“Hearing” in West African Idioms

Posted: February 27, 2013 in Afrocentricity, John Chernoff


Author: John Chernoff

Source: The world of Music 39 (2) 1997: 19-25


“In West African research, the concept of “hearing” defines an interesting metaphmic complex that is, perhaps, more often bewildering than serviceable. There are certainly many ways in which I have had to consider the connotations of the verb “to hear” in my research. Early during my work in Ghana, I found the peculiaiities of Ghanaian English to be an avenue for me to get ideas about culture, in the same way that Ghanaian use of English is a vehicle for Ghanaians to transport local culture into another idiom (Sey 1973). There were quite a few words and phrases that were used in ways I never had heard before, and although I was not sophisticated about linguistics, I knew enough to figure that I could take these various usages as something like literal translations of words in indigenous languages, particularly when I was with people who were not totally fluent in English. Apart from idiomatic English that had become standard among those who had a secondary or university education, there was fertile ground in the Ghanaian type of Pidgin as well as in the English that were common among people who were either uneducated or who were educated up to middle school.”


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