Vol 27 No 4 (2018): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

Underapplication in an Akan Language Game

Kwasi Adomako
Department of Akan-Nzema Education, College of Languages Education, University of Education, Winneba
Published May 21, 2019
  • Underapplication,
  • Akan Pig Latin,
  • OT,
  • palatalization,
  • language game


This paper discusses the phenomenon of underapplication of palatalization in a Pig Latin game in Akan, a Niger-Congo (Kwa) language. Akan Pig Latin (henceforth APL), which is popularly known in Akan as Megesege, is a language game played usually by Akan youth. The game is played by appending the velar consonant /ɡ/ to the right of every vowel in the input word or phrase and then copying the vowel of the base syllable to form a CV structure. Whenever the base syllable contains /i, ɪ, e/ or /ɛ/, the manipulation performed by the game creates a palatalizing environment, in which a velar segment is followed by a front vowel. In regular Akan phonology, such sequences tend to undergo the process of palatalization. This paper provides evidence to show that in the forms produced by APL, palatalization fails to apply in the expected contexts. The underapplication of palatalization is accounted for within the framework of Optimality Theory. It is argued that the process is blocked by a high-ranking OCP constraint that bans adjacent [Coronal] segments in neighboring syllables.