Assessing the Phonological Processes in Akan Child Language




Phonological processes, Speech errors, Child language, Slip of tongue, Akan


This paper seeks to examine the phonological processes embedded in the speech errors of child phonology in Akan, a Niger-Congo (Kwa) language. The study has become necessary because cross-linguistically, several works have been undertaken on child language acquisition but very little or no attention has been given to that of Akan. Most of these works on African languages have centered on the acquisition processes with little on the phonological processes underpinning child language. Therefore, this study bridges the gap by providing a discussion of some phonological processes that underline the acquisition of Akan children. In the course of the phonological development of the Akan child as part of language acquisition, these processes occur as phonological simplification strategies to resolve relatively challenging natural adult forms of Akan expressions. This is either due to an articulatory accident or a defect in the speech organ. It is against this backdrop that Fromkin (1973) opines that a slip of tongue is evidence of a phonological process in action. Hence, this paper concludes that the inadequacies in child language acquisition trigger various phonological processes such as vocalization, stopping, de-affrication, anteriorization, fronting, cluster reduction, reduplication as a phonological simplification strategy in the acquisition of  Akan.

Author Biography

Kwasi Adomako, University of Education, Winneba/ University of Ghana, Legon

Department of Akan-Nzema Education



Abakah, Emmanuel Nicholas 2013. Vowel Replacement Pattern in the Mfantse Dialect of Akan.

Journal of Universal Languages, 14 (2), 7-51.

Abakah, Emmanuel Nicholas 2012. Some Assimilatory Processes in Akan. Journal of West African Languages,39(2), 47-82.

Abakah, Emmanuel Nicholas 2006. Where have all the consonantal phonemes of Akan gone? Journal of Philosophy and Culture,1(2) 21-48.

Abakah, Emmanuel Nicholas 2004. Elision in Fante.Africa & Asia (4),181-213.

Abakah, Emmanuel Nicholas 2002. Remarks on the Akan Vocalic Inventory. In Ameka, F.K. & Osam, E.K. (eds.). New Directions in Ghanaian Linguistics: Essays in Honour of the 3Ds, 243-263. Accra: Black Mask

Abakah, Emmanuel Nicholas 1978. Dialect Differences Between Iguae Mfantse and Bɔrbɔr (Nkusukum) Mfantse. BA Long Essay, University of Ghana, Legon.

Adeniyi, Kolawole. & Adeniyi, Tulolupe 2017. Consonant sequence reduction in child phonology. Ghana Journal of Linguistics, 6(1), 22- 48.

Adjei, A. F. 2002. The study of the linguistic development of four pre-school Ewe-speaking children: The emergence of phonology. Unpublished MPhil. Thesis, University of Ghana.

XXXX. 2018. The phonology of Akan Loanwords in Ga and Dangme. PhD thesis, University of Ghana, Legon, Accra.

XXXX. 2018. Velar palatalization in Akan: a reconsideration. Journal of West African Languages, 45(2),1-16

XXXX. 2017. Morphophonological Analysis Of Akan Female Family-Name Formation Ghana Journal of Linguistics 6(3) 1-32.

XXXX. 2015. Some Phonological Processes in an Akan Linguistic Game. GEMA Online Journal of Language Studies 72 (3), 3-22.

XXXX. 2008. Vowel epenthesis and consonant deletion in loanwords: A study of Akan. Master's thesis, University of Tromsø.

Agyekum, Kofi 2004. Indegenous education in Africa: Evidence from the Akan people of Ghana. Journal of Cultural Transmission in the African World, 1 (2), 115- 143.

Akpanglo-Nartey, Jonas Nene 2002. An Introduction to linguistic for Non-native speakers of English. Tema: Sakumo Books.

Amoako, Kwakye Wendy 2020. Assessing phonological development among Akan speaking children. Master`s thesis, University of British Columbia.

Baković, Eric 2002. Vowel harmony and stem identity. PhD dissertation, Rutgers University. ROA#540.

Bencivenga, Ermanno 1987. Economy of expression and the aesthetic pleasure. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 47: 615- 630.

Boadi, Lawrence Addai 2014. A minor historical rule of grave concern in the Volta-Comoe Languages. Legon Journal of the Humanities 25 (2014) 142-153.

