a blend of houseboy pidgin and intellectual pidgin. This is the type of pidgin that one will most frequently hear if one visits Ghana.

Ghanaian Pidgin English is primarily a spoken medium of communication, with a very few poems and cartoons that can be found in the written medium. Like many other pidgins, GPE has no standardized orthography. This makes the analysis of the language a heinous task. There may be some oversimplifications or some overgeneralizations here and there. In order to minimize such dangers, the analysis of the language in this chapter has been taken from informants


of a homogeneous background (considering such parameters as the level of education, age, profession, exposure to standard English). We have also taken into consideration the type of GPE which is common to most of the speakers, hence an item is chosen for discussion when it occurs very often in most of the conversations, songs, interviews, etc. which have been recorded. A word is selected as being a representative of GPE if it occurs in both the uneducated pidgin and the educated one.

The linguistic change that has occurred in the

derivation of GPE items from English will be discussed on two planes: the form plane and the content plane. The form plane will cover the the phonological, morphological, and syntactic analysis, whereas the content plane will focus on the semantic analysis of these words. These are the shifts in meaning which have occurred in the English derived lexicon of GPE.

Many definitions of pidgin include simplification of the superstrate language. In the case of GPE, I will not say that the superstrate has been simplified. I will rather say that GPE has has been influenced in many ways by the substrate languages which are Akan, Ga, Ewe, Nzema, and some of the other 45 native languages of Ghana. This influence is prevalent at the phonological, morphological, syntactic, and semantic levels. Words and sentences from GPE will be compared with their counterparts from Akan which is the


Ghanaian language spoken by the author. Akan-influenced GPE is the most common one spoken in Ghana.


GPE has not been standardized; and as such it has no official orthography. The lexicon is mainly English with few words from the vernaculars of some of the Ghanaian languages. Phonologically, GPE reflects the phonology of the Ghanaian languages which are quite similar since most of them come from the Kwa group. This phonological reflection can be seen in the GPE vowels, consonants, syllable structure, and in its suprasegmental features such as tone, and vowel harmony.

Vowels of GPE

GPE has twelve vowels, nine monothongs and three

diphthongs which are at, au, and :n. These diphthongs are sometimes separated by semi vowels which makes it appear that GPE has nine underlying vowels.

Table 4.1. G.P.E. Monothong Vowels


HIGH i u


MID e 0



Table 4.2. G.P.E. Consonants





FRICA- f v s s h

SEMI- w y

The standard English vowels have been replaced by

vowels in the Ghanaian languages that are close to them in quality. Diachronically, we cannot say that the English that was introduced to the Gold Coast (now Ghana) was the Received Pronunciation (RP) English since not all the British sailors and traders who came to the country were using RP. Since we are concerned with the current emergence of GPE, we will compare the vowels of RP with those of GPE.

Table 4.3. GPE and RP Vowel Substitution

/kat/ a /kat/ cat
a /abawt/ a /abaut/ about
a: /wa: rk/ e: /we: k/ work
A /bAs/ /bzsu/ bus

Consonants of GPE

GPE has twenty-one consonants. The voiced labio-dental fricative, /v/, has very limited occurrence. It is mostly


replaced by its voiceless counterpart, /f/. It can be seen from the chart below that the RP English consonants, /8/ and /D/ are not part of the GPE consonants. These are replaced by /d/, /t/, or /f/. In the same manner /z/ is replaced by /s/ in many instances.

Syllable Structure of GPE

GPE has eight possible syllabic shapes, examples are:

V a "I"
CV mi, go "me, go"
VC tm "his/her"
CVC tif, stn, get "thief, sin, get"
CCV tri "tree"
VCC aks "ask"
CCVC plis, fren "please, friend"

It is very rare to find Ghanaian languages which

contain the kind of complex initial and final consonant clusters of which standard English makes use. These clusters are simplified or sometimes lost altogether as a result of a tendency which operates in some Ghanaian languages to approximate to a syllabicity of CV-CV-CV. Sometimes in order to achieve this syllabicity, vowels or glides are inserted in the clusters. This syllabicity phenomenon also works in GPE; examples are:

dont don "don't"
ferst fes "first"
prifekt prifet "prefect"
bDtl b)tul "bottle"
f ilm fillm "film"
fayr faya "fire"


In some instances, if a consonant or a consonant

cluster has nasals, it is replaced by nasalized vowels or vowels and glides; examples are:

maynd mai "mind"
nayt nal "night"
fayn fi finen"
may mal "my"


GPE is becoming a tone language because it uses the

pitch of individual syllables to contrast meanings in some cases. Native Ghanaian languages, especially Akan, have two main tones, high [') (H) and low [ ] (L). The low tone will not have any accent mark.

HH papa good(ness)
LH papa father
LL papa fan
HL pa:pa: to slap

The above tone phenomenon of the native Ghanaian languages has been transferred to GPE, e.g.:

L go will / shall
H g6 go

LLH a go g6 I will go

L d6 they
H de copula, continuous aspect
LHH de de g6 they are going

L no negative marker
H n6 know
LLH a no n6 I don't know

LLHHLLH a no n6 sey i go g6.
I don't know that he/she will go.


