Examining the Metaphorical Extensions of hyɛ (a dress verb) in the Akan Language

Patrick Ntiamoah ORCID iD, Abdulai Akuamah ORCID iD and Faustina Kusi ORCID iD

Issue: Vol.4  No.9  Article 8 pp.1110 – 1125
DOI: https://doi.org/10.38159/ehass.2023498 |   Published online 15th September, 2023
© 2023 The Author(s). This is an open access article under the CCBY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


In Akan culture, the act of getting dressed is typically expressed through the use of the verb hyԑ, meaning ‘wear’. This study thus examined the various literal and metaphorical interpretations of this verb in Akan communication. Through its ability to combine with different words, hyԑ can take on a wide range of meanings. The study drew data from the Legon-Zurich-Trondheim Akan Dictionary as well as interviews with four L1 speakers of Akan in the Offinso North District of the Ashanti Region of Ghana. The study was based on the Conceptual Metaphor Theory developed by Lakoff & Johnson. The verb hyԑ was used to derive some nominals through affixation and compounding. The evidence suggested that in addition to its basic meaning of dressing, the verb has taken on other metaphorical meanings such as being in a place, ordering/forcing someone, storing/preserving food, making something, covering, and bribing someone. These extended meanings of the verb, however, depend on the context in which the verb is used. This research has demonstrated that the dress verb is polysemous. It further concluded that when new words are derived from a verb, its basic meaning is either maintained or changes metaphorically. The study has implications for language learning since understanding the basic or metaphorical meaning of a word in a language impacts the understanding of the language in general.

Keywords: Metaphorical extensions, dress verb, Akan language, Conceptual Metaphor Theory

Adomako, Kwasi. “Verbal Nominalization as a Derivational Process: The Case of Akan.” Ghana Journal of Linguistics 1, no. 2 (2012): 43–64.

Afreh, Esther Serwaah. “Metaphors Otumfoɔ Lives by: A Cognitive Linguistic Study of Metaphors in Some Addresses by Otumfoɔ Osei Tutu Ii, Asantehene.” Cognitive Semantics 4, no. 1 (2018): 76–103.

Agyekum, Kofi. “Hunu Nominals in Akan.” The Journal of Ghanaian Languages  1 (2001): 30–34.

———. “Lexical Polysemy and Metaphorical Extensions of Te’hear’perception Verb in Akan.” Legon Journal of the Humanities 13 (2002): 99–113.

———. “The Pragmatics of ‘Mouth’Metaphors in Akan.” Ghana Journal of Linguistics 2, no. 1 (2013): 1–17.

———. “The Sociolinguistic of Akan Personal Names.” Nordic Journal of African Studies 15, no. 2 (2006).

Agyepong, Dorothy Pokua. “’Cutting’and’breaking’events in Akan,” 2017.

———. “My Heart Tears’ and’my Eyes Open’: Exploring the Verb Te’to Tear’and Its Range of Interpretations in Asante-Twi.” Sociolinguistic Studies 15, no. 1 (2021).

Appah, Clement Kwamina Insaidoo. “Nominal Derivation in Akan: A Descriptive Analysis.” Trondheim: Norwegian University of Science and Technology Thesis, 2003.

Atintono, Samuel Awinkene. “The Semantic Properties of Separation Verbs in Gurene.” Journal of West African Languages 46, no. 1 (2019).

Azasu, Kokuvi, and Peter Geraldo. Mastering Literary Criticism. Accra: Yamens Printing Press Ltd, 2005.

Backhouse, A. E. “Japanese Verbs of Dress.” Journal of Linguistics 17, no. 1 (March 28, 1981): 17–29. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0022226700006745.

Bakkalbasioglu, Esra. “How to Access Elites When Textbook Methods Fail: Challenges of Purposive Sampling and Advantages of Using Interviewees as ‘Fixers.’” The Qualitative Report 25, no. 3 (2020): 688–99.

Bodomo, Adams B. The Structure of Dagaare. Center for the Study of Language and Inf., 1997.

Buis, Cindy L, and Hsiu-Mei Lin. “Taiwanese Verbs of Dress.” Mid-America Linguistics Conference, 1999.

Cruse, Alan. “Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics,” 2004.

Denham, Kristin, and Anne Lobeck. Linguistics for Everyone: An Introduction. Cengage Learning, 2012.

Dolphyne, Florence A. The Akan (Twi-Fante) Language: Its Sound Systems and Tonal Structure. Accra: Ghana Universities Press, 1988.

Gyekye, Kwame. “African Cultural Values: An Introduction,” 1996.

Johnson, Mark. The Body in the Mind: The Bodily Basis of Meaning, Imagination, and Reason, 1987.

———. “The Philosophical Significance of Image Schemas.” From Perception to Meaning: Image Schemas in Cognitive Linguistics, 2005, 15–33.

Kovecses, Zoltan. Metaphor: A Practical Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Lakoff, George. “The Contemporary Theory of Metaphor,” 1993.

———. “Women, Fire, and Dangerous Things: What Categories Reveal about the Mind.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 22 (1987).

Lakoff, George, and Mark Johnson. “The Metaphorical Structure of the Human Conceptual System.” Cognitive Science 4, no. 2 (1980): 195–208.

Legon-Zurich-Trondheim. Akan Dictionary. Legon: University of Ghana, 2011.

Levinson, Stephen C. Pragmatics. Cambridge university press, 1983.

Peirce, Bonny Norton. “Language Learning, Social Identity, and Immigrant Women.,” 1994.

Schaefer, Ronald P. “Toward Universal Semantic Categories for Human Body Space,” 1985.

Sekyi-Baidoo, Yaw. “Aspects of the Semantics of the Akan Phrasal Vßerb,” 2008. https://api.semanticscholar.org/CorpusID:18191491.

Yakub, Mohammed. “The Semantic Extensions of Tu’to Uproot’/’to Pull out’in Nzema Discourse: A Conceptual Metaphoric Perspective.” Sociolinguistic Studies 15, no. 1 (2021).

Patrick Ntiamoah is a tutor at the St. Joseph’s College of Education, Bechem. His area of specialization is Akan Linguistics, with much interest in morphology, semantics, and pragmatics.

Abdulai Akuamah is a tutor at the Department of Languages, St. Joseph’s College of Education, Bechem, Ghana. His research interest includes Phonetics, Phonology, Sociolinguistics, Morphology, Semantics, and Language teaching and learning.

Faustina Kusi is a tutor at the Seventh-day Adventist College of Education, Agona. Her research areas are Morphology, Syntax, Semantics, and Literature.

Ntiamoah, Patrick, Akuamah, Abdulai and Kusi, Faustina. “Examining the Metaphorical Extensions of hyɛ (a dress verb) in the Akan Language.E-Journal of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences 4, no.9 (2023): 1110 – 1125.  https://doi.org/10.38159/ehass.2023498

© 2023 The Author(s). Published and Maintained by Noyam Journals. This is an open access article under the CCBY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).