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LNGS 411: SYNTAX OF GHANAIAN LANGUAGE (AKAN)
MINTAH GODSON AGYEMANG
DR CLEMENT K.I. APPAH
SUBJECT AND OBJECT IN AKAN
Is it legitimate to talk about subject and object in Akan?
According to Osam, Emmanuel Kweku(1996), it is legitimate to talk about subject and object in
Akan. He gave two coding features and one behavioural one, the (S) and the (A) argument can
be identified as subject and the (P) as object. The subject and object in Akan is supported by
pronominal forms associated with these relations.The difference between the subject and object
based word order is reinforced by the pronominal system, he states that a pre-verbal Third Person
Singular Pronoun prefix correlates with the subject while a post-verbal independent pronoun
correlates with the object relation. An NP which is a subject in a clause chaining will occur on
the first verb only but this is not a feature of an object and the preverbal pronominal prefix used
in transitive clauses is the same as that used in the subject in intransitive clauses.
According to Him, if a sentence has only one NP, that NP is coded as the subject. A sentence
with two arguments verbs, one is identified as the subject NP and the second one is the Direct
Object. He described pre-verbal NPs as subject because they can be replaced by pronominal
forms in transitive and intransitive clauses but added that this does not apply to Direct Object.
In the Zero Anaphora of Subject in Clause Chaining, Osam states that the subject control
deletion under identity of a coreferential object NP but not the object. So the antecedent object
pronouns must be overtly coded.
With Direct Objecthood in ditransitive constructions, word order and pronominal are used to
decide whether an NP is a Direct Object or not, also the Agent transfer an object (the Theme) to
the semantic Loc andthis transfer is from the direct object to the subject. Various tests are used to
validate that the Loc NP is the direct object: the position test states that a direct object(NP)
occurs immediately after the verb and can be replaced with a particular pronoun form
(pronominal test), direct objects can be relativized and focus markedbut Theme NPscannot (with
the exception of the Theme NPs of ‘ teach’, ‘show’ and ‘ask’)and pronominalisation proves that
only the Loc NPs can be pronominalized but it is impossible to pronominalise the Theme NP. In
conclusion, he establishes that Loc NPsare prototypical direct objects.
According to Osam, the Loc NPs in all the Akan di-transitives is referred to as the Primary
Direct Object which would be in the same category as the direct object of two argument clause
and the Theme NPs of ‘show’, ‘teach’ and ‘ask’ as Secondary Direct Object because they have
some features of the Primary Direct Object.Later, Asymmetrical Object was used to refer to the
As far as Direct Objects in serialization is concern, he states that certain semantic roles in some
languages which are coded as oblique NPs are coded as direct object in Akan through
serialization. IfNPs become the arguments of the verb de, direct object can be assigned to
them.Furthermore, Loc NPs are introduced by serialization which the first verb will indicate
whatever action was carried out and the second verb will introduce the Loc entity. Also, they
qualify to be direct object in terms of proximity to the verb test.Loc NPs are direct objects
because they can be relativized and focus marked.
Associative NPs qualify to be considered as a direct object and this is supported by relativisation
and focus marking tests. They occur in immediate postverbal position.
Instrument NPs are also classified as direct object becaus they are introduced into a sentence
through verb serialization and they occur in immediate postverbal position.