Vowel Harmony

A number of West African languages have harmony

systems, in which vowels are divided into mutually exclusive harmonic sets (e.g. according to height or laxness) so that all the vowels in a word will belong to either one set or the other. For example in Ijo all the vowels will be either lax (t, e, u, D) or tense (i, e, u, o) (Williamson 1965 in Holm 1988:124). This type and other types of vowel harmony are found in other Kwa languages like Ibo, Ewe, and Akan. In all the dialects of Akan, there are two sets of vowels according to the advancement of the tongue root: those with Advanced Tongue Root (+ATR], and those without Advanced Tongue Root [-ATR]. This is horizontal vowel harmony.

[+ATR] i e M u o [-ATR] I e a U D

In any Akan word of two or more syllables, only the vowels of one set will occur.

[+ATR] [-ATR]
[wubebu] "you'll break ." [wubebu] "you'll beat. ."
[osi] "he/she washes." [Dst] "he/she sharpens."
[mini) "here I am." [mint] "I mean ."

The Fante dialect of Akan has labial vowel harmony

which occurs together with the horizontal one. This means rounded [+RD] vowels will occur in one word and the unrounded [-RD] ones will occur in another word.


Table 4.4. Labial and Horizontal Vowel Harmony in Akan

[+ATR] [-ATR]

[+RD] [murukotu] [murukatuw]
"I'm going to dig." "I'm going to throw."

[-RD] [mirikedzi] mt r keg~y]
"I'm going to eat." "I'm going to get."

The vowel harmony in Akan operates between words in sentences and in compound words where a word with [+ATR] vowels is followed by a word with [-ATR] vowels. The [+ATR] word assimilates the immediate preceding vowel into the corresponding [+ATR] vowel. The following are some examples:

Compound words
[akukD] + [nini] -> [akukonini]
chicken + male -> rooster

[ahin] + [di] -> [ahindi]
chief + to be -> chieftaincy

There is no assimilation if the first word contains [+ATR] vowels and the second contains [-ATR] vowels; here is an example

[ahuhuro] + [bire] -> [(ehuhubtre] heat + time -> hot weather

[=dD mfuo] -> [-do mfuo] "he/she cultivates farms."
[tu tuo] -> [to tuo] "shoot a gun."
[di asem] -> [di assm] "settle a case."

The vowel [a] is neutral to the vowel harmony in Akan. That is why [oiamt] "God" has mixed vowels.


The horizontal vowel harmony in Akan also works in GPE. The following examples from a conversation we had with a GPE singer are representative of most of GPE speakers:

wetin waOt "what thing"
boro brow "borrow"
disko disko "disco"
dokument dakjument "document"
eviridey evridey "everyday"

sof a safar "suffer"
moni man% "money"
evt rt bodt evri badi "everybody"
nobodt nobadi "nobody"

We have noticed that the vowel harmony can go through a whole phrase or clause. The following is an example from a

GPE song.

btfD yu gD li v na yu go no
"Before you will live it is you who will know."

We notice from the above sentence that [-ATR] vowels begin

from "btf=" and end at "na", and [+ATR] vowels begin from "yu" and end at "no". In many vowel harmony systems, the vowel [a] seems to be neutral to vowel harmony. That is why

the harmony got broken with "na".

Another observation from the above vocalic harmonic

sentence is on the pronoun "you". In the first part of the sentence its vowel is [-ATR], but it has a [+ATR] vowel in the second part. This depends on the harmonic set of vowel that the word will fall into. The following are more examples of [-ATRJ vowel harmony:


luk yuD han welwel
("Look at your hand well"). "Be careful with your hand."

mmni dzn kms am
"Money has caused it."


General inflection system in GPE is limited, therefore the grammatical information is manifested through other devices like tone, reduplication, word formation, and the syntactic system.

Tone is used to bring about lexical as well as grammatical differences in GPE. This has been discussed under tone as a phonemic entity in GPE.


Reduplication is the repetition of all or part of a

lexical item. GPE reduplications are complete. The whole lexical item is repeated. Among other things, reduplication indicates such concepts as plurality, repetition, increase in size, added intensity, and continuance.

Reduplicated nouns. Reduplication of a GPE noun indicates plurality. It may also indicate frequency. Examples are:

A hie rumorumo sey de go kam 19th.

"I heard some rumour that they will come on the 19th."

Haw Misa Danquah tDk sey, mek wi stzp dts pijtnpitn,
wey wi bi English studen.


"Mr. Danquah has told us that we should stop this
frequent use of pidgin because we are English

A: So i min sey Asamoah de fak aftanun-aftanun.
B: Eeh.
A: Aftanun-aftanun f=k i no mek fak.

A: "So it means that Asamoah makes love in the
B: "Yes."
A: "Afternoon love-makings are no love-makings."

Reduplicated verbs. Reduplication of a GPE verb shows

repetition. It may also show action continuity. Examples


A: So yu, yu get moni at ==? Yu get mons fD de
B: Oh, de eks'mas die .....
A: De littl mont yu get, yu kam spen fD skuul hie.
Wey yu de invayt-invayt ledis soso las wik.

A: "So do you have money at all? Do you have money
for the Christmas?"
B: "Oh, as for the Christmas ...."
A: "The little money you have, you have spent it here
in school. You were always inviting all these
women last week."

