Sociolinguistic Studies, Vol 3, No 3 (2009)

A Kente of Many Colours: Multilingualism as a Complex Ecology of Language Shift in Ghana

Adams Bodomo, Jemima Asabea Anderson, Josephine Dzahene-Quarshie
Issued Date: 2 Jun 2010

Abstract


Language shift, a process which may lead speakers to use their language in fewer domains with respect to other languages or even lose proficiency in their language altogether in favour of other languages, is a prominent concept in linguistics. But the concept has been mainly studied from Western perspectives (e.g. Fishman 1964, 1991; and Veltman 1983). This paper discusses language shift from the perspectives of Ghana, a highly multilingual developing nation in West Africa. We introduce the concept of ecology of language shift, and argue that any theory of language shift must rigorously take into consideration the complexity of the ecology in which language shift occurs. Multilingual language shift processes – situations in which different types of language shift are taking place concurrently or sequentially in a country – are thus very different from simple language shift situations in less multilingual set-ups. The paper provides a relatively detailed empirical study of language shift based on a questionnaire survey before outlining some language maintenance activities – such as the pervasive use of indigenous Ghanaian languages in FM radio broadcast - that are being pursued to contain language shift in Ghana, and which may be used for containing language shift in other African countries.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v3i3.357

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