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

Category: Siwu

  • What do you really need on this earth?

    Natural conversations are a great source of data for all sorts of linguistic research. Linguists and conversation analysts usually study them primarily for their structure, not their content. This is not out of disinterest, but out of empirical prudence. Talk tends to support a wide range of interpretations. It is empirically safest to stick to observable […]

  • A poster on ideophones

    No matter how large or complex a PhD thesis, it should be possible to present an outline of the main argument on a simple poster. On that note, here’s a 1-page summary of some of the key findings from my thesis on the meaning and use of ideophones. The occassion is a festive one: I’ve […]

  • Preview: a 1913 map of the Togo Hills

    Preview: a 1913 map of the Togo Hills

    With the help of the Radboud University and MPI Nijmegen librarians I’ve been tracking down an obscure but historically important map of the Togo Hills area in eastern Ghana. It’s a pretty large map, originally made available as an Appendix to a 1913 issue of the Mitteilungen aus den deutschen Schutzgebieten. I plan to make the whole […]

  • A Mawu community in Sefwi, Western Region, Ghana

    In Kawu on the very final day of my 2012 fieldtrip, I heard something unusual. Some people talked about a community of Mawu people, speakers of Siwu, living in Sefwi. Now Kawu, as you know, is in the east of Ghana, close to the border with Togo. Sefwi on the other hand is all the […]

  • Quest

    Welkom Quest-lezers! Je komt hier misschien via het stukje in de Quest van januari 2013. Als taalwetenschapper bestudeer ik het Siwu (spreek uit: “Siwoe”), gesproken in het zuidoosten van Ghana. Eén van de dingen die ik onderzocht heb zijn de vele klankwoorden van het Siwu. Wil je meer weten over mijn taalonderzoek in Ghana? Beluister […]

  • Can you tell the difference between lɛkɛrɛɛ and lukuruu?

    Lɛkɛrɛɛ and lukuruu are two Siwu ideophones depicting imagery of being well-rounded. But they differ in degree. One of them evokes an image of being seriously fat, the other depicts the state of being merely chubby. Can you guess which is which?

  • H.B.K. Ogbete, A history of the Akpafus

    One of the most interesting sources on the history and customs of the Mawu people of eastern Ghana (also known as the Akpafu) is a little book written in 1998 by Rev. H.B.K. Ogbete. This book contains a wealth of material: it records oral traditions, names of ancestors and chiefs, and a lot of background […]

  • A visit to Akpafu by David Asante, 1887

    This is the first ever published account of a visit to Akpafu. It was written down by David Asante, a Twi pastor who travelled throughout today’s Volta Region in the company of some white missionaries. The journey took place in January 1887; the date of the visit to Akpafu was January 25th, 1887. The account […]

  • Basquekpafu

    There you are, author of such groundbreaking works as The African Origins of Classical Civilisation, Maori: The African Evidence, and Who were the Minoans?: an African answer. You now want to solve the Basque enigma once and for all, and since the general thrust of your work is to link everything to Africa one way or another you set out to discover that Basque is in fact a Niger-Congo language. A look at the rich lexical material in Westermann (1927) provides ample inspiration. Let’s pick one of the Togo Remnant Languages, you think — after all, Basque is sort of remnant too. Akpafu. Euskara. Hey, why not. Let’s just see what we can do… no-one’s going to notice, right?

  • Good press for ideophones!

    Dutch national quality newspaper NRC Handelsblad featured an extensive interview on ideophones and my research this weekend in their Science section, written by Berthold van Maris. There’s no online version of the article, but here is a PDF version if you read Dutch (or even if you just want to appreciate the look of Siwu […]

  • ‘Do ideophones really stand out that much?’ (with sound clips)

    Today’s question: do ideophones really stand out that much? This is something you can only decide for yourself. Here are three examples from Siwu. They come from my corpus of everyday discourse and represent the three most common ideophone constructions. These three constructions account for 88% of 230 ideophone tokens in the corpus; the examples thus can be said to be typical of ideophone usage in day to day conversations in Siwu

  • Slides for ‘Ideophones in unexpected places’

    Slides for my recent paper ‘Ideophones in unexpected places’, presented at LDLT2 in London, November 13-14. Though the inquisitive rooster in the title slide may not be looking for them, there are ideophones for just about any salient feature depicted in this scene. But what are people using them for? And what specialized uses may […]

  • Slides for ‘The interaction of syntax and expressivity in Siwu ideophones’

    Slides for a talk titled The interaction of syntax and expressivity in Siwu ideophones, presented in Berkeley at the 2009 International Conference on RRG, August 9, 2009. The handout can be downloaded here. The slides are also available as a PDF file. You can cite this presentation as follows: Dingemanse, Mark. 2009. “The interaction of […]

  • Bingo! Refinding the oldest specimen of Siwu

    The oldest written fragments of Siwu found so far come from Rudolph Plehn (1898).1 Besides some words and phrases (edited and published in 1899 by his friend Seidel), Plehn took down two lines of songs. To one of them I devoted a post some time ago. Now I’ve found a full transcription of the other, […]

  • ‘If you do not speak Siwu to me in my home, I will not pay your school fees!’

    One day in Accra, my daughter came home from school and talked to me in English. I said, “I no be hear English.1 In my home, we speak Siwu.” My daughter said, “But the teacher has said that we should not speak Vernacular at home!” Vernacular! Vernacular! By that he means any local language other […]

  • A cultural revival?

    Jedesmal, wenn ein Solo beendet hat, fällt der ganze Chor ein und singt einen Refrain, der aber nur aus den verschiedenen Vokalen besteht, die auf alle möglichen und unmöglichen Arten ausgesprochen werden, also eigentlich immer dasselbe. Interessant wäre es, einen solchen Gesang aufzunehmen. (Kruse, Krankheit und Tod in Akpafu, 1911, p. 192) Everytime when a […]

  • People are animals (sings the Isakpolo bird)

    It is no news that people are animals, especially not this Darwin Year. But normally that something we say of ourselves. Wouldn’t it be rather more interesting if another member of the animal kingdom would weigh in on the matter? It happens in Kawu, where I am right now for fieldwork (hence the silence on […]

  • I thought I had company (a Mawu dirge)

    Funeral dirges (sìnɔ in Siwu) are sung during the period of public mourning preceding a burial. The musical structures of these dirges, the performances, and their place in the larger context of the funeral have been described in some detail by Agawu (1988) and before him by the German missionary Friedrich Kruse (1911); however, the […]

  • In Siwu, gunpowder doesn’t just go BANG!

    Below follows an abstract for a talk I will be giving later this year at WOCAL 6. Ideophones are marked words that depict sensory imagery (cf. Voeltz and Kilian-Hatz 2001). This paper presents results of an ongoing research project into the linguistic and cultural ecology of ideophones in Siwu, a Ghana-Togo-Mountain language spoken north of […]

  • Mumbling and other mouth sensations: Ideophone proeverij II (with sound clips)

    With three mouth-related ideophones we’ve got a true proeverij this time. Welcome to dinner! You’re invited to try the first ideophone on the menu, mùkùmùkù. Feel free to sustain the mumbling to get some feeling for the word. Mùkùmùkùmùkùmùkù. The mumbling mouth movements of a toothless person. This is quite a special ideophone in that […]