Wey DD de akawntin pipul, dey dey, evtrtbodt sabi sey
dey dey de mDnt tDp a, dey de rayt sDm tins, dey de
rayt-rayt som tins den dey de tiette sam.

"All the accounting people everybody knows that when
they are in charge of money, they write some things and they write some things again, and then they cancel some
of them."

De fes tam wey ma wayf bDn-bDn lak dis, i jos tro awey
twins fm grawn.

"The first time that my wife gave birth, she just threw
away twins onto the ground."

Den a si D ma fren dem, dem bigin bay-bay sterio,
televishin, friji, en sDm de mart .


"Then I saw all my friends beginning to buy stereos,
televisions, fridges, and some were marrying."

A don waku-waku-waku-waku fD dis weld.

"I have worked all over the world."

A: Bat de tDp dee no a, i ren finish?
B: De tDp dee, a think i bi naw i de ren-ren

A: "But in the North, has it stopped raining?"
B: In the North, I think that it is now that it is
raining moderately."

Reduplicated adjectives. Standard English shows the intensity of an adjective by adding degree words such as "very", "much", or "many" to the adjective. GPE indicates this intensity by reduplicating the adjective. Examples are:

Tumorow elt monin a sen yu bak tu yD= mada. Fal-fa-l
tsitsi, fil-fi wumil, yu no sabt notin; a sen yu bak
tu yDD mada.

"Tomorrow early in the morning I'll send you back to your mother. A very beautiful lady, a very beautiful
woman, you don't know anything. I'll send you back to
your mother."

When wi bi smDsmD pikin dem.

"When we were very little children."

Reduplicated adverbs. Reduplication of the adverb in GPE shows the intensification of the manner in which the action is performed. Examples are:

Remi, luk yD han wel-wel.

"Remi, be very careful about your hand."

Mek evereb=de put in ay fa de tin wey in pikin de do btkDs if yu bDn y: pikin yu no tich am wel-wel; las


minit yu go si am sumowk wiiwii, tek drogs; las minit
yu go si am anda brij, wey i crez.

"Everybody should watch the things that his or her child does, because if you have your child and you
don't teach him or her very well, last minute you will
see him or her smoking marijuana, taking drugs; and last moment you will see him or her under a bridge,
when he or she has become crazy person."

Mi a sabi buk DrmDa-pr=pa btkzs no kai skuul wey i
dey f= ma vileji wey a no go btfz.

"I know the academics very well because there is no
school in my village that I have never attended

Functional shift reduplications. The function or class

category of some words change when these words are

reduplicated in GPE. In the following song, the verb "lay"

("lie") has been reduplicated and become an adjective to

qualify the nouns "fayt" ("fight"), "m&" ("man"), and

"wumil" ("woman"). But in the clauses "everebode de laylay"

("everybody is lyinglying" and "a no de laylay" ("I am not
lying"), "lie" has been reduplicated to show the intensity

of the action.

It was wan nayt, a de paspas s=m kana. Ptpul de fayt
insayd s=m rum-kzna. Mi a think i bi propa fayt; at las i bi lavlav fayt. Brada, a hie de wumil sey "yu lavylav
maL, den de mal tuu sey "yu lavlay wumil; den mi a sey
"so evereb=de de laylay"; hahaa fD de stDrt: mi a
no de laylay.

"It was one night when I was passing by a street
corner. People were fighting in a room. I thought it
was a proper fight. At last it was a fake fight.
Brother, I heard the woman saying "you are a liar", then the man too said "you are a liar"; then I also
said "so everybody is lying". For this story, I am not


We realize from the above examples that there is a

morphosyntactic phenomenon that brings about the functional shift of the reduplicated words in GPE. In most cases when the reduplicated verb occurs before the noun phrase (NP), it functions as an adjective whereas when it occurs after the NP it just intensifies the action word.

When a reduplicated noun occurs before an NP, it

functions as an adjective, whereas it functions as an adverb when it occurs after a verb phrase (VP). In both cases the reduplicated noun signifies plurality. This is illustrated in the following conversation where speaker A uses aftanunaftanun in his first sentence as a noun plurality that is also functioning as an adverb, but uses it in his second sentence as an adjective.

A: So i min sey Asamoah de fmk aftanun-aftanun?
B: Eeh.
A: Aftanun-aftanun fDk i no mek fDk.

A: "So it means that Asamoah makes love in the
B: "Yes."
A: "Afternoons love-making are no love-making."

In most instances, when a reduplicated form of "so" which is "soso" occurs before an NP, it functions as a degree adjective "many" or "plenty". This phenomenon is illustrated in the following examples

LegDn de. Onli sey a don' layk Cape Vas ageyn. Soso
Education, a taya. Gmd sef sabi sey a taya.
"Legon is available. It is only that I don't like Cape
Vars. (University) again. A lot of Education, I am tired of it. Even God knows that I am tired of it."


A: Shuga no dey yD haws m sey .
B: (LAUGHING) Shuga no dey mi haws oo. Soso

A: "Is there no sugar in your house or ."
B: "(LAUGHING) No, there is no sugar in my house;
plenty of restrictions."

Layf na shzt oo, bat soso trDbuls.

"Life is very short, but there are many troubles."

De tin wey in fa mi, mek a tek am, na soso promis.

"The thing that is for me, let me take it, for there
are too many promises."

