number 9 (spring/summer 1996)



By Mary Esther Dakubu
University of Ghana

[Note from Larry Yarak: I have been unable to find a way to html-ify the special, international phonetic characters that are included in Dr. Dakubu's communication, without which it is difficult, if not impossible, to comprehend fully her point. These characters are indicated here with an asterisk. Readers who are interested in the actual characters must, I'm afraid, obtain the printed version of the Newsletter.]

In response to Roger Gocking's "Ghana's Chief: New Titles, New Traditions?", the spelling variations noted are quite simply explained. Omanhene vs. Omanhen and Osabarima vs. Osabarimba are differences between the spelling and pronunciation of Fante, which is the second version in each case, and other Akan orthographies i.e., Asante and Akuapem. Manche is an anglicized spelling of the Ga orthographic Mants*, which Mantse attempts to reflect. Most English presses don't offer * and *. Adding "h" to a word like Mbra to get Mbrah seems to be an attempt to anglicize the spelling, perhaps on the model of "Sarah," "Shah," "Hephzibah."

Oblempong is an anglicized rendering (ong for *) of the Ga pronunciation of an appellation (not title) borrowed from the Akan. Ga use of Akan appellations such as this one dates back to the seventeenth century, as can be seen from an inspection of Ga historical names in Reindorf, and is thoroughly integrated into Ga culture -- every Ga lineage name has a corresponding appellation, which is almost always of Akan origin. If anything, this particular tradition shows signs of declining, since the Ga users frequently do not understand the Akan, which moreover is likely to be archaic or corrupt. Note also that although the Chief of Agona Nsaba was apparently a guest at Ga Homowo, Agona is an Akan state.

The ways in which appellations or praise names are bestowed and used in Ga (or Ewe) would make an interesting study, but the practice is a very old one. Further, when the use of such a name is extended, its historical origins and context are almost certainly salient to the users. See the chapter on "Names" in my One Voice, the Linguistic Culture of an Accra Lineage (Leiden, 1981) for tentative remarks on the subject.

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