Typological Features Template for Akan
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The following Typological Feature Template covers some phonological features of Akan.
|Phonological Features||In the following I will describe the phonological inventory of Akan and the features that its dialects share. Some of these dialects are Asante, Fante and Akuapem as well as Bono. Dialects of Akan are mainly characterized by phonological differences, but other difference can also be described. The account we are providing here is directed towards a description of the grammatical features that all dialects of Akan share.|
|Vowel Inventory||Vowels in Akan are described here under five headings: oral, nasalised, and long vowels, diphthongs, and vowel harmony (or vowel combinations across syllables).
The table below shows an overview of the vowels in the language.
Akan has 9 or 10 oral vowels, depending on the dialect: [e,ɔ,a,o,ɛ i,u,ɪ,æ,ʊ ]. Vowel [æ] is only used in the Asante and the Akuapem dialects. So you can see from the example below that, where Akuapem and Asante use [æ] Fante uses [e]
For example 1:
NB"Ph.Trans" refers to phonetic transcription.
As can be seen from example 1 above, the vowel e in orthography represents vowels /ɪ/ and /e/, and the vowel o represents /o/, and/ʊ/.Example 2a
“The month has ended”
Me tu kwan bronya yi
“I will travel this christmas”
2a. /bʊsʊmɪ asʊ/ 2b. /me tu kwan bronya yi/
So in any written Akan text, you will find some of these 7 vowel letters: i e ɛ a ɔ o u, used in the Akan sentence below.Example 3:
Esi bɛkɔ owura no hɔ
“Esi will go to the gentleman”
B. Nasalised Vowels
Nasalisation in Akan can be contrastive: as a result of assimilation nasality can spread to following vowels. There are five nasalised vowels in Akan; and they are: ἶ, ĩ, ã, ῦ, and ũ
In tha Akan word below; the nasal [ŋ] spreads to the sounds following it including the vowel [a].
nkwa: /ŋ̃kʷã/ - 'life'
NB: Vowels [e, ɛ, ɔ, o] are not normally nasalised in Akan, however [ɛ], and [ɔ] can be nasalised in the Fante dialects when they occur as neighbours with nasal consonants, [m] and [n] in a word or a phrase.
The following table represents which Akan vowel can be lengthtend and which ones can be nasalised.
D. Diphthongs As can be seen in example 7, the verb 'dae' has the vowels [a] and and [ɪ] articulated by the tongue gliding from the central part of the mouth to the middle front part.
Akan has +ATR and -ATR vowels:
Set A(+ATR) [i, e, æ, o, u]
Set B(-ATR) [ɪ, ɛ, a, ɔ, ʊ]
The +ATR and -ATR vowels can not co-occur. There should be harmony in the occurence of the vowels in the same word, meaning that vowels of one set (either +ATR or -ATR) can co-occur. The +ATR vowels are produced by pushing the root of the tongue forward and the -ATR vowels on the other hand, are produced by pushing the root of the tongue backwards. Example 8 shows some Akan words where there is harmony of vowel as a result of the advanced tongue root restriction.
In summary, these are the vowels and their names in Akan:
i Advanced High Front ɪ Unadvanced High Front e Advanced Mid Front ɛ Unadvanced Mid Front æ Advanced Low Central a Undvanced Low Central o Adavnced Mid Back ɔ Unadvanced Mid Back u Advanced High Back ʊ Unadvanced High Back
Akan has 16 consonants: [j, w, p, b, f, d, t, s, m, n, k, kʷ, h, hʷ, g, gʷ]. The table below gives the articulation of these consonants:
Some consonants are palatalized or labialized in Akan as in the words; kyerɛ - /ʨɪrɛ/, 'to show' and dwene - /ʥʷɪnɪ/ 'to think'. There is also free variation especially for the consonants [d],[r] and [l] as in the following Akan words: àkwàdàá, àkwàlàá or àkwàràá, all meaning 'a child'
|Tone||Akan is a tone language and it also has downdrift. Tone can determine meaning in Akan. In the following Akan words, its is the tone that shows difference in the meaning of the words.
Example 9: pàpà father pápá good pàpá fan
Akan has two types of downsteps; automatic dwonstep and non-automatic downstep. In a sequence of a High-Low-High sequence, the second high tone is downstepped oir lowered in pitch than the first one.
For example: 10
“Ama is shy”
Odi nokware dabiara
“S/he is truthful all the time”
|Syllable Structure||In Akan the syllable structure can be described in terms of tone apart from consonants (C), and vowels (V). It has V, CV and C syllables. The C syllable, which is a syllabic consonant always bears a tone. There are however no VC or CVC syllable types in Akan. Meaning that, it does not have syllables ending in consonants.
Examples 12: a. V-syllable: ɔsa - ɔˋ-sá - 's/he dances' ohui- ò-hù-í - 'he saw it' b. CV-syllable: kɔ - kɔ´- 'go' c. C-syllable: nsuo - ǹ-sù-ó - 'water' som - sò-ḿ - 'hold it' nkwa - ŋˋ- kʷá - 'life' etsir - è-tsí-ŕ - 'head'
Akan has syllabic nasals which are often realised as plural markers in nouns and negative markers in verbs.
Mbɔfra no anfa ntɛ no anto ambɔ wɔn
“The children did not pick marbles and throw them at them.”
For example; Asante: kai - 'to read' Fante and Akuapem: kan - 'to read'
- Lilian Haugereid. 2011. Typological Features for Akan - Phonology. TypeCraft Typological Feature Template. http://www.typecraft.org. Accessed [DATE].
Dolphyne, Florence A. 1988. The Akan (Twi-Fante) language: Its sound systems and tonal structure. Accra, Ghana: Ghana Universities Press. |-