BifD a go si, de hoo tebul don ful ap wit soso gels.

"Before I became aware, the whole table was filled up
with many girls."

In some cases when soso occurs after an NP it functions

as an anaphor with an antecedent in the same sentence or

discourse. Examples are:

A: So yu get moni wey yu entetein yuD frens, wey sDm
dey wey yu go tek chop eks'mas a i min sey yu tif
B: Yu mek studen. Yu mek studen. Haw yu de get
plenty mont? Na so. I bi soso a de t=k.
A: Yu shuD?
B: I no bi in? Enewey dey de treyn yu f= hie haw yu
de stil de mDnt. I no bi so? De akawnttn pipul i
no bi soso yu de du?

A: "So if you have money that you entertain your
friends with, and you have some left that you will
spend the Christmas with, does it mean that you
stole it?"

B: "You are a student. You are a student. How do you
get plenty of money like that? That is what I am
talking about."


A: "Are you sure?"
B: "Isn't it? Anyway they are training you how to
steal money. Isn't it so? Is it not what you the
accounting people are doing?"

Mi haws no swit mi. I bi soso a dey hie.
"My house is not enjoyable for me. That's why I am

Word Compounding in GPE

There are very few word compounds in GPE. The meanings of these compounds are different from those of their individual parts. The compounds are free forms. In the following speech t~kabawt which means "gossip" is made up of verb-preposition, but the compound is a noun. Bakbayt whose meaning is the same as that of standard English "backbite" is made up of noun-verb, but the compound is a noun.

S~m pipul dey, soso jel~s dem bi; soso t~kabawt; soso
bakbayt. Na wetin bi mD dts?

"There are some people who are very jealous. Many
gossips; many backbites. What are all these?"

In the following sentence, mart-mii and mart-wumil which mean "a married man" and "a married woman" respectfully are made up of verb-noun but the compounds are nouns. M~ni-mata which means "money affairs" is made up of noun-noun and the compound is a noun.

De tin wey i dey insayd mart, na mart-mal en
mart-wumil, i bi dem sabi btkDs everttin wey yu go do i
bi m)nt-mata.

"What is inside marriage, it is the married man and the married woman who know; because every thing that you do
is money affair."


In the following speech, the adjectival compound malen'-wuml which qualifies "fayt" ("fight") is made up of noun-conjunction-noun.

Jo, dis no bi yuD palava. I bi mhl-en'-wumal fayt.
Dey kml am laylay fayt.

"Joe, this is not your business. It's a man-and-woman
fight. They call it a fake fight."


There is not too much difference between the syntax of GPE and those of the other West African English pidgins (Schneider 1966 and Todd 1984 on Cameroon; Mafeni 1971 and Barbag-Stoll 1983 on Nigerian).

The Basic Sentence Structure

The basic sentence pattern of GPE is (Subject)

Predicate (Object) (Complement) where the bracketed elements are optional:

Rid! "Read!"
Rid de pepa. "Read the paper."
De bDy de rid de pepa. "The boy is reading the paper."
De bDy de rid de pepa plas im spetaktls. "The boy is reading the paper with his spectacles." Tense-Modal-Aspect (TMA)

The following is how Givon has briefly explained TenseModal-Aspect (TMA) of a language:

Tense involves primarily though not exclusively our
experience / concept of time as points in a sequence,
and thus the notions of precedence and subseguence.
Aspects of various kinds involve our notion of the
boundedness of time-spans, i.e. various configurations
of beginning, ending and middle points. But in the
semantic space of aspect, nearly always some element of tense is also involved, in terms of establishing a term


of point-of-reference along sequential time. Finally, modality encompasses among other things our notions of
reality, in the sense of "having factual existence at some real time" ("true"), "having existence at no real
time" ("false"), or "having potential existence in some
yet-to-be time" ("possible"). Synchronically,
diachronically and ontogenetically, TAM categories are
interconnected. (Givon 1984:272)

Bickerton (1975) has outlined a classical TMA system as including one preverbal AUX to mark anterior tense (simple past for states and past-before-past for actions), one to mark irrealis mood ("future" and conditional) and one to mark nonpunctual aspect (progressive and habitual). He has further suggested that a prototypical creole TAM system should conform to this description and order.

The TMA of GPE is expressed syntactically. It is not expressed morphologically as it is done in some cases in standard English. Some lexical items precede the main verb to express the TAM of GPE as has been expressed by Bickerton. But GPE departs from Bickerton's analysis by not having any AUX or marker to express anteriority. Because of this a verb without a preverbal AUX has two meanings if it is taken out of a discourse context; for example:

a go skuul.
"I go to school."
"I went to school."

In the following example the discourse context shows that the event happened in the past.

Charlie, a hie sey yu go hom wey yu go spen tu wiks.
Way yu no won' kam skuul?


"Charlie, I heard that you went home to spend two
weeks. Why didn't you want to come to school."

Adverbials of time are also used to show time relations, for example

A go skuul eviridey.
"I go to school everyday."

A go skuul las wik.
"I went to school last week."

Aspect GPE is aspect-prominent rather than tenseprominent. GPE aspect conforms to the classical TAM model of Bickerton. The AUX de is used to denote nonpunctual or progressive aspect, for example

a de go skuul.
"I am going to school."

