Pidgin, ‘broken’ English and Othering in Ghanaian literature

  • K Dako
  • H Yitah


This paper looks at the manner in which speakers of pidgin and ‘broken’ English are ‘Othered’ in four Ghanaian literary texts: Kobina Sekyi’s The Blinkards (1918), R.E. Obeng’s Eighteenpence (1942), Cameron Duodu’s The Gab Boys (1968) and Kofi Anyidoho’s  Earthchild : with Brain Surgery (1985). In these works, ethnicity, education and class status are tied to language, so that the (usually male) speaker of pidgin and ‘broken’ Ghanaian English (GhaE) is cast as the ‘Other’ whose use of non-standard English prevents him from entering the mainstream of Ghanaian society. The non-standard English speaker typically comes from a background that is geographically and culturally removed from southern Ghana (for example, he may be a foreigner or of northern Ghanaian extraction), and is often a semi-literate or illiterate servant attempting to communicate with his ‘master’. He is childlike, inarticulate, lacks intelligence and/or refinement, and is generally an object of ridicule. Thus a social boundary is created based on these linguistic representations of belonging and exclusion, many of which border on cultural essentialism.

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eISSN: 2458-746X
print ISSN: 0855-1502