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GA-DANGME: ENDANGERED LANGUAGES OF GHANA – PART II

 3.2 The Respondents

Members of the communities were categorized into age groups as follows:

  • 01 – 10 years               (corresponding to Children)
  • 11 – 20 years               (corresponding to Children)
  • 21 – 30 years               (corresponding to Parents)
  • 31 – 40 years               (corresponding to Parents)
  • 41 – 50 years               (corresponding to Parents)
  • 51 – 60 years               (corresponding to Grandparents)
  • 61 years and above     (corresponding to Grandparents)

 

Table 1. The Respondents

Age Group                 Winneba         Teshie             Dawhenya      Ningo              Kaseh

0 – 10 years                           10                    27                              9                      18                        8

11 – 20 years                         61                    59                             35                    15                       26

21 – 30 years                        41                    31                              20                    19                      40

31 – 40 years                        38                    28                             17                      8                       24

41 – 50 years                       34                    18                               9                      14                      18

51 – 60 years                       18                    22                              5                         5                        9

61+ years                              18                    13                               5                      14                      18

TOTAL                                  220                  198                         100                    93                    143

 

Table 1 presents the members of the various communities by age groups. For children under six, mothers provided answers to the questions. This age group was quite important to the study in that it provided data for the extreme end of the spectrum.

 

3.3 The Questionnaire

The questionnaire comprised twenty-three mostly multiple choice questions modified to suit each language community.  (Please see Appendix 1.)  Question 1 sought to find the appropriate age group of the respondents. Question 2 sought to establish which parent was an indigene of the language community. Questions 3 to 8 sought to establish the languages spoken by the respondents as well as the order in which they were acquired. Question 9 asked the respondent to self-asses his/her language proficiency. Questions 10 to 23 sought to establish language usage in the respondents’ environment.

The questionnaires were distributed to the appropriate age groups in the communities cited in 3.1 together with the following instructions:

“The following questionnaire is to enable us collect data on language use in Ghana. Your responses will be used for educational purposes only. Any information you give will be treated as very confidential.

Kindly respond to the questions by ticking the appropriate space in the boxes provided as follows.

Thank you for your cooperation.”

Where the subject was not literate in English, a third person was employed to assist in filling out the forms. For children under six, mothers provided answers to the questions. This age group was quite important to the study in that it provided data for the extreme end of the spectrum.

 

4.0  FINDINGS

The results of the study are presented here under the following headings:

  • How many Ghanaian languages do you speak?
  • Which Ghanaian Languages do you speak?
  • Which Language did you learn to speak first?
  • Which language do you use mostly in the home?
  • Which of these Languages do you use most often?

4.1 How many Ghanaian languages do you speak?

This question was designed to establish the ratio of monolingual to bilingual speakers among the communities under study. It is quite clear from the data presented in Table 2 (see also Appendix 2) that the vast majority of the people living in Winneba (i.e. 96.4%) speak at least two languages. By far, the largest number of people (69.5%) speaks two languages. For all practical purposes, therefore, Winneba can be referred to as a bilingual society. With the exception of subjects aged 61 and above, where the majority tends to speak three languages, this observation holds true within the age groups as well.

 

Table 2. Number of Languages spoken, per community, expressed in percentages.

No. of Languages      Winneba         Teshie             Dawhenya      Ningo              Kaseh

1                                     3.6%                 13.6%                       11%                 30.1%              24.5%

2                                   69.5%                62.6%                      29%                 30.1%              44.1%

3                                   20.9%                 19.2%                      41%                 19.4%              23.8%

4                                     5.5%                     4.6%                     19%                 20.4%              7.7%

Data from the Ga-Dangme areas seem to point in the direction of bilingualism as well, though this phenomenon is not as pronounced as in the Winneba area. The Teshie figures, for instance, indicate that 86.4% of the people speak two or more languages. As with Winneba, by far, the largest number of Teshie people (62.6%) tends to speak two languages. The picture is not that simple in the Dangme speaking communities. In the Dawhenya community, for instance, the largest single group is trilingual with 41% of the population, while in the Ningo community there are equal numbers of monolinguals and bilinguals (30.1%). In the Kasseh community, the bilinguals clearly have an edge over the others at 41%. Note, however, that bilingualism seems to increase as one goes up the age ladder. It would seem that GaDangme speakers tend to acquire additional languages later in life. Teshie seems to be an exception to this phenomenon in the sense that the majority of people above 60 years are monolingual in Ga (i.e. 53.8%) while only 22.2% of children up to 10 years old are monolingual.

 

4.2 Which Ghanaian Languages do you speak?

This Question sought to establish the actual Ghanaian languages that are used in these communities. Results of this exercise are presented in Table 3.

