African Journal of
History and Culture

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Hist. Cult.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 2141-6672
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJHC
  • Start Year: 2009
  • Published Articles: 170

Full Length Research Paper

The role of language in ethnic identity: The case of Akwamu in Ghana

  Ofosu-Mensah, Ababio Emmanuel1* and Ansah, Gladys Nyarko2        
  1Department of History, University of Ghana, P.O. Box 12, Legon, Accra, Ghana. 2Department of English University of Ghana, P.O. Box LG 129, Legon, Accra, Ghana.
Email: [email protected], [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 07 March 2012
  •  Published: 30 June 2012



Researchers in several disciplines within the social sciences, for example anthropology, sociology, history, linguistics and the humanities in general have explored the relationship among language, culture and identity from different perspectives. The general picture in the literature is the recognition that these three phenomena are connected to and affect each other in intricate ways. In this paper, we focus on a specific aspect of this relationship (the relationship between linguistic identity and ethnic/cultural identity). The paper provides a historical account of the rise and fall of the Akwamu Empire (a socio-politically powerful sub-Akan ethnic group in pre-colonial Ghana) and explore the role language may have played in the loss of the ethnic identity of the Akwamu after the fall of the Empire. We argue that the apparent loss of the Akwamu ethnic identity among several people of Akwamu origin is attributable to the loss of their linguistic identity resulting from extensive language contact situations. The paper is broadly situated within sociolinguistics, but specifically within contact linguistics.


Key words: Akwamu Empire, language contact, linguistic identity, ethnic identity.

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