The pragmatics of ‘Mouth’ metaphors in Akan

  • Kofi Agyekum Professor Department of Linguistics University of Ghana Legon, Accra, Ghana
Keywords: cognitive semantics, semantic change, pragmatics, metaphor, body-part language


The paper addresses the semantic shifts, extensions and metaphorical use of ano ‘mouth’ in Akan (a Ghanaian language). It focuses attention on the semantic patterns and pragmatic nature of the metaphor and its usage in a variety of contextual features. In Akan, the body part expressions and bodily functions have extended meanings that still have some relationship with the original words. The body parts thus act as the productive lexical items for the semantic and metaphoric derivation. I will consider the body part ano from its physical and cognitive representations. The paper also looks at the positive and negative domains of ano, ‘mouth’ expressions. The data are taken from Akan literature books, the Akan Bible and recorded materials from radio discussions. The paper illustrates that there is a strong relation between a people’s conceptual, environmental and cultural experiences and their linguistic systems.

Author Biography

Kofi Agyekum, Professor Department of Linguistics University of Ghana Legon, Accra, Ghana

Kofi Agyekum (PhD University of Ghana) is Professor of Linguistics at the University of Ghana and currently Head of the Department of Linguistics. His current research interests include ethnography of communication, pragmatics, discourse analysis, conversational analysis, sociolinguistics, stylistics, terminology, cognitive semantics, translation, lexicology, lexicography, oral and written literature.  


Agyekum, Kofi, 2010. Akan Verbal Taboos in the Context of the Ethnography of Communication: Accra: Ghana Universities Press

Agyekum, Kofi, 2005. Polysemy and metaphorical extensions of hunu ‘vision’ verb of perception in Akan.’ In M. E. Kropp Dakubu and E. K Osam (eds.) Studies in the Languages of the Volta Basin Vol. 3: 147-162. Proceedings of the Annual Colloquium of the Trondheim Linguistics Project 18-20 January 2005.

Agyekum, Kofi, 2004a. The sociocultural concept of face in Akan communication. Journal of Pragmatics and Cognition Vol. 12.1: 71-92.

Agyekum, Kofi, 2004b. Aspects of persuasion in Akan communication. International Journal of Language and Communication RASK Vol. 21: 63-96. October.

Agyekum, Kofi, 2002. Lexical polysemy and metaphorical extension of te ‘hear’, verb of perception in Akan. Legon Journal of the Humanities Vol. 13: 99-113.

Bonvillain, Nancy, 1993. Language, Culture and Communication: the meaning of messages. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Christaller J. G., 1933. Dictionary of the Asante and Fante Language called Twi. Second Edition. Basel: Basel Evangelical Missionary Society.

Cruse Alan, 2000. Meaning in Language: An Introduction to Semantics and Pragmatics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dirven, R., H. Wolf and F. Polzenhagen, 2007. Cognitive linguistics and cultural studies. In Dirk Geeraerts and Hubert Cuyckens (eds.) The Oxford Handbook of Cognitive Linguistics pp.1202-1221. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Dzokoto, V.A. and S. Okazaki, 2006. Happiness in the eye and heart: somatic referencing in West Africane lexica. Journal of Black Psychology 32.2: 117-140. May.

Evans, V. and M. Green, 2006. Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction: Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Foley, William A., 1997. Anthropological Linguistics: An Introduction. Malden: Blackwell.

Fromkin, V. and R. Rodman, 1998. An Introduction to Language. 6th edition. Philadelphia: Harcourt Brace Publishers.

Gibbs, R. W. Jr., P. L. C. Lima and Edson Francozo, 2004. Metaphor is grounded in embodied experience. Journal of Pragmatics 36: 1189–1210.

Kovecses, Zoltan, 2002. Metaphor: A Practical Approach. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Lakoff, G. and M. Johnson, 1980. Metaphors We Live By. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lee, David, 2005. Cognitive Linguistics: An Introduction. Victoria, Australia: Oxford University Press.

Levinson, S. C., 1983. Pragmatics. Cambridge University Press.

Mey, Jacob L., 1993. Pragmatics: An Introduction. Blackwell Publishers.

Morgan, J. L., 1979. Observations on the pragmatics of metaphor. In Andrew Orthony (ed.), Metaphor and Thought pp. 124-134. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Orthony, Andrew J. L., 1993. Metaphor, Language and Thought. In Andrew Orthony, (ed.) Metaphor and Thought pp. 1-16. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Radley, A., 1998. Displays and fragments: embodiment and the configuration of social worlds. In H. J. Stam (ed.), The Body and Psychology pp.13-29. London: Sage.

Searle, John R., 1993. Metaphor. In Orthony (ed.) Metaphor and Thought pp. 83-111. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Semino, Elena, 2008. Metaphor in Discourse. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sweetser, Eve, 1990. From Etymology to Pragmatics: Metaphorical and Cultural Aspects of Semantic Structure. Newcastle, U.K.: Athenaeum Press Ltd.

Traugott, E. C., 1982. From propositional to textual and expressive meanings: dome semantic-pragmatic aspects of grammaticalization. In Winfred P. Lehmann and Yakov Malkiel (eds.) Perspectives on Historical Linguistics pp. 245-271. Amsterdam: Benjamins.

Ungerer, F. and H. Schmid, 2009. An Introduction to Cognitive Linguistics. 2nd edition. New York: Longmans.

Yu, Ning, 2004. The eyes for sight and mind. Journal of Pragmatics 36: 663-668.