Department of Linguistics Launches 50th Anniversary

Prof. Kweku Osam, Chairman for the launch

The Department of Linguistics of the University Ghana on has launched its 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the British Council Hall, Accra. This special event was attended by special guests, alumni, staff and students of the department.

Speaking on behalf of the Vice-Chancellor, the Chairman for the launch and Pro Vice-Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs of the University, Prof. Kweku Osam, recounted the development of the Department since its establishment. He noted that the Department of Linguistics has consistently demonstrated a commitment to delivering high quality teaching and research thus, keeping pace with the overall transformation of the University of Ghana into a world class university. Prof. Osam, an alumnus of the department, reiterated the role of the department in developing indigenous Ghanaian languages both in research and teaching, and in helping to mitigate the gradual loss of domain of indigenous languages to English. He later unveiled a new website and an e-newsletter for the department.


Prof. Nana Aba Amfo, Head of the Department of Linguistics

In her welcome address, the Head of the Department of Linguistics, Prof. Nana Aba Amfo noted that the Department, established in 1964, is one of the first linguistics departments in Africa and has one of the highest number of students in the world. She recalled that over the decades the department has founded and hosted a number of linguistic associations such as West African Languages Survey now West African Linguistics Society (WALS), the Linguistics Circle of Accra now Linguistics Association of Ghana (LAG) both of which have served as platforms for presenting research on African languages. Prof. Amfo also highlighted the level of productivity in research output and academic progression in the Department. She noted that this was the result of the effort of dedicated cadre of staff who work tirelessly to ensure continuity in nurturing and mentoring. She also noted that in addition to academics, the department excels in administration, having produced three faculty deans all of whom went on to serve as Pro-Vice-Chancellors of the University of Ghana. Prof. Amfo ended with the assurance that the department will continue to deliver high quality scholarship and excellence in teaching.

Dr. Clement Appah, Chairman of the anniversary planning committee. Behind him is Prof. Amfo

Later on in the program, Prof. Amfo and Dr. Appah, chairman of the anniversary planning committee, highlighted some recent developments in the department. These included the setting up of a cosy 22 seater, Wi-Fi-enabled work space for PhD students; the impressive show of the department’s masters students in the Dean of Arts thesis grants awards as well as the Vice-Chancellor’s best PhD thesis in the humanities awards, in addition to their generally impressive student numbers at both undergraduate and graduate levels. They mentioned that, starting this year, the Department’s students’ week will feature a distinguished alumnus/alumna to share experiences and motivate the students.

Prof. Kwesi Yankah, delivering the anniversary lecture

A major highlight of the launch was the anniversary lecture delivered by Prof. Kwesi Yankah, the president of Central University College and an alumnus of the department. Speaking on the title “Tweaa: meaning and the social power of little words”. Prof. Yankah presented a stirring and thought-provoking linguistic analysis of the etymology, context and the range of meanings associated with the popularized Akan expression tweaa. Prof. Yankah noted that although the word in itself is not new, the recent context in which it is used and the subsequent reactions to the use of the expression brings to the fore the power of language as an expressive arsenal which can be quickly deployed by underdogs and the powerless to counteract or contend social or political forces. He, however, bemoaned the negative reactions which have resulted but showed how skilful interlocutors can better handle any comment which appears to be an affront to a speaker with relative superior authority. Prof. Yankah concluded by emphasizing that words, even little words, may involve power dynamics and, therefore, speakers and addressees must negotiate carefully in discourse.


Prof. Florence Dolphyne performing the launch

Prof. Florence A. Dolphyne, a former Pro Vice-Chancellor of the university, who joined the department a year after it was founded, formally launched the 50th Anniversary Celebrations. Prof. Dolphyne recalled the small beginnings of the Department and was happy to see its enormous growth over the years. She said she was proud to be associated with the Department of Linguistics and hoped that the Department would continue to make excellent strides in teaching and research.

Dr. Clement Appah, Chairman of the anniversary planning committee, presented a line-up of activities for the 50th anniversary celebrations which include a homecoming event on May 1 and an international conference in October, both of which will be co-hosted with the French and Modern Languages Departments of the University.

The University Basic School Atɛntɛbɛn Troupe provided beautiful musical interludes to the delight of the audience.


The University Basic School Atɛntɛbɛn Troupe


A section of the audience at the lecture