I de chop de tam a go im haws.
"He/She was eating when I went to his/her house."

I de chzp eni tam a go %m house.
"He/She is eating every time I go to his/her house." The AUX de at times denotes habituality, like in the following example:

A no go lv bia. A de lv ginis rada. I bi ginis a de

"I will not like beer. I like guiness rather. It's
guiness I like." "I went to school last week."

Perfective aspect The perfective (or completive)

aspect is expressed by preceding the main verb with the AUX dmn which always carries a high tone.

A don go skuul.
"I have gone to school."


Mood GPE mood also conforms to the classical TAM

model. The The irrealis AUX _q is used to denote "future". This auxiliary always carries a low tone to differentiate it from the verb g_ which carries a high tone.

A go g6 skuul.
"I will go to school."

The modal "fit" This modal which means "can" or "be able" precedes the main verb. If it occurs together with an auxiliary, the auxiliary precedes "fit" ("fit"): AUX + FIT + MAIN VERB.

A fit go skuul.

"I can go to school. / I could go to school."

A de fit go skuul.
"I can go to school."

A go fit go skuul.
I will be able to go to school."

The modal "fD" This modal stands for obligation. It is sometimes replaced with [mz].

A fD go skuul.
"I should go to school."

Yu ms now.
"You must know."

Focus marker "na" Any constituent in a GPE sentence can be focussed by being fronted and making it occur immediately after the word na.

A de go skuul.
"I am going to school."

Na skuul a de go.
"It is school that I am going to."


Na go a de go skuul.
"It is going to school that I am doing."
Na mi de go skuul."
"It is I going to school."

This na is also used in Akan as a focus marker, but it occurs immediately after the fronted constituent which is being focussed.

me-re-ka nokware.
I-PRES-speak truth.
"I am speaking the truth."

nokware na me-re-ka.
truth FOCUS I-PRES-speak.
"It's the truth that I am speaking."

If we compare the above Akan sentences to their GPE counterparts we will have the following:

A de tDk tru.
"I am speaking the truth."

Na tru a de tDk.
"It's the truth that I'm speaking."

We are not claiming that this focus na which is used in other West African English pidgins originated from the Akan language. We have just shown that the same syntactic phenomenon do exist in Akan. Further research will have to be done for such a claim. What has been shown is the influence that some of the Ghanaian languages have on GPE.

Another way of focus in GPE is the use of the present

form of the copula BI [bi]. The pronoun I [i] precedes BI to form this focus marker. These two elements precede the constituent that is being focussed. If the focussing


constituent is a pronoun, the objective case is chosen. Here are some examples:

I bi tru a de tmk.
"It's the truth that I am speaking."

I bi mi tDk tru.
"It's I speaking the truth."

I bi dem de go hom.
"It's they going home."

I bi im de go hom.
"It's he/she going home."

I bi wi de tDk tru.
"It's we speaking the truth." Negation

Negation is a proposition that is asserted as being

false. Negation is expressed in GPE by preceding TAM with the lexical item "no." This means "no" precedes an irrealis marker like the future go. It will precede an aspect marker like the nonpunctual aspect de, and it will precede a modal like ftt. The sequence will be:


A no go skuul.
"I don't go to school." OR "I didn't go to

A no de go skuul.
"I am not going to school." OR
"I was not going to school."

A no go go skuul.
"I will not go to school."


A no fit go skuul.
"I can't go to school."

NEG + go + fit + MAIN VERB
A no go fit go skuul.
"I will not be able to go to school."

The perfective aspect dmn does not have a negative

counterpart that takes "no". Instead "yet" ("yet") is added to the construction to show the negative perfective aspect like in the following example.

A dDn go skuul.
"I have gone to school."
a no dmn go skuul.
A no go skuul yet.

"I have not gone to school yet."

Nigerian Pidgin English (NPE) and Cameroon Pidgin

English (CPE) use "neva" ("never") as the negative form of the perfective aspect.

A neva go skuul.
"I have not gone to school."

GPE does not use "neva" the way it is used by NPE and CPE. It is used by GPE in the way standard English uses it.

A neva go skuul.
"I don't go to school."

The negative form of the copula is expressed by

preceding bi with "no" which in turn is preceded by the dummy i: I + NO + BI.

I no bi mi bit am.
"It wasn't/isn't I who beat him/her."



Imperative is an attempt by a speaker to elicit action from a hearer. In GPE this is done in two different ways: One is by the use of the verb phrase alone without any subject; examples:

Go! "Go (away)!
Go tel am! "Go and tell him/her."
Go brtn dem! "Go and bring them."

The other way is by starting each command, request, or exhortation with the word "mek" ("make"). This one requires the mention of the subject which follows the imperative word "mek". In most cases imperative with the copula verb uses this method; examples:

Mek yu go! "Go (away)! / (get away)!"
Mek yu go tel am! "Go and tell him/her!"
Mek yu go brain dem! "Go and bring them!"
Mek yu tel am! "Tell him/her!"
Mek yu brain dem! "Bring them!"
Mek yu bi gud ticha! "Be a good teacher!"

Negative imperatives The imperative form starting with "mek" seems to be the one most commonly used in the negative imperative. "No go!", "No tel am!", etc. do not sound quite appropriate.