Boadi, Lawrence Adai 2009. A comparative phonological study of verbal affixes in seven Volta-Comoe languages. Accra, Ghana: Black Mask.

Bresnan, John 2001. Lexical –functional syntax. Oxford: Blackwell.

Chan, Alice & Li, David 2000. English and Cantonese phonology in contrast: Explaining Cantonese ESL Learners English pronunciation. Language, Culture and Curriculum, 13 (1), 67-85.

Christaller, Johannes Gottlieb 1933. A dictionary of the Asante and Fante languages called Tshi (Chwee, Twi). Basel, Switzerland: Evangelical Missionary Society.

Clark, Ruth 1982. Theory and method in child –language research: Are we assuming too much. Language development, 1, 1-36.

Clements, George Nicholas. 1984. Vowel harmony in Akan: A consideration of Stewart’s word structure conditions. Studies in African Linguistics 15:321-337.

Clements, George Nicholas. 1976. Vowel harmony in nonlinear generative phonology: An autosegmental model. (Ms) Harvard University: Cambridge, Mass.

Clements, George Nicholas 1981. Akan Vowel Harmony: A Non-Linear Analysis. Harvad Studies in Phonology 2. Bloomington: Indiana.

Clement, George Nicholas & Hume, Elizabeth Valerie 1995. The internal organization of speech sounds. In J. A. Goldsmith (ed.). The Handbook of Phonological Theory. 245-306. Oxford Blackwell.

Demuth, Katherine 2003. The acquisition of Bantu languages. In D. Nurse and G. Philippson (eds.), The Bantu languages. London and New York: Routledge, 209-220.

Demuth, Katherine 1993. Issues in the acquisition of the Sesotho tonal system. Child Language, 20, 275-301. Cambridge University Press.

Dolphyne, Florence Abena 2006. The Akan (Twi-Fante) Language: Its sound systems and tonal structure. Ghana Universities Press, Accra.

Eshun, Francis. B. 1993. Aspects of Akan phonology. PhD Dissertation. University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Ewen, Collin J. & Hulst, Harry van der 2001. The phonological structure of words: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Fee, J. E. 2014. Segments and syllables in early language acquisition. In J. Achibald (ed.), Phonological acquisition in phonological theory. Psychology Press, 43-62.

Fromkin, Victoria 1973. Speech Errors as Linguistics Evidence. The Hague: Mouton Publisher.

Gussenhoven, Carlos & Jacobs, Haike 1998. Understanding phonology. Oxford University Press.

Gxilishe, Sandire 2004. The acquisition of clicks by Xhosa- speaking children. Per Linguam, 20 (2), 1-12.

Hyman, Larry. M. 1975. Phonology theory and analysis. University of Southern Califonia.

Ingram, D. (2008). Cross linguistic phonological acquisition. In M. J. Ball, M. R. Perkins, N. Muller and S. Howard (eds.), The Handbook of Clinical Linguistics. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 626- 640.

Kaye, Jonathan 1985. On the syllable structure of certain West African Languages. African Linguistics : Essays in Memory of M. W. K. Semikenke, ed. By D. L. Goyvaerts, 285-308. Amsterdam: John Benjamins.

Kaye, Jonathan. 1982. “Harmony processes in Vata.” In The structure of phonological representations 2: 385-452.

Kpogo, Felix. (2016). Acquisition of co-articulated stops among Ga-speaking children. Unpublished M.A. project, Florida International University, Miami, Florida.

Kenstowicz, Michael J 1994. Phonology in generative grammar. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

Lord, Robert 1974. Comparative linguistics. London. The English Universities Press.

Lust, Barbara 2006. Child language acquisition and growth. Cambridge University Press.

Marfo, Charles and Yankson, Solace 2008. The structure of the CCV syllable of the Akan. Concentric studies in Linguistics, 34(2), 85- 100.

Mahanta, Shakuntala. 2007. Directionality and locality in vowel harmony: With reference to vowel harmony in Assamese.Ph.D dissertation, Utrecht University.

Manyah, K. A. (2008). On quantity and quality of oral and nasal vowels in Twi. 8th International Seminar on Speech Production, Strasbourg, 89-92.

