Sunday, October 8, 2017

Information About & Examples Of Ghanaian Pidgin English (from 1992 dissertation)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part II of a two part pancocojams series that presents information and examples of Ghanaian Pidgin English.

Part II presents another excerpt about Ghanaian Pidgin English from the 1992 dissertation that was written by Joe K. Y. B. Amoako (University of Florida). That excerpt includes examples of some Ghanaian Pidgin English words. Because that dissertation was published in 1992, it's possible that some of these words may no longer be used now (in 2017) or their meanings may have changed.

Click for Part I of this series. Part I provides an excerpt from that dissertation about Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) from a 1992 dissertation that was written in 1992 by Joe K. Y. B. Amoako (University of Florida). A portion of this excerpt also provide information about the history & contemporary use of pidgin English in Nigeria.

The content of this post is presented for historical, linguistic, and cultural purposes.

Pancocojams present hyperlinked excerpts from online articles, books, and dissertations as a means of alerting people to these texts. Pancocojams visitors are encouraged to read these entire texts.

Thanks to Joe K. Y. B. Amoako for his research and writing and thanks for sharing this dissertation online and thanks to all others who are quoted in this post.
This post is part of an ongoing pancocojams series on West African Pidgin English. Click that link for more post in that series.


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

By Joe K. Y. B. Amoako
December 1992

"[page] 53

Ghanaian Pidgin English (GPE) can be classified into two types: educated pidgin and uneducated pidgin. The
uneducated pidgin is also called "houseboy 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,

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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 freguently 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

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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

[page] 57
Ghanaian language spoken by the author. Akan-influenced GPE is the most common one spoken in Ghana.


[page 75

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.


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.


[page] 78


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 bnn 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 bri n dem! "Go and bring them!"

Mek yu tel am! "Tell him/her!"

Mek yu bnn dem! "Bring them!"

Mek yu bi gud ticha! "Be a good teacher!"



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

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


A go skuul A go skuul

"I go/went to school." "I go/went to school?"

A fit go skuul A fit go skuul

"I can go to school." "Can I go to school?"

A no de fit go skuul A no de fit go skuul

"I can't go to school." "Can't I go to school?"

The word "wey" is often used for the guestion 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 tarn i go kam?

"When will he/she come?"

Wey kal pcsm kam hie?
"Who comes/came here?"

The focus na is sometimes used with the guestion 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 IS.)

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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.


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.

Plenti 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 prrpa .

"He / she is very angry!"

I gud tuu mpch .


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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. z>-be-ba.

Joe say-PAST that he-will-come

"Joe said that he will come."


Joe tz>k 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 sey Joe go kam.

"I know that Joe will come."


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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 caiques 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 caique, it will be appropriate for us to know how Bynon has defined caique.

In loan translation or caique (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 "and" or "add/addition" has maintained these meanings in GPE and has
acquired the new meaning "with", which is unique to GPE.

[page] 87

The following examples from the recordings we made will make this meaning clear.

plas P'with'n

Yu shu => sey a de go y=> haws plas yu? Mi, dos hu

de go awt plas mi a no de go dem haws plas 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."


MALE (SPEAKING STANDARD) : How did you pick up pidgin

FEMALE (SPEAKING GPE) : Aaa, a no sabi oo. Wey a dey skuul a rid sayans so de b:=ys wey a de stadi
plas dem nu dem as spik pijin 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."


plas ("and'n

Mek yu go Volta Region Students Union plas Western Region Students Union.

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

Wey yu get ted yi a a, onli yu de konsentreyt fo yo i 3n ese plas yz> kos.

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

[page] 88

We observe from the above examples that GPE, like many other Creoles and pidgins, uses the same word " plas " for both "with" and "and". Akan uses the word "ne" ([ni]) for both words in the same way that " plas " is used above in GPE.

Sef The word "sef" ("self") has retained its reflexive meaning in GPE. It has acguired another meaning which is a caique 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 mpo nim se m-a-bre

God even knows that I-PERF-tire

"Even God knows that I am tired."


God sef sabi sey a taya.

God even knows that I tire

"Even God knows that I am tired."


God sef sabi sey a taya.

God even knows that I tire

"Even God knows that I am tired."


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 tie ("tear") Hearts oo.