Mek yu no go! "Don't go (away)! / (get
away) !"
Mek yu no go tel am! "Don't go and tell him/her!"
Mek yu no go brain dem! "Don't go and bring them!"
Mek yu no tel am! "Don't tell him/her!"
Mek yu no brain dem! "Don't bring them!"
Mek yu no bi bad ticha! "Don't be a bad teacher!" Interrogative

Interrogative is a request by a speaker of information from a hearer. There are two ways of expressing


interrogative in GPE. One is by changing the intonation of a statement, and the other is by using interrogative words.

A g6 skuul A g6 skudl
"I go/went to school." "I go/went to school?"

A fit g6 skuul A fit g6 skuul
"I can go to school." "Can I go to school?"

A no de fit g6 skuul A no de fit g6 skdul
"I can't go to school." "Can't I go to school?"

The word "wey" is often used for the question words "where", "when", "what", and "how". The words themselves are used in certain contexts.

Wey (tin) yu go du?
"What will you do?"

Wey i dey?
"Where is he/she?"

Wey i bi?
"Where is he/she?"

Wey i go kam?
"When will he/she come?"

Wey tam i go kam?
"When will he/she come?"
Wey kil pestn kam hi e?
"Who comes/came here?"

The focus na is sometimes used with the question words. In this case na means "and", and it is used for emphasis depending upon the preceding statement by any of the interlocutors; e.g.

Na hu bi im?
"And who is he/she?" ("Who does he/she think he/she


The above question is an example of attitudinal

question. This shows an attitude that the questioner has about the third person. The questioner may have an unhealthy attitude about the third person perhaps the one being talked about has been very boastful, or has been blowing his or her own horn. The following is part of a GPE song showing both the cohesive and focus uses of fa.

If a no beta fn m& own layf,
na hus f~lt
na mi k~s am

"If I don't do well for my own life,
it is whose fault;
It is I who has caused it." Exclamations and Emphasis

Exclamations and emphasis in GPE are commonly conveyed by the addition of particular words or expressions either at the beginning or at the end of a proposition, and are always expressed with the appropriate intonation. Prolonged sounds which are vowels like oo or aa are added to expressions to emphasize the emotional concern of the speaker.

Plenty palava kam oo.
"There's lots of trouble! / We've got real trouble!"

I had oo.
"It is very hard / difficult / trying!"

I fan pr~pa.
"It / He / She is very nice / handsome / beautiful!"

I veks Rr~ga.
"He / She is very angry!"

I gud tuu m~ch.
"He / She is a very good person!. / He / she is so


A. ey I fal tuu m=ch.
"My word! It's really nice! / She's really a fine

A chDp am wan tam.
"I ate it immediately / at once!"

I ren plenty plenty.
"It rained a lot / great deal!" Personal pronouns

Table 4.4 shows the personal pronouns in Ghanaian Pidgin English:

Table 4.4. Personal Pronouns of G.P.E.


1st Person Singular a mi

2nd Person Singular yu yu

3rd Person Singular hi, i am, tm

1st Person Plural wi wi

2nd Person Plural yu yu

3rd Person Plural dey, dem dem


The transitive possessive pronouns which occur just

before the possessed element like in standard English are:
"mi", "yu", "t m/an", "yu", "wa", and "dem/dea" for "my", "your"(singular), "his/her", "your"(plural), "our", and "their" respectively; e.g.

I bi ma haws. "It's my house."
I bi in haws. "It's his/her house."
I bi yD haws. "It's your (sg./pl.) house."
I bi wa haws. "It's our house."
I bi dem/dea haws. "It's their house."


The intransitive possessive pronouns "mine",

"his/hers", "yours", "ours", and "theirs" in GPE are expressed by adding the word "own" to the transitive possessive pronouns; e.g.

I bi m& own "It's mine."
I bi in own "It's his/hers."

There is no morphological possessive marker in GPE as it is in English Is, like "father's house", "Rita's child", or "Joe's house". In GPE the transitive possessive pronoun occurs between the possessor and the possessed, the former on the left and the latter on the right; e.g.

papa in haws "father's house"
Joe in buk "Joe's book"
Rita in pikin "Rita's child"
pikin dem papa "the children's father"

Sometimes a whole expression with the word "get" is used to express possessive; e.g.

I bi mi get am. "It's mine. / It belongs to me."
I bi wi get de haws. "It's our house."
Hu get dts haws. "Whose house is this?

The Articles

There are two main articles in GPE: "de"l and "fa"l.

Both articles are used in the way they are used in standard English. The only difference is that many times "1s~m" is used instead of "a"l, even though "1sz~m" is used with its usual meaning in some contexts. "Wan" is sometimes used instead of "a." GPE does not use "an."

De ples no gud. "The place isn't good.",


I bran sum pikin plas am.
"He/She brought a child with him/her."

Dey sey dem brtn sam. "They say they brought some."

A get wan dog. "I have a dog."

Prepositions and Postpositions

The only word which is used as a preposition in GPE is "f:". It is always accompanied with a syntactic phenomenon in some of the Ghanaian languages, whereby some lexical items occur after the noun they qualify. We call these locative lexical items postpositions. Some examples are "top," "inside," "outside," and "under." This means GPE has both prepositions and postpositions. The following is a comparison between an Akan sentence and a GPE sentence.