Table 3. Languages spoken in the Community expressed in percentages.

Language                   Winneba         Teshie             Dawhenya      Ningo              Kaseh

Effutu                                     1.4%                   —                                —                      —                      —

Ga                                             —                      13.1%                          —                      —                      —

Dangme                                  —                         —                          9.0%                30.1%              20.3%

Fante                                   3.2%                      —                               —                      —                      —

Twi                                           —                         —                               —                      —                      —

Ewe                                          —                         —                               —                      —                      2.1%

Effutu & Fante                93.6%                     —                               —                      —                      —

Fante & Others                  1.8%                     —                              —                      —                      —

Ga & Dangme                       —                      8.6%                       68.0%              23.7%              20.3%

Ga & Twi                                —                      66.2%                         —                     5.4%                —

Ga & Others                          —                      28.8%                         —                      —                      —

Dangme & Twi                     —                        —                          73.0%                 28%                32.2%

Dangme & Ewe                    —                        —                                —                      6.4%              37.1%

Dangme & Others               —                        —                            9.0%                   6.5%                 —

In Table 3, it is established that the vast majority of people living in Winneba (94%) speak Fante in addition to Effutu. A quarter of these people (24.5%) actually speak a third language in addition to Effutu and Fante. Interestingly, apart from two infant monolinguals, the only other Effutu speaking monolingual is in the 61 years and over age group. All the other monolinguals in the Winneba community use Fante rather than Effutu.

In the Teshie Community, the most popular languages are Ga and Twi. In fact, as many as 66.2% of the indigenes speak Twi in addition to Ga. The single largest group is those who are bilingual in Ga and Twi (49.5%). Like Teshie, the Dawhenya community also prefers Twi as a second language in that a hefty 73% speak Dangme and Twi. The two other Dangme speaking communities display healthier ratios of monolingual to bilingual speakers. For instance, the monolingual Dangme speakers in Ningo form 30.1%; and in Kasseh the monolingual Dangme speakers represent 20.3% of the Community. While Twi was the second most popular language in most of the Dangme communities, it was replaced by Ewe in the Kasseh Community where 39.2% of the Community spoke Ewe in addition to Dangme. In terms of monolingual usage, almost all monolingual speakers in the Ga and Dangme areas use the indigenous languages. There are a few exceptions including one person in Kasseh who is monolingual in the Ewe language.

 

4.3 Which language did you learn to speak first.

Answers to the question ‘Which language did you learn to speak first’ are presented in Table 4. The question was designed to establish the first language (L1) of members of the various communities.

Table 4. Language First spoken by members of the Community expressed in percentages.

Language                   Winneba         Teshie             Dawhenya      Ningo              Kaseh

Effutu                                     60.5%                —                                —                      —                        —

Ga                                               1.4%            87.9%                        7%                    2.2%                 1.4%

Dangme                                    —                     2.5%                       83%                 89.2%              90.2%

Fante                                     37.7%               —                               1%                     1.1%                   —

Twi                                           0.5%                4.0%                        5%                    3.2%                  1.4%

Ewe                                           —                      4.5%                        2%                    4.3%                  4.2%

Others                                      —                      1.0%                        2%                       —                      2.8%

Table 4 reveals that for the majority of people in the Winneba community (60.5%), Effutu is indeed the first language acquired. This is followed by Fante (37.7%) Interestingly, the numbers fall as one goes down in age. For instance, while approximately 90% of people in the grandparent group learned Effutu first, Less than 50% of those in the children group learned Effutu first.

Results of the GaDangme communities indicate that the overwhelming majority of indigenes acquire Ga and Dangme as their first languages, starting from as much as 90.2% for Kasseh Dangme to a low of 83% for Dawhenya Dangme. The other Dangme Communities are as follows: 89.2% for Ningo, and 87.9% for Teshie Ga. Surprisingly, Ewe turned out to be the second most popular first language acquired in almost all the GaDangme speaking communities. Dawhenya, where Twi came in second, is the only exception.

 

4.4 Which language do you use mostly in the home?

This question seeks to establish the language used in the home environment. Answers from the various communities are shown in Table 5.

Table 5. Languages mostly spoken in the home expressed in percentages.

Language       Winneba         Teshie             Dawhenya      Ningo              Kaseh

Effutu                         59.5%                 —                               —                      —                      —

Ga                                 —                      72.7%                        6%                   1.1%                1.4%

Dangme                      —                         3.5%                     84%                 87.1%              94.4%

Fante                        40.5%                  1.0%                      —                         1.1%                 —

Twi                               0.5%                  5.6%                        5%                   6.5%                1.4%

Ewe                                 —                      2.5%                        —                      3.2%                2.1%

Others                         0.9%                14.6%                       5%                   1.1%                0.7%

In the Winneba community, the question ‘Which language do you use mostly in the home?’ indicated that 59% of the people tend to use Effutu in the house. This is followed by 39% of those who use Fante. In fact, the data indicates that the older people are more likely to use Effutu (77.8%) than Fante (22.2%), while the children tend to give equal time to Effutu and Fante (see appendix).

