Sounding out ideas on language, vivid sensory words, and iconicity

Category: Mission

  • A visit to Akpafu by Nicolas Clerk, 1889

    Travel journals provide some of the first written sources on Akpafu. I have previously posted an excerpt from a 1887 journal by David Asante. This here is an excerpt from a similar journey two years later. The whole journey took three months, but this excerpt relates only a trip to two Akpafu towns on 17-18 […]

  • The Albert Einstein Award of Excellence: another ABI scam

    Last year’s post on the Great Minds of the 21st Century award continues to attract attention from people who want to find out more about the American Biographical Institute (ABI) and its vanity awards. Surprisingly, there are still people clueless (shameless?) enough to list vanity scams like this on their CVs. Thankfully, the ABI decided […]

  • Finalist in the AAA Photo contest

    The results of the AAA photo contest have just been announced. Congratulations to the winner, Peter Biella! Of my four submissions, one made it to the finals (best 20) and one to the semifinals (best 54). All 294 submissions will appear in the AAA Flickr gallery in due course; mine follow below. My finalist was […]

  • Scandalised missionaries and quite a new class of priests: some unforeseen effects of early missionary efforts in the Gold Coast

    In pursuit of early written sources about Kawu I came across a useful summary of explorations in the Volta Basin in the 1870s and 1880s. The document is clearly based on some dead serious German reports from around the same time, but it is written in a dry tone with barely submerged irony as only […]

  • Kawu in January 1887

    The earliest description of Kawu (Akpafu) I have found so far is quite special in that it was written by an African in an African language. A German translation of it appeared in 1889 and can be found below. The original is a report of a travel made in early 1887 by David Asante. David […]

  • Adjectives and the gospel in Ewe

    Previously, we’ve looked at a perceptive account of ideophones in nineteenth-century Ewe by Joh. Bernard Schlegel. But Schlegel was not just a keen observator of the synchronic structure of Ewe, he also had clear ideas on where the language came from (damned primitivity) and where it was going (blessed enlightenment). A Pietist missionary above all […]

  • The mysteries of Christian doctrine, or, How an African language was mistaken for an Amazonian one

    In an excellent post over at Greater Blogazonia, Lev Michael unravels a spectacular error which led several eminent specialists of American languages to believe that a West African language named Arda was actually spoken on the Amazon between the Nanay and Marañon Rivers. Lev’s post is recommended reading (as is his blog Greater Blogazonia in […]

  • Pfisterer on Akpafu, 1904 (part II)

    Today’s posting brings you the second part of Pfisterer’s 1904 article (see the previous posting for details on the context and provenance of this piece of missionary writing). This part gives us information on religious beliefs; myths of origin; the afterlife and reincarnation; so-called ‘fetishes’ (kùɣɔ/àɣɔ in Siwu) and how they are to be served […]

  • Pfisterer on Akpafu, 1904 (part I)

    One of the goals of The Ideophone, besides functioning as a sounding board for ideas on expressivity and sound symbolism in African languages, is to make available sources on Siwu and other GTM languages which are otherwise hard to come by. This posting is the first in a series furthering that goal. Below you will […]