Current Projects

1.

Project Title: Language and Work among Three Migrant Communities in Accra

Principal Investigator: Dr. Gladys Nyarko Ansah (Department of English)

Summary:

This study seeks to explore the language habits of female migrant workers (Kayayei) in Accra. While migration studies abound in the social sciences such as Sociology and Geography, until recently, very little emphasis was given to the topic in linguistics. Indeed, in the past, the study of the sociolinguistic effects of migration was conceptually separated from the spread of linguistic features by means of mass diffusion (Kerswill 2006). However, as Thomason/Kaufman1986 and Trudgil 1986[quoted in Kerswill2006] observed, 'in every case of migration, except where a homogeneous group of people moves to an isolated location, language contact ensues. According to Kerswill (2006), migration has profound sociolinguistic consequences because it alters the demographic balance of both the sending and receiving communities. For instance, migrants tend to form an ethnolinguistic minority which has to relate sociolinguistically to a new 'host' community - which in turn becomes transformed by their arrival (KerswiII 1994). In most cases, migrants see their first language as an essential element of their personal identity, i.e. an essential link to their own personal, religious and cultural origin, their parents and to the members of their families.

Accra is a linguistically heterogeneous city with migrants from the over 80 languages and their various dialects in Ghana. Apart from this linguistic complexity many African urban centres, there is asymmetrical coexistence of the colonial language, English; Ga, the indigenous language of Accra; Akan, the language of wider communication; and some of the other indigenous languages that are spoken in different parts of the country. When migrant workers move to Accra, they may be compelled by economic, 'social and linguistic factors to adopt a working language which is different from their own first languages. This creates a very interesting sociolinguistic and socio-cultural situation for investigation.

Even though migration has profound sociolinguistic consequences regarding the demographic balance of the sending and the receiving population (Kerswill 2006), the concern in this project is on the receiving population. The project team intend to focus on how young migrants in selected host communities from an ethnolinguistic minority relate sociolinguistically to a new host speech community. Specifically, the study intends to investigate the following:

  • How new migrant workers are recruited for economic activities;
  • The living conditions of the migrants when they arrive in the new communities; .
  • Their linguistic habits -whether these workers shift from their mother-tongues to languages which are spoken in Accra or they maintain their indigenous languages;
  • What informs or motivates either decision;

The sociolinguistic situation in Accra encourages interethnic relationships including marriages. Usually, children from such unions socialize with children in the new communities and are introduced to languages and cultures other than the first languages of their parents. Thus, the study also pays attention to the following:

  • The language habits of children of  these migrant workers;
  • The role female migrants play in the transmission of their mother-tongues to their children;

Finally, the study will investigate how the host community becomes transformed by the arrival of the migrants. It is hoped that the findings of this study would raise issues about whether or not migrants integrate into their host communities. This information will assist policy makers to plan for proper social intervention programmes.

 

2.

Project Title: Codifying the English Language in Ghana

Principal Investigator: Dr. Jemima Asabea Anderson (Department of English)

Summary:

The objective of this project is to describe features that characterize the variety of English that is spoken in Ghana. Specifically, the project seeks to (1) describe a number of phonological features which appear to be innovative in Ghanaian English in the sense that they cannot be easily identified in the inner circle varieties of English; (2) identify morphological developments such as lexical innovations and semantic restrictions and extensions that uniquely or strongly characterize the variety of English that is spoken in Ghana; (3) investigate the use of syntactic patterns that are unique to Ghanaian speakers of English and (4) describe pragmatic features that have been transferred from Ghanaian languages into the English language that is spoken in Ghana. Although varieties of English used in English as a Second Language (ESL,) communities such as India, Nigeria, Cameroon and South Africa have been described and codified in dictionaries and grammar books, very little attention has been given to the codification of the variety of English that is spoken in Ghana. This has been mainly because of the attitude of speakers to a Ghanaian variety of English. While some scholars have argued that the recognition of a Ghanaian variety can result in the erosion of standards, others have argued for a genuine need to document the evolution of a new variety of English in Ghana. Today, with the emergence of the concept of ‘New Englishes’, many language scholars have now seen the need to describe and codify the variety of English in Ghana. Thus, though the status of Ghanaian English has been theorized and debated about for a long time linguistic scholars now agree that it is time to codify the language so as to determine what identifies Ghanaian English usage in the areas of phonology, lexico-semantics, pragmatics, and syntax. By undertaking this project, we hope to distinguish acceptable Ghanaian usage from unacceptable usage. The project also seeks to answer questions of standardization in Ghanaian English, usage in context (i.e., pragmatics, sociolinguistics and discourse analyses) and creative usage (names of places, shop signs, churches, etc). Ultimately, we will be exploring the question of the Ghanaian identity by examining the English language as used by Ghanaians.

A corpus of Ghanaian English exists which can be analyzed for our purpose. The project team will therefore undertake this study by examining available corpora, for example the International Corpus of English (Ghana), to enable us make a definitive statement about Ghanaian English. They shall, however, expand and enrich this existing corpus to make it more representative by collecting more data to augment what has been collected. The findings of the project will contribute immensely to the teaching and learning of English in Ghana. The findings will also contribute to the revision of certain policy statements concerning the teaching and use of English in Ghana. The results of this study will also significantly impact the way Ghanaian English and its speakers are perceived. In addition, the data that will be available for study by colleagues and students as well as by other scholars working on Ghanaian English.

