Saturday, June 16, 2018

Dutch loanwords in the languages of Ghana

One of the aims of this blog is to demonstrate that although Dutch is not generally considered to be a world language, it has nevertheless influenced other languages in all the continents of the globe as a result of language contact. In Africa, the most obvious example of Dutch influence is Afrikaans and native African languages which include Dutch loanwords borrowed via Afrikaans. In West Africa, too, we see the influence of Dutch. Particularly as a result of Dutch activity in the slave trade in the 1600s and 1700s, but also other forms of trading, several languages spoken in what is now Ghana incorporated Dutch loanwords. In this regard, Nicoline van der Sijs discusses Akvambu, Ewe, Fon, Gã and Twi. Gã has some 56 Dutch loanwords. These include words for people in authority such as admiraal and baas (boss), food such as suiker (sugar) and kaas (cheese), and household items such as ketel (kettle) and kop (cup). Through Gã, spoken around the capital, Accra, some of these words have been incorporated into the other local languages such as Ewe and Twi. Fon, Van der Sijs writes, has only one Dutch loanword, doek (cloth or canvas). By the 1870s, the British had replaced the Dutch as the major European power in the region. English is of course now widely used as a lingua franca in Ghana It is replete with Dutch loanwords, such as 'boss' from the Dutch baas, which was also borrowed by Gã.

Further reading: Nicoline van der Sijs, Nederlandse Woorden Wereldwijd. The Hague: SDU, 2010.

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