Mensah, E. N. A. 1987. The feature lingual and the Akan consonant system. Journal of West African Languages (12) 1: 24- 33.

Mowrer, D. E. & Burger, S. 1991. A comparative analysis of phonological acquisition of consonants in the speech of 2- 6 year old Xhosa and English speaking children. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 5 (2), 19- 164.

Nwokah, Evangeline. E. 1986. Consonantal substitution patterns in Igbo phonological acquisition. Language and Speech, 29 (2), 159-176.

Odden, David 1994. Adjacency Parameters in Phonology. Language 70: 289- 330

XXXX. 2011. Akan phonology for tertiary institutions &colleges. Agona Swedru: Uthman Publications.

O’Grady, William. & Sook, Whan Cho 2001. First language acquisition. In W. O’Grady, J. Archibald, M. Arono and J. Rees-Miller (Eds.). Contemporary linguistics: An introduction, pp. 409-448. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s.

Olawsky, Knut J. 1999. Aspects of Dagbani grammar: with special emphasis on phonology and morphology. LINCOM Europa.

Oyebade, Francis 1998. A Course in Phonology. Ijebu Ode: Shebiotimo Publications.

Oyebade, Francis 1990. Language acquisition: The phonology of a Yoruba child. Research in African Languages and Linguistics, 1, 17 -34.

Pascoe, Michelle & Jeggo, Zenia 2019. Speech acquisition in monolingual children acquiring Zulu in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Journal of Monolingual and Bilingual Speech, 1 (1), 94-117.

Pavlik, Radoslav. 2009. “A typology of assimilations.”SKASE Journal of Theoretical Linguistics 6, no. 1: 2-26.

Peters, Ann. M. 1983. The unit of language acquisition (Vol. 1). Cambridge University Press Archive.

Pollock, Karren E. 1991. The identification of vowel errors using traditional articulation or phonological process test stimuli. Language, Speech, and Hearing services in schools, 22 (2), 39-50.

Rose, Yvan 2009. Internal and external influences on child productions. In F. Pellegrino, E. Marsico, I. Chitoranand C. Coupe (eds.). Approaches to phonological complexity. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter, 329-35.

Rose, Yan 2002. Relations between segmental and prosodic structure in first language acquisition. In L. Santelman, M. Verrips and F. Wijnen (eds.), The Annual Review of Language Acquisition. Amsterdam : John Benjamins, (2), 117- 155.

Saah, Kofi K. 1994. Studies in Akan syntax, acquisition and sentence processing. PhD Dissertation. University of Ottawa (Canada).

Schachter, Paul 1962. Teaching English to the Twi Speaker. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Schachter, Paul & Fromkin, Victoria 1968. A phonology of Akan: Akuapem, Asante and Fante. Working Papers in Phonetic No. 9. University of Califonia, Los Angeles.

Stemberger, Joseph Paul & Bernhardt, Barbara May 2018. Tap and trill clusters in typical and protracted phonological development : Challenging segments in complex phonological environment. Introduction to the special issue. Clinical Linguistics and Phonetics, 32 (5- 6), 411-423,DOL: 10.1080/02699206. 2017.1370019.

So, Lydia K. H. & Dodd, Barbara 1995. The acquisition of phonology by Cantonese speaking children. Journal of Child Language, 22(3), 473-495.

Stewart, John. M. 1967. Tongue Root Position in Akan Vowel Harmony. Phonetica 16, 185-204.

Suzman, James 1991. Language acquisition in Zulu. PhD dissertation, Witwatersrand University.

Wei, Xueping 2008. Implication of IL fossilization in second language acquisition. English Language Teaching, 1 (1), 127-131.

Williamson, G. 2010. Phonological processes. Retrieved http://www Speech –therapy –information-and

Younis, I. U. 2008. Substitution in child speech. Buhuth Mustaqbaliya Scientific Periodical Journal 4 (1). 35-56.



08/31/2023 — Updated on 09/01/2023


How to Cite

Nyarko, I., Adomako, K., & Odoom, J. (2023). Assessing the Phonological Processes in Akan Child Language. Ghana Journal of Linguistics, 12(1), 24–47. (Original work published August 31, 2023)