Fa nwoma no to pono no so.
take book the put table the on/top
"Put the book on the table!"

Put de buk fD de tebul tD.
"Put the book on the table!"

The following are some more examples of the prepositionpostposition phenomenon from some of the recordings we have made.

Wey de pipul kam biliv am f de haws tnsayd.
"That the people came to believe him/her inside the

I go w=ka f dee soso; i de slip f2 brij anda dem.
"He went and roamed about; he was sleeping under

Wey == de akawntin pipul dey dey, everiLbdt sabt sey
dey dey mont tD.


"That all the accountants, everybody knows that they
are on top of the money (they control the money)." Complementizer "sey"

Verbs of saying, thinking, knowing, remembering, and sensing are followed by the complementizer "sey" ("that"). This complementizer might come from the Akan language which uses "se" ("that") in the same syntactic position (Holm 1988:186; Turner 1949:201; Cassidy 1961:63).

Joe ka-a se D-be-ba.
Joe say-PAST that he-will-come
"Joe said that he will come."

Joe tak sey i go kam.
"Joe said that he will come."

Me-nim se Joe be-ba.
I-know that Joe will-come
"I know that Joe will come.

A sabi ay Joe go kam.
"I know that Joe will come."

Me-te-e se D-be-ba.
I-hear-PAST that he/she-will-come
"I heard that he/she will come."

A hie se y i go kam
"I heard that he/she will come."

Comparative / Superlative Expression

There are no morphological markers for the expression of comparative and superlative notions in GPE. The word "pas" ("than") is used to express the notion of comparative.


It comes immediately after the adjective or the expression being used to compare the two entities.

Joe btg pas John.
"Joe is bigger than John."

I sabi buk pas t m fren.
"He/She is smarter than his/her friend."

If the superlative notion is being expressed, then quantitative adverbs like "evertttn" ("everything"), "evertb:di" ("everybody"), and "m" ("all") are used together with "pas".

Joe byg pas everabadt.
"Joe is bigger than everybody. / Joe is the biggest."

I sabt buk pas D= tm fren.
"He/She is the smartest among his/her friends."

The expression of the comparative and superlative

notions in GPE follows the syntax of some Kwa languages. This is how the above sentences are expressed in Akan:

Joe so kyen John.
Joe big than John
"Joe is bigger than John."

O-nim nwoma kyen n'-adamfo.
He/She-knows books than his/her-friend
"He/She is smarter than his/her friend."

Joe so kyen obiara.
Joe big than everybody
"Joe is bigger than evrybody."

O-nim nwoma kyen ne n-namfo nyinaa.
He/She-knows book than his/her PL-friend all
"He/She is the smartest among his/her friends." Some more GPE common complex constructions and expressions can be found in Appendix C.


Semantics of Some G.P.E. Words

Semantics is the study of the meaning of words, phrases and sentences. Although the basic vocabulary of GPE comes from English, some of these words have acquired different or additional meanings. GPE also has loan translations or calques which have been made from some of the Ghanaian languages. There are some words which have been borrowed from Portuguese, Yoruba, Hausa, and some of the Ghanaian languages. These words have retained their original meanings. The above semantic phenomena will be discussed in this section. Since many of the word and sentence meanings to be described are affected in one way or the other by calque, it will be appropriate for us to know how Bynon has defined calque.

In loan translation or calque (literally "tracing",
"copy"), the form and meaning of a foreign word, instead of being carried over into the recipient
language as a unit is merely employed as a model for a
native creation. For this to be possible it must be
both morphologically complex and semantically
transparent, and the process consists in substituting for each of its morphs the semantically closest morph
in the recipient language and combining these according
to its own native rules of word-formation. Thus while
the choice of constituent morphs and the overall
meaning of the new construct will be modelled on the
foreign source, the constituent elements themselves and
the rules governing their combination will be native.
(Bynon, 1983:232)

Plas The word "plas" which means 'land" or

"add/addition" has maintained these meanings in GPE and has acquired the new meaning "with", which is unique to GPE.


The following examples from the recordings we made will make

this meaning clear.

plas ("with")
Yu shum sey a de go y= haws plas yu? Mi, dos hu
de go awt 1& mi a no de go dem haws _las dem.

"Are you sure that I am going to your house with you?
For me, those who go out with me, I don't go to their
house with them."

A fa go slip plas ma bDyfren.

"I should go and sleep ith my boyfriend."

A dey de sem hal las yu.

"I am/was in the same hall with you."

MALE (SPEAKING STANDARD): How did you pick up pidgin
FEMALE (SPEAKING GPE): Aaa, a no sabt oo. Wey a dey
skuul a rid sayans so de boys wey a de stadi
las dem nu dem DD spik ptjtn so a pik am welwel.

MALE: "How did you pick up pidgin English?"
FEMALE: "Well, I don't know. When I was in school I
read science and all the boys whom I was studying
with spoke pidgin so I picked it up easily."

Yu de waka las sDmbdt ; a no go fit sabt sey s~m
kDneshins dey? A go sabt!

"You are walking with somebody; Can't I know that there
are some connections? I will know!"

plas ("and")
Mek yu go Volta Region Students Union _las Western
Region Students Union.

"Go to the Volta Region Students Union and the Western
Region Students Union."