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

Chop in GPE, the word "chop" ("chop") does not have the same meaning it has in standard English. "Cut" or "fell" will be used in that sense. Instead "chcp" 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 fz>k, for the last meaning. Some even use "monch" which sounds milder. Some speakers also use "cho" which is the clipped form of "chop", and some use "chos" for

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food. In Akan, the word for "chop" is "di" . The following Akan phrases show how "di" is used.


di aduane
di sika
di buronya
di afoofi
di asem
di obaa

'eat food"
'spend/ squander money"
'spend Christmas"
'spend holiday/vacation"
'settle a case"
'make love to a woman (derogatory) "


Peyn The usage of "peyn" ("pain") in GPE is not limited to distress and suffer. It also means disturb and
jealousy .

A: I go sit dawn, chop kenke mek sombodi kam bit am
B: I bi im de peyn mi.

A: "He will sit down, eat kenkey, and let somebody

come and beat him (talking about a boxer) "
B: "That's what disturbs me."

Swiyt The word "swiyt" ("sweet") has some additional meanings in GPE. It means "sweet", "pleasant", "nice", "enjoyable", "good", "swollen headed", etc. This phenomenon

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is also similar to that of the Ghanaian languages where one word has all the above meanings. In Akan. "de" has all the above meanings.


[page] 94

Kwench The meaning of "kwench" ("quench") is "put out" or "extinguish", but in GPE this meaning is extended to include "stop" and "suffer".

A no sabi dc tin wey i kwe nch di s program. A no sabi de risin way dey kwench am.

"I don't know the thing that stopped this program. I don't know the reason why they stopped it."

Mek yu no won oo

Wan dey, wan dey wi =d go enjoy, en de rich pipul dey go kwench .

"Don't worry One day, we'll all enjoy, And the rich people will suffer . "

If yu no yus yo hed, yu go kwench .

"If you don't use your brains, you'll suffer . "

Jelosi go sheym, Wayo tuu go kwench .

"The jealous one will be ashamed, The trickster too will suffer ."

Kach Other meanings that "kach" ("catch") has in GPE are "be at", "reach", and "enough".

Tumorow a fo kach Accra.

"Tomorrow I should be in Accra."


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Grow When a GPE speaker tells you that you are a grown person he or she means you are an old person.

De womal i grow ? I grow pas Doggie?

"Is the woman old? Is she older than Doggie?"

I grow smo. i mek ova teti .

"He/She is a little old. He/she is over thirty."

Yus Another meaning of "yus" ("use") in GPE apart from its traditional meanings is "good" or "nice".

Fes taym wey wi de pey nayn f i f ti -eit nu a, a ti nk sey 1 yus; bik^s naw wi de pey omos fayf handred sidis, wey, dat's f^ lojm alown; wey a ti nk sey i no yus .
Dey de chit wi.

Grow When a GPE speaker tells you that you are a grown person he or she means you are an old person.

De womal i grow ? I grow pas Doggie?

"Is the woman old? Is she older than Doggie?"

I grow smo. i mek ova teti .

"He/She is a little old. He/she is over thirty."

Yus Another meaning of "yus" ("use") in GPE apart from its traditional meanings is "good" or "nice".

Fes taym wey wi de pey nayn f i f ti -eit nu a, a ti nk sey 1 yus; bik^s naw wi de pey omos fayf handred sidis, wey, dat's f^ lojm alown; wey a ti nk sey i no yus . Dey de chit wi.

"First time when we were paying nine fifty-eight, I think that it was good, because now we are paying
almost five hundred cedis which is for lodging; lodging alone, which I think that it is not good. They are
cheating us."

Rap In GPE, "rap" means "to talk to somebody to convince him or her". A man raps a woman by trying to woo
her; or an offender raps his or her boss to avoid punishment.


Words from Other Languages

English supplies the bulk of the vocabulary of GPE. A few loan words have been borrowed other languages. Among the European languages, Portuguese is a major contributor to the loan words in GPE. Some of these Portuguese words are sabj. (know) , pikin (a child) , dash (gift, give a present) , and palava/palaba (guarrel) .

GPE contains words from other West African languages, especially Hausa and Yoruba. Some of the words from Yoruba are aga (master, superior) , and ovibo (a white man or a light-skinned person) . There are more words from Hausa than from Yoruba because many Ghanaians speak Hausa, whereas only a few speak Yoruba. Some of the words borrowed from Hausa are wayo (tricks, trickster), vanoa or nvanoa (vanity), iara (bonus), and wahala (trouble) .

Some words in GPE come from Ghanaian native languages; from Akan are die (as for ...), paa (very), koraa (even), na (and, it's), etc; and from Ga is cho (very)."...

This concludes Part II of this two part pancocojams series about Excerpts of Ghanaian Pidgin English from a 1992 dissertation.

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