In the Teshie community, as many as 72.7% of the people claim to use Ga at home. This is followed by English and Twi at 14.6% and 5.6%, respectively. Results from the Dangme communities are not very different from those of Teshie. In all cases, Dangme was the language of choice in the home (Dawhenya = 84%; Ningo = 87.1%; and Kasseh = 94.4%). In terms of a second language for the Dangme homes, the results are mixed. The Dawhenya community preferred Ga (6%), closely followed by Twi and English (5% each). The Ningo community prefers Twi (6.5%), while Kasseh prefers Ewe (2.1%) followed by Twi.

 

4.5 Which language do you use most often?

Answers to the question ‘Which language do you use mostly in the home?’ are shown in Tables 2.5, 2.10, 2.15, 2.20, & 2.25 of Appendix 2.

While question four seeks to establish the language used in the home environment, question five seeks to establish the language used most often inside and outside the home. Not surprisingly, the language used most often by the Effutu people of Winneba is Fante (72.9%). Quite surprisingly, only about 10.7% of the children category (ages 0-30) use Effutu as their primary language of communication, leaving a hefty 93% that use Fante primarily (Table 5). Clearly, the Winneba community may be described as being a bilingual one with the new language (Fante) dominating.

Table 6. Languages most often spoken in the Community expressed in percentages.

Language       Winneba         Teshie             Dawhenya      Ningo             Kaseh

Effutu                         26.8%                —                               —                      —                       —

Ga                                 —                      86.9%                       5%                   2.2%                10.7%

Dangme                      —                        —                             82%                 82.8%              95.1%

Fante                        73.2%                0.5%                          —                      1.1%                 —

Twi                               —                      6.6%                          9%                     8.6%                 —

Ewe                              —                      2.0%                          —                       4.3%                2.8%

Others                         —                      4.0%                          4%                   11.1%               1.4%

The Teshie respondents overwhelmingly claim Ga as the language used most often in and outside the home. Interestingly, however, among the children’s category the figure stands at 91.4% while the parents and grandparents categories claimed 100%  Ga usage. In the Dangme communities the situation is as follows: 82% of people in Dawhenya use Dangme most often, followed by 9% who use Twi; 82.8% of people in Ningo use Dangme most often, followed by 8.6% who use Twi; followed by 3.3% who use Ga; and 95.1% of people in Kasseh use Dangme most often, followed by 2.8% who use Ewe. It is evident that unlike the situation in Winneba, the GaDangme communities can only be described as bilingual communities with the indigenous language being the dominant one.

 

5.0  DISCUSSION OF RESULTS

This Section is an attempt to discuss the current data in relation to the scenario presented in Section 1.0 regarding language endangerment and, ultimately, loss. It has been suggested that in terms of the generations, the usual trend is as follows:

  • Grandparents speak only the traditional language;
  • Parents speak both the native language and the language of assimilation, and
  • Their Children become monolingual in the assimilated language.

Answers to the question “Which of these languages did you speak first?” indicate that there are definite signs of language shift in all the communities under study. The rate of shift varies from one community to another. In terms of first language acquisition across the generations, the situation is as indicated in Table 7.

Table 7. Percentage of Indigenes that Acquire the Traditional Language as L1.

Generations (Age G.)  Winneba         Teshie             Dawhenya      Ningo              Kaseh

Effutu                   Ga                        Dangme           Dangme            Dangm

Children (0-30)              52.7%              82.9%                       78.1%              81.8%              85.1%

Parents (31-50)              58.3%              93.5%                        88.5%              88.5%              92.9%

Grandparents (51+)     88.9%              97.1%                        100%               100%               100%

The pattern clearly indicates language loss through the generations. The details of this phenomenon are discussed in the sections below.

 

5.1 The Awutu-Effutu Language

Of the six communities under study, the Effutu dialect of the Awutu-Effutu language is clearly the most endangered. Less and less indigenous Winneba children are acquiring Effutu as a first language, opting instead for Fante. Similarly, Fante seems to be the language of choice in these children’s environment (home, school, church, etc.). The fact that the indigenes are clearly outnumbered by the immigrants will seem to be responsible for this phenomenon.

Clearly, Effutu is losing grounds to Fante. Winneba children are not using the Effutu language because some parents prefer speaking to their children in Fante rather than the indigenous language. The end result is quite predictable. It leads to language death. It will not be unfair to say that the language may not be around in the next century. With the demise of the language, the culture of its people also dies with it. This further leads to loss of resources, including opportunity for the scientific study of human speech communication.

 

5.2 The Ga-Dangme Language

As far as the Ga language is concerned, Table 7 indicates that the Teshie community also shows a trend towards language shift though the phenomenon is not as radical as that of the Winneba community. This is understandable in the sense that the community is lodged in the center of other Ga-speaking communities. The pressure from non-Ga-speaking immigrant families is quite remarkable. In fact, there are non-Ga-speaking tenants in almost every household.

Data from the Dangme communities indicate that only two generations ago, everybody in these communities acquired Dangme as a first language. This situation is gradually changing such that about one generation ago 88.5% of Dawhenya, 81.8% of Ningo, and 92% of Kasseh spoke Dangme as a first language. Compare this with the current generation where only 78% of Dawhenya, 88.5% of Ningo and 85% of Kasseh acquired Dangme as a first language.

The current trends in language acquisition clearly point to the process of language shift. There is no doubt that Ga and Dangme are both losing grounds to Twi and Ewe. There is reason to worry about the situation in Dawhenya, in particular. This is because in the past five years a major university campus has been located in this hitherto small farming settlement. With the establishment of the campus came an influx of many non-Ga-Dangme speakers into the community. The majority of these newcomers are Twi-speaking followed by Ewe speakers. The current trend indicates that in the next 10 years, the indigenous Ga-Dangme people will form less than half of the population of the community.

6. CONCLUSION

The situation in the Ga and Dangme communities indicate that less and less children in the peri-urban communities are acquiring the traditional languages as a first language. The results also indicate that the closer a community is to an urban center, the less likely it is for its children to acquire the indigenous language. The Effutu data adds a different dimension in the sense that the indigenes are being displaced by a neighboring language.

The results of the Effutu study are not very different from the data that has been collated thus far from other language communities such as Larteh, Nzema and Ahanta under study. The language situation in these communities can best be described as diglossic, since the people often use a second language (mostly Twi, Fante or Ewe) in the official aspects of their lives such as, education, business and, sometimes, even religion while relegating the indigenous language to the homes. When one considers the fact that most of the indigenous languages are not the languages of choice even in domestic activities, one can see the extent of the threat.

All indications are that Ahanta and Nzema are both losing grounds to Fante. Larteh and Kyerepong seem to be losing grounds to Twi. The situation in the Togo-Mountain languages, namely Avatime, Logba, Santrokofi, Siwu and the others, is a complex one that will be examined in a forthcoming paper. Mostly, Ewe is putting pressure on the languages in the southern parts of the mountains while Twi is exerting pressure on those in the northern parts. In a few cases, however, pressure is being exerted by both Twi and Ewe on the same language.

The Nzema situation is another complex one in the sense that it is taught all the way to the tertiary level and also serves as one of the six media languages. These two facts notwithstanding, it is still being threatened by Fante. A more detailed study than the present one is underway to determine the nature of this language shift. It is important to point out that as surprising as the Nzema situation is the one of Dangme, the language that is ranked number three by number of indigenous speakers. Apparently, in this case, the attitudes of speakers play a larger role in the perceived language shift than any other phenomenon. This situation contrasts very sharply with that of a few of the Togo-Mountain languages that have remained in use nearly two centuries after they had been cited with less than six thousand speakers each. These two contrasting situations will be given more attention in the next paper. Obviously, the fact that a language has a large number of indigenous speakers does not really matter as far as language endangerment is concerned.

Evidently, a lot of the indigenous languages of Ghana are in danger and could even be lost in the next few generations. The question then is, “What measures should we put in place to curb this trend?” A number of solutions come into mind. These include taking another look at the country’s language policy as well as reviewing the choice of “media languages”. All in all, a conscious effort must be made by all concerned to maintain the various languages. For language educators such as the present authors, the task becomes quite challenging. Special efforts could be made by this category of Ghanaians to run short programs in a number of endangered Ghanaian languages such as Efutu. In the absence of any comprehensive language maintenance plan, efforts must be made to keep adequate linguistic records of the smaller languages of Ghana. That is all that may remain behind when the present trend is allowed to run its course.

The Ga-Dangme people of Ghana boast of some of the world’s richest culture, including the so-called “six-cloth” wedding ceremony. Considering the fact that language loss is always accompanied by loss of the culture, it behooves all well meaning Ghanaians and Ga-Dangmes, in particular, to do all they can to prevent the extinction of the country’s endangered languages.

The End

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