 

3.

Project Title: Nation and Narration: Early Nationalist Writers and their use of Literature for Nationalist Struggles

Principal Investigator: Professor Helen Yitah (Department of English)

Summary:

This project seeks to examine early Nationalist writing in Ghana as an important stage in the evolution of written Ghanaian literature. The project team will explore how these early Ghanaian writers deployed literature as a tool for a larger nationalist and identity-constructing agenda. This will be done by collecting and analyzing a cross-section of texts produced in English and Ghanaian languages by Ghanaian authors. The texts for the project will cover the period from the late 19th century when the first known Ghanaian novel, Marita, was published, to the first half of the 20th century when most of the pre-independence writers produced their major works. An analysis shall be done on the style, themes and attitudes that emerge from the fiction of prominent writers such as: Michael Dei Anang, Frank Kobina Parkes, Giddel Acquah and R.E.G. Armattoe in the area of poetry; J.E. Casely Hayford, A. Native, R.E. Obeng and Mabel Dove Danquah in the genre of prose; and Kobina Sekyi, F.K. Fiawoo and J.B. Danquah with regard to drama, in order to determine how the nationalist struggle is portrayed in their works.

This project is being undertaken in view of the importance of these early Ghanaian writers and their works to our understanding of the cultural, linguistic and political expressions of the early nationalist period and also because their works serve as an important background to the ideas, themes, and styles that are found in contemporary Ghanaian literature. In the area of language studies, the project team aims to establish what this body of literature reveals about how English was used at the time, particularly in terms of diction and sentence structure. Since these writers were also actively involved in nationalist politics, it would be relevant to find out what their writings reveal regarding political thought and other related matters.

By undertaking this project, the study will contribute to literary criticism on Ghanaian literature from a Ghanaian perspective; place the texts in their contexts; map the beginnings of a Ghanaian literary history and canon; assess the influence of these early writers on written Ghanaian literature; collect, edit and make available new editions of some of these early Ghanaian classics which are now rare books; and compile an annotated bibliography of early works now out of print. Accomplishing these tasks would pave the way to make the works of the authors in the current study more prominent in our literature programme.

4.

Project Title: Language, Medicine And Communication: Understanding Lay Thought In The Presentation Of Mental Health Challenges

Summary:

This project seeks to examine  the gap between  lay people's  conceptualization  and hence articulation  of psychiatric and other  medical  conditions  and  that  of  medical  practitioners.  It intends  to  examine  the expression  of  mental illnesses within Akan communities, focusing on (1) how people with mental challenges are described and referred to in our  everyday  interactions;  (2)  how  the expression  of mental  illnesses  is captured  in  'traditional  wisdom ', as espoused  in Akan proverbs,  idioms  and popular  sayings;  (3) how patients of  mental illnesses  and other  medical conditions (and their caregivers)   present their symptoms to medical practitioners; (4) how health  workers interpret the patients’ presentation of symptoms  in mental and general health care.

The study stems out of the recognition  that effective communication  between patients of mental illnesses  and the medical  practitioners  that  manage  them  is  critical; first,  for  the  determination   of  appropriate   diagnoses   and subsequently, for the effective  management  of their conditions.  Within our communities, issues relating to one's health are not easily and openly discussed. Conditions of mental ill health pose an even greater challenge as societies may have their own (sometimes unscientific) views about the causes and effects. Such views invariably underlie the ways in which people with such conditions are managed. By studying Akan traditional conception  of such diseases through its linguistic expressions,  the way patients themselves (and their caregivers)  express their symptoms, how doctors  interpret  and  represent   these  symptoms,  it  is  expected  that  there  will  be  a  better  appreciation  of  the underlying  conceptualization   of  mental  health  conditions  in at  least  a  significantly  large  part  of  our  Ghanaian society.  Such  knowledge,  will  be  beneficial  to  medics  who  find  themselves   in  predominantly  Akan speaking  areas. It is hoped  that  this will  eventually  lead to  improved  clinical  and public  health  management  of psychiatric conditions, especially since the practice of psychiatry relies heavily on psychotherapy.

The major activities intended  for the implementation  of this project includes the collection, from both written and oral  sources,   of   Akan   idioms,  proverbs   and   popular   sayings   which  relate   to  the   expression   and  hence conceptualization  of psychiatric conditions.  Presentations of symptoms by patients and the corresponding write-ups by doctors, which reflect their understanding and interpretation of the symptoms, will also be collated. These data will serve as input for a qualitative stud y of the conceptualization, articulation and management of mental health conditions in our societies. It is expected that the study will result in the preparation and eventual publication of at least three peer-reviewed journal articles of international repute which address various issues relating to mental and general health discourse.  It is hoped that a follow-up study will produce a manual, intended for medics, which addresses communication challenges in our local mental health discourse.