Wey yu get ted yia a, onli yu de kansentreyt ft y= lDn
ese plas yD kas.

"If you get to third year, you only concentrate on your
long essay and your course work."


We observe from the above examples that GPE, like many other creoles and pidgins, uses the same word "piM" for both "with" and "and". Akan uses the word "her" ([n]) for both words in the same way that "pl" is used above in GPE.

Sef The word "sef" ("self") has retained its reflexive meaning in GPE. It has acquired another meaning which is a calque from the Ghanaian languages. This meaning is "even" as an intensive element to emphasize the identity or character of somebody or something. It follows the constituent that is being emphasized. The constituent can be a word, phrase, or sentence. This syntactic structure is akin to that of Akan in which the words mpo or koraa are used. The following example which shows this meaning of "sef" at the word level is part of a discourse by a lady who said she was fed up with Education as a course.

Onyame mo_ nim se m-a-bre
God even knows that I-PERF-tire
"Even God knows that I am tired."

Gmd sef sabi sey a taya.
God even knows that I tire
"Even God knows that I am tired."

LegDn de. Onli sey a don' layk Cape Vas ageyn. Soso
Education, a taya. G:d sef sabt sey a taya.

"Legon (University of Ghana) is there (available).
It's only that I don't like Cape Vars (Cape Coast
University). I am tired of all this education. Even
God knows that I am tired."

The following is part of a conversation between the

author and a steward who does not speak Akan. His usage of


"sef" here shows that it is not only the Akan speakers of GPE who use "sef" in this way. I was enquiring about another steward, and this is his answer. We will compare his answer to its counterpart in Akan.

Yestadey sef i kam.
Yesterday even he come
"Even yesteday he came."

enora mpo D-ba-e
Yesterday even he-come-PAST
"Even yesteday he came."

JOE (STANDARD ENGLISH): I don't see Akosombo these
ALHASSAN (GPE): I dey. Yestadey sef i kam.
JOE: "I don't see Akosombo these days."
ALHASSAN: "He's around. Even yesterday he came." The following is an example of the usage of "sef" at the phrase level. This will also be compared to its Akan counterpart.

Leta Dn se dey show am agen.
Later on even they show it again
"Even later on they showed it again."

Akyire yi map wD-yi-i bio.
Later on even they-show-PAST again
"Even later on they showed it again."

The following example of the use of "sef" at the sentence level comes from a conversation by two participants who were expressing their views on how Ghanaian football (soccer) players are neglected after they have retired from active playing.


Dey no go ma yu s_.
They NEG will mind you even
"They will not even think about you."

WD-m-mua wo m~po.
They-NEG-mind you even
"They will not even think about you."

A: FD dis Ghana hie, layk yu pley yD bDDl wey yu
finish, nobodi de rigad yu.
B: Dey no go mal yu sef ene mDD.

A: "In Ghana here, if you play football and you
retire, nobody regards you."
B: "They will not even think about you any more."

Sometimes some speakers make the emphasis stronger by

using both "sef" and "koraa" in the same sentence. At times "self" is replaced with "koraa". In the following example "Tamale Real United" and "Hearts" ("Hearts of Oak") are Ghanaian soccer teams.

Tamale sef koraa, Real United koraa, dey de tic
("tear") Hearts oo.

"Even Tamale, even Real United are beating Hearts."

Ch~v In GPE, the word "chzp" ("chop") does not have the same meaning it has in standard English. "Cut" or "fell" will be used in that sense. Instead "chrp" is used with the meanings it has from the Ghanaian languages which are

"eat/feed", "spend", "squander", "food", and the derogatory way of saying that a man makes love to a woman. Some speakers use fDk, for the last meaning. Some even use "m:nch" which sounds milder. Some speakers also use "cho" which is the clipped form of "chzp", and some use "chos" for


food. In Akan, the word for "chop" is "i". The following

Akan phrases show how "di" is used.

di aduane "eat food"
di sika "spend/squander money"
di buronya "spend christmas"
di afoofi "spend holiday/vacation"
di asem "settle a case"
di Dbaa "make love to a woman (derogatory)"

The following examples show the way the usage of "chap" in

GPE is akin to that of "di" in Akan.

A: So yu get mon% wey yu entetein yuD frens, wey som
dey wey yu go tek chop eks'mas a i min sey yu tif
B: Yu mek studen. Yu mek studen. Haw yu de get
plenty mant? Na so. I bi soso a de tDk.
A: Yu shum?
B: I no bi in? Enewey dey de treyn yu fD hie haw yu
de stil de mani. I no bi so? De akawntin ptpul i
no bi soso yu de du?

A: "So if you have money that you entertain your
friends with, and you have some left that you will
spend the Christmas with, does it mean that you
stole it?"
B: "You are a student. You are a student. How do you
get plenty of money like that? That is what I am
talking about."
A: "Are you sure?"
B: "Isn't it? Anyway they are training how to steal
money. Isn't it so? Is it not what you the
accounting people are doing?"

A: Wey yu no lod tuu, yu no get enetin yu go chop.
B: Eeh, yu no get mDni yu de cho on.

A: "And if you are not loaded (with money), you don't
have anything you'll eat."
B: "Yes you don't have any money to fe on."

De chos nu, wey kal yu won? Yu won de indijinos wan D
mek a mek de oyibo tayp?