Ideophones in unexpected places: funeral dirges and greetings

Early version published as:

  • Dingemanse, M. (2009). Ideophones in unexpected places. In P. K. Austin, O. Bond, M. Charette, D. Nathan, & P. Sells (Eds.), Proceedings of Conference on Language Documentation and Linguistic Theory 2 (pp. 83–94). SOAS.

This chapter juxtaposes two disparate types of discourse: the mundane everyday greeting routine and the highly poetic funeral dirge. I show how the use of ideophones in these genres is distinctive but bears clear relationships to the patterns of ideophone use in everyday social interaction that the previous chapter has uncovered. This chapter can be seen as a case study of how the aesthetics of everyday language use may give rise to techniques of verbal artistry and ritual communication.


Dirge 1: Mɛ sɔ màturi pia mɛ “I thought I had company” (Akpafu-Mempeasem 2007)
Dirge 2: Mìlo kananaa “Be still kananaa” (Akpafu-Todzi 2008)
Dirge 3: Ìlo kananaa “(Now) it’s still kananaa” (Akpafu-Todzi 2008)
Dirge 4: Kàsò kàla gbìgbììgbì “The earth is trembling gbìgbììgbì” (Akpafu-Todzi 2008)

Conversational excerpt

Extract 12.3: Kananaa
This excerpt has one of the participants switching to dirge-style midway the conversation. (The noise in the background is the primary school.)