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Akan is a language group spoken by related peoples in mainly Ghana and eastern Côte d'Ivoire. All varieties of Akan are mutually intelligible. The mai...

Akan is a language group spoken by related peoples in mainly Ghana and eastern Côte d’Ivoire. All varieties of Akan are mutually intelligible. The main languages comprise:

Twi – The largest group, spoken chiefly in Ghana. Includes the Akuapem, Asante (Ashanti) Bono, and Akyem dialects
Fante (Fanti, Mfantse) – Spoken in east coastal Ghana.
Brong – Spoken in west central Ghana and along the border in Côte d’Ivoire
Baule – Mainly spoken in central Côte d’Ivoire, related to Nzema.
Nzema language – Spoken mainly in west central Ghana and eastern Côte d’Ivoire
Anyi – Spoken in eastern Côte d’Ivoire
The Bureau of Ghana Languages has compiled a unified orthography of 20,000 words.

The adinkra symbols are old ideograms.

The language came to the Caribbean and South America, notably in Suriname spoken by the Ndyuka and in Jamaica by the Jamaican Maroons known as Kromanti, with the slaves. The descendants of escaped slaves in the interior of Suriname and the Maroons in Jamaica still use a form of this language, including Akan naming convention, in which children are named after the day of the week on which they are born, e.g. Akwasi (for a boy) or Akosua (girl) born on a Sunday. In Jamaica and Suriname the Anansi spider stories are well known.

According to work done by P K Agbedor of CASAS, Mfantse and Twi (together known as Akan) belong to Cluster 1 of the speech forms of Ghana. Clusters are defined by the level of mutual intelligibility. The Abron(Bono) and Wasa dialects are considered part of this cluster.

Cluster 1 comprises:

Akan (Niger-Congo – Atlantic Congo – Volta Congo – Kwa – Nyo – Potou-Tano – Tano – Central)
Abron (Niger-Congo – Atlantic Congo – Volta Congo – Kwa – Nyo – Potou-Tano – Tano – Central – Akan)
Wasa (Niger-Congo – Atlantic Congo – Volta Congo – Kwa – Nyo – Potou-Tano – Tano – Central – Akan).
Cluster 1 may better be named r-Akan (mainly Akuapem, Akyem, Fante, Wasa, Bono, Asen, Akwamu, Twi, Kwahu spoken mainly in Ghana, parts of Togo) which do not explicitly have the letter “l” in their original proper use. On the other hand l-Akan, refers to the Akan cluster comprising Nzema, Baule, and other dialects spoken mainly in the Ivory Coast, whose use of the letter “r” in proper usage is very rare.


The Ashanti people of the Akan, from which nearly half of the Ghanaian population is descended, comprise the largest ethnolinguistic group in Ghana and one of the few matrilineal societies in West Africa. The matrilineal system of the Akan continues to be economically and politically important. Each lineage controlled the land farmed by its members, functioned as a religious unit in the veneration of its ancestors, supervised marriages, and settled internal disputes among its members.

Ashanti kings, once renowned for their splendour and wealth, retained dignitary status after colonization. Celebration of the Ashanti kings lives on in the tradition of the Golden Stool (see Arts & Crafts, below). The Ashaniti are noted for their expertise in several forms of craft work, particularly their weaving, wood carving, ceramics, fertility dolls, metallurgy and kente cloth (see Arts & Crafts, below). Traditional kente cloth, is woven in complex patterns of bright, narrow strips. It is woven outdoors, exclusively by men. In fact, the manufacture of many Ashanti crafts is restricted to male specialists. Pottery-making is the only craft that is primarily a female activity; but even then, only men are allowed to fashion pots or pipes depicting anthropomorphic or zoomorphic figures.

The various Akan groups speak various dialects of Twi, a language rich in proverbs, and the use of proverbs is considered to be a sign of wisdom. Euphemisms are also very common, especially concerning events connected with death. The Ashanti village is the primary social and financial unit, and the entire village typically participates in major ceremonies.


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