Exploring the semantics and functionality of Ghanaianisms

  • James Nsoh ADOGPA

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


Ghanaian users of English have developed a variety of English that includes, among other things, lexical items whose usage and meanings are impregnated with cultural values, concepts and meanings. In this thesis I call these items Ghanaianisms and argue that their significance is to allow an institutionalized second language to acquire new meanings in the new context, in order to function effectively and to express new identities. The new norms that have arisen in the Ghanaian context include both feature norms and behavioural norms, and both were investigated as part of the study. The methodology used is ethnographic in nature. Data collection methods included document analysis featuring media texts and creative works from Ghanaian writers, and interviews with members of four influential occupational groups that are closely involved with the use of English. Feature norms and behavioural norms were found to be interrelated in areas such as the use of adages, proverbs, transliteration and the employment of symbolism. The interview data showed a range of views pertaining to the existence and status of Ghanaianisms, with members simultaneously showing allegiance to both external (mainly British) norms and internal (Ghanaian) norms. The educationalists noted that this could lead to problems such as the inconsistent marking of student scripts. To help resolve this case of linguistic schizophrenia (Kachru 1983), this study proposes the selective codification of Ghanaianisms into dictionaries and thesauri. When English is codified to reflect the Ghanaian cultural context, it will be a way for Ghanaians to contribute to the global language, while localizing it to appropriately serve their linguistic and cultural needs.
Date of Award16 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorAndrew John SEWELL (Supervisor) & Feifei ZHOU (Co-supervisor)

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