Vol 29 No 3 (2020): Nordic Journal of African Studies
Articles Linguistics

Akan cultural concepts and expressions for “stress”, “distress”, “sorrow”, and “depression”

Kofi Agyekum
University of Ghana, Legon
Published October 15, 2020
  • Akan,
  • conceptual metaphor,
  • embodiment,
  • emotions,
  • proverbs


This paper examines Akan indigenous concepts for “stress”, “distress”, “sorrow”, and “depression” through the interaction between language, culture, mind and the body. It applies the theory of conceptual metaphors (Lakoff and Johnson 1980), with an emphasis on the theory of embodiment. The majority of Akan expressions and proverbs for “stress”, “distress”, “sorrow”, and “depression” are derived from body part terms via embodiment. The nature of the semantic patterns and how the Akans perceive these emotions from the core pillars of their language and culture are explored. In addition to examining the use of body part expressions, the paper further discusses the use of idioms and proverbs to comment on the